Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Independence Day

The weather started out bright and sunny, but by mid-afternoon a high pressure ridge to the south had provided enough moisture to allow some clouds to form. The local METARs had a few at 5000, scattered to broken at 7000, and a few nasty cells. Most of those would be dissipated by the time we planned to take off.

The route would be pretty simple. I wanted to go east to Athens (AHN) for a good look at the weather, then up to Lake Lanier for an aerial view of the fireworks. After that, head south and pick up vectors for the ILS 27 back home.

I got a call from the flying club GM around noon time that they were shutting down to celebrate the holiday. He would leave the dispatch kit with the FBO and I could have the plane for as long as I needed it. After the flight, I could just drop it off with them as well. GREAT!

We got to the airport about 8:00 PM (local), took the cover off and started the preflight. She needed gas so I went for my cell phone to make the call. Kathy asked what I did before we had cell phones? Hmmm, well, I usually had a plane captain that took care of that, and before then I would just fill it up myself. I've gotten spoiled. The rest of the ground work was normal, and ground had us taxi to runway 09 for take-off. She made a very nice takeoff from the right seat.

I took back the airplane and continued the climb to 5500ft, noted rain showers to the north and the bottoms of the broken layer seemed to be about 7,000ft. Visibility was about 4 miles, so I decided to go back down to 3500 ft, where the visibility was closer to 7 miles. The nice thing was it was a very smooth ride. Once east of the rain showers I turned north to head up to the lake. Along the way we could see a few eager neighborhoods launching their rockets creating tiny fountains of color. About this time the panel lights went out.

Lake Lanier had a small shower over it and we brushed the edge washing the airplane as we passed KGVL. It appeared that most of the firework activity was centered on a peninsula about midway on the western edge, so I made some easy turns there while trying to stay out of the shower. ( Just some minor turbulence when I got a bit close on one pass.) By 9:00 the show was really starting and we could see some activity in all quadrants.

We departed the area by about 9:15 and headed south to intersect an extended OBS line for the ILS27 approach. This is when the REAL show started. Gainesville, Buford, Duluth, Alpharetta, Roswell, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Marietta, Smyrna as well as Kennesaw all had things going on. To make the flight even more interesting, some of the cells had not dissipated as we saw a few lightning strikes out in the distance. (I would later learn that Atlanta had to postpone activities at Centennial Olympic Park due to lightning.) Absolutely a beautiful display!

I called the tower at AKONE and was cleared for a visual Rwy 09. The fireworks were still going as we approached midfield and Kathy asked if we could stay up a bit longer. Wow, what a great thing to hear her say. I wasn't about to push my luck and continued with the landing. "Cool landing, is that what you call a squeaker?"

We covered 95.8 miles, climbed to 5015 feet ( but stayed at 3500 for most of the flight) and got up to 151 mph over the ground. This was the first time Kath had flown with me at night.

Time = 1.4

* I forgot to turn the GPS off. After flying we were starved, so went over to Waffle house for a late evening dinner.

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