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Skypark Adventure - Chapter 2 (30 Videos!)

Sun Dec 14, 2008 10:32 pm

Skypark Adventure, Chapter 2. Continued from Chapter 1, which can be read here:

Thank you for continuing on. What follows is formation flight, dirt strips, night flying, weather, GA, and commercial flights.

Flight #3, Formation, Slopes, and Holes

Sitting in the right seat of the Glastar, my Paul took the left seat and we waited for the Cessna 180 in front of us to begin taxi. Close behind, we followed him to the runway and shared the intersection together. Sitting on the ramp in good position for a photo was the Storch of earlier, and I took a photo of that just before we began our takeoff roll. One behind the other, we lifted off from Bountiful's runway, and made a right turn to the southeast. Ascending over the mountains, I barely looked at the scenery, the Cessna 180 so close in front of us....thinking to myself...."there aren't a whole lot of people in the world that have gotten to do something like this.."

Video: Dual Takeoff:

Video: Formation Flight - Salt Lake Valley to Mountain Deli Reservoir:

I couldn't believe that I was given the opportunity, and knowing that this was a pretty dangerous thing we were doing, I videoed constantly, capturing a good majority of our formation flight. Over Park City, we paralleled ridges, watching steep ski slopes fly by us. Every once in a while, we'd fly on the left side of the Cessna, then switch to the right side, then back again. At this point, the Cessna was on the right of us, and we took the lead. I videoed and took photos as we pulled alongside the plane, then passed him. Flying so close, I was given the chance to talk to the other pilot over the radio, and thank him for the chance to do something so amazing. Shortly thereafter, we decided to break formation. We remained at altitude while the 180 passed over the top of us and to the left. We lost sight of him, looking upwards and left, scanning the sky but not seeing. Finally, I spotted him far off to the left of us beyond our wingtip, and we were safely clear.

Video: Formation Flight over Park City:

Video: Formation Flight near Jordanelle Reservoir:

Video: Formation Flight over Midway (Closest approach):

Video: Breaking Formation over Heber:

He continued on south, while we passed over the city of Heber. Taking my camera from me, Paul banked the plane so hard left I couldn't believe it, it felt like we were standing on our wingtips as he shot a view straight down to the ground of the airfield below. I admired his confidence, he was an experienced pilot of course, but I know that I'd not have done the same thing considering my lack of experience! Satisfied, he handed the camera back to me and we flew northward for a while, then turned to the southwest.

Ahead of us lay Mt. Timpanogos, and we were going to fly past it to the north through yet another canyon, though higher up this time. As we climbed, Paul observed a road below and remarked not having remembered there ever being a road in this area, and then told me about a waterfall near here that freezes over and ice hikers climb it in the winter. Meanwhile, I spoke of the immense exposed geologic history of this particular area..pointing out the different layers of strata on the mountain, and below, folded metamorphic rocks that told of immense heat and pressure once applied to these lofty peaks, long before they were ever above the surface. Indeed, the sediment layers exposed on the peak of Timpanogos match sediment layers found deep in the valley...Timpanogos, and in fact all of the Wasatch Range, were once no higher than any of the surrounding land, not even mountains but mere gentle terrain, back before the continents drifted. This entire area was not very far from the ancient paleo ocean, and outcroppings of weathered cambrian rocks tell the tale of millions of years of change. The drift of the north american plate over the Pacific and Nazca plates, coupled with collision with other land masses, stretching of the continent, and subduction-fed volcanoes in the Cascades all served to push the coastline of North America much farther west over time. But the evidence is still here...if you know where to look, of what once was. Now, the intact continent is stretched from below by the subsiding pacific plate. This stretching crust breaks, and slides downward in places, creating the basin and range area that begins with the Wasatch range in Utah. The land 1,000 feet below us, and the land at eye level...were once the same land. Separated by forces beyond comprehension, so slowly, no one watching would ever have realized it happening, save for occasional earthquakes.

