Reality, not televison

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:59

    Michael Donoghue escorts Hollywood celebrities around the world. As a commercial pilot, he transports these drama stars for a living. But this local boy has a drama story of his own. The difference, however, is that his was pure reality. The date was Feb. 20, 2004. Donoghue planned to fly with his brother, Kevin, around the west side of Sierra Nevada Mountains and into Mammoth Lakes. But the weather turned, and a leisurely flight with his brother turned into something much more serious. "It was getting really bad. The road below was sloping up and hitting the clouds. We were in a valley with mountains around us and if I turned around, we would clip one," Donoghue described in a recent interview with The Photo News. "I had to put this airplane on the ground quickly before all my options were fogged in. On my left was a dirt strip that appeared to be freshly graded. I took two passes and determined that it was intact. "I had never landed on a soft field before. I put the Archer down as gently as I could. We rolled out to the end and took a deep breath," he said. Michael Donoghue's decision to land his small-craft airplane was a decision that may have very well meant life or death for him and his brother. Donoghue is a 1990 graduate of Monroe-Woodbury High School and his parents and brother still live in Monroe today. He now lives in Long Beach, California, where the pilot who now controls the wings of celebrity airplanes, thanks his lucky stars for his safe landing. He calls it "good decision-making," but his mother, Maria, thinks that it was "a combination of good decision-making, good luck, and help from God." Donoghue has been a pilot for two years, finally finding his calling after trying several other professions. Donoghue was in the United States Navy for eight years. After that he held several jobs, from associate producer of a popular syndicated TV dating show to being a stand-by paramedic for the movie industry in California. His mother wishes her son would have chose doing something on the ground level, but is proud of her son nonetheless. "As a mother, it's scary," Mrs. Donoghue said. "But he loves to fly and I'm proud of him. Sometimes I wish he was not up there. Driving is probably more dangerous, but there's something about flying that makes me nervous, especially with how things are today (air safety)." Donoghue wrote about his experience and submitted it to a national airplane-interest magazine, AOPA, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. His story was printed in the February 2005 edition. But the real shock of the whole experience hit the very next day after he picked up a copy of another airplane interest magazine. "I opened up a magazine by chance and read a story about a 6,600-hour (experience level) airplane pilot who, while pushing north along the same route in similar conditions, struck a ridge almost exactly where I had decided to turn around," Donoghue wrote. "It was the opposite direction but the same area; he was killed," he told The Photo News. "It could have been me. "I know I made the right decision (to land) at that point. But it makes you think twice - it grounds you a bit." When the two brothers landed on the 1,200 acre ranch they walked to the farmhouse, owned by the people who now had a plane in their backyard. "We knocked on the door. These people have never had an unannounced visitor before. But they were really nice." The couple welcomed the brothers, gave them dinner and let them spend the night while the weather cleared. The next day Donoghue brought the two on a sightseeing tour on his plane. Donoghue explained what the experience taught him: "To be more confident in trusting my gut feelings."