Monday, October 5, 2009
Of Altered States and Airplanes
We just got back from walking three weeks on the GR653 in France a couple of days ago. In some ways it was a difficult trip for us, but I am still digesting it and will write about it later. However, as I do the chores of home, I find that I'm still in that altered state common to finishing long walks, even though the walk was stressful.
In that frame of mind, I am in the kitchen peacefully peeling a squash for supper, gazing out the window. There is this screaming of an airplane, seemingly right on top of us. I see the neighbor across the street, running out to see what is happening. I don't see anything, so run out a side door, looking another direction. Susan goes out the front door. It still sounds like an airplane is going to drop into our laps.
Suddenly this gigantic gray airplane with no markings pops over the the ridge to the south, right at treetop level, and heading for us, straight north along the Oakland hills. The noise is deafening. The photo is a photoshop mockup, as I hadn't the presence of mind to grab a camera, but it is fairly accurate as to size and location of the plane. We think the plane is going down, but it banks east and we don't hear a crash. Sirens are going off.
We turn on the news, call friends, trying to find out what happened. Nothing. Get on Twitter. A few others have seen it - a comment "Holy Mother of God, what was that?".
Nothing the next morning in the papers and nothing in the news, so this is one near miss that didn't get recorded. (plane was lower than a close by hilltop).
The next day, since nothing was in the news, I get on the net, do an Oakland airport noise report, and in the course of that, find an incredibly useful planes in flight website that shows both real time and in replay mode, all the planes flying in our area. I set it for replay mode for the time the incident occurred, and just watched the planes. In a few minutes I saw the culprit - a military Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, flight FRED08. If you click the right spot, you can see the plane's entire flight path. It had circled Mt. Diablo about five times, headed towards us, and made one circle around the hilltop near us and then headed north. That circle by us, took it over us twice, so we heard the first pass, and then saw it when it came over the second time.
Their elevation was 2808 feet according to the tracking website. We are at 1000 feet, and it seemed like it was 500 to 1000 feet above us. Roundtop, the nearby hilltop is 1762. It looked to be lower than Roundtop. The C-5 is one of the largest aircraft in the world. Here is a video of a C-5 taking off.
If you want to follow this flight yourself, get onto the webtrak website above, and in replay mode, select Oct 3 17:03 and select the airplanes for a few minutes. FRED08 will show up near the middle. Once you have selected it, Click the little airplane in the box that appears with the FRED08 flight info, and a trace of the entire flight path will appear.
*** followup *** Got a call from Oakland airport a few days later, confirming that it was a military flight. The UC Berkeley - USC football game was going on at the time of the flight, and the stadium is about a mile north of us. The plane was buzzing the stadium as part of a stunt.