Written by Alan Hoffler
Took a relaxing morning to get some sleep and shoot the breeze. Had a decision whether to press on to TIX after church or do more local training. Several factors, including my stress testing the airframe landings, led me to scrub the long mission in favor of a TBD one. Church ran long and we ran longer, but I survived kid #1’s driving home to make it back for delicious steaks on the grill.
By this time, we had decided to pursue Jesup as a destination, but after discovering our intended party to visit wasn’t there, we changed to attempt long cross country day and night. 1J0-MAI-MGM and back. The kids were especially contentious, and the bargaining began. I don’t know all the details of the auction block discipline that transpired, but at least 4 of the five kids were in a huff on our departure. Clint has confided the plane is a very peaceful place. Preflight was easier since I made one of my own checklists that I’m familiar with for the plane last night. Weather was forecast as 6000 scattered at MGM, and partly cloudy in the local area. Did see several cumulous buildups, but the wind was dead calm — a nice change from yesterday. Departed runway 19 at 1J0 and scared the cows on the 27 nm trip to MAI. Checked out the three landmarks useful for navigation: the dairy, the highway, and the prison. Saw a beautiful rainbow and circled for pictures that didn’t turn out very well. Landing at MAI was my best yet. Full stop and VOR check, and we’re off to MGM. Familiar controller didn’t even ask what a Skipper was. We asked for 6500 and it only took us 20+ minutes to get there, weaving between the scattered layers. At one point, we spot a shower, and Clint has us head for it to wash the windshield. I learn about updrafts and had the best climb performance of the day. After climb, it wasn’t long before we saw a broken layer, well below, but it quickly became overcast and rising. We had at least two excursions around cumulous heads, and I had already settled in my mind the required approach that I assumed would be IFR into MGM. Probably wouldn’t be able to get this classified as VFR CC. Did get to see a pretty sunset over the clouds. ATIS reported MGM clear, and sure enough, 25 nm out, the clouds disappeared more quickly than they started, and we had a gorgeous dusk descent and a SHORT field landing to accommodate the plane flying up our T-tail.
FBOs are nicer everywhere we go than I’m used to. Get a snickers bar and leave a few messages, and check weather. Briefer was a little confused at conflicting reports — forecast was for marginal VFR, but all reporting stations were clear and calm. We’re now fully dark and ready to go. As always, the Class D’s are a little more slack than the class C’s, and MGM is no different. They can’t give us a VFR clearance, but tell us to taxi and they’ll work on it. We hold short for landing traffic, and they clear us for takeoff and heading. We depart. About 5 minutes out, we get “cleared direct to the Miami (MIA) airport”. Thanks, but we’ll plan to stop at Marianna (MAI). Dyslexia and ATC don’t mix. The line of traffic coming up I-65 into Montgomery must have been bump and roll for 20 miles — glad we were at 3000 feet and not in THAT. Worse than marginal VFR conditions. Night is clear, and we spot checkpoint after checkpoint and have several philosophical discussions about airplanes. Cairns approach seems to have trouble with everyone who checks in — but these appear to be confused pilots for the most part. One guy is VFR “level at 8”. One guy asks for an IFR descent into an airport without an approach procedure. But 1819R rolls on at 87 knots groundspeed. Pass Dothan and begin to hear of folks who are in the soup. We’re in the clear but visibility is noticeably less. Cairns clears us for a descent we don’t ask for, but we soon see a cloud over top we suspect he steered us clear from it. These guys are the best in the area. We have a 3-second stint in a cloud, and ask for more descent. This particular Cairns controller is back from his holiday, and asks us (unprompted) if we’ll land at MAI or continue on to Bonifay International. Pretty sharp. We finally spot MAI, now flying in class G airspace just above the deck, and go to advisory. Clouds are easily visible above. Grease one on with a tailwind at MAI, and since we flew low over from Bonifay, I’m confident in the same approach in reverse, albeit at night. The low altitude and prevailing southern winds allow another sense to take in a skunk/chicken house/pulp plant for the trip home. Also on the way MAI-1J0, Clint renews his acquaintance with the Cairns guy, who informs us his recent visit to Bonifay International left him a little short of his expectations. While he was impressed with 1819R in the hangar, he was a little miffed that he drove his Caddy instead of his pickup since the airport road is red clay and mud. Foggy landing on the wet runway is probably not 15 minutes (or even seconds) before the fog settles, and we are glad we didn’t shoot the breeze in MGM any more than we did. No way I’ve have made this one solo, or without an IFR pilot. My confidence has ballooned since my landings no longer do, and I’m pumped with another 4+ in the logbook, and my commercial 2+ >100 nm day AND night complete, and another 101 digital pics taken (263 total now).
Kids are now on restriction until each one turns 21, with kid #2 having to secure sound legal advice to avoid life confinement in his room. Kid #3 is upset that we bought ice cream (Moose Tracks, of course!) on the way home and ate it after he went to bed, which violated the Adult Sweet Treaty of the Dirty Sock Conference held earlier in the week. He commutes the sentence when it is noticed that he is violating curfew to investigate and report the offenders. We are forced to use salad spoons and paper plates to even be in violation since the week change went unnoticed and whomever had kitchen duty left it in disarray. Kid #5 waddles in with her flannel PJs to join my nightly conversation with my spouse, quantity=one, type=female. Kid #5 now even knows her name. Bo (the dog) probably had the best day of all, as he got steak scraps instead of dry food to eat today, and he played at least two holes of golf this morning before joining the family portrait prior to church.
Tomorrow the fog will need to burn off, but weather is forecast scattered at 6 with light winds, so I’ll be off as soon as practical to TIX, then back to 1J0 via JES on Tuesday, and the PTAOAL will end Wednesday at noon. My eyes are sore from the sun and constant vigilance, the sleeper couch has bruised my hipbone, my ears are deaf from the din of five kids, I miss my boy and girl terribly, but will be sorry to see it all end.