We descended slightly, and flew across the valley, to the north of Utah Lake, headed for Toole where we'd visit yet another one of his friends (Dave), an owner of a small dirt airstrip in the south part of the valley. Along the way, I was taught about Class B airspace restrictions and where Class B airspace is located. Mountains ahead prompted me to point out a few interesting folds in the terrain to my Paul. Asking if I'd ever seen the Copper Mine, I told him I hadn't. Stunned, he said we had a "moral obligation" to go fly around Kennecott, and we turned to the north. Skirting the edge of the Toole Range, I saw up ahead what I'd seen so many times but never recognized...the tailings of the copper mine. I'd always seen these from a distance in younger days, not knowing exactly why the mountain was discolored in that area, and now I made the connection. The mine was HERE?

Approaching, Paul radioed Salt Lake and requested to skirt the Class B airspace as we planned to make two orbits of the copper mine. Granted permission, we began to circle this overwhelmingly deep hole in the earth. Even as we came upon it...I was impressed...marvelling at its sheer size. "You ain't seen nothing yet" was the response I heard, and indeed as we flew directly overhead, the full scale of this pit really came into perspective. Impossibly deep, around a mile from top to bottom. I was told that the tiny trucks hauling dirt below were the size of houses...and i thought to myself about ant colonies that I'd once studied in school, how so many little ants, hauling one grain at a time, could eventually change so drastically their immediate landscape. We were those ants in this location. Truck by truck, the mountain was being conquered, turned from lofy peak to gaping hole. I remarked that they might face trouble once they make it to china!

More likely, I thought aloud...they'd expand the mine and eventually take down the entire mountain. Paul confirmed that they've been enlarging it, elongating the hole a bit, so my assumptions are not too far fetched.

Circled one more time before flying through a pass in the mountains, and as the mine disappeared around a ridge, I saw the same copper tone to the untouched soil on the opposite side...and realized with some sadness that in all likelihood, this land, someday, would too be gone, part of the mine.

Video: Kennecott Copper Mine from the Air:

Zig-zagging between ridges, we descended into Toole Valley. Ahead of us, we could see Toole very clearly, and Paul asked me if I'd ever seen the airfields-freeman site, and the information it had on the old Toole airport. While I've seen the site many times and even sent some images of McDougall Field in Idaho to them (which they sadly didn't end up using), I didn't recall seeing the info on Toole. He told me he'd point out the old field once we were upon it, but I beat him to it, spotting the faded-X-marked thin runway in the distance as we flew southwest from here.

We descended, and the terrain looked familiar. I'd seen this in Google earth and knew that we were nearing the field that was our destination. Within 60 seconds that was confirmed as ahead of us lay the dirt airstrip, home to a vast international operation consisting of A340-600s and the occasional 77L. Okay...just kidding. This place is known affectionately as Krusty International, a cozy little pilot ranch in the middle of nowhere. We radioed intentions to land with no reply, so we buzzed the field at low altitude to wake 'em up, which we did. Entered a right pattern for landing, and touched down in the first landing on a dirt strip and remarkably smooth. I was expecting much worse!

Video: Buzzing The Field!

Video: Landing at Krusty's:

Words to Change A Life

We pulled up to a single hangar with a smiling man out front, who greeted us as we stopped our engine. Paul explained to this man about the backstory of how this kid from Idaho ended up here, at this time, and my unfortunate encounter with Aviation-Induced Divorce Syndrome (help fund a cure - donate to the cause).

Stepping out of the plane, and saying hello to Dave, we stepped inside the country hangar, and observed a tri-gear Glastar waiting inside. (training wheels, I was told.)

But that wasn't all that was inside...a plethora of WWII memorabilia and artifacts...a veritable museum, unassuming and hidden from public view. I used to be a huge WWII buff, and it was quite fascinating to see this man's collection. He also had an extensive model railroad...again, an interest that I'd had long ago. I commented on how I used to really have a passion for all of these things...but eventually, ended up giving up on them, not having someone behind me after my grandfather died when I was 10, and being left with abusive parents had made me feel like I couldn't accomplish much. So I just gave up on everything I'd ever had passion for. And I was told something by this that moment...that would serve to change my entire outlook on life. Though I didn't realize it then, only in thoughts later in the day...but the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right.

The words were...that my problem had never been lack of support, my problem was my fear of failure. Lacking confidence, I'd let the fear of failing stop me from trying to reach my dreams, my goals. And so I'd already failed. And to change this...I needed to be willing to fail...I needed to stop fearing it, and accept that failure happens, and when it does, get up, dust myself off, and do it again, until I succeed.

