When Matt Parker took his family to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., meteorologists weren’t expecting Hurricane Irma to have much of an impact on the Orlando area. But then the storm changed direction.
By Sept. 7, it looked like the storm was on a collision course with the entire state of Florida. Parker, owner of Parker Auto Body in West Monroe, La., received an email from Delta Air Lines notifying him that their flight might be cancelled.
Anxious to get his family – including his two granddaughters – back home, Parker called his friend John Mosley.
“He knows that I have an aviation addiction,” Mosley told BodyShop Business. “So he called me Thursday afternoon and asked me if I had any contacts in Orlando.”
Mosley, who owns Clinton Body Shop in Clinton, Miss., made a few phone calls, but nothing panned out. A mass exodus from Orlando already was underway.
When he talked to Parker on the morning of Sept. 8, Parker told him he was considering chartering an airplane to get his family home. But Mosley knew that was an expensive proposition.
“I told him, ‘You let me make a few phone calls, and I’ll call you back,’” Mosley recalled.
Mosley, who owns a twin-engine Beechcraft Model 18 monoplane, was considering flying to Orlando to pluck Parker and his family out of harm’s way. But with the possibility of rough skies, Mosley knew he needed a co-pilot with experience flying in adverse conditions. So he called his friend Karl Holcomb.
“He told me if I could let him work until noon in his [agricultural] plane, that he could park it and we could hop in the Twin Beech and go get them,” Mosley said. “So that’s what we did.”
‘We Got Out of There in a Hurry’
Mosley and Holcomb started their journey in blue skies. But when they got within 150 miles of Orlando, they encountered light rain showers. “By the time we arrived and picked them up, the weather was deteriorating rapidly,” Mosley says in a Facebook post. “We got out of there in a hurry.”
Around 5:15 p.m. local time on Friday, Sept. 8, Mosley and Holcomb arrived at Orlando Sanford International Airport to pick up Parker and his family. It was just in the nick of time, as the airport was shutting down at 10 p.m. because of the impending storm.
There were so many people flying out of Florida, Mosley recalled, that it would’ve taken too long to file an instrument flight plan with aviation authorities. “We knew we were kind of on our own, and we were fine with that,” Mosley said. Mosley and Holcomb “stayed with visual flight rules the whole time,” he added.
Although they never encountered any real turbulence – “just a little light chop” – they flew through some rain en route to Louisiana. But by the time they dropped the Parkers off in Monroe, “the moon was up in its pre-fall splendor.”
When the Parkers hit terra firma, they posed for a picture (shown above), which is accompanied by this message from Nora Gaar Parker on Facebook: “Thank you John Mosley for flying to Florida to rescue us from Hurricane Irma.”
Mosley replied: “We wouldn’t leave our friends in trouble!”