from the Caribbean
It's the end of the trip,
and we were now facing a LOOOONNNNGGGGG flight back. We had planned
to stop in New Orleans, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas to break it up somewhat.
Our return to the States would begin at Ft. Lauderdale Executive, a
small airport we had chosen hoping to avoid the overcrowded customs
offices found at places like Miami. Customs at Lauderdale Exec were
very friendly. After initially treating us rather sternly, they calmed
down and very a couple of very easy going guys. You see this a lot with
law enforcement people. They act rather tough until you acknowledge
their authority and then they're just regular guys. A few "yessirs"
can go a long way towards making your next customs stop easier!
The FBO at Lauderdale
is called Banyan Air, and is an excellent service oriented business.
They loaned us a golf car and we went chasing across the field to have
a burger at the local diner (it was very good) and then on to the local
pilot shop, which was also very nice.
The islands in this area are very pretty from
was taken between Nassau and Ft Lauderdale. After stopping in
Lauderdale it was time to fly on to New Orleans. This flight would
be our largest over water route. It was fairly uneventful, and
for awhile we had an interesting conversation going with a guy
who was towing banners over the beaches of Louisiana. We estimated
he was about 130 miles away, but sounded clear as a bell. Those
VHF radios work pretty good sometimes! We picked him up on the
over water air-to-air frequency 123.45.
Eventually we started
seeing large cumulus clouds (bad sign for pilots, means thunderstorms)
as we got closer to the coast of Lousiana. It was time to turn
on the ole Stormscope and Weather Radar and see what we were dealing
The last time I saw these kind of green dots
it was in the movie "Aliens" and something really bad
was about to happen!
green dots represent lightning strikes on what is called a "Stormscope".
This is a passive instrument used to detect thunderstorms. Pilots
hate thunderstorms because they contain extreme turbulence that
can literally tear an airplane apart. Interestingly, if there
is no lightning, there is no thunderstorm, even though the cloud
may be black as pitch.
you want to avoid flying too close to any green dots.
image shows our weather radar at approximately the same point
in time as the Stormscope display. Red is bad for this display.
Do not fly through the red. You can see that the red correlates
pretty well with where lightning is striking. The radar only sees
ahead, while the Stormscope is omni-directional. The red/yellow/green
colors are effectively a measure of how large and how many water
drops are in the clouds, because the radar is tuned to a frequency
that reflects water droplets.
I remember flying
from Truckee back to SFO one time in a Beech King Air turboprop.
It was a rough flight. There were briefcases and coats levitating
in the aisles as we would drop into zero G for up to half a minute
at a time. The folks I was flying with were terrified. I wasn't,
but probably only out of ignorance. I was seated where I could
see the cockpit, and gradually noticed that the major turbulence
exactly coincided with when the plane flew right through a red
area on the radar.
To complete the
tutorial, here is the view out the window at the time. To the
uninitiated, these clouds don't look that bad, do they? There's
a little gray, but definitely no black. I've annotated the photo
to show some buildups. These are clouds that show vertical development.
This development is caused by heat energy, and indicates lots
of turbulence inside.
As you can see,
we are skirting the edge of this big builder. It was shaped almost
like a mushroom cloud. The very strongest ones can't be flown
over at all as they can extend up to 40,000 feet or more. This
one is a baby, but there is still rain and lightning inside these
otherwise benign-looking clouds. Just as where there is smoke
there is fire, where there is rain and lightning there is also
were hanging around the coastline, as they often do, so we vectored
around them and circled clockwise around New Orleans to get to
the executive airport we were targeting.
Here we are about
to turn final. It's a cool little airport. The runway extends
out into Lake Pontchartrain. The real long thing that looks like
a pier is the ILS (instrument) approach system.
About this time
Steve inquired whether I wanted to land the Navajo. I gulped and
said yes. This is a big airplane, and there's a lot going on,
but the basic principles are the same as my little Cessna 182.
The good news is I have a 1000 hour pilot in the left seat with
his hands on the controls. I'm not touching the throttles, just
focusing on maintaining the proper speed and glideslope.
I handed control
back to Steve at the last minute just to make sure all went well
on the runway. You can see that I had us lined up well before
doing so, however.
The biggest surprise
was that we actually seemed to get there a little sooner than
expected. You sit high in the Navajo compared to a Cessna 182,
so I thought we had a few more feet to touchdown.
night, we strolled Bourbon Street, sample jello shots, and ate
at Emeril's restaurant NOLA. It was really great! I hope to
get back to New Orleans some day, though I'm not sure I'd care
to be here for Mardi Gras.
And to the right is our dining room.
The Rirz Carlton La Maison: Sumptuous!
stayed at the Ritz Carlton right on Canal Street. Its a beautiful
old hotel built in an old department store building. We'd reserved
a room with 2 double beds, but they had no such animal in the
hotel. They agreed to comp us to two rooms and then upgraded that
at no charge to the exclusive La Maison. This is a hotel-within-the-hotel
and it was amazingly luxurious. Has to be one of the nicest hotels
I've ever stayed in.
The antiques are lovely, arent' they?
5 food presentations a day!
we arrived there was an awesome display of European-style desserts
including rich chocolate torts and cheesecakes. This is the breakfast
spread. Fresh fruit, pastries, cereals, Lox and Bagels, etc. Really
Our concierge, Barbara
Jones. Barbara entertained us and gave us an excellent education
on the Ritz system for making your stay perfect. Barbara was a
Senator's wife at one point and has been advancing rapidly in
the Ritz system.
We discussed the
idea that at some point, high net worth individuals could really
use someone like Barbara to run their households. I think visiting
with hotel concierges like Barbara would be an excellent way to
identify such resources.
Ritz likes to use
an interesting technique to make sure their people will have the
right "people" orientation to service. They periodically
phone interview and pose hypothetical scenarios that have to be
answered in real time over the phone. They will use a variety
of techniques that border on stress interviewing. The recipient
has no warning of the call, it can come at any time. They have
to use their initiative and charm to provide an answer that fits
within Ritz guidelines.
We are departing
now. The white dot near the middle of the picture is a group of
fishermen. It must be interesting to fish so close to the runway!
Our next stop was
supposed to be Dallas for refueling, but we've decide to go to
Houston instead. Its not as direct to Santa Fe, but there are
a number of thunderstorms around the Dallas region.
Check the size of these towers over Houston!
We flew into a little
airport called Southwest in Houston. Enroute, I had called my
mother and father-in-law to come meet us for lunch.
They obliged and
we all went out to a nice Chinese lunch. Its great to be able
to do this sort of thing with a private airplane.
From here we refueled
and flew on to Santa Fe. It was a pretty long leg, and fairly uneventful.
On to Santa Fe...