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Winter Desert Flying

Fabulous 50’s¬†is an uplifting, gorgeous photo blog and regularly brightens my day. It also inspired me to post more pictures to share the beauty of flying.

I also thought it would be nice to provide a soundtrack to go along with the visual impressions.

I will start with some winter desert cross-country trips we took in a rented Cessna 172SP/G1000 on a recent trip to Las Vegas, NV. The Mojave desert wants to be explored by air. That is when it shows itself in all its expansive, vast and empty beauty. Mountains and canyons are canvases on which the light plays in changing tones of colour and shades. The soft pastels of dusk and dawn, the shadow play of the afternoon, the rich tones of the setting sun.

Aviation history is in the air, the story of countless unnamed heroic test pilots is palpable when navigating between vast MOAs. A bittersweet melancholy permeates the many warbird museums, with the planes silent witnesses of past horrors and victories. Friendly and knowledgeable veterans relate war-time stories, themselves relics of history. May we never forget.

At sunset, colors slowly fade to grey, going through a brilliant spectrum just before it gets dark. Pitch-black dark. A strange feeling to land at night, descending into a valley, discerning mountains rising to the left and right only on the terrain display of the MFD. What a comforting feeling to be able to follow a road. The sight of the airport beacon a much welcome relief – home! Below: Black – Above: Black – Left and Right: Black. A Runway outline on a black background. Behind it, a sea of lights in all colours, the city of Las Vegas.

On the way from Palm Springs (KPSP) to Henderson (KHND). A tiny, slow-moving plane in an enormous landscape that never gets boring.

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First flight

Oh, I’ve been sitting in airplanes a lot, in small, bouncy ones with one engine and enormous 747s that haul you heavily across the Atlantic. But my first real flight took place on February 17, 2011.

That day, Timm checked out a Cessna 172 SP at McClellan-Palomar airport, north of San Diego to fly across the coastal mountains and through the desert to Las Vegas. Having arrived one day earlier from Boston, I sat outside the FBO in the shade, watching with a mix of nervous anticipation, genuine admiration and a giddy anxiety as Timm flew graceful touch and go’s in order to update his passenger carrying permit.

My sense of an awesome adventure awaiting us grew as he taxied back to the ramp to collect our luggage and me. As we walked to the plane, the sun blazing, the air fresh and breezy with a few scattered fluffy cumuli dotting the expansive sky, I saw a man I had not exactly known before, possessed by a daring confidence balanced with calm and deliberate skillfulness.

There was the spirit of an explorer, about to boldly take to the sky, embracing freedom. Clearly, this aviator, my good friend whom I was happily dating, was completely in the moment while taking fuel samples during the preflight inspection. My mind settled into a calm and serene mood, feeling safe and content. The stress and anxiety of the preceding days dissipated in the clear, mineral West Coast air.

Yet, as we lined up on the runway, nothing could have prepared me for the burst of happiness and wonder as we accelerated and lifted off towards the silver-coated Pacific, then made a climbing turn towards the coastal mountains, a cluster of small clouds clinging to their sides, decorating their peaks. A gift of wings, this was a shared sentiment for sure.