“Charity Aloft,” Greg’s February, 2015 Flying Carpet column


Surfing sunbeams

10-GregBrownFT215_2277eSmw1200-4Last summer my friend Chris Barton asked me to take aerial photos of his church to help raise money for its associated school. The charitable mission sounded both worthwhile and fun, so I readily accepted. The opportunity presented itself one sparkling morning, as I returned the Flying Carpet from nearby Prescott.

I’d yet to visit the church on the ground, but knew it overlooked a prominent intersection just outside Flagstaff Pulliam Airport’s traffic pattern. So on a whim I coordinated with the control tower and went for a look. The complex was easily spotted on open, elevated property, backed by magnificent views of the San Francisco Peaks. Armed with a telephoto lens and flawless visibility, it took only a few passes to capture the requisite views. That was easy and fun, I thought. So when referred a few months later for another charitable shoot, I eagerly volunteered.

Camp Colton is a revered institution located on the west flank of Humphreys Peak. Every local 6th grader is offered a week there to learn teamwork, natural sciences, and love for the outdoors; most Flagstaff natives under age 50 once attended.

DannyGiovaleTracyAnderson-FC_FLG_2007eSmw1200Friends of Camp Colton director Tracy Anderson sought aerial photos of the camp’s stunning mountainside location for fundraising purposes, including promoting the upcoming Kahtoola Agassiz Uphill trail race benefit sponsored by board member Danny Giovale’s company.

Gorgeous autumn weather prevailed when the three of us connected. With golden aspen trees blanketing the mountain, we agreed to shoot the very next day. Given the camp’s western-slope location, I chose late afternoon sun to illuminate Colton’s idyllic setting amid brilliant fall colors.

8-GregBrownFT215_2065eSmw1200Camp Colton resides in wooded wilderness, so I was concerned about finding it. I also worried from a safety standpoint about its proximity to the 12,633-foot mountain and surrounding foothills.

Danny eagerly consented to help with spotting and shooting. But Tracy hesitated, having once been traumatized by a poor-weather Alaska air-taxi flight. I explained that we’d fly only in perfect weather, remain within minutes of the airport, and land at her request anytime during the flight. After considering it overnight, she agreed to join us.

At the airport I engaged Tracy and Danny in the preflight and pre-takeoff checklists to ease any concerns. Then we launched into late-afternoon sun…

READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE FLYING CARPET COLUMN, CHARITY ALOFT.” (Allow a moment for the article to load.)

Top photo: Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks, with Camp Colton’s snowy driveway visible at lower right. Middle photo: Camp Colton’s Danny Giovale and Tracy Anderson await takeoff for the San Francisco Peaks visible behind them. Lower photo: “Flaming” autumn aspen trees ignite the flank of Humphreys Peak. SEE MORE PHOTOS!

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)

©2014 Gregory N.Brown

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