April 29, 2005
Jacksonville, FL - Brunswick GA, Ridgeland, SC
Dee dropped me at the airport Friday morning then headed off North towards
Georgia. I spent a bit of time finishing up the paperwork, then
I took a picture of the mechanics standing in front of the newly repaired
gyro. I was nervous about trusting the machine and yet anxious to get
on my way.
As I packed my gear onto the passenger seat and did my final pre-take-off
checks, Phil, one of the mechanics who had done lots of hand riveting to
repair a section of the gyro, was hanging around asking more questions.
While fixing the machine I had casually mentioned I would take him up when
it was all back together. Now he wanted a ride but was too polite to
put me on the spot by asking and in my nervousness I was too rude to offer.
Finally I remembered my manners and told him to jump in. In a flash he
was in the seat and ready to go. Even though we only did a quick trip
around the airport traffic pattern, when we landed he had a grin from ear to
ear and I made sure to taxi right up in front of the hangar so all his
buddies could see how much fun he'd had. The extra trip around the
pattern also helped me to relax so that when I took off I felt much better
I had resolved that I would fly only over roads or fields for the next
few days. No matter how much extra distance it entailed I had no
desire to consider an emergency landing in the swamps or trees along this
low land coast.
Unfortunately within minutes of take-off I would have to get through
Jacksonville International airport's airspace. I told the Craig tower
I wanted clearance through Jacksonville's airspace along the freeway and
asked if they could arrange it. They said OK, relayed my request and
gave me a transponder code and the frequency to switch to after take-off.
Perfect! Moments after take-off though when I switched to
Jacksonville's approach controller they decided they were too busy to clear
me through and ended up sending me 5 miles away over the coastal swamps.
So much for my resolution to stay over the roads.
After 10 more miles I was able to get back over a major road going in my
direction and I relaxed a bit more- unfortunately my problems were not over
Just as I entered the traffic pattern at my first fuel stop in Brunswick,
GA my airspeed gauge went to zero. Hmmm... not much I can do about it
now. The danger is getting too slow on final approach. In a
fixed wing airplane this could cause a stall and even a spin which would be
deadly close to the ground. A gyro does not stall but instead goes
into a rapid vertical descent. This is in effect what I did on my
emergency landing causing the landing gear damage. Fortunately there
is no real danger in landing too fast so I decide to err on the side of
extra speed on final approach and this works perfectly. I glide a bit
farther down the runway then touchdown with a bit of extra speed but
everything works out fine. Once on the ground I reattach the tube that
had come loose causing the airspeed problem.
My next leg leads through the airspace for Savannah, GA but after this
morning's episode I decide to fly lower and just avoid their control area.
This works fine and I'm soon on my way into the landing pattern for
Ridgeland, South Carolina. I have a perfect landing and then look up to
see Dee just arrived in the motorhome. We get settled in with the gyro
parked on the ramp and the motorhome nestled into a nice spot past the
hangars where we can watch the runway, see the gyro and listen to train
whistles in the distance.
After our extra week in Jacksonville, we had hoped to keep moving until we reached North Carolina but a cold front is headed our way.
The weather forecasters are issuing tornado warnings for south of us and
strong winds and heavy rain for our area. We cancel the day's travel
but I do get in a half hour of take-off and landing practice including
several simulated engine failures. All my landings are smooth as silk-
if only I had done that in Jacksonville. Actually our week of
repairs are a small price to pay for our safe landing in such difficult
conditions and I decide to quit beating myself up over the hard landing.
Dee and I spend the rest of the day exploring Ridgeland on our mountain
bikes, then return to the airport just before the storm comes in.
Fortunately one of the local pilots has some extra room in his hangar and
I'm able to get the gyro inside before the driving rain starts. The
next day is dry but still has very strong winds from the backside of the
cold front so we jump into the jeep and take-off to Hilton Head island.
Last time we were here we had just made landfall after a 3 day passage in
our sailboat returning from the Bahamas.
May 2, 2005
3J1- AIK- 27J
Ridgeland, Aiken, Newberry, SC
We awake to heavy ground fog so hopes of an early departure vanish.
It finally starts to lift at 10:30 and Dee hooks up the Jeep and drives off
while I wait another half an hour to assure clear visibility along my route.
I have a somewhat circuitous route today that makes use of small roads going
in my general direction. I'm not going "as the crow flies," but at
least my route is far more direct than the Interstate Dee will travel.
The early part of the day is small roads through heavy forests but as I near
my fuel stop at Aiken the land begins to open up a bit with more cleared
areas and fields. I fly along looking at lumber mills and small farms
newly planted for spring. One field I fly over is bright yellow- maybe
they are growing sunflowers. Last week I would have dropped down to
100' for a look but I'm still slightly nervous so I stay a comfortable 600'
above the ground.
Aiken is a nice town with a beautiful new airport building. Inside
it is all dark paneled woodwork and has a large library room filled with
books and overstuffed chairs. It looks like part of a hunting lodge. I ask if they have any self service gas pumps and the woman running the desk
laughs. She sends the attendant out with the fuel truck and I
top off my tanks with avgas at $3.66 a gallon.
Fortunately Dee has made me lunch so I avoid the pilots standard lunch
from the vending machine. After a short break I saddle up and
take-off for Newberry just a 45 minute flight away. The terrain
continues to improve with more fields and less forests so I relax and enjoy
the beautiful scenery passing beneath me.
As I pass a small airport at Saluda I announce my position so anyone
heading to that airport will know where I am and can avoid me. I get a
call back on the radio to clarify my position as the Piper that has just
taken off is very close but does not see me. I tell him I'm right over
the highway and he comes back with, "Oh I see you now.. what kind of machine
is that you're flying?" We have a short conversation then head our
separate ways. As I near Newberry I do a few small banks
left and right to see the town, then fly by the light blue watertower
to read the name just the way the old barnstorming pilots used to do.
I announce my intentions to land but all seems quiet here. I descend
over the runway headed to the South end of the airport but just as I fly
along 10 feet over the pavement I see the motorhome parked by the North end
so I pull the power and drop down to earth. With two days now behind
me since our mishap I'm starting to get back into the swing of things.