So there we were, seven skydivers hanging around behind the counter at Skydive Twin Cities , which my office manager hates BTW, watchingFlightaware track the Twin Otter that was flying up from Texas. Everyone was excited because the Twin Otter is the best aircraft in the world to jump out of and our toy for the summer was almost here. As we watched the aircraft symbol on the screen approach Red Wing Airport in Minnesota, the closest “real” airport to ours, we could see it swing west then back east and start to descend indicating that the pilot was shooting an instrument approach. This made perfect sense as the cloud base in the area at the time was seventeen hundred feet AGL and our private airport with it’s grass runway didn’t have an instrument approach. I expected the pilot to fly the approach until he got under the clouds then cancel his instrument flight plan and continue north under the clouds to our drop zone which was only ten minutes away. Imagine our surprise when we saw the plane turn away from Red Wing and head west.
“What the hell? Where’s he going?” we all shouted at the computer screen. “We’re over here!”
I grabbed the radio and tried to call the pilot but got no response. In frustration we even tried to text him but had no luck, the little aircraft symbol continued to head west away from us toward Minneapolis. A few minutes of frustration later the plane made a turn to the south and began to wander. There was no question now the pilot was lost. How could he be lost? Did nobody tell him how to find our airport? He’d managed to fly all the way from Texas to within twenty miles of his destination and I knew for a fact the plane was equipped with a GPS. I was really starting to get worried about the fuel situation in the Otter. He’d been in the air for over three hours and all his flying around at low altitude really burns up the jet A. Suddenly the aircraft stopped moving. Did he find an airport to land at or was the Otter a crumpled mess in some farmers field? The phone rang a few minutes later to answer our question. It was the pilot of the Otter and he was at a small airport south of St. Paul and was ok. Apparently he hadn’t really been on the approach into Red Wing when he had some sort of problem with the aircraft’s instruments and being unfamiliar with the area and not knowing if there were any mountains around he broke off the approach at two thousand feet and yelled for help. That was Minneapolis Center started giving him the vectors that finally got him on the ground. When I asked him why he didn’t just look at his map which would have told him that Wisconsin is practically mountain free I informed me that he didn’t have a map! I couldn’t believe it, he flew all the way from Texas without bringing a map along. Well long story short we finally got the Otter to our drop zone, along with it’s case of Shiner Bock beer one of our skydiving buddies put in for us, and the pilot is on the way back home for a Texas size ass chewing.