All in a Half-day's Work

My Labor Day trip out to Atlanta with BoatPix was a last-minute deal. Initially I thought I was headed to New Bern, but they ended up needing me in Atlanta instead. That left me short of time to order and review those sectional charts, so I gave a few iPhone apps a try. In addition to a VFR charting app, one of the (GPS Lite from Mobile Arts) was a GPS tracker that could run in the background. On our last flight of the weekend, I started up GPS Lite after pre-flighting our helicopter during our first fuel stop of the day, and then again after having the phone on a charge on our last fuel stop. Just today I imported the tracks to Google Earth (if you’re into GE, you can download tours from the Clemson [KCEU] and Anderson [KAND] flights from this zip file).

We’d flown the southern end of Lake Hartwell for a full day on Saturday, and thought we’d work the northern end to see what the boat traffic was like there. Prior to landing at KCEU, we’d done a recon of the north end of the lake. Like the southern end, there were a few bridges (with wires) and multiple islands and dead-end coves. There were also lots of small campgrounds along the forested shorelines; given the close quarters, we wouldn’t be staying long in any one place lest we disturb the campers. The one difference was that it was narrower and lacked the wide open areas of the southern end. On the one hand, working a narrow area like that requires more planning so that you can maneuver for the photo shot with plenty of clearance from shoreline obstructions and other boat traffic. On the other hand, the boats pretty much line up for you, and they’re either coming or going. That’s what this track pretty much shows. Not much was happening near the Clemson campus (upper right corner), so we crossed over the bridge and shot a few boats as we worked south away from the campers. From there on we could fly long south-bound passes, weaving around boats headed the same direction, and then turn around and fly back north to catch boats headed the opposite way. It turned out to be productive, and it was much easier than I expected–the only thing that would throw a hitch in our rhythm would be an enthusiastic group that just happened to drop their skier right before we got to them.

That track covers 45 minutes during which we flew about 30 miles (after that my iPhone’s battery was drained). After the track ends, we kept working south for another hour before heading down to KAND for a fuel stop. That’s where the next track picks up, after our last fuel stop. The lower end of Lake Hartwell is much more open. Even in the narrow area south of the bridge, our track is shorter and less aligned. It was late in the day and we eventually had to move to an entirely different area. On the east side, our track wanders southeast out of a popular party cove, where we were able to follow a few boats out. But after shooting those guys, we again had to move. After about 45′, we turned west and climbed above the lake to head back to our base at Gainesville (KGVL).

Great flying that weekend. After I left, the helicopter went in for its 50-hr service and for an alternator squawk (we’d noticed on our pre-flight that afternoon that the belt was loose–turns out the mounting bracket had come loose). It’s since moved to Kentucky, and will soon be getting mothballed for the winter unless a student needs it.