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.