At first I didn't agree. At first I'd been torn down and ridiculed most my life for my ambitions...and that is what had caused me to feel so insecure...but the more i thought the more i realized...he was exactly right. It didn't matter what anyone else said or did...what mattered was what {b]I[/b] did. And I'd done...nothing.

When I finally realized that, later in the day, I decided I'd no longer do nothing. I'd take this time, this day, these experiences and those of September with Frontier, as the key to open the door, the events that I could use to launch a better future for me. For God's sake, I'm almost 24 years old, I could've been a CFI or better by now and I never God I'd make this my start. I'd go for my dreams even if it meant complete total failure, I'd try. For once in my life, I'd see it through.

but for now, we continued our tour around the area, saw an absolutely beautiful classic car that had been restored, and a WWII military truck in the process of being restored as well. More military artifacts were to be seen and pondered at, and more stories of the past. I listened to Paul talk casually about heading to far flung casual as planning to meet for a cup of coffee. I takes me years...literally, to get from planning stages of a big trip to seeing the end result. What I'd give to live this man's life! I had nothing but respect for him.

In saying hello to the man's wife inside the home, we were all treated to some of the best fresh baked bread I've ever had, addicting stuff which I'd fly to Toole specifically to enjoy again.  Smile Meanwhile, I was asked to diagnose a computer problem in the home which was preventing the family from opening certain emails. Diagnosis: The computer was around 15 years old. Big grin Time for an upgrade. Computers are another hobby of mine, though not a passion. The necessary upgrades that come around whenever Flight Simulator comes out with a new version necessitated me learning how to install things and upgrade them myself, elsewise pay someone I didn't trust to do it! So I kinda learned what I needed to know to keep a computer running in good, performing condition.

Flight #4, Salt, Shrimp, and Traffic

After a while, headed back to our plane, getting a few photos, and then were treated to a short story of a young pilot who took off from here, showboating, and almost crashed his plane as he climbed out too steep. We then bid goodbye, and taxied out to the other end of the runway this time, and took off to the north, directly over cars passing immediately nearby. I thought to myself "these people are seeing this plane rise very suddenly right over their heads, from out of nowhere! I wonder if they're surprised...or if they see this all the time!"

We banked left, and headed back around for a low pass over the runway. Kept our speed no lower than 85Kts, and climbed out with a steep right turn, then left. I felt ill. Ugh...I had been looking at my camera's LCD too much, and it'd made me motion sick.

Video: Buzzing Krusty's:

Flying north, we passed alongside the old Toole airport, and I asked if the new field was nicer. "Do you want to see it?" I was asked.

"Sure, why not".

Within 5 minutes were on short final for Toole, and performed yet another Touch n Go. I'd already lost count as to how many airports we'd touched down at during the day. North again over Interstate 80...ah, this beautiful highway, is such a pleasant drive through the western Utah desert and the salt flats. In spring of 2005 I drove through here to find a shallow layer of water extending all the way to Wendover. This gigantic desert mirror was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in person, and I've been in love with the western desert ever since...and hope every year for a wet enough winter so as to create a lake level high enough to send water out there next to parched mountains, salty beaches, and wide open skies.

Video: Touch and Go at Toole Airport:

Out over the lake, we turned right and headed straight towards Salt Lake. To our left, I spotted a few boats out on the water, towing something behind them. Earlier in the day, Paul had spoken of how he used to help boats find shrimp eggs out i asked him if those were doing the same thing...he said yes and asked if i wanted to have a closer look. Of course I was interested, so we turned and circled around them for a couple minutes, then headed back towards Salt Lake.

Along the way I saw what looked to me to be a marina...surrounded by water so low, i wondered who in their right mind would have their boat here. Later, looking at maps, I learned this was Kennecott Tailings Pond #2.

Having transitioned to Class B, I was told to keep an eye out for planes, while we approached SLC. Near us, a Gulfstream passed, headed south, then came back in for a landing on Runway 35. Meanwhile, we crossed over the runways, and Paul took an aerial photo of the terminals. We descended and came in for a touch n go on 35, and I videoed the GA and military ramps, filled with KC-135s.

Video: Touch and Go at Salt Lake International:

Back north to Bountiful and another beautiful landing there, before heading to our hangar.

