The Freedom of Flight; or the beginning of a grand adventure

by Anna Blanch on July 9, 2012

This is the second in a series of posts about flying in a small plane across the USA from California to Michigan.
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The morning of the 4th of July dawned overcast. We had woken early, around 4 am in order to check weather. Our luggage was already in the hanger waiting after a false start on the 3rd. We’d also bought a stock of water and “non-crumbly” snacks to help keep us going.

We made a plan to leave around 8 and headed off with K’s roommate, M (another pilot) to a breakfast place so we could fuel up before the trip began.

After fueling the plane and packing, we took a couple of photos, K did preflight, and I started inputting the codes for the waypoints between California and Colorado.

We took off from Apple Valley Airport, California, at 0830 (KAPV) with K’s roommate M just behind us.

We flew in formation for a while before he left us to fly to Bear Valley to meet his sister for breakfast.

M has a 1966 Cessna 310. It is a twin engine plane and he flies it very well. Does anyone remember the tv show Sky King? because that show featured a Sky King. It is quite striking to think about the way that this plane revolutionized general aviation in the 1970s because its speed made it comparable to commercial aircraft. Even though it won’t beat a commercial jet from point to point, if you don’t have to be at the airport an hour before and deal with security lines etc, it works out about the same! pretty cool huh?!

I took these photos while we were both at about 7000ft.

Speaking of technological evolution in aviation: K has a Garmin 496 in the plane (a 1967 Piper Commanche) and it is worth its weight in gold. K doesn’t really use it for navigating beyond reminding him of the heading of the next leg. They measure heading in degrees. He uses his instruments and looking outside to tell him where he is and where he is going. What it proved to be excellent for is the real time weather. We could see a build up of clouds, rain, and even where there is lightning. It is also great for showing you the high and low pressure systems – which also then show you the likelihood of a tail or head wind. Tail winds push you a little quicker and help you save on gas. Between the Garmin and Foreflight, which he has on his Ipad, and his Iphone, he’s able to plan the flight, file a flight plan and track our movement in almost real time.

I looked at our passage (and the pink line) a lot more than he did! It made things even more interesting to be able to correlate what I could see outside with the map which had towns, bodies of water, mountains and other landmarks labelled.

Foreflight is also excellent for indicating relevant radio frequencies…and believe you me, when you’re flying over multiple states and through all sorts of different air space you speak to many many different Air traffic controllers. Because of the relative newness of this technology, it is (as far as I’ve been told) not legal to fly only using the electronic aids, you also must carry the relevant paper maps….for the whole course of the journey we had to have about 8-10 maps. This is also a logical fall-back in case you run out of battery or you lose power to your avionics.

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Listening. Observing. Participating. Writing. Photographing. Reflecting.

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Traveller. Scholar. Photographer. Writer. Dreamer. Teacher. Anna Blanch is founder of Goannatree, and a PhD candidate in the Institute of Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, Scotland. The summer of 2012 is a nomadic summer for Anna as she edits her Phd and chases the sun after three cold years in Scotland!

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