Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Living at a navigational checkpoint.

When I was flying,  most people didn't like night flying all that much.  Particularly low level navigational hops over mountains.  If  you think about it, that's understandable.  Mountains are tough on people who get lost at low altitude. I suppose now you can't get lost with the GPS gear and all that, but we didn't have it.  What we did have was the ancient VOR system, and sometimes TACAN. Both were 1950's era radio navigational beacon systems.

So if you had to go somewhere, you usually flew along a VOR radial til station passage, then outbound on another VOR radial.

But low level at night was another thing.  That was mostly you and the other pilot looking at a map on a knee board and trying to figure out where the hell you were.

When I was a student doing low levels, you canvassed the other students who had already flown the route for check points. Things that were easy to see from the air, distinctive and easy to pick out.

The military has flown low levels from fields in Southern states through this part of Georgia since before World War II.  There is a very distinctive feature near here that can be seen for miles at night. I can't go into detail without giving away my own location but it's a pilots dream.  I am pretty sure that my place is being used as a low level check point on ingress to that location. It's no coincidence that I get everything from transports to fighters screaming over my roof at night .  Here's what I think they are doing. I live on the national forest, and that's pitch black at night. No towns, no homes, just black. But there is my little place, all lit up with red flood lights, in the middle of this vast dark canvas. I think they come in on my lights, and then make their turn to hit this other site.

I don't mind, in fact if they are I'm glad to help. I've been up there sweating my location and worried I'd get lost and get a "down" on a checkride, not to mention the attendant humiliation.  So even when they wake me up, as they did tonight about two in the morning, I don't mind.  I may not get back  to sleep but that's no big deal, and I'm glad to help.


  1. Hey Harry,


    Soon I will be working all night long on certain nights. Just me and the Coyote's on Padre Island (and the occasional drunks too)

    On your situation, I would have to have some fun. Maybe I would set up some extra lights to do something a little different. Maybe a holiday theme lights as per the time of year, or maybe setting some red LED lights set up to solar chargers up on large poles to simulate beacons or maybe even set up a rotating light on top of the tallest house. Its like saying, I know what your doing and I'm going to have some fun with the situation. Maybe also you can have LED lights pointing in an "arrow" pointing towards that respective mountain that's used as a navigational aid.
    I think the pilots would get a kick out of that.

    Where I live at, we get a lot of drones. They are easy to spot at night if they are running their fancy, new LED strobes and other LED's on the wingtips and AOA lights when they are coming in on approach. The drones are real slow compared to other air traffic and make a "buzzing noise' that's unique to that airframe. Oh' yes the drones are used for the Border Patrol or at least that's what they claim. I think 'boots on the border' would be more effective, and I mean on the physical border not 60 miles north of the border.

    1. There are six large red floodlights out there if I have everything turned on, but the forest is so dense, especially in summer, that I don't give my location away unless you happen to be overhead. It might be fun to put up that many lights but it might also make me easier to find on the ground.

      I have never seen a drone in flight, that would be interesting. There aren't any around here that I know of.

  2. I used to be able to get highway patrol choppers to land in my dad's hay fields. All it took was a bit of camo netting and a hand mirror placed in the right spot. They would see the flash from the small mirror and then notice the netting and think it was a pot growing set up. They would land and go check it out at least once or twice a Summer.

    1. I can think of lots of visitors I would like but the Highway Patrol is not high on the list! I get the pot chopper here ever so often but they don't land, they just hover over the meadow and start all the animals raising hell.

  3. Replies
    1. That works good in the states. In some third world hell holes there aren't any roads. It's also not fun that everybody has some kind of gun and they routinely shoot at low flying aircraft for the hell of it. Not because they're mad at you, just because they can.