Tag Archives: Airplanes

That’s A Plane On The Beach

I got a call from a friend today that a plane had landed on Atlantic Beach. I almost didn’t go down there, but then how often do you get to see an airplane on the beach.

iPhone video of a plane which landed on Atlantic Beach

The pilot reportedly took off from Jacksonville Executive Airport at Craig Field, and had a fuel issue. My friend had been there earlier, and had said that the pilot apparently landed on the hard packed sand at low tide. Local officials managed to pull the plane up the beach to a spot above the high tide line.

The plane looked undamaged. No obvious signs of fluid leaks, and apparently the landing gear worked. FAA records indicate it’s a 1970 Mooney M20F. The only other soul on board at the time of the incident was the pilot’s dog. Both were reportedly just fine.

I’m also very impressed with the video quality from the iPhone. It’s the first little b-roll clip I’ve shot with the phone, and while it’s not full HD by any estimation, it’s not bad for video shot on a phone.

Mooney On The BeachNo, it’s not every day you get to see a plane on the beach. It happened to Andie’s dad once, back in his flying days. The NTSB finally determined that the A & P who had done the annual on his airplane had not put the oil system back together properly, and the engine threw all it’s oil. Fine during preflight, but during the flight, suddenly the prop has stopped. He landed safely on St. Augustine beach, and as far as I know has not flown as pilot in command since. The family story is that it was his third unscheduled arrival, and he figured he’d quit before his luck ran out.

Walking back to the car, a gentleman walking towards the plane pointed and said “What’s that?” I couldn’t resist. “It’s an airplane,” I replied. Fortunately, he had a sense of humor. “I see that,” he said. “It’s not supposed to be there.”

“No, it’s not,” I said. He asked what I knew, and I told him. It’s just what I’d read online before heading down to the beach. The NTSB usually has a preliminary report out in 10 business days following an incident such as this. It’ll be an interesting read, I’m sure.

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Hanging Around Airplanes

In “The Wind and the Willows” … the character Water Rat says something to the effect that there is nothing quite so satisfying as just messing around in boats.  And as someone who grew up with canoes and homemade boats, a once and (I hope) future sailor, and the current owner (along with the bank) of a very modest little 20 foot fishing boat, I have to agree with that assessment.  When I had sailboats, I spent many blissfully relaxing hours tacking back and forth across the Chesapeake Bay, and some equally satisfying time folded into a lazarette fishing CNG hoses, or nearly upside down, halfway under a partially-dismantled diesel engine trying to determine why there was no water coming from the exhaust … or suited up in Tyvek with a sander or a paintbrush under a boat on jackstands getting ready for the upcoming season.  Nothing quite so satisfying as just messing about in boats.

But before I was a sailor, I learned to fly little airplanes.  And I have never lost my affinity for things that fly.

I mention this because the Chamber of Commerce function I attended last night was in the hangar of Craig Air Center, a mostly-charter operation flying out of Craig Field about 6 miles from my house.  They’re also trying to establish a scheduled route between Craig and Marsh Harbor down in Abaco, which I hope someday to be able to afford.  When I walked into the hangar last night, I was simply captivated.

Now, there was nothing around that I’d ever been even remotely qualified to fly.  A King Air sat in the hangar, and outside was a little Lear and a BeachJet 404.  There was one other airplane in the hangar that I didn’t recognize.  Big iron … fists full of throttles … airplanes that a single-engine-airplane-land pilot like me dreams about.  And the doors were open.

The Lear got my first look.  I climbed the steps, turned left, and was greeted with an aroma that I’ve only smelled in an airplane cockpit.  I don’t know if it’s the electronics, or if it’s just my imagination … but I love that smell.  I scanned the instrument panel, and everything was at once exotic and familiar.  Horizontal Situation Indicator, turn and bank, altimeter, vertical speed indicator, radio stack with VHF and transponders and VOR and on and on and on.  And all surrounded by circuit breakers and indicator lights and gauges and dials and switches … all for the express purpose of getting the airplane and it’s passengers and crew safely from point “A’ to point “B”.

