When you fly
in Florida, you often encounter fog early in the morning. Hell,
it doesn't matter if it's mid winter or mid summer, I've just accepted
it as a fact of life and do my best to work around it. When it's
unavoidable, there's still some pretty good hangar-flying going
on at the field.
I fly R/C aircraft
as well, and have noticed this same phenomenon on foggy mornings
at that field, too.
about the age old tradition of "waiting for the fog to lift". It's
a special time when pilots stand around and drink coffee, eat donuts
and tell lies. It's usually pretty quiet and very still, and voices
are kept subdued, so that their camber resonates against the fog.
I like to go
flying early, so I'm out there at or shortly after the crack of
dawn. Other pilots come in gradually and wait in the FBO, or just
out front where they can smoke and tell raunchier jokes.
Weather is checked
and rechecked. 12/12, steady. Damn. Well, good company here anyway.
You never know where the conversation is going to go, either.
Here's an example:
Last weekend, I went to rent a plane at a new field. Actually, it's
an old field, it's just new to me. I knew it was going to be too
foggy the night before, but ever the optimist, I pressed on. I had
just taken a check ride the weekend before, so I wanted to get some
practice on approaches and ground procedures for this particular
airport. It's a little unique, with no taxi-ways, and is very tight
at only 60 feet wide.
to the story. I rolled out of bed and peeked out the window. Solid
white. I could just barely make out the street light on the culdesac
behind us, which I can see out our back door. Not good. I took a
shower and got dressed anyway, then checked again. Still not good,
but I could clearly see the light now. Sweet. I thought I'd just
get my bag together and load my flying junk into the Xterra. Well,
by now I was wide awake anyway, so I figured I'd drive up there
and see how it looked from Pasco County. I mean, what if I just
happened to be sitting in the only patch of fog out there? I also
had another mission in mind.
My wife's cousin
Doug had called the night before, and I was going to take him with
me today. Since I usually rent at Peter O' on Saturdays, I always
take Krispy Kreme donuts for the staff there. Since I'd be flying
in to pick Doug up anyway, I stopped and got some special gourmet
donuts from a different place on the way to the other airport. I
planned to deliver them "express air" to the gang at Peter O'.
I jumped on
the interstate and headed north. Before I'd gotten out of the County,
the Highway Patrol had closed the interstate and was detouring traffic
because of the fog. Uh-oh. I'd been to this airport once before,
and only knew how to find it from the interstate. I had to get on
301 and try to figure something out.
it hit me. "I have a GPS!". I stopped and got it out of my bag.
I used it like I was flying to the airport, and drove on some pretty
interesting roads, and got to the field only about 20 minutes late.
Didn't matter a bit. It was still white-out thick out there.
I called Doug
and told him I couldn't take off yet. He said he'd hang out for
a while and wait to see if it cleared any. At this new place, there's
a wood deck around the FBO with a couple of rockers and a picnic
table or two and a soda machine. The office has a coffee pot and
a box of their own donuts, and there are several other people milling
around quietly. There were several people there who were supposed
to go on intro flights, and a couple pairs of pilots, presumably
instructor/student combos for IFR. There were also a couple of other
hammer-head rental pilots like me, waiting patiently, watching the
After a while,
conversation starts to take place.
I started talking
to this guy who was going to use the same plane I was taking when
I got back. What was he doing here already? Turns out he was there
to see his instructor and go over some stuff. He mentioned that
he had just purchased a new 182 and that it was going to be delivered
in a few months, and he was eager to get his ticket. A new 182!
I had to ask
what he did for a living, he seemed so down to Earth. He turned
out to own a company that locates, disarms and disposes of land
mines and other ordnance. He has 125 guys in Iraq right now. It
was a fascinating conversation, and very informative. We haven't
been getting the full story there, you know.
a while, I ended up in a conversation with another guy, after watching
one of the IFR teams disappear into the fog about half way down
the runway, and about 50 feet into the air. He was telling me about
being stuck between cloud layers on a trip to North Carolina a few
years ago. Sounded pretty hairy. Turned out that he flies a home
built. It's a Europa, and was in the main hangar. He offered to
show it off, and I checked it out. What a cool little plane. Almost
200 mph at 4.5 gph!
Now it was about
10:00 am, and I thought that I could just make out the warehouse
at the other end of the airfield. Still not good. Well, I gave it
the old school try, nothing more that I could do. I called Doug
and told him we'd do it another time, said goodbye to the new gang
at Tampa North, and headed for home.
Had to take
the special donuts home with me, too. If I don't see another donut
for a couple years, that'll be OK with me.
At least I got
my flying fix for the week, even though I never left the ground.
Flying is so
much more than getting in a plane and taking off. We don't get near
enough time to congregate with one another, and nobody else feels
the same passion for what we do as we ourselves do. Savor these
opportunities when they arise. I am always reminded of an old saying
in situations like these: "If you can't get out of it, you better
get into it". Don't be that desperate, clingy guy that people naturally
want to avoid, but don't avoid conversations just because you don't
know the other person either.
Keep in mind
that these people share at least one major interest with you. It'll
make those foggy mornings a lot more bearable.
Fair winds and
blue skies, Wingnut.