Fellow flight instructor, Dan Giallourakis, and I decided to shoot an approach at Macon Downtown (KMAC) before we headed to Hazlehurst (KAZE) for our Pink Baron flight. Dan is an experienced pilot and he was able to point out some of my bad habits right away. This served as a great reminder that every pilot, regardless of experience, should schedule a flight with an instructor often, not just when the flight review is due.

Atlanta Approach, air traffic control (ATC) for the Macon area, was courteous and helpful, as they always are. We were cleared for the practice approach and, after our missed-approach, we asked for flight following to Hazlehurst.

The winds were up coming out of the west at about 10 to 15 knots with occasional strong gusts but that is a perfect training environment. The challenge was that Hazlehurst has only a north-south runway so we knew we were facing a fun crosswind landing.

I asked Dan to take the controls while I played with my Mini I-Pad. Trying to hit the right “button” with gusty winds is a trick. They need to design some kind of finger or thumb hold for the mount. That is also why pilots cannot rely on this device as primary when flying IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). Actually, we had three GPSs tuned in; one is IFR certified.

There is always the tried and true pilotage which is another form of IFR, “I Follow Rivers”. The Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis County Board of Tourism proudly points out that one of Jeff Davis County’s gifts from nature is the confluence of two of Georgia’s major, and most picturesque, rivers: the Ocmulgee and the Oconee to form the mighty Altamaha. I am not sure what the travel time would be by kayak but it was less than 35 minutes by air.

As we approached KAZE Jacksonville Center, ATC for the Hazlehurst area, advised there was a Cessna Citation Jet inbound to Hazlehurst as well.

We began scanning the sky and responded to Jax Center, “We are looking.”

The Citation appeared at our nine o’clock and called downwind to runway three-two. Dan said with a devilish smile, “Here, Lee, you take it and demonstrate the crosswind landing.” I said, “Roger, my airplane” smiling back at him, I took the controls. Soon we were on final crabbing into the wind on short final. The wind was gusting so we vacillated between what seemed to be a precision crosswind landing to a controlled crash. The trick is to make sure it is a precision landing when the wheels hit the asphalt and then keep flying her all the way to the tie down area.

The Citation was based at Hazlehurst and was operated by one of the lumber companies. It was a pleasure to meet the pilots and get my flight jacket signed. We left our promotion cards, refueled, and took off for Macon Downtown.

It is fun to travel to the different, often very different airports, in our state but when we approach our city, the center city of the region, it is oblivious the indispensable role Macon plays as the capital of the “rest-of-Georgia.” Our city provides through the Cherry Blossom Festival a way for all Georgians to celebrate the beauty and friendship of our part of the Empire State. I am thankful for all the volunteers that work hard each spring to make sure the Cherry Blossom Festival is here for all of our neighbors to enjoy. It is their festival and we want them to come to their center city and have fun.

Dan and I shot the Runway 28 approach back into Macon Downtown Airport. Every flight is different; this was a good flight for a great purpose. The festival is about to start. We should get at least one more flight before the opening then we will fly a blossom watch or two.

We are thinking now about a CBF Fly-in in the May or June time frame followed by Tunes and Balloons in September. We just don’t want the festival to end, and I cannot think of a reason it should. We have too much to celebrate.

Blue skies,

– Pink Baron (Lee Robinson)