Monday, March 20, 2006

I Am

I never been on a railroad, as many times as they pass me by
I never crashed in the desert or seen a rodeo
I don't know much about the world wars, or Vietnam
I've yet to read about Uncle Tom
Never climbed a real rock... or seen Colorado

Am I the son I think I am
Am I the friend I think I am
Am I the man I think I wanna be..?

This song, "I Am" by Train, was on the mix CD I tossed into the player this afternoon as I drove down to ADS to catch a few moments of watching planes land in 29-knot direct crosswinds (with gusts to 38!) 

I couldn't believe it, but a few brave (incredibly dense/lucky?) individuals were even out in their 172s. I could tell those pilots were NOT having fun, with their planes crabbed at 10-15 degrees off centerline up to the final moment the right main wheel touched down. From my perspective down the runway, it even looked like they were taxiing in a crab, too... like one sudden gust under the wing might flip the lightweight (most Skyhawks gross out at around 2400 lbs) planes right over. Because... well, it could.

"That did not look like fun" the controller told one of the pilots, who had made a less-than-graceful arrival on the runway.

"It wasn't," came the somewhat shaky reply.

"Well, you made it, you're on the runway," the controller said. "Left at Gulf, contact Ground on 121.6."

Something I love about Addison... for such a busy airport, the controllers seem to be a generally jovial bunch, quick to offer student pilots encouragement (or, on the flip side, chastise experienced pilots who really should have known better.) I can't wait to fly out of here, someday. I hope I do.

I never had a day where money didn't get in my way
I never listened to much Elvis
I can't remember a warm December

Am I the son I think I am
Am I the friend I think I am
Am I the man I think I wanna be

Next up: a dilapidated Lear 25, part of freight hauler Cherry Air's fleet of similarly taxed ancient jets. They're loud, they're ugly... and, they're fast (top speed 465 kts Mach.) Did I mention they were loud? Two Stage I noise-restricted CJ-610-8As (Stage IV is the current state-of-the-art) that positively wail at full throttle. Like when they're taking off.

In fact, if the wind is strong enough I can hear these things take off in the middle of the night from my apartment, three miles away. So imagine the noise when it's about 150 yards in front of you.

Yeah! The sound of freedom, baby!

I can't hear the radio very well as the Lear rockets off the runway, but I watch with some amusement as the jet immediately sets up a crab angle relative to centerline. You know its windy when it's strong enough to make a jet fly crooked.

I'm here for my sanity, sanity
I am here for you
I'm here for your fantasy -- sanity, I am here
I am

"Wind, 230 at 25, gusts to 35." A Citation decides to brave it, and takes to the skies with nary any visible effort.

A Challenger, sitting down near the Mercury Air Center ramp, decides to wait. "Eh, we don't have to leave right now," the pilot tells ground control, requesting a taxiback to Million Air. "I don't think the owner will mind if we sit here awhile longer, especially if it means we don't burn all his fuel fighting a 150 mph headwind." They must be heading west; for as bad as it is on the ground, the wind usually blows MUCH faster up in the flight levels, above 18,000 feet.

"Taxi back to Million Air," the ground controller replies. "See ya in a minute."

Am I the son I think I am
Am I the father that I think I am
Am I the man I think I wanna be

I'm here for my sanity sanity I am here for you
Whether or not I'm walkin in
Or whether or not I'm walkin out
I'm always here for you

By 3:30 pm, no one else seems willing to brave the winds. Tower and Ground frequencies are both quiet; I briefly switch over to Approach, and catch the tail end of an American pilot asking "what are the winds like at DFW?"

"240 at 28, gusts 36."

"Holy..." the pilot's voice trails off. "This is gonna be a fun one."

Given that most of Dallas's winds come from either a) south, from the Gulf of Mexico, or b) north, from the jet stream, nearly every runway around the metroplex is oriented more-or-less in a north/south direction. Addison's runway skews southeast/northwest, 15/33, meaning a wind from 230 -- the southwest -- is almost a direct crosswind (80 degrees). DFW's runways are 17/35 and 18/36 -- directly north/south, a little better -- but still a force to be reckoned with.

Maybe all of the shit happening recently in my life is just a crosswind... and I'm just waiting things out on the ground until the breeze calms down... you know?

The American plane must have gotten down OK; I never saw or heard otherwise.

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