From The South Ramp --Hank Bruckner:
Ed Lu, long-time member of GACH, blasted off into space aboard Atlantis right on schedule on September 8th in another stunningly spectacular launch. We were again privileged to watch, this time from the Causeway viewing site—about 41/2 miles from the launch pad. This, Ed’s second flight aboard the Shuttle, was a daylight morning launch that was threatened only by a stubborn occluded front across northern Florida that was loaded with the usual rain and thunder. Although it was moving slowly southward and looked very ominous indeed, the weather didn’t arrive until well after the launch. Ed’s first launch, STS-84 on May 15th, 1997, also went exactly as scheduled. It appears to be a good thing to have Ed on board if you want your launch to go on time.
One of the cool things about going to a launch is that the local hotels have NASA TV on cable. Much of the time is spent watching flight control personnel walking around either the Launch Control Center or the Mission Control Center; however, when something neat is happening, you get it live. Ed got to do a space walk for about six and a quarter hours after the shuttle docked with the International Space Station (ISS), and we got to watch him in real time.
Another cool thing about going to a launch is all the wildlife you get to see in the process. Cape Canaveral is in the middle of a major wildlife preserve. While we were waiting for the launch, we got to see the sun come up over the Banana River and experience Mother Nature shedding the night and coming to life. Herons, cormorants, egrets, gulls, terns, and countless other birds all took wing and began their daily search for food, putting on some spectacular fly-bys in the process. As the bugs awoke, so did the fish that eat them, and the dolphins and alligators that eat them. Quite a show, and all of this playing out just yards from where we sat.
The coolest thing about going to a launch, of course is the launch itself. From our vantage point, we could hear the roar, shake as the earth moved underfoot, and actually feel the heat from the rockets as Atlantis rode its column of fire and smoke into space. It’s difficult to describe the to-the-marrow emotional and spiritual thrill as you experience a friend enveloped in so much power embark on such a journey. As the countdown nears zero, there’s the flash as the main rocket engines ignite, immediately followed by a rapidly-expanding cloud of white smoke and steam. In a matter of seconds, the shuttle rises out of the billowing smoke, trailing a tongue of fire three times its length. At about the same time, the sound of millions of pounds of thrust shredding the air reaches you and your whole body resonates to the rumble. And then, the heat arrives. As you gaze at the spectacular column of fire and smoke, your face is gently bathed by the heat—five miles away! In moments, it’s gone. And in moments more, they’re in space. Talk about a rate-of-climb! Hard to wrap the mind around.
Ed graciously carried a patch from the French Connection, depicting Montaine and Daniel in their signature canopy-to-canopy formation, into space. The patch will be presented to the family.
In this world of sound bites and headline news, I was struck by the paucity of coverage given this (or most other) space flight. CNN noted the launch, docking, space walk and opening the ISS in very brief clips, and hardly even mentioned the landing at mission’s end. Other networks had even less. NASA/TV is only widely available in the immediate vicinity of the cape, unless you have satellite TV. It certainly isn’t available on Oceanic Cable on O’ahu. The fact that this mission set the stage for what should be the beginning of a permanent manned presence in space aboard the ISS that will involve the most ambitious space construction program ever seems to fall below the threshold of those who manage the things we want to or need to know. And yet, some of us will sit for hours watching people sitting around a room scratching themselves or whatever other “real TV” concept happens to be hot at the moment. Go figure.
Anyway, Ed, thanks for the opportunity to witness your launch again. We hope to entice Ed to address a group of pilots here when he comes back to visit.
Port Allen Fly-In
Hana Fly-In, 2000
Mike Webb repeated as winner of the Accuracy Landing event, with Jay Von Brimer of HCC/UND earning a 2nd place, and Joe Kiefer also earning another trophy. It seems that Mike and Joe have made a habit of collecting GACH trophies. Well done, y’all!
Hana’s breathtaking natural beauty and the openness and friendliness of the local folk make it a truly special place. Of all the places in the world, Charles Lindbergh chose to slip out of his mortal bonds near Hana. I hope we’ll see more of you there next year.
Kala’eloa Transition, Part II
When an organized search is in progress, the search area is divided among the search assets to insure the best coverage and prevent collisions. The hazards of two aircraft operating in the same search area are obvious, especially when most eyes are directed at the ocean. The Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, CAP, Air Force, Navy and Guard/Reserve forces all use established search patterns and communications frequencies that are assigned by the coordinating agency (either the Coast Guard or the Joint Rescue Center) based on the nature of the search, type of search asset and conditions. All search platforms will have GPS to locate precisely anyone or anything found.
Typically, there will be an on-scene commander in the search area (either a surface vessel or aircraft) and most comms will be on VHF-FM marine channels—usually Channel 23. If you are going to be out there, you really need a high degree of situational awareness so that you don’t endanger anyone else. On board, you and your observer will want to be wearing good survival equipment (more than just a life vest) and have an egress plan.
What you are searching for determines your search altitude. If you are looking for persons in the water, you’ll likely be down around 500’—higher if you’re searching for a small boat, but not likely above 1,000’, especially if there are whitecaps on the surface. That doesn’t give you much time to deal with an emergency. It’s comforting if you are part of a search effort with on-scene assets not too far away. Coast Guard and Auxiliary platforms check in with Group or the on-scene commander every 15 minutes. If you miss a check in, you get immediate attention. If you are searching independently, on your own, you may really be on your own, especially if your search area and altitude preclude radar coverage by Center. All part of the equation.
We all want to help. If you are going to, however, you owe it to yourself and everyone else to be properly equipped and crewed and do it right. You may even wish to join the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Civil Air Patrol and get some excellent training and experience.
See you at the GACH Christmas Party.
Be careful out there.
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