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Taking flight

I live near three airports: Louisville International (a bit of a misnomer, because the only international flights belong to UPS), Louisville Bowman Field, and Clark Regional. Two (Louisville Int’l and Bowman) are in Louisville and Clark Regional is up in my neck of the woods, Clark County, Indiana. Louisville Int’l–KSDF–handles the big planes, Bowman–KLOU–is a “puddle-jumper” joint situated in the worst location possible, and Clark Regional–KJVY–does general aviation (“GenAv”) and corporate flights.

Now I say all that to say this: I live under a Louisville International flight path, and drive past Clark Regional on the way to school.

And I say that to say this: Planes fascinate me. As if you didn’t already know.

I served seven years in the Navy, and worked around aircraft; thanks to a basic understanding of how planes operate coupled with random knowledge learned during my ill-fated pursuit of the Enlisted Air Warfare Specialist device, I know a thing or two about aircraft. I’m also addicted to Flight Simulator; in middle school, during an end of course project involving Sim City, the computer I was at woouldn’t load the game, so I got an automatic A and got to fly around all day while everyone else in class struggled to keep their cities afloat–and intact. I enjoy flying, despite the gauntlet you have to run just to even THINK about boarding a plane. It’s something about being around 35,000 feet in the air, looking down at the tiny dots on the ground and looking around at a perfect view of the stars. Aside from being in the middle of the ocean, being in the air is about as close to peaceful as I’ve gotten.

So it’s with all this in mind that earlier, I found myself sitting on my girlfriend’s back porch fielding questions about airplanes. Katie’s a lot like me; she just HAS to know how something works. So as we watched the planes circle around, hoping to be the next one to land at Louisville International, I got to impart some of what I know on her. It all started with a plane way the hell up there, probably 35, maybe 40 thousand feet. Where was it coming from? Where was it going? Judging from the distance, my guess was perhaps Topeka, maybe even Denver, on its way to maybe Charlotte, Norfolk, or even Baltimore. A little while later, another came by. My guess was that it was heading from Charlotte to Des Moines or the Dakotas. (Actually, using Google Earth I figured it probably left from Norfolk on its way to Kansas City)

Then I realized something: I didn’t have the airport in my scanner! I’m also a scanner freak; thank you very much, Uncle Mike, God rest your soul. The man had five scanners in his house–two in the living room, and one each in his bedroom, kitchen, and yes, bathroom. He also kept a portable in his car. Usually, having a portable scanner in your car is illegal as hell, but not for Uncle Mike: he was a former volunteer firefighter for one of the umpteen volunteer departments that serve the suburban sections of Louisville, which, because the volunteer departments get their money through special taxing disricts, didn’t merge with the Louisville Fire Department in the ’03 city-county merger. Anyways, Mike had all of the area fire departments in his scanner, except that the two in his living room were dedicated, one to Louisville/Jefferson County fire and the other to Clark County, Indiana fire.  So that’s where I get it from, except I’m a little more diverse–I have several police departments on m scanner, too, to keep tabs of what’s going on. I’m a criminal justice major, grandson and cousin of police officers, so it’s only right.

Long story short, I realized that I didn’t have any of the airport frequencies in my scanner. Fortunately, none of the airports have been affected by the transition from analog to digital communications; that’s mostly public safety. My scanner can hold 35,000 channels (I’d say Uncle Mike, eat your heart out, except he’s been dead almost ten years) so I went in and hit up my fourth favorite website, radioreference.com, and got those frequencies. On the way home, between snippets of the Jeffersonville Police searching for a possible drunk driver (they found her, fortunately), I got to enjoy listening to the Louisville air traffic control tower and the Indianapolis control center doing what it is they do.

And this has all helped me make up my mind about something. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of joining the Civil Air Patrol. My friend Eddie, who is president of my school’s Student Veteran Organization (I am his sergeant at arms) and a fellow senator in student government, just recently joined CAP; I joined the US Coast Guard Auxiliary a few months ago. I love the Auxiliary, but my work schedule has prevented me from doing anything with them. And CAP fits my interests better anyways. I think I’ll go to Tuesday’s meeting with Eddie and see what CAP’s all about.

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