Video: I-15 Overflight SLC-BTF:

Video: Landing at Bountiful in Glastar:

It was now getting later, the sun was a bit lower, and Paul needed to take Jon up for a biannual review. He asked if I'd be willing to wait at the hangar while they did that, and while I wished I could have gone up with them, I was willing. But before he'd go up, we'd all meet up for dinner at Village Inn nearby, which I planned to pay for. Hopping in the car, we headed off to meet Jon.

Dinner discussion and a break

We arrived first, Jon came about 15 minutes later. Didn't bother looking at the menu and instead talked aviation the whole time. Once he arrived, the discussion was to be all business...the bi-annual. But Jon was certainly full of humor and our "business lunch" was quite enjoyable, with a waitress who was also fun to share a few jokes with. Listening in on their conversation about aviation regulations...I couldn't help but start asking questions...I felt like this info was important not just to them but to me too, as if I was to be a pilot, I'd need to know this too.

Before long, and i feel kinda guilty about this, the conversation turned to me. I'd asked...with such strict rules in aviation, how was it that anyone could ever follow them all to the letter...considering how much info there is to remember. The words I received were encouraging...that its impossible for anyone to remember everything all the time, that's why you remember where to find it. That failing a checkride doesn't mean your life is over...and that throughout the day, Paul had observed in me the makings of a pilot. And with that, I felt the shot of confidence that he'd wanted me to feel. Suddenly i actually felt like maybe i really could do this after all.

The check came and I grabbed it, only to have it stolen from me by Paul, only for Jon to steal it from him. He won the battle over who'd pick up the check.

Getting in our cars, we both drove back to Bountiful, and Paul told me that they'd be up in the sky for about an hour. while they were gone, I could watch Runway 16 Right, an aviation documentary. I looked forward to that. Meanwhile, I was given access to a few old aviation things they were throwing out and given the chance to take some home. I ended up taking a whole bagful of old sectionals home!

Video: Glastar Start:

After only 40 minutes, Jon and Paul returned from the air and offered me a night flight over the city, initially to Ogden, but I asked if perhaps I could head south to Provo instead, since I hadn't seen Provo in quite a few years. So they agreed, and to my surprise, Jon (owner of the Glastar) would be piloting on this run. So, I got into the right seat of the Glastar again, and prepared to head back out.

Flight #5: Nighttime over the city

We taxied to the runway intersection as had been done several times today, chatting the entire time about various things. Since he didn't know me as well as Paul, he asked me about recent happenings in my life and in turn I asked him a few things about his. He was an extremely friendly guy and I enjoyed talking to him the whole way. We then radioed our intentions to take off, and began our twilight roll down the runway, lifting into the air and banking to the right.

Video: Night Flight over Bountiful, UT:

We flew over homes and streets now illuminated by their own lighting, while in the distance, clogged highways filled with head and tail lights flowed like arteries into and out of and amongst the cities. Over the immediate ridge we flew and crossed over into the area of North Salt Lake. Just below and to the right lay the downtown area, which I filmed and photographed as we flew over.

Video: Night Flight over Bountiful, UT 2:

We continued on a slight southeasterly heading, getting closer to and eventually paralleling the mountains, with the entire valley stretched out to our right, as the sky grew darker and darker. An amazingly beautiful valley, day or night. At one point we flew near the stadium where the football game between BYU and University of Utah was taking event that had been advertised on radio for weeks. As I stared down into the floodlights illuminating that (from our perspective) small little field, it amazed me that quite a large segment of Utah population was focused, right now, on that one little dot so far below. It all seemed so small and insignificant.

Video: Night Flight over Salt Lake City, UT:

Video: Night Flight over south Salt Lake Valley:

Video: Night Flight between Salt Lake Valley and Orem, UT:

Onward and southward, over another ridge and then, Utah Lake, now barely glowing in the last throes of twilight. Off to the left, I could see the dim lights of Provo Municipal. And sheepishly asked Jon if...maybe..perhaps...if it was okay...could we do a touch n go over there? (I've never landed at Provo). Well, he hadn't landed there in a long time, but agreed, and I thanked him up and down. We contacted the airport and entered left traffic for Runway 31. As we did so, in the distance a familiar set of strobe lights flashed above the mountain. Jon recognized it as the aircraft I'd flown earlier in the day, the Cessna 180, returning from Southern Utah, with his own father at the controls (Ron). I asked him how he'd know that, from such a distance, but apparently the plane has a unique set of lights, and if you know the plane, you'd recognize those over other traffic. I kept my eye on the other plane as we descended, and watched him pass us over the mountain to the east.

