July 4 Fireworks from the air

Fireworks (sorry I didn't take this one, all mine were ruined :(  )On Tuesday evening (July 3) I rented a Piper Warrior and regained my night proficiency. I practiced soft field and short field landings and takeoffs both with and without obstacles as well as just general takeoffs and landings. I really do need to get out during the day and hone my other skills (steep turns, S-curves, emergency procedures) but it was good to get out after a long hiatus. I haven’t been up in the air since that Thanksgiving trip.

That paved the way to taking Michelle up to watch the Independence Day fireworks over Atlanta. There are always surprisingly few folks up there doing this. I suppose one of the downsides is that you can’t do any alcoholic drinking during the day and I think a lot of folks like to kick back with a cold one and relax on the holiday.

There are several factors to balance, fireworks generally don’t exceed 1,300 feet AGL so you obviously don’t want to be flying anywhere near that low, ignoring the fact that you’d be daring some of the taller broadcast antennae to pop up on your route of travel. In addition to that you have the ceiling imposed on you by Atlanta’s Bravo-class airspace (about 5-6 thousand feet AGL in the area of interest to me) and the minimum altitudes required to not violate Peachtree-Dekalb’s and Dobbins Air Force base’s airspace (3500 and 3400 feet AGL respectively).  I opted to simply fly around those. I’d suggest you really want to be comfortable flying before you do this without an instructor or another experienced pilot in the airplane with you.

Even though there are relatively few folks “flight-seeing” the fireworks, they are all concentrated both at the big fireworks displays and again back at their home airports as the fireworks end. The lower airspace within which we view the fireworks is largely uncontrolled meaning that there is no standard altitude/direction scheme like you have from 3,000 feet AGL on up so you need to be vigilant in avoiding the other aircraft out there. I’ve found that everybody is pretty good at picking altitudes and keeping out of each other’s way.

In the past we found that it seems to be VERY difficult taking digital pictures at night from an airplane. We discovered that film cameras aren’t much better this time around. The constant vibration of the airplane makes long shutter times impractical and we had only 400 ASA film. Pretty much the entire role was a write-off. That picture at the beginning of this blog entry was one that I just found on the Internet to pretty up this posting. We *did* get two pictures but they are so blurry as to be laughable 🙁

Anyway, we appreciated the Phipps plaza and Centennial Olympic park fireworks and, as always, the HUNDREDS of local fireworks displays that you can see from the air. It seems nearly every cul-de-sac, not to mention municipality, has their own show and they look spectacular when you look out and can see them all happening simultaneously.

Nearly as spectacular has to be witnessing the absolute standstill of traffic as we overflew the various venue parking lots after the shows ended. Literally like the last scene of “Field of Dreams” only with both white AND red lights stretching out into the distance and none of them going anywhere as Atlanta drivers, typically, gridlocked all of the intersections. All that chaos was done with by the time we landed and secured our aircraft and we had a pleasant drive home.

Posted under Aviation

This post was written by Marc
on July 6, 2007 at 3:00 pm

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1 Comment so far

  1. Mom July 8, 2007 11:40 am

    WOW! It feels like I’ve just fast forwarded into 2007….if you know what I mean. It must be quite a sight to watch the different sectors setting off the fireworks at the same time.

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