My morning started on the campus of the University of Louisiana. The “Home of the Ragin’ Cajuns” is known for its culture, cuisine, Southern hospitality and unique dialect of the French language. There was nowhere else I desired to be living while pursuing my degree. An online company would email me a daily inspirational quotation that would be waiting in my inbox. On this October morning, however, for the first time, I had received no such message. It struck me as odd, and I disconnected from the web and finished getting ready for class. I enjoyed my interesting courses, but my mind was dreaming about the adventure awaiting me after school that autumn day in 2000. I had been training for my pilot’s license, and I was about halfway done. The FAA requirement to fly farther than 50 nautical miles at night was one of the remaining obstacles.
At dusk, my instructor met me at Lafayette’s airport, where I rented a 1985 Cessna 152 for only $44.00. Nowadays, it rents for over $100 per hour! Flying at night was quite a treat, because in Louisiana, where it’s awfully hot most of the day, the nighttime brought cooler temperatures and calmer winds. The disadvantages were the limited visibility and the increased danger associated with making an emergency landing without being able to see what was on the ground. An off-airport landing in the “Sportsman’s Paradise” could very well mean ditching into a swamp filled with stumps and alligators.