As we approached the threshold, I remarked aloud at how large this runway seemed. Wide and long enough for an airliner. Comparatively, the rest of the day had been filled with small airfields, aside from the landing at SLC which, it doesn't need to be said, is massive. I turned on the video cam, and captured our landing and subsequent take off.

Video: Night touch and go at Provo Airport:

Video: Night Flight over Orem, UT:

Again I thanked Jon for that, and we headed back north, contacting SLC over Point of the Mountain. For some reason, SLC couldn't hear our transmissions. We tried a few more times, before the radio came alive with the voice of Jon's father, piloting the Cessna 180, now several miles north and within SLC's immediate airspace. He informed SLC that we were trying to get in touch with them, and SLC radioed that they hadn't heard us. Shortly thereafter, SLC contacted us directly and finally heard our responses. I thought it was fantastic that he'd helped us out like that. We were cleared to the class B and continued north along Interstate 15. Me continuing to capture video and sometimes photo along the way. Most of the traffic was heading out of the city now..southbound lanes were full, northbound were getting more sparse. It was approaching 7PM.

Photo of instrument lights (one of the few night photos that turned out somewhat decent):

Video: Night Flight - Midvale to Salt Lake City, UT:

Nearer the international airport, I took in the scene and remembered something I'd read years ago in some forum somewhere, perhaps this one...about how to find an urban airport at night in the event of an instrument failure...and the advice was "look for the hole". Indeed there was a large, gaping hole in the city lights off to the west...with an island of terminal lights dead center. "Airport", I thought, and shared my recollection aloud with Jon, who confirmed the lesson. Ahead of us lay several industrial parks, and amongst them, our destination. I caught video of the downtown area passing below us on the right.

Video: Night Flight over Downtown Salt Lake City, UT:

Video: Night Flight - Coming into Bountiful, UT:

A descending turn to the right, then to the left, had me thinking that we were on left base for a southbound landing on BTF's runway 16. I looked off to the left, waiting for the runway to come into view, when we banked to the right and lined up with 34 instead! Whoops! Swung the video cam the other way and caught our landing. Ahead of us, the Ron in the 180 waited on the ramp, lights flashing...we radioed him and found that he was waiting for us, he'd follow us to our hangar. We touched down, and that's exactly what happened. I asked Jon if this was probably the last flight of the day, and he said it probably was.

Video: Night Landing at Bountiful Skypark, UT:

We arrived at the hangar, the 180 immediately behind us, and between us four friends, parked our planes side by side in adjacent hangars.

Drawing to a close

We then all gathered in the same hangar, and talked about our various adventures during the day. We listened to the 180 pilot talk about southern utah airstrips, and he listened to us talk about our night flight, and we all considered heading out for drinks before my departure. A look at the time revealed that there probably wasn't enough of instead we rain-checked it (I would have had a coke anyway). Paul heard me mention that I hadn't finished watching Runway 16 Right, and that I'd be sure to rent it as soon as I got home. Instead, he slipped his own copy of the movie into my hands and told me to take it home. I didn't accept. But he insisted.

The three of them then gathered around a map and looked at an airfield that they decided to visit the following day. I was asked if I could stay another night, but knowing my work and sleep schedule, I knew I'd have to decline. I would have liked more adventure but, it just wasn't possible.

Meanwhile Ron bid us farewell and went home. I thanked him for the use of his plane (the 180), his time, and his help throughout the day. The Glastar pilot followed shortly thereafter, and Paul drove me back to SLC...the first time in a long time I can recall NOT wanting to go BACK to an airport! Going back meant going home, meant that it was over.

On the way, we discussed real life...the trials and and personal, of a marriage ending. I received much advice, continuing even after parking at the airport's garage. About an hour till departure (8pm or so), he accompanied me to security, where we bid each other farewell, and spoke about meeting up again. He'd be heading to Europe within a few days and I wished him well on that trip. Then I, with a carryon back now full of sectionals, proceeded through, not bothering to wait to be asked to remove my belt and shoes, just undressing automatically. Ah the dignity of modern travel.

