[amsat-bb] Flying with a Meteorite

MM ka1rrw at yahoo.com
Fri Mar 30 04:18:43 PST 2007

Flying With a Meteorite

By Miles Mann

It was a cool November evening in Massachusetts, when
I flew with a meteorite and saw a meteorite from

In the fall of 1979 I was in the last stages of
completing my year long goal if getting my private
pilots license.  I was planning on taking the
extensive flying test in December.  As part of the
requirement you need to complete a minimum of 3 hours
of night flights, including navigation and many
landings at different airports.  My first hour of
night flying had a very exciting encounter.

I was taking my lessons at Minuteman airfield in Stow
Massachusetts.  It’s a friendly family run airport set
in a scenic wooded area of eastern Massachusetts.  The
Runway is 3000 feet long, which is more than enough
for my favorite rental plane the Cessna C-150 N704QS.

My first hour of night training took place on November
19, 1979, with lift off at approximately 7:00 PM local
time with my instruction Erickey Meurman CFI-I.  The
plan was to fly from Minuteman in Stow to Fitchburg
airport approximately 30 miles away.  We were going to
practice nighttime navigation, Stalls and full stop
landings at both Fitchburg and Stow.  The first 90% of
the flight was successful and fun.  The return from
Fitchburg was when the excitement happened.

I as on the way back to Minuteman airfield at
approximately 5 miles from the airport at an altitude
of 3000 feet.  The exact location of my plane is not
known precisely because this was 20 before GPS was
invented.  The small high-wing rental plane had very
limited navigation equipment, just a few simple needle
style radio beacon devices (VOR and ADF).  

I was sitting on the usually left side of the plane,
when I noticed a bright ball of fire appear under my
left wing, sometimes called the 9 o’clock position. 
The bright ball of fire reflected off the white
underside of my gasoline filled wing enhancing its
brilliance and startling me.  At first I thought my
left wing was on fire, then I looked closer at the
ball of fire and noticed is was approximately 1 half
mile away moving on a parallel course to my course. 
Then I thought, maybe a plane blew up above us and was
raining down debris.  My instructor and I both began
looking around quickly for other flying debris. 
Meanwhile, the ball of fire had now passed us and had
moved to our 11 o’clock position and was still
descending.  Both of us had our eyes fixed on this
fast moving burning object as it descended and appears
to be crossing our flight path. When the meteorite
reached approximately 1000 feet above the ground, it
broke apart into a dozen smaller glowing objects,
similar to what you would see at a 4th of July
fireworks show.  A few moments later all of the
glowing objects disappeared from view.  They stopped
glowing before they hit the ground.  The whole light
show only lasted 3-5 seconds.

Erikey and I regrouped, looked around to make sure
there were no more surprises and continued on to
Minuteman.  I also took a very close look at the
ground where the meteorite should have hit, as we
passed over the spot.  I was very disappointed that I
could not see the meteorite smoke or any landmarks for
reference.  I really wanted to go right back there and
find some of those rocks.  The wooded are we were
flying over was devoid of any real good reference
points.  The leaves had all fallen off the trees and
the ground was just a leave covered dark area.  My
best guess for the landing site would be the town of
Boxborough, just east of highway 495, on a line
between Minuteman and Fitchburg.

I have seen thousands of shooting stars in the sky
above my head.  This was the fist and last time I have
ever flown above a shooting star.

In January 1980 I did get my private pilots license.
And I have used shooting stars for Amateur Radio

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