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Flying high

I should start every trip with the same disclaimer: WARNING! Internal contents may become unstable when shaken, flipped, dropped, or not-in-control-of-motion.

But I don't. And pride is never the magical elixir.

I was just supposed to be at Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport to take photos for an upcoming story on ImagineAir, a new charter service that offers small plane charters out of regional airports like ours. The guys in charge of the venture offered an up-close look at what they do. We took a short flight - about 45 minutes round-trip - to Aiken.

The plane was great - comfortable and nice; we even had XM Radio piped in through our headphones. It was cool to be able to watch the pilot work, checking his electronic gauges and explaining step by step as we floated along.

But as the Cirrus SR-22 I was riding in made a turn about 2,000 feet above the Aiken airport, all I could do was focus the air conditioning vents on my face, lean my head back and pray that the chicken and asparagus casserole I had for lunch didn't become part of the interior decor of the plane in ImagineAir's new charter fleet.

Fortunately, the pilot - and ImagineAir President - Benjamin Hamilton realized the problem (I'm sure it was written in ashen white all over my face) and took us above the clouds to less turbulent air, apologizing all the time.

I should add here that Mr. Hamilton and the other front seat passenger were just fine during the entire flight. (And while I'm tossing in disclaimers, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride above the clouds and wind.)

But I digress.

Back to old shaky stomach.

Admittedly, I shouldn't have even agreed to slide in the back of the plane. I should have learned my lesson years ago in the back of Gold Cross' AirMed helicopter. I volunteered to be part of the crew that helped Columbia County emergency officials map landing zones around the lake. We took off from Doctors Hospital, headed up the Augusta Canal and finally out to the lake.

I was fine on the way out. But as the helicopter made tight circles looking for open areas on the shores of Clarks Hill, my cranky constitution conked out. A few minutes later, I was begging the pilot to take me back to the hospital. (On the way back, the lack of corkscrew turns saved my stomach, and the trip to the emergency room or bathroom - whichever was closest.)

But none of that mattered on the tarmac at Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport last week.

Next time, I'll make sure to include a little Dramamine in my pre-flight preparations.

Then I won't even need to worry about disclaimers - or redecorating the inside of a plane the hard way.

Web posted on Thursday, February 08, 2007

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