The Author is David Reed, a commercial pilot for over 40 years. Over these four decades he has had many events occur, some interesting, some exciting, a few that were frightening and a lot of misadventures. Every story in this blog is true.

Friday, October 19, 2018

A Quiet Night

It doesn't always work out this way. In fact, it  usually never works out this way. We'd been on call for a few days without getting alerted. This day looked like another day of goofing off at home, when just before dinner we got alerted. Fly three people down to Springfield, then over to Branson and bring blood back in an empty airplane. Donors, whether it's an organ or the entire body, have a large number of blood tests that are required to get a good match with a recipient. I  got dressed and headed promptly out the door to the Smokehouse where I picked up the catering. I also got my copilot Rachel some honey because I know she loves our local honey. 

At the airport I'm on the computer visiting the usual websites- FltPlan, Avianis, Baldwin Safety. David Stearns brings me the release, tells me that Branson is no longer. "Just drop them off in Springfield and bring the blood back from there." OK, back to the web to modify the flight plans. Rachel is fighting rush hour traffic from Illinois, so I get the sodas and head out to the airplane. I had them top it off because we had the extra leg going, and I just like having lots and lots of fuel. I put the gear inside the airplane and do the preflight inside and out. Finally, with everything done and 15 minutes to go, I go inside for some coffee.

Our first guest arrives and we talk some, mostly confirming the plan for tonight. Rachel shows up, then the other two passengers. We board up and off we go. We are quickly ready for takeoff and watch a big Gulfstream jet land. Line up and wait, then cleared for takeoff. We run down the runway and rotate at the usual 111 knots. The air is dead calm, so smooth I could actually let go of the wheel and she'd stay right where I left her. We bop on up through some clouds and on top we are flying directly towards a most spectacular sunset (see above, which doesn't do it justice). We snap a few pictures and press on.

We land in Springfield on runway 2, and taxi right in to the ramp. The van is here to meet us with the blood samples. The three techs get busy checking the boxes of blood vials. Seems there is a problem, there is a vial missing from the patient in Branson. They confer with the lab back in St Louis, who say they really need that vial, so change 1: The three will go to the hospital, John will grab some empty vials and drive to nearby Branson. Rachel and I will wait until he has left for Branson, then fly over there and get the vial. Ready, break!

Rachel and I head over to Buffalo Wild Wings and (as usual) we order in about ten seconds, a combo meal that we will split. We have a good time at dinner, then head back just as John texts to say he's heading to Branson. Back at the airport we climb aboard and fly down to Branson. It's a short trip, but I've never been there before, so I have Rachel plug in the RNAV approach while I bring up the airport diagram. 3700' isn't the longest runway, but neither is it the shortest. It is narrow though. "Can you believe Southwest once accidentally landed a 737 there?"

We get there quick enough, spot what appears to be the airport, but fly the approach anyway just to be safe. We're all alone up here, two professionals doing what we do best. Crossing the end right at 110 kts, the runway seems mighty darn short. I plant it right in the zone and go immediately to max reverse. We stop with some room to spare, do a quick 180 and taxi back to the ramp. The ramp is a former terminal, deserted now though. I spin it around by the gate and set the brake. I look around outside, then at Rachel, who looks back. "Looks cold out there. I'm gonna leave it running and work on the log." She readily agrees. Later, logbook done, we finally shut it down and go to the gate to see if it's locked, which it isn't. Back by the airplane we are all alone out here, under a gorgeous half moon in a cold but calm sky. We dance together some to keep warm, then climb back inside and grab a couple of seats in back. Eventually the van appears, I grab the samples, fired up the engines and Rachel did the takeoff. The acceleration is brisk, but even so it seems like the end comes up mighty quickly before we rotate. We climb out, check in with Springfield Approach again and head back to St Louis, having way too much fun. We get Spirit Airport in sight 50 miles out and later the tower clears us to land moments before he closes for the night. A great landing in St Louis tops off a truly magical night. Great passengers, smooth as glass air, empty legs, up and down, up and down, up and down. Life is wonderful.

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