The event went as events do.  I talked and schmoozed and met new people and chatted with old friends.  But my eyes, and my attention, were continually drawn to the airplanes.

I talked at length with the General Manger of Craig Air Center about his take on the controversy over lengthening the main runway at Craig.  The decision will likely ultimately be made by the FAA, but for now, given the state of the economy and other, more immediate issues the debate has been pushed to the back burner.  In the nearly 3 hours on a Thursday night we were there, the event was not interrupted once by the sound of a low-flying jet.  I heard a couple of little planes cough to life on the tarmac, but nothing that would cause you to take notice.  I’d love to see a study about which was louder:  a modern business jet developing climb power but observing noise-abatement procedures … or a Honda Civic with a big megaphone “muffler” and a sub-woofer rattling the license plate frame on Atlantic Boulevard.  I have a sneaking suspicion I know who’d win … er … lose.

So yes, I love airplanes.  Through the night last night, I remembered the hours I spent at Grissom Memorial Airport pumping 100LL or Jet A into airplanes, giving runway traffic, and wind information on the Unicom, mowing the grass, answering the phones, all for the privilege of learning to fly.  But as much as the setting, it was the people.  The pilots and characters and hangers-on that accepted me into the airport fold for the time I was there, telling stories and swapping lies and playing practical jokes … knowing that I was working towards being part of the club.

And then, and I can still see it as clearly as if it was yesterday, early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the air was calm, taxiing to the end of the runway, running the checklist, and pushing the throttle to the firewall.  Eyes darting between the airspeed and the runway, reaching the magic number of about 80 miles per hour, and easing back on the yoke changing the airplane from a rolling vehicle to one that flies.  Climbing away in smooth air and feeling that from here, you can go anywhere.  It’s way different in the front than it is in the back.

I hope someday I can know that feeling again.

Sig

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Filed under Airplanes, Airports, Flying, Nostalgia, Thoughts

Travel Day

July 8th   Pics are up on Flickr.

Today was a travel day.  I love traveling.  Actually, I love arriving.  Traveling can sometimes leave me with an upset stomach just from worrying that everything Cockpitwill go smoothly.  Will the planes be on time, what’s the weather, will the dive gear arrive where it’s supposed to, will we make connections, will the plane be oversold, etc, etc, etc …  Today’s trip went about as smoothly as one could possibly hope for.

I love flying in small airplanes.  I really enjoy being able to see what goes on up front, to be able to feel the plane respond to the controls, everything about it.  Today we flew 3 legs on Beechcraft 1900 propjets, from Jacksonville to Tampa, Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale, and Lauderdale to Treasure Cay.  That’s pronounced “key”, just so you’ll know.  We were originally supposed to stop in Marsh Harbor, and I think I got charged for a leg to Marsh Harbor, but I’m going to just let that go.  There’s not a thing in the world that I can do about that now.  The stop in Marsh was apparently supposed to be for fuel to make it back from Treasure.  But they got a fuel truck to the Treasure Cay airport, so we diverted directly to Treasure.Spinner

Is that a cool shot or what?  I looked out the window of the airplane and could see the reflection of the nose of the plane in the chrome prop spinner. 

“Where is all this?”, I hear  you cry.  Abaco, The Bahamas.  This is truly my laughing place.

Andie and I first came to Abaco because we (she) won a trip at Oceanfest … a major dive industry trade show in Fort Lauderdale.  It was part of the underwater scavenger hunt, and the prize she’d originally won … a sterling silver charm … had been stolen from one of the show hotel suites.  So, we went to claim the prize, and the girl pulling the prizes said “it got stolen, but we have this 3 day 2 night stay at Bluff House on Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos … including airfare … if that’s an OK substitute.”

Um … Yeah.

So we came down to dive and fell in love with the place. 

GT Ferry 2The only way to get to Green Turtle Cay is by private boat, seaplane, or the island ferry that runs from Great Abaco Island over the Green Turtle.  Since there’s no seaplane dock, and we don’t have our private boat here, we came over on the ferry, much like the one pictured here.  I’m not showing you the one we’re on because, well, we’re on it.  But they all look exactly the same.

