22 August 2009

Funeral Flight (A.K.A. "Spy Mission")

This time last week the SCCrew headed out to Northern California for the SCMom's funeral. Headwinds slowed the flight and made for a bumpy road. But we're back home now, and with a couple blogworthy (surely someone has already coined the term?) events to boot. First things first... the trip itself.

We requested and were granted VFR* flight following for most of the route. This means we were in touch with at ATC** the entire route. This is not required but I like to talk to the controllers because they will call out potential traffic. A midair collision will ruin your day and more than one has probably saved my life. It also speeds up the response should we ever have to use the infamous words "Houston, we have a problem".

It used to be that weekends were very busy for controllers. There wasn't much use in plugging in the MP3 player as some controllers, especially LA Center (ZLA) were pretty much machine-gun mode. That is constant traffic with no let up. However this weekend was different. ZLA was relatively quiet as were the other controllers and I enjoyed plenty of rock-n-roll enroute. Here is one place where we put our fingers on the pulse of the economy and it's pretty quiet out there!

Anyway ATC routed us near a few presumably sensitive sites. Since the camera was handy...

First off, our local nuke plant:This is what makes the SouthWestern desert livable during the summer. Apparently this plant generates nine times the electrical power as the Hoover Dam without any so called "greenhouse" gasses. If plug in electric vehicles are going to be a success, we'll need a lot more of these.

Second, Edwards AFB which is normally under a restricted area. However this day was open at our altitude. So here we go, right over the top.

And finally Le Moore Naval Air Station where F-18 pilots are trained. The return trip was a little eventful as apparently the controller was dealing with a minor emergency. The F-18 was on a different frequency so we couldn't hear him, but our controller was working both our frequencies, which meant we only heard half of the conversation. It sounded as though an F-18 had an emergency with a parking brake warning light and requesting an arrested landing.

Normally the tires spin up to landing speed of roughly 160mph in a fraction of a second. But if the wheel is locked, it might only last a second or two before burning through leaving the pilot badly out of control. But an arrested landing will stop the plane in a few hundred feet hopefully before the tire burns through.

We offered to go somewhere else so the controller could deal with the emergency, but by then we were overhead and any direction, including our original course, was "away". A few minutes late as the F-18 flight neared, he requested a 30 deg right deviation which we immediately complied with.

PS, no need for anyone to get their panties in a bunch... these pics are intentionally low res... wouldn't want to give intel to any baddies.

* VFR = Visual Flight Rules
** ATC = Air Traffic Control

1 comment:

TrueBlueSam said...

So Sorry to hear the news; glad you had a safe trip.