Past security, I made my way to Manchu Wok and had dinner. The person at the counter said "Hey, didn't I just see you here last week?"

I smiled and said "more like last month, coming back from Denver"

He said "Ah, you were the kid who lost your bag right? I'm still waiting for my finders fee."

I laughed and said "I'm working on it, man, saving a little here, a little there."

He laughed and asked if I was travelling on business. I said "no, I actually got a few flight lessons today, I think I'm gonna be starting flight school soon"

He mentioned he was already a student and we talked for about 5 more minutes before bidding a friendly farewell.

I ate dinner quickly and then headed downstairs to the E gates to check in for my flight. Too early, I was told. 8:15PM. "Come back at 8:30".

So I went and explored for 15 minutes before coming back, to find a different agent at the gate this time, Gate 78. I approached again and was told I'd still have to wait. "I'll call you over when I'm ready for you" the lady said.

So I sat in a nearby seat and waited. Across from me, a latina girl kept staring at me. I wasn't quite sure why, but each time I glanced over, she was still looking. I couldn't figure out if it was friendly or i just ignored it. I glanced over again, and again my eyes met hers. She got up and moved. I thought "man, maybe she thinks I was looking at her...oh well..." I only had one girl in my mind...the one that was about to become my girlfriend, and I hoped I hadn't given that other the wrong impression. "Not my fault" I said to myself.

Sitting very close to Gate 78, I was surprised to hear my name paged over the PA. I got up and headed over, seating request in hand. Next to her stood another agent. The lady looked it over, then printed me out a boarding pass for the plane...seating assignment 3A. I'd checked Seatguru before flying, and based on that, thought that 3A did not have a window. I asked the lady "would it be okay when i board the aircraft if I take a different seat?"

The agent was reluctant to change my seating assignment, based on me being a nonrev, but did so anyway and I ended up in 4C, with a good view over the wing for the flight home. Boarding was called shortly thereafter and I hurried through the door.

Flight #6, Delta 7767 SLC-PIH

It was cold. If the E Concourse was heated, you couldn't tell by the breath in front of your face. I again recalled how temporary this part of the airport feels...E doesn't feel like it was ever intended to last very long.

Found my way to the departure door, and stepped out onto the ramp. A baggage handler stood outside the aircraft, and I nodded at him as I ascended the Brasilia's small stairs. I poked my head into the cockpit and said hello again to "Paul's friend" who'd flown me to SLC that morning, and now would be flying me home. We spoke for a bit about the day's adventures, while in the cabin, 10 passengers or more looked up and listened in on our conversation. I didn't mind. It'd been one hell of a day and I was happy to share it. We wished each other a good flight and I took my seat in 4C, looking at seats 3A and 3C as I passed. Damn...there WAS a window here. Seatguru had lied. Feeling slightly guilty for asking for a new assignment, I soon put it out of my mind and looked out the window at the prop nearby. It's silver cowling reflecting ramp lights. Beautiful. Nothing better than bare polished metal on an aircraft.  Smile

It wasn't long before the usual announcements, safety demos, engine starts and pushback sequence began again. Soon we were on our way. I videoed and photographed as we left the concourse and headed out to runway 16R for takeoff.

Video: Night Takeoff from SLC - Delta 7767:

Into the air, we banked right over the warehouse where I pick up my goods for transport back to PIH. A wide turn to the north, and we found ourselves over the lake, now invisible in the inky black of night. Ascending, familiar city lights floated by in ever increasing distance....Farmington, Ogden, Brigham. We reached the north shore. Below, the small town of Tremonton appeared. Hotels and gas stations visible, a tiny car moved along a lonely road...then passed out of view.

Lights winked on and off, flickering in the dark, signalling that we had reached an invisible cloud layer. Patches of darkness the only hint of its existence. Our beacon was still on, once every second bathing the wing and prop in warm red glow. I wondered if the pilot was going to switch off the beacon, or if they would leave it on for the entire flight. (entire flight.) Shortly, the bright lights of the Nucor Steel Mill and gas station at Plymouth marked the end of "urban Utah" and the beginning of rural landscape.

Below began the long valley that once was the northern reach of Lake Bonneville, now home to small collection of barely noticable towns. Portage, the border, Woodruff, Samaria. Fields. Farms.