Everything on Green Turtle has to be brought by boat, so the groceries are very expensive.  Aside from a couple of native islanders on the boat, and the captain and deckhand, we were it.  Also on board were a lot of food and other supplies, a small refrigerator, a copier/fax machine, and a bunch of “Welcome Home” balloons.  I have no idea what that was all about.  But the bottom line is, Continental Express was spot on today.  All flights within minutes of advertised times, dive bags arrived at the destination with us, good pilots, just a really nice experience. 

By the end of the day, which started at 5:00 AM to make the airport by 6:30, we were safely ensconced at our destination.  We’d traveled by car, plane, boat, and golf cart to get here.

Where’s “here”?  More on that, and our first day’s diving, in my next post.

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I Miss …

Flying little airplanes.

I’d wanted to learn to fly since I was a kid.  Maybe every kid dreams about wanting to learn to fly, but I wanted it bad.  I don’t know why, but it called to me.

My first airplane ride of any kind was in a Cherokee 6 into the Grand Canyon.  When the pilot laid the airplane over on it’s wing and dropped into the canyon, I was done.  I was riding right front seat and spent as much time looking at the instruments as I did at the scenery.  It was just the coolest thing EVER.  And from that day, I wanted to learn to fly.

My parents were not thrilled about it.  My uncle Tom, for whom I was named, was killed flying little airplanes.  He was dad’s big brother, and he sold Beechcraft airplanes in Van Nuys, California, between gigs as a trumpet player in LA.  The story as it was told to me was that he was demonstrating slow-flight characteristics of a Bonanza to a potential customer when they were involved in a mid-air collision.  Flying west into a setting sun, as I understand it, and the other airplane just didn’t see them.  They tried to land on a golf course, and hit power lines coming down.

I never knew him.  I was a year old when the accident occurred.

Mooney_Mite So when I was dating a girl who’s father was on the airport commission, and helping him re-build a Mooney Mite  (like the one pictured here) in his basement, and complaining that my best friends dad was going to buy my friends flying lessons and there was no way my parents could afford it … he said “why don’t you go out to the airport and ask Ralph (the airport manager) what kind of deal you can work out”.

Barter had never occurred to me.

In the end, I wound up trading a days work at the airport for an hours’ free flying lesson.  I pumped gas, mowed grass, talked on the radio, rented airplanes to people, and learned to fly over the course of a year. 

TR2 I learned to fly in an airplane much like this one.  A Grumman AA-1B TR2.  108 HP Lycoming, short little wings, sliding canopy, a way over-powered hot little airplane.  And what a joy to fly.

Learning to fly little airplanes was different than anything else I’d tried to that point or since.  And the hardest part was making that transition from flying to rolling … without bouncing.  I’ll never forget the day Ralph said “taxi over to the building and let me out … then take her around the patch a couple of times”. 

I can still see the runway as it rushed past, feeling the airplane come alive under my hands.  It rotated at about 70, as I recall, because there was just not a lot of wing on the airplane.  As I nudged back on the yoke, and felt her start to fly, the thought that went through my head was “well, I’m certainly committed now”.

I went 10 times around the patch that afternoon.  I greased the first few landings, and then got cocky.  At one point, I came in too high, too hot, and not completely under control.  I landed the airplane about 20 feet above the runway, hit pretty hard, and bounced 40 feet back into the air.  I had the presence of mind to firewall the throttle and get flying again.  Shaken, I botched the next landing as well.  I finally stuck one, and quit for the day.

I can’t tell you how much I felt like I’d accomplished when I got my license.  The same instructor that had checked out my uncle Tom gave me my check ride.  I really thought I’d busted the ride, but he signed my logbook, and gave me a license to fly.

I loved the freedom flying gave me, and the knowledge that, like scuba diving, it was something that set me apart.  Made me different.  something not everyone can do.  I wish I could afford to fly again.  I suppose if I took the money I’m spending on the boat every month and rented airplanes instead, I could. 

I have stories to tell, and will.  As much as marinas, airports are a gathering place for characters, curmudgeons, and liars.  Since this is as much my personal journal as anything, why not record them here. 

Watch this space …

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Filed under Flying, Learn to Fly, stories, Thoughts