As Stephen proceeded to make new friends, I went in search of those warm cookies that he promised. We are constantly reminded of what a small industry this is: out here in the middle of nowhere Indiana, or was Missouri, we met a helicopter mechanic who had recently returned home from working out in NM and knew many of our current ABQ pilots. Also, every single small airport in America has that one guy in the that hangs out all day and joins in every conversation nodding and smiling and relates by making reference to some small airplane that no one has every heard of. I suppose that I hope to be that guy one day... are women allowed to be the token elderly airport bum?
After they were finishing their meet and greet, I turned up empty handed...They only bake warm cookies two days a week, and this was not one of them. Pro Tip: call ahead and ask about the cookies!
No matter to Stephen though, despite the lack of cookies, showing off his expert parking job and making new friends, he was still perfectly happy to have visited an airport with a name that rings of coastal waters that in fact is landlocked in mile and miles of corn fields.
Departing Cape Girardeau we set our course for KHOT, Hot Springs Arkansas for the night.
We called up to Memphis Center and made yet another friend with one of the nicest air traffic controllers either of us had ever spoken with, even though he did assign us one of the most spooky/evil squawk codes either of us had ever received.
666?! Wait aren't squawk codes 4 numbers??? Tell that to my Nikon D810 camera that captured this shot!
We continued to fight the headwind as we crossed the Missouri/Arkansas border. Pig farms bled into chicken farms, both those of the well maintained and the forgotten rusting variety. As the shadows stretched in length across the ground with the sun lazily approaching the horizon, we kept an eye on the time, and our fuel.
About halfway to Hot Springs, we realized that we would be about 10 minutes shy of our required fuel, and about 30 minutes shy of our comfort level. I made quick use of Foreflight and found us a suitable uncontrolled field offering jet fuel. We called up our Memphis controller friend and let him know we'd be suspending flight following for a brief stop at Batesville Regional Airport (KBVX).
Stephen went inside the tiny FBO to pay, and with the light approaching golden hour, the moon risen, and the brilliant blue color of the sky, I played around taking pictures. Apparently middle of nowhere Arkansas is not frequently graced with the presence of an exotic foreigner and we narrowly missed having Stephen abducted by his new fans. New rule established: that I must accompany him into small rural airports. I was just happy that I still had someone to do the flying while I concentrated on photography.
We were off once again, this time Hot Springs well in our range. The terrain gradually changed from flat farmland to forested hills sprinkled with pond sized lakes. The setting sun made for great contrast over the rolling hills.
When I think Arkansas, I think RV parks in the middle of nowhere. Pretty sure that Stephen just cringes and imagines the people from the FBO taking him to their trailer park to recite Shakespeare and bake them shepherds pie. Of course no state is immune from our aerial view of back yard junk. There are often many times when I am flying that I wish I could go back by ground and photograph abandoned farms and factories. I find myself pondering this when the hills overlooking Hot Springs appear on the horizon.
Stephen flies me right by the signature lookout tower of Hot Springs on our descent into KHOT airport. Behind the tower lies the town of Hot Springs and our hotel, the Embassy Suites.
This 216ft tower was built in 1983 and is open to the public, according to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower website, allows visitors to see 140 miles of Arkansas country side. The tower is quite large but this seemed like an unrealistic amount of mileage that one would be able to view from the top, so I did some research and the furthest one can see from 216' is 18 miles. Maybe they were considering that you can also see 360 degrees. At a 18 mile radius that makes a 1,018 square mile circle, so in that case I guess you can see lots of miles, just not in a straight line. From our altitude, we could see approximately 40 miles to the horizon, however the sun was setting in our eyes so probably more like about 10 miles.
As we are landing, the sun paints a golden glow over the turbine Pawnee tied down on the ramp out side of an ancient looking hangar. After landing we topped off on fuel and prepared the helicopter for an early morning departure to Dallas. As we were securing the helicopter for the night Stephen made two more friends who came out to watch us land.
Stephen had to drag me off the ramp as I obsessively photographed our helicopter in the setting sun. We then had a wonderful ride with Hot Springs only uber driver a very nice local woman. We highly recommend uber in Hot Springs!