October 26, 2005

 

Haverstraw, NY

 

As part of my continuing effort to get back into flying, I took a three leg airplane trip today.It was my fourth (and longest) trip since I resumed flying in mid-September.Accompanying me was an instructor, since I will not be eligible to reapply for my medical certificate (and fly solo) until early 2007.

 

The route was Caldwell, NJ to Ithaca, NY to Lebanon, NH, then back to Caldwell, for a total of three landings and five hours on the Hobbs meter.Todayís weather was mostly overcast and very windy, which fulfilled my desire to fly in some real IFR conditions again:logging 3.6 hours and two approaches in minimal visibility.As only fellow pilots can appreciate, this made me one very happy fellow.

 

The routing for the return leg to Caldwell is east to west, directly over the Carmel VOR. Predictably, NY Approach gave me the standard instrument flight path:depart on the Carmel 275 radial to intercept the Sparta 039 radial.

 

Over the years Iíve flown this route several dozen times, and until now the only noteworthy landmark as one crosses the Hudson River a few miles west of the Carmel VOR is the Indian Point nuclear reactor, off to the right.

 

Today, however, I immediately recognized that on the far side of the river, off to the left, lies the town of Haverstraw, NY, where on June 30 I deployed the parachute and crashed into the water.I did not have a camera with me today, but through the magic of Google Earth, here is what I saw:

 

 

Any observer (other than me) might have seen a small town adjoining the Hudson River, an inlet and protected cove, and some fuel tanks.

 

Flying past this scene earlier today, I subconsciously etched onto that pleasant scenery the rapid-fire events which took place on the afternoon of June 30:the red line depicts my flight path.... by the time the chute was deployed and I had finished issuing the Mayday call, the plane was only 400-500 feet above the ground, coming down fast directly over the fuel tank farm.... thatís when I used power, right aileron and rudder to steer away into the water.... X marks the crash site.... the blue line marks the path of the fire department boat, ten minutes after the crash, coming through the inlet, past the now-sunken plane, to drag me out of the water at R and drop me off at an ambulance waiting at the boat launch near the fuel tanks.

 

Nearly four months have passed since that event.Any sooner and I probably would have freaked out at the thought of being anywhere near Haverstraw, NY.But today I found it simply surreal to be in that environment again.

 

A series of thoughts ran through my head:

 

The crash happened and I lived to tell the tale

Two days later the airplane was salvaged from the water, dismantled and ultimately sold off in pieces to a crop duster in central Florida

One month later the doctors mucked around in my brain, successfully taking out the tumor which was responsible for the crash and, incidentally, left me temporarily paralyzed

But within two months after the surgery I had managed to overcome many of its adverse effects

And today, nearly four months later, by happenstance I flew past the crash site, once again at the controls of an SR22

 

For a brief moment my attention was drawn to the X on the sparkling water, and I probed my feelings to try and sense whether any part of me had sunk with the plane.Maybe yes, maybe no.Only time will tell.

 

No doubt Iíll fly past here again; someday it might just be another blur at 200 miles per hour.