Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Visions of New Orleans, Part 1

A little late in writing this up, but, hey, it's been busy around the homestead.

As previously reported, Mother Nature foiled our original plan to head to New Orleans on Thursday. There was a huge snowfall, probably 6 inches or more. A classic lake effect event.

Friday dawned early and looked promising. If we could get about 30 miles south of the Home Base, it looked like we would be home free for the entire trip. The IFR Pilot packed up and headed out after pulling down a computer weather briefing. After stopping to grab a refill of the propane tank, and being harassed by MS due to running late (gasp! MS instead of the IFR Pilot actually had to preheat the airplane!!!), the IFR Pilot arrived at the Home Base.

The snow had slowed pretty significantly during the 35 mile drive, and was down to mostly intermittent flakes. The airport, however, still had the accumulation from the prior day's storm. Fortunately, we had called in a favor with the mechanics who also handle the snow plow duties and they had the runway, taxiway, fueling area, and even our hangar ramp mostly free of snow.

After dragging Mike Hotel out and topping off the tanks, we climbed in for leg #1. Destination: Sporty's, for some needed supplies. MS lost the coin toss and was charged with Pilot Flying duties on leg #1. This, of course, meant doing a short field takeoff from a slightly contaminated runway. Regrettably, for the sake of complete disclosure, your trusted author must admit that he did a dandy job. We were off before the yellow line that marks the mid-point of the runway, due in part to only using 10 degrees of flaps and the enhanced performance resulting from the 20o F temperature. If I recall correctly, we were seeing something like 29" of manifold pressure!

Within the expected 15 minutes, we were clear of the crummy weather and, for the just the briefest of times, VFR on top.

Before I knew it, we were on the ground at I69. Hal stole some of our money in exchange for a nifty little flashlight and some charts. Charts that MS had already purchased at the Home Base, but had "forgot" in the back of his car!

Since it was Friday, Hal didn't have any free brats for us, so we skipped lunch and blasted off for Shelbyville, TN. Shelbyville is pretty much the halfway point of the trip, so it's logical to stop there. Even more important, they practically five away 100LL. OK, not quite, but $3.09 is way less than what we pay at the Home Base, which is usually among the cheapest places around.

We tried to borrow the crew car to grab a bite to eat, but some jacka** didn't understand the "1 hour only" limitation on the signout sheet. Even though he had taken the car at 10:45 and it was now 1:15, he was only "just sitting down to lunch," or so he told the line boy, who tracked him down on his cell phone. So, we did what professional freight dogs do, we fed quarters into the vending machine and took off to enjoy our in-flight cuisine.

The IFR Pilot had the Pilot Flying duties this leg. MS, exhausted from having to actually do some work earlier in the morning, plugged his Bose headset into the iPod, covered his face with his jacket, and promptly went to sleep. (Modesty and decorum prohibit your narrator from describing what he was caught doing at one point during his nap....)

Before you could shake a stick, we were on the verge of Lake Pontchartrain. You can just see it in this photo:

Drawing closer, we got a great view of the wetlands on the North Shore:

It only takes a few minutes to cross the lake, and we entered a left downwind for Runway 36L:

Here's a view of University of New Orleans, which took a wallop from Katrina, but because of its relatively "high" location (the rim of a bowl doesn't have as much water as the middle of the basin), didn't suffer flooding like other parts of the city:

On short final for 36L:

And, 3.1 hours after leaving Shelbyville, we were on the ground at New Orleans Lakefront Airport.

More to come...

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