Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Almost Home

Almost a thousand miles today. I got out of the cockpit and after more than eight hours of flying today and thought, I need to sit down!  So after a pee break, and put fuel in the wing tanks, I climbed back in the cockpit. I woke up just outside of Houston this morning. Part of me wanted to see if I could make it all the way home with some awesome tailwinds created by a high and a low boundary. But I stopped to see some friends (Davey and Fox!) and almost saw some more (Peske and Ben!) and now find myself in a quiet airport in PA. 

Although I would have liked to have crossed the one thousand nautical mile mark today, I'd rather be right here.  I'm not quite ready to be home, not quite ready to land and immediately unpack.  I woke up at 0500 this morning and while I feel that I'm exhausted I also feel the life in me.  They do a strange thing in PA where they lock the airports, even the pilots out after a certain time. (All other states seem to trust pilots.) And while I can't go inside right now, I'm perfectly content sitting in my vessel, my ship, my craft.  We clean up, debrief the day, record the facts of the day. A sweet dinner of apples, arugula, triscuits and cheese.  

I sat watching the last light disappear and felt like I was on a boat in a peaceful anchorage. So happy to sit and look at the sky, look at the dials, contemplate flying more than 900 miles.  Free miles from the wind push no me along. After many months of many hours of computer time, it is so nice to have the eyes open and to be looking across miles and miles. One mile straight down and tens of miles in all directions. 

Life is good.  I love being a pilot, I love my ship. I love that pilots don't usually sleep in their planes or have skateboard in their planes.  If I never get to be an astronaut in space, at least I'm getting to be one on planet Earth. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

By Sky to Houston

Repairs in progress.
It's time for some "By Sky" to Houston, TX to have a meeting with an astronaut.  Being a teacher now, I have a long spring break, and so instead of flying commercially when my astro contact said to come down to visit, I am flying Freddy (N7202G) a 1970 Cessna 172K Skyhawk that's been in the family for at least 30 years.  The details of the story have to be saved now for a potential story for Popular Mechanics, but here are some of the memorable bits so far...

Crossing Delaware Bay
The test flight to VT to see Chad play a show proved the carburetor heat cable needed replacing when it came off in my hand...in flight.  I landed safely but had to work a fix to get back to my local airport and mechanic that involved a nearby ACE hardware store and a few hours of trial and error.  In Delaware I was told to keep clear of the restricted airspace where aerial gunnery practice was happening.  Then saw two fighter jets dead ahead about to practice their gunnery on me...then I realized they were sea gulls.  In North Carolina, I stopped for some surfing with two of the other three Crazy Horse guys.   In Mississippi, I landed at an airport that was staffed from the prison across the street.  (It seems to be a very strange prison, but the hospitality from Terry (serving 10 years on a crack cocaine dealing charge - he's served 8 years, 2 months so far) was outstanding.  And then there is landing at Ellington Field in Houston which did not disappoint.  Vectored in for landing traffic, I was told I was number two to land, following the F-16.  I love this airport, and am now in one of their pilot sleeping rooms.  No charge for pilots.  Amazing.  Freddy is parked near a T-38.  The same jet trainer that the astronauts use to keep up their proficiency.

Three days, 16.3 hours of air time.  Over 1500 miles flown.  One weather delay, two surf sessions.  Flying is unreal.  It is amazing that I can throw some switches, turn some dials, press some buttons, pull and push some levers and end up in Houston!

Tomorrow to be a NASA tourist and Monday to have a meeting that may (or may not) impact my future...Very happy to be in Houston!

Sunset as I arrived in Houston.