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Hurricane Andrew and the South Florida trip

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Engineer 4
Engineer 4
Posts: 1720
Joined: Fri May 19, 2006

Hurricane Andrew and the South Florida trip

Unread post by islandflyer » Sun Jan 14, 2007

I don’t remember exactly when Lisa Arwood came to me with the idea, but since in my youthfully addled brain it seemed like a good idea (and it didn’t hurt that she was a bit of an older fox that I was secretly hoping to take a tumble with :D ), here we were loading up a rental 172 for a ‘quick’ flight down to South Florida. Oh, by the way, the date is August 30th, 1992, and Hurricane Andrew had just flattened most of the Homestead and Cuttler Ridge communities. Lisa was grinning while we packed in blankets, pillows, bottled water and a few canned things. I was a little worried about little things like weight & balance and fuel availability down there, since there were now four adults heading down and the little baggage area was already almost too full to close.

Anyhow, we did get it to close, and after our pre-flight, N53507 was taxiing out at Orlando Executive, VFR to Tamiami, or wherever we could get to. The FAA guys were warning traffic that all navaids south of FLL were either out or unreliable, and VFR traffic was to stay to the west of the Turnpike. It was a bit of a late start since Lisa’s “guests” were picking up last minute supplies – we were airborne at 1:45 p.m. and somewhere around Ft. Lauderdale (Boca Raton?), we were told to descend to 1500’ into the VFR corridor staying below the building overcast and west of all built up areas – there was a few other relief flights coming and going. All was well until we were just past MIA, when we given vectors to TMB Tamiami, which was as close as we could get. Everyone was scanning ahead for the airport, while keeping an eye and camera lens at the outer fringes of the destruction, with a few house roofs off and not many trees with leaves. The controllers kept saying “Cessna 507, airport is at your 12 o’clock, 3 miles. Do you have it in sight?” “Negative, 507” “507, airport is 2 miles” “Roger, no visual” “Cessna 507, look for the C130 departing Tamiami runway 27 ahead, 1 mile” And there it was, a swimming pool!

What used to be an airport was now a sodden grey mass, as we did a short approach to land. Along the way were smashed buildings, overturned aircraft, stripped trees and water, water everywhere.

During our quick 45 minutes on the ground, we took a look around. There were the remnants of aircraft littered around, buildings with varying degrees of damage, and another one of those sad stories: a hanger intact other than the remains of the heavy hanger door ripped from the hinges and tossed into the back, compacting (I was told) a classic warplane, 2 helos and a fancy Piper twin. But the Reserves were in charge at TMB, and didn’t take kindly to people roaming around. If you were a relief flight, you came in, offloaded, and got the flock out. Besides, it was approaching 4:30 and getting dark fast.

Off we went on another VFR hop, overhead MIA and into Opa Locka for fuel, then a filed flight plan back to ORL. Congrats on a successful relief flight. Now it’s time for Adventure #2.

Anyone who flies in South Florida knows that from about 4 p.m. onwards, the thunderstorm cells build rapidly and put on quite a show. So facing a headwind and darkness closing in, we were dodging level 3 & 4 thunderstorm activity back up the coast by Melborne, while my happy passengers snapped pictures. We were away from IAP by 5:50 p.m. and finally made it back to ORL by 8:10 p.m., tired and hungry. We tied down and said our goodbyes in the parking lot.

I seem to remember that flight being the talk of the office for awhile afterwards, but Lisa never got to thank me ‘personally’ (yeah, right!!). Oh well, maybe in another life.

Aircraft: Cessna 172
Registration: N53507
5.0 total time, 3.4 instrument time

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