Fatigue

Summer is here so it’s time to go down to Texas and pick up the 900 horsepower Super Grand Caravan for another season of skydiving in Wisconsin.  I was hoping to have the same pilot we had last year fly for us but he went and got a real job flying for a cargo company.   Loser.  Just kidding, I’m just disappointed because he was a great pilot.  I flew down to Houston commercial hoping to just jump into the plane and fly home but when I arrived at skydive Spaceland I was greeted to this sight.

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Does that plane look like it’s ready to go?  No, no it does not.

  There’s no reason to go over everything still needed fixing but the list was long and there was nothing to do but dig in and help the mechanic put Humpty   Dumpty back together again.   When the sun set the Caravan was still in a thousand pieces so I got to spend the night in a bunkhouse that so nice and beautiful that I could have stayed there forever.  Not.  The next day we got back to work early and by 6:00 had the plane mostly back together.  The owner assumed that I’d spend another night and leave in the morning but seeing it was only a 6 hour trip I figured there was no reason to spend another night in che bunkhouse.   I had been concerned about a line of thunderstorms along the route to Wisconsin but as I flew north they seemed to just move out of the way, leaving a beautiful sunset in their wake.

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The rest of the flight was a treat.  I love night flying and it was a great night to fly.  After one fuel stop and five and a half hours in the cockpit I was getting close to my home airport.  The sky was clear for most of the last half of the flight but weather report at my home airport was reported to be 1200 feet overcast.  Flying as 1200 feet doesn’t bother me especially in my own backyard so when I got close to the airport I dropped down low in order to get under the overcast layer and land.  When I got down to 2200 feet on my altimeter the lights on the ground were starting to look pretty darn close.  I thought to myself that when I needed to drop down to 1200 feet to get under the clouds it was going to be kind of scary.  But that didn’t make sense, it shouldn’t be any big deal to fly at 1200 feet.  What was I missing?  It only took 30 seconds or so to figure out my mistake but it was an embarrassing 30 seconds.   “Kerry you moron!  Your altimeter is reading sea level the 1200 foot overcast ceiling is above ground level.”  And seeing that the ground level in that part of Wisconsin is about 1000 feet I was already flying at 1200 feet above the ground.  It wasn’t the worst mistake in the world but it did show that working all day then flying all night can take its toll.  Even an easy flight can be a killer.

2 Replies to “Fatigue”

  1. They do, it’s just that when they report the ceiling they use AGL (Above Ground Level) or the distance from the ground to the clouds and a pilot’s altimeter is set to sea level. It makes sense because when an airport reports a 1000 foot ceiling a pilot doesn’t have to do any math.

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