The Natural State

‘You know, in my hometown of Hope, Arkansas, the three sacred heroes were Jesus, Elvis, and FDR, not necessarily in that order.’ – Mike Huckabee

Left base: Runway 19, Searcy, AR

Stopping in Branson last night was kind of a dream come true. You know the dream. You’re surrounded by well meaning people who are trying to help you but, as hard as you might try, it’s impossible to understand a word they are saying. That’s Branson. We’re talking about a town with a massive electronic American flag welcoming you to town, Yakov Smirnof as the multiple winner of “Branson’s Funniest Comic” and a 220 foot viewing platform named Inspiration Tower. For us blue staters it was a reminder of the differences that lead other parts of the country to vote red.

Austin, again, wasn’t an option. We launched, only to make it ten minutes blasting through the sky before finding unreported low clouds that sent us 180 back to Branson West. Instead of living another 36 hours of our own personal version of Lost in Translation, we started looking around for other options. Luckily, it didn’t take much searching.

Beth got out the maps and we realized that we were only an hour flight away from my Dad’s place outside Little Rock.

When the clouds are low all the visual traffic is compressed into the remaining airspace. We scooted along at 140mph and scanned the skies eagerly for other traffic. The good news is that low clouds also keep most people on the ground. During our skip from Branson West to Searcy we saw only one other plane, a Cessna 172 like ours a couple hundred feet below and a thousand or so feet to our right.

As we flew we consistently reached out ahead of our path listening to weather reports from airports in our flight path. With some assurance that conditions at our 12 remained safe, and not just legal, we bored holes in the sky and soon found ourselves near Searcy.

We approached the airport from the north and wanted to land on runway 19. This is essentially a southbound runway. The standard practice is to descend to pattern altitude and enter 45 degrees to the downwind. This is a good idea in general, but especially in Searcy. The town is directly north of the airport so trying to flying straight in would put the plane a thousand feet above the ground while flying over downtown. That’s just being a bad neighbor. With that in mind we stayed high over the town, overflew the airport and then descended to pattern over the farms to the east of the airport.

A couple quick left turns later and we were back on the third rock and ready to spend a couple days with family.

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