Malad. Off in the distance, like a lighthouse on an island in the darkness winked the beacon for Malad's tiny airport. A beacon just as strong against the night as any major airport. My mind wandered...imagine an airliner in distress...ours...something bigger...and that beacon calling out to it to signal safe harbor. Without sectionals, without navigational equipment, who would ever know that that airport was as tiny as it is? Any port in a storm perhaps...and I smiled as this beacon on a mission drifted by below. Malad passed along with it, the first decent sized town along I-15 into Idaho, and even then, only having some 15,000 people. Small.

Darkness shrouded us again, we passed into a cloud. I figured we were descending at this point, but couldn't feel the top of descent. A faint glow began to flicker just outside the cabin window...steadily growing brighter and brighter, appearing then disappearing just as quickly, then finally, staying alit. Clouds. Clouds flying by our wing, lit by our aircraft. The thought occurred to me to video this flickering mist, as it continued to grow in intensity.

Video: Flickering glow outside window of Skywest Brasilia:

Soon amidst that mist were sparkles, raindrops. Larger and larger, more prominent. Brighter still became the glow. Then the texture changed, the brightness doubled. Snow. Enormous white disks flew at high speed into and around our prop. horizontal lines streaked by the window.

Video: Night Rain from an Airplane:

Below...a yellow glow appeared and became more prominent. Inkom? No...Pocatello. A hole in the cloud revealed a snapshot of the scene below, soon obscured again. My camera beeped. "Out of Memory". Oh crap...I'd miss the landing! I switched to Photo View, which in turn illuminated my LCD, bathing the cabin interior with a sudden white light. I thought of the people resting behind me, and tried conceal the LCD with my shirt as I selectively deleted photos and video from earlier in the day. Freed up 2 minutes of video time. Just enough.

Looked out the window...the city was gone, and so was the weather. Where were we? I was disoriented. The aircraft turned to the right and I saw in the distance city lights. Where are we?

Through the windows on the other side of the aircraft, white and yellow dots spread out like a lake below...and head, I could finally see the faint lights of the runway. "Right base" I realized. I went for the video record video. Take photos. Waited...waited....the ground grew closer....ok...shoot. Videoed. It took longer than I expected, my video time was shown as 51 seconds remaining. Just enough. Caught the landing in full. Camera beeped just after we left the runway. Memory full.

Video: Night Landing - Skywest-Delta 7767 lands at Pocatello:

Eight gigabytes of photo and video. Wow, what a day.


Leaving the aircraft, and coming through the concourse into the terminal, I was exhausted. Now that I'd landed, the entire day began to hit me, mentally and physically, I'd taken in alot. I thought briefly of heading home and immediately beginning this trip report, but in the drive, decided against it. I'd let myself get some much needed rest.

At home, i sat down and thought of what it'd be like to have one more flight. I shook my head. No way...for the first time in my life, I'd had my fill of the sky. And now all I wanted was to sleep. As I laid down, my resting body still felt in motion. A physical memory of the flight's bumps and turns and landings. I was still flying. Does a pilot ever rest?

It's now been three weeks since that day. And so much has changed. That day, I got my confidence back. That day, I realized my place, and renewed my vigor to achieve my goals. This has spilled over into other areas of my life. Knowing what I want and going after it with renewed passion, I've begun looking into schools, and once finances are better, I'll be going to college. And sometime this spring, I'll be taking flight lessons again. I'm on my way. And while that girl ended up going out with me for two weeks, two days ago she backed out of the deal. Still, I find myself bouncing back more quickly than I used to, and that itself is a major change.

None of this would have happened if it were not for the extraordinary people from this website who, together, showed me two sides of aviation. The commercial side, and the enthusiast side. Combining the experiences of Denver and Utah, I've regained a sense of who I am. More-so, I've regained a sense of faith in humanity. I was ready to write off humanity and be satisfied with the way things were, and merely survive. Their compassion, care, support, and encouragement, have turned my life around, made me a stronger person, relit my passion, and helped me in numerous untold and uncountable ways that will, as I see it, lead to success in the long run.

Thank you all so much for what youve done for me. Mike, Paul, Jon, Ron, Dave & guys know who you are.

You changed a life.

[Edited 2008-12-14 14:51:48]

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