Thursday, April 12, 2007

God is Good... All the Time!

A couple of things have happened lately, while flying, that have reminded me that God is good….

First, if you remember back to the end of January, our good 'ol President gave is State of the Union address. The next day, he traveled to Wilmington, Delaware to give a follow up speach in the morning. It just so happened that I was headed that way doing some of my patrolling in the Cessna 182.

Well, if you aren't quite up on what the airspace issues surrounding a traveling President are, it goes a little like this- DON'T GO NEAR THE PRESIDENT! Ok, it's a little more technical... you see, when, as a pilot, you are getting ready to go flying, among the many things you incorporate in the pre-flight stuff is a check on "TFR's"- Temporary Flight Restrictions. You can do this using many different websites and reading about the TFR for the day that you are flying assists you in knowing if you should be avoiding any areas- like, where the President is.

So, the morning of January 29th, I, being a prudent pilot, checked the TFR's. I noticed one for Deleware, but, knowing that the night before was the big speech, decided that it was referring to that time period and that my source ( was slow in removing it from the list. Not seeing any others, I was on my way. I ended up flying through the northern edge of the TFR, starting somewhere SE of Lancaster (over Amish country), and stayed in said TFR all the way 'til about 10 miles NW of Philadelphia Int'l Airport. At that point, I, being a prudent pilot, radio'd into the control tower to let them know I was inbound to do some patrolling around the airport. At that point, I heard the tower controller stutter and say something like, "um, er, um... I think that you're not where you're supposed to be."

So, I found out about the TFR and promptly scooted Northbound toward Allentown, PA and away from the TFR. During this retreat, ATC (air trafic control) asked me for my name and gave me a phone number to call upon landing... not a good sign. I did a little more flying before landing and, after a call to the legal services department of AOPA, called the phone number. They told me that the matter was being referred to the local FSDO (flight standards district ofc.) and I could call there.

I followed up with that office with a phone call, they sent me a letter, I responded via fax, email, and snail mail, then I called again, and then once more (even today). I haven't heard anything back, and that MAY mean that they've heard my story, find me to be very contrite, and have moved on with their lives without taking further action.

One point worth noting (maybe) is that all the time that I was in the TFR, not once did anyone warn me of my error, even on the emergency frequency (121.5) that I monitor all day long, every day, on my extra radio. Hmm... I have heard the military call out to TFR violators and warn them to turn away from protected airspace in the past. I always think, "that dummy... should've checked for TFR's before they took off!" So... this is my story of humility. I'm thankful for the humility.

SECONDLY (that first one took way to long), today I did a miscalculation on estimating my time of arrival over Beaver Valley Power Station (a nuclear facility) during my patrol. It sits on the OHIO river between PA and OH and it is the western-most part of my patrol. Before I blast off that direction from Harrisburg, I give them a call and tell them I'm on my way. They want to know my name, the type of airplane that I'm flying, the color of said airplane, the
route of flight, and when I'm gonna be there. I usually give them a "window" of a half hour that marks when I plan on circling overhead of their nuclear cooling stacks (this is why, as some of you have noticed, that I glow in the dark).

So today, I called them and, as I did, I looked at my cell phone for the current time so I could make my estimation. The problem was that, when my cell phone goes on standby during periods of non-use, it will momentarily show you the time that it went to standby before it hiccups and then shows you the current time. So, I glanced quickly at the time and then did the calculation (in my brain) for my ETA over the plant. Well, you guessed it, I based my calculation off of the incorrect time. I didn't wait for the "hiccup" so that I would be looking at the right time. Hmmmm…..

I realized this after I had departed Westbound for about 20 minutes. The error turned out to be about 30 minutes, which is the amount of time of my ETA "window". So, I would certainly be late.

The cool thing was this- I had a kicking tailwind out of the EAST! The winds are never out of the East over the Allegheny Mountains! It was crazy! I'm usually lucky if I get a groundspeed of around 110 knots. With the tailwind today, I was doing around 150 its!

I ended up arriving over the power plant right at the end of my "window", instead of another 15-30 minutes later, as would have normally been the case. Pretty cool, huh?

And, as if that weren't enough, it turned out that they did a "drill" on me today with the ATC (air traffic control), where they pulled up my data from my phone call to the power plant and asked me my full name to see if I was indeed cleared for the flight and that I was on schedule- IN THE TWO YEARS THAT I'VE BEEN DOING THIS PARTICULAR WEEKLY ROUTE, THEY HAVE NEVER DONE THIS TEST!!!

So, another instance in where I'm blown away with God's grace and faithfulness. I'm thankful for the humility and for His provision.

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