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TRIPPING LIGHTLY
by Carol Eguia

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time and phone number.

Early last week, a number of papers blew off my desk every time the office door was opened. It seemed like all day Monday and Tuesday I was grabbing things on my desk and picking things up off the floor and out of the trash that I didnít grab in time.

After a while, I began to laugh each time that "hair straightening wind" came in the door because I knew that to come in that door, and at a pretty good clip, the wind had to come from the southwest or straight out of the west. Either direction would give Sugar Landís Regional Airport a serious crosswind on their north-south runway. So what does that mean? Nothing much to real pilots!

Itís just that so much has been made of the dangers of crosswinds on airport runways when taking off or landing lately, that I have become conscious of the wind and from which direction it is coming and how fast. When we were children, we would wet our finger and hold it up in the air to tell those important things about the wind that kept our kites soaring and told us how much weight we needed on the tail to keep the kite from spinning to the ground in a high wind. Kites were handmade in those days and took some time to make. It wasnít a quick trip to the store for a new kite if we had enough money, and we never did.

Now, if you fly, windsocks are the wind direction indicators, and to some degree, wind speed indicators, as well, and it doesnít take much education to read a wind sock, as long as you know your directions. I can read windsocks! Last Thursday, I read the windsock on the top of a hanger at the Arcola Airport. It said the wind was blowing from north to south at a pretty good clip because the sock was standing straight out continuously, with no slack.

Iíd made a quick trip to the airport to take a few pictures and since I had to detour around the sink hole on Hwy. 521, I came down Hwy. 288. I saw a great deal of new construction that I had not seen before and was amazed at the new subdivisions, strip centers and buildings in general. It looked like Caterpillar heaven with all those yellow machines scraping and pushing and piling the dirt.

When I was at the airport, I commented about the new construction that I had seen, that really surprised me. They were even building an overpass on Hwy. 6 almost at the door of the Arcola Airport to take traffic over 521. Those builders didnít seem to worry that they were building close to an airport - surely they had noticed the airplanes. I had, and loved it.

Someone asked if I had seen that area from the air and I said, "No, but Iíd like to see it someday." Well, when he said, "How about right now," I thought I canít do that now, thereís a serious crosswind out there and that will scare me, but I said, "Fine, Iíd like that."

So he got a plane and a girl pilot (there are two flight schools on the airport that are owned by women) and in short order, we were sitting in a Cessna Skyhawk and she, Kathy Anderson, was reading a check list, which is something I have not seen done since I quit flying for Braniff Airways in 1951, when I got married.

When she finished, we headed down the runway (the dangerous east-west runway) in the crosswind. We must have missed it because I didnít feel anything unusual, even when we flew by the hanger with the windsock on it. The windsock was still straight out indicating a brisk north wind. I thought maybe we would see it on the way back because after all Iíve heard lately, I hated to miss it.

After we got up a bit and I looked around to see just where I was, I was really amazed. It looked like every acre of land from Missouri City to Brazoria County and beyond has some kind of construction going on, and not only houses but infrastructure as well. One place I saw they were making a lake (dug a hole and filled it with water) and were selling lake front lots.

The construction is marching down both sides of Hwy. 288, all the way to Hwy. 6 (only commissioners court knows why Hwy. 288 isnít in Fort Bend County and also why there is a dump, for Houstonís trash, on Hwy. 521 in Fort Bend County). The east end of Fort Bend County is growing at a terrific pace, and in the middle of winter, too. All in all, the air view was a mind-boggling revelation to me and the flight was a thrill - took me back to the time when I was 18 and flying in a small plane.

By the way, I didnít feel any crosswind when we landed either. Maybe Kathy is a better than average pilot. Actually, she is an instructor. Anyway, I got a hands-on air tour of east Fort Bend County - well not quite! Kathy had taken off her shoes that had heavy soles to be better able to feel the controls. She did keep her socks on though because if gets chilly up there. So my tour was more feet-on and hands-on. And you know, another good thing, I didnít have to go through security screening, searching, frisking, strip-searching, questioning or all of the above. It was just like the old days.

Now did you get my point? We have here a little old gray-haired lady and a girl pilot, with no shoes on, taking off and landing in a serious crosswind from an airport located between two major corridors (Hwy. 288 and the proposed Fort Bend Toll Road), and surrounded by thousands of acres of construction with potential customers for said airport when space becomes available (the airport is full right now).

Remember when Houston had a "dingbat" mayor and a city council that decided that one airport was enough for Houston, and they closed Hobby Airport? Well, I do. I even wrote three columns in this very paper about the "ghosts of airports - past." And where is Hobby Airport now? Well, itís not closed.


 


 
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   Last Update:  February 19, 2003