Well, that kind soul, Eric, offered to take us for a plane ride over the city! The weather cleared up enough to take a spin on Sunday... so off we went to the little grass strip airport near his home, just west of New Orleans.
How exciting!!!!! I have flown in big planes and jets, but have not been in a little prop plane like this since I was a kid flying with Bob Lou over Iron County, Michigan for a Penny A Pound ride fundraiser.
Steve's dad is a pilot and flew planes, so it was not so new to Steve. But for me it was a whole new world again. We pulled in to the little airport at Ama, 6 ft above sea level. Eric had it all fueled up and ready to roll. errrr fly!
Steve rode up in the copilot seat and I got in the back.
Lucky it was a four seater plane,
or else they probably would have strapped me to the tail
or made me walk the wings or something....
He gave us instructions and managed to find a third pair of headphones so I could hear the tower and their conversations too. Eric did all the pre-flight checking and radio'd ahead to get permission to take off and logged his flight plan. We taxied out onto the runway..... and took off!!!!!
OH MY GOODNESS!!!!! It was exhilarating! My heart was pounding but I knew Eric has flown many many hours and hasn't crashed so we are good hands. (but he did show me where the door lever was reachable from the back seat if we did... ack!) We cleared the trees and went up up up to about 1,000 feet. The clouds were coming in from the west a bit, so we went east... along the Mississippi River towards New Orleans.
Watching the tiny barges and boats along the river was interesting, and seeing all the homes, swimming pools, and rooftops that were spanning for miles and miles on end.
Steveio was watching intently all of the gauges, dials, and readouts. Eric was explaining a lot of the systems and showing how it all operated. Durikng the lapses of conversation, he has FM radio playing through the headsets and it was strangely eerie to be cruising along through the air to tunes?
As we got closer to the city, the houses were closer together, the highways were getting filled with cars and it was so interesting to look down over the Sunday doings of people in their yards and on the streets. Kinda like a peeper into their yards and lives!
We followed along the winding Mississippi River and saw more boats and barges... but the clouds were coming in and blurring some of the vision, so Eric dropped down a bit lower to see better.
Of course while looking out the windows on either side, I had my video camera running all the while.. plus snapping pics with the digital camera. Here we are circling around over New Orleans, and you can see the Super Dome (now called the Mercedes Benz Superdome) over my shoulder.
This was a ride of a lifetime and I didn't want to miss a thing! We looped down along the freeway and over the main part of the city... tall buildings and roads were like a tiny maze beneath us.
Along the port by the convention center, two cruise ships were at dock. There is even a putting green on top of the one to the right just out of the edge of the picture. After hearing all the news about that one cruise ship stranded, plus the time Steve got shipwrecked and marooned on one en route to Alaska ---well.... no thanks. I will travel instead in the motorhome and take our chances on the "terra firma"! Even if we did get stuck for 5 days on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, it sure beats the experiences that those people had on the cruise ships.
Eric flew us over The French Quarter... right over where we had parked and walked around the day before. It was really interesting to see if from up above today.
I could see where we parked the Tracker...
I could see where the mule carriages were lined up...
I could see the rooftops of the quirky little houses we walked past...
I was snapping pics as fast as I could, then looking around and snapping again.. all the while holding up the video camera with my other hand hoping it was filming something... anything... haha (it did fine, we watched it back later last night) I snapped 216 photos.. but don't worry, I am not going to post them all here. It may seem like it, though! hahaha
Eric looped over the city a few times making some tight turns that tickled the belly and made the whole plane tip a lot to the side... I was not scared because I felt comfortable with Eric's skill.... but see the ground ahead in the cockpit windshield?? Those were some tight turns! Very exciting and we were loving every minute of it!~
Then we headed out over the 9th Ward where the most damage was done from Hurricane Katrina. It was sobering to know many people lost their lives in this area because they could not or would not leave before the storm hit. Also Eric mentioned the green sections of lawn all over were homes that were not rebuilt. Either owners decided to not rebuild, or perhaps died and nobody has settled the estate, or nobody wants to buy the lot and build. I don't think I would stay, nor would I rebuild. I would want to move far far inland. I guess I can not understand those who would stay....
Now Eric did a wonderful sweep along the bayou lands far east of the city... this was amazing and probably the most interesting part of the flight. It was clearer to the east, so we could see down lower into the swamps and rugged bogs and marsh. Every now and then was a little shack. Someone's fishing or crawfish hutch to work from?
It was like looking down on a whole new world... seeing the array of land and water and swampy trees like cypress poking up through the mud. We could even see white egret birds flying below us. I felt a strange kinship with them as they flapped their wings and soared along at a lower altitude than what we were flying at.
Eric flew us back to the west again and radioed in to ask permission for a touch and go landing at the big airport in New Orleans. We flew in to the area, and he explained the light systems to line up and head down the runway. We landed soft and easy... and back up into the air again.... boy oh boy he was good! Then we went past the tower and we waved to the controllers who had given him permission to do that. Thanks guys!
Well, it was clouding up more now to the west, so it was time to fly back to Ama and land the plane. He circled in and came down fast to the tree level.. it was amazing the plane fits so nice between the trees. To a novice like me, it felt like they were wayyy too close and we would hit them! But no .... Eric guided the plane in, and smoothly landed it on the grassy strip without a bounce or a jiggle... easy peasy for him! He slowed down up at the end of the airstrip and taxi'd to a perfect stop by the fueling trucks. WHEEEEE what a ride!
We got out of the plane and stood on firm ground again. Although I am not nuts on heights when on a ladder or looking out from top stories of buildings, the airplane ride did not bother me. It was exhilarating and fun and strangely serene and comforting to be up there among the clouds. Maybe I was a bird in a past life? Here I propped the camera up to take a shot of us, safe on the ground.
Steve helped Eric refuel and then he tows the plane back to his hanger with a golf cart! All snug as a bug in a rug after our wonderful exploring over the skies of The Big Easy!
Here is the route we took from the airport on the lower left corner,
across to the right and then up and back to the left ... what a journey!
(I know you are reading this)
Thank you again
for a well-informed
and pleasant ride!
It is truly the highlight
of our trip to Louisiana!!!