I was totally by myself. I aligned the plane with the 04 runway, with no one in sight, since it was the middle of the week. I took off and decided to test the new plane with some basic maneuvers and a lazy flight. It’s important to say that I was totally unfamiliar with the area, as I was used on flying my Cubs from another airfield some miles away. But the fates decided it was a good time to put me to the test.
“Don’t you have to get permission from ATC or someone?” That’s the most common question I get when people discover I launch myself into the sky from a field. Confusion then turns to disbelief when I tell them “nope.” I usually let that little pot of incredulity simmer for a while; sometimes I’ll stir things with a “why would I need permission?”
What am I doing here? I’m flying at 3,500 feet over water, heading into the unknown in a single-engine Cessna, and it’s dark! This is what I asked myself as I flew 10 miles out over the Bay of Panama before dawn.
Venice, Italy, is a legendary tourist destination. Millions flock to the island city and its picturesque canals for a scenic trip by gondola. But as Benoit Vollmer shows in this Friday Photo, the view from the air is pretty spectacular too. He took this photo from his Robin RD-400 during a trip from Paris to Albania.
I had done a few longer cross country flights in the past, but nothing that required being in a specific place at a specific time for a specific event. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it does mean that any mishaps along the way must be dealt with on the move and a solution found immediately so that the trip can still be completed.
Here’s a great example of how a general aviation airplane can unlock new perspectives. Elke Quodt was flying her Cessna 182 of Mt. Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany, when she took this photo of the snowy peak. The skiers on the mountain think they have a great view, but the pilot’s view is even better.
It was getting late in the day and the tropical weather was closing in behind me. I felt trapped. Weather was all around and nothing but dense jungle below. I started to get frustrated and really worried. An hour and a half had passed and I was no closer to Panama City. My only alternate airfield was back across the mountains. The last thing I wanted to do was climb back up to 15,000 feet, but I had no choice.
Flying over Amsterdam isn’t easy, but Gerhard van Roon says he wouldn’t trade it for anything: “once over the target and the safety pilot has taken the yoke with me hanging with my cameras out of the window, I am sure that there isn’t a job in the world as beautiful and satisfying as mine!” As this week’s Friday photo shows, he does have quite the view.
One of the best parts of our Friday Photo series is the wide variety of locations we get to share. This week’s photo is a great example: Thor Fredrik Eie took this beautiful picture of Torghatten in northern Norway on a recent sightseeing flight. The rocky coast and the blue skies make for a unique view over the nose of his Cessna.
After a frantic week of long-range faxes and Bonanza research, the deal was done and the planning started for the ferry flight back to Peterborough Sibson (EGSP) in the UK. I was keen to fly it myself if at all possible as I’d never done a long flight in a light single and it seemed wasteful to pay someone else to do it. What was a Bonanza capable of?
The Sunshine Coast in Australia is a beautiful place to fly, and Gerard Merchant captures the scenery beautifully in this Friday Photo, taken from the cockpit of his Cessna 172. The Glass House Mountains, a group of hills that pop up from the coastal plains of Queensland, are draped in shadow as the early morning sun breaks through the clouds.
We know that mechanical things fail, people make mistakes and aviation, like the sea, is inherently unforgiving of failure or mistake. That thought was on my mind recently when we took off from Burlington, Vermont, aboard a classic old airplane, a twin engine DC-3 built in 1945. We were headed for Europe, but less than three hours later, in a flash event, both the failure and the mistake happened at the same time.
There was no hotel space for Christmas Eve at the Punta Cana, Dominican Republic hotel where we were staying. Rather than change hotels, we decided to fly to the French island of Guadeloupe instead. Weather was not a factor, the distance was only about 400 nautical miles, and we had fuel for 850 so it just seemed like the thing to do.
This week’s Friday Photo raises the bar for $100 hamburger missions. Nic Fabert sent in this picture of a Cessna Caravan on floats, beached in a cove in Australia. His mission was simple: lunch on a beach. But it’s enough to make any pilot dream of the ultimate getaway.
My brother Hugh and I were in the process of flying a Beech Baron from Calgary in Canada to New Zealand the long way. It had been a bad start to the day and the journey into town the previous evening had been hair-raising. Enroute to Ankara, we had encountered a military roadblock and had been forced out of our taxi at bayonet point by some very uptight soldiers.
AS FIGHTER PILOT. NOT REQUIRED STANDARD.
Sixty four years after that assessment was penned into my pilot’s log book by the CFI of No. 2 Operational Training Unit at RAAF Base Williamtown, I still have a twinge of shame and regret.
There was some apprehension as we approached the terminal as we could see a lot of military personnel and when we parked, I left the No. 3 engine running until I was assured of an airstart as we had no APU on DC-8 aircraft. I opened the forward door to be met by a six-foot Ugandan soldier holding a rifle at me.
The second installment in our Friday Photo weekend series comes from Fernando Gonzalez-Fisher, who took a photo of the cloud-covered mountains of Monterrey, Mexico, from his Mooney M20M. The speed brakes are retracted and the airplane seems to be racing along, but the rugged mountains below are a reminder that all flights must eventually end.
You won’t have to wait another week for your next dose of Friday Photo. It was one year ago this month that Air Facts launched this popular weekly feature with the impetus of friends sending us photos of their flights home from Oshkosh. Thanks to all the readers who have submitted photos all year long. Today through Sunday, we’ll be posting a whole bunch of Friday photos, so stop by Air Facts often to see the latest.
An earthquake struck Ecuador on April 16, with catastrophic consequences for the province of Manabi. On April 19, I received a call from the owner of the FBO where I keep my Cessna. He had organized at the hangar a collection center for food, water, tents and medicine, and was asking for help to transport by airplane the collected goods and doctors to the quake zone, as the roads were badly damaged.