Tough, beautiful, and a little scary
I taxi my noisy little capsule toward the runway, arm out the window, in a cocoon of flashing red beacon light.
I’m practicing landings tonight, and it’s a dark one. Although nervous, I’ve done my homework and the facts say I’ll be fine. So I grit my teeth and go. We learn valuable things about ourselves through piloting.
I scan the flight controls with my flashlight, and perform an extra-thorough engine run up. Then I squelch the butterflies, and take the runway.
Sure, our little city will appear on downwind to base, but every other direction will be black, black, black. Instrument flying skills will be required, and takeoffs anemic at Flagstaff’s 7,000-foot elevation.
First circuit: When possible, I time night flights when moonlight offers a glimpse of terrain, but this month’s opportunity was fogged out. So I launch into utter darkness. It’s warm this evening, and at nearly 9,000-foot density altitude the airplane is sluggish.
Slowly I skitter aloft, accelerating in ground effect to climb speed. Hardly off the ground, I punch blackness beyond the runway. There are invisible pines and foothills down there, and nearby lurks 1,000-foot-high Woody Ridge…
**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, “ODE TO NIGHT CURRENCY“** (Mobile-device version HERE.)
(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)
©2016 Gregory N.Brown
If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!