Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pleasure, Pain & Southern Hospitality

An unforgettable weekend

flight i'll never forgetSkylane 250CW, cleared to land, runway two seven.” Those words marked the start of my anniversary weekend in historic Savannah, Ga. The VFR flight to Savannah from Lawrenceville, Ga., on the morning of August 1, 2008, was smooth and uneventful, as was my first-time arrival into Savannah International Airport. Plane parked and rental car obtained, my wife and I headed off to the resort.

Two mornings later, we were back at the airport for our return flight. With flight planning, weather briefing and preflight checks completed, I started the engine and attempted contact with clearance delivery. No response. Called again. No response. After several more attempts, I switched to the second radio and tried again. Still, no response. I shut the engine down and started radio diagnostics, then switched to ground and asked for radio checks—no response. Turns out, there was a mic jack issue on the pilot side, so I plugged my headset into the copilot jacks and used the copilot mic button for communications—it was a little awkward, but workable. Maybe this was a sign, but I wasn’t listening. After forgetting to flip the frequency back to clearance delivery, I mistakenly asked ground for a clearance: “Guess you haven’t talked to clearance delivery yet?” was the stern but friendly reply. I should have seen this as sign number two.

Soon, we were on our way home. While climbing to 4,500 feet, we flew through a hazy white-out in “clear below 12,000” conditions. Missed another sign—number three.

flight ill never forget
DISTRESS NO MORE. GA’s flexibility and accessibility can make it an indispensable resource in an emergency.
Conditions improved and we were halfway home when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked over to see an expression of distress. “I think you need to land,” my wife said calmly, followed by, “Where are the airsick bags?” Sign number four, and I knew that I’d better listen this time. On the flight following frequency, I called up Augusta Approach and notified them of a medical situation and that I needed to divert to the nearest airport, which I had identified on the GPS as Kaolin Field in Sandersville, Ga. Approach concurred with my choice and proceeded to give me full information about this airport and immediate vectors. They offered to have an ambulance waiting and stayed with me until the airport was in sight.

Here’s a lesson on not completely trusting the reported weather: I did get the AWOS from Kaolin Field, but on short final, it became evident that the winds reported had changed dramatically, and I was blown way off-course. Upon recovering, and because I was unfamiliar with the runway, I made the difficult decision to go around. (I needed to get down quickly but didn’t want the ambulance to be for both of us.) I finally landed into the wind after the go-around, and an ambulance arrived shortly thereafter. We were soon making our way to Sandersville Regional Hospital.


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