April 4, 2009 - Tuscaloosa Air Show
I flew to another air show featuring the Blue Angels on this Saturday. This time it was in Tuscaloosa, AL, which is not far from Birmingham. This was the first show held at this airport, and except for a few short delays, was a good show.
I left St. Pete around 6:30 AM for one of the smoothest rides I've had in a long time. I did suffer from a little bit of headwind, which stretched the flight to about 3:14. The straight line course would have taken me over more water that I wanted, so my first waypoint was Cross City. Just as I was about to pass over that point, ATC allowed me to go direct to my destination. There is a Military Operation Area just a little south of Tuscaloosa, which apparently was "hot", so I was vectored around it, adding a little time. And then within 5 miles of the airport, I learned that there were about 8 other planes in various holding patterns in the area, so I took up station to the south. About 20 minutes later, the tower announced that the airport was closed, and those of us still in the air would have to go somewhere else. I had not planned for this, so I took another turn around the hold to try to figure out where to go. Ten minutes later, the tower called 5 planes, by number, and set us up to land - I was number three. The amount of time I was off the ground ended up being a little over 4 hours. (There are more details below.)
The return trip was uneventful, completed in a few minutes over 3 hours. The last half of the trip was at night, with no clouds and a big moon. It was pretty cool to turn off all the interior lights and look out the windows. It almost seemed bright enough that I could read the newspaper from the moonlight. And again, it was a really smooth ride.
I left my house for the airport around 5:00 AM and didn't get back until around 11:00 PM, so it was a long day, but it was another example of stuff I can do with an airplane that people stuck in cars cannot do. Look at a map and you will see that there is no easy way to get from Largo, FL to Tuscaloosa, AL. Google maps it out at 683 miles that would take over 10 and a half hours to drive. No way I would think about doing the trip on the ground.
I got about 7 hours of flying time, some of it at night, without hardly seeing a cloud. I took some video of the day, and present about 9 minutes of highlights below. You'll see clouds in the video, but there were none during the flights up and back.
This is the route I flew according to my GPS. You can see the left turn at Cross City in Florida, then the straight path up to the MOA in Alabama. Near the end, you can see a red blob - this is the holding that I was doing before landing. Another picture below shows details of this holding.
Here's the holding I did. I entered from the top-right, did a 270-degree turn near the city of Tuscaloosa and proceeded south. It looks to me that I did five complete patterns plus some other delay tactics. The airport is at the top-center. You can see I went all the way to the end of the runway before turning toward the parking area.