I was returning my wife Jean and her tennis teammate Jenny from a tournament in El Paso. Five long hours round trip by Flying Carpet, and it was too hazy to see anything special… until 15 minutes from home.
There we encountered these vivid, horizon-to-horizon sunflowers sweeping from Lake Mary toward the San Francisco Peaks. Never have we seen anything like this before! This turns out to be Northern Arizona’s most amazing wildflower year in memory, and we’re thrilled to have captured even a tiny fragment of it from aloft.
Nowhere is the power of numbers more boldly reflected than in these fields of sunflowers captured from a speeding airplane thousands of feet in the air!
Like all my Fine Art Metal Prints, “Miles and Miles of Sunflowers,” ready-to-hang pricing starts at just $125, with super-affordable 2-day shipping throughout the Continental US.
Ride along with renowned aviator, writer, and photographer Greg Brown in his light airplane, the Flying Carpet, as he searches behind clouds for the real America, experiencing countless aerial adventures along the way.
Listen to “Inches of Runway,” Greg’s Flying Carpet Podcast Flight #12
Grab your logbook, ‘cause it’s time for Flying Carpet Podcast Flight #12, “Inches of Runway.”
Because wind is invisible, it rarely seems as threatening as other weather when you’re flight planning, especially under clear skies. But as every pilot learns, wind is real; like other weather features it can be helpful or hazardous. Consider, for example, a 65-knot (75mph) headwind…
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A former National Flight Instructor of the Year, Greg is author of five books, a former Barnes & Noble Arizona Author of the Month, and recently completed twenty years as aviation adventure columnist for AOPA’s Flight Training magazine. Some reviewers have compared his book, “Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane,” to sixties road-trip classics like “On the Road,” and “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”
“Greg thinks with the mind of a pilot, questions with the curiosity of a philosopher, and sees with the eyes of a poet.” — Rod Machado, aviation author and humorist
“You don’t have to be a pilot, or even a frequent flyer, to soar with Greg Brown in [his] Flying Carpet.” — Nina Bell Allen, former Assistant Managing Editor, Readers Digest
So buckle in and join Greg for the ride!
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Make a one-time donation, or better yet, subscribe your ongoing support. Thank you! Greg
Here’s Flagstaff Rain, my latest terrestrial Fine Art Metal Print, featuring historic downtown Flagstaff on a rainy July Art Walk night. It’s amazing the effect of water in “punching” nighttime colors and lights.
Matt invested in this 20″x30″ Fine Art Metal Print as a gift for a couple who first met in Flagstaff and are shortly moving away.
Turns out Matt’s friends originally met in Charly’s Pub at the far end of the pictured Weatherford Hotel, and he thought this would be a great goodbye present for remembering their friends and the origin of their relationship here. What a cool gift!
“I missed out on a bunch of flying this weekend,” lamented my neighbor, Alan Herring, over dinner.
Alan is a dairy-cattle veterinarian and fellow pilot; he owns a Cessna 170 taildragger, and a Turbo 182. Alan and his wife Jeanie live near Phoenix, and commute on weekends to their vacation home here in Flagstaff. He’d just finished describing how his family names all their vehicles; the Skylane goes by “Wanda,” and the 170 is called “Willy.”
“Our daughter Emily is down in Tucson attending the archrival Arizona State University – University of Arizona football game,” Alan explained. “Her sister Libby is at home west of Phoenix. They’re coming to Flagstaff tomorrow to join us for one night. The plan was for Jeanie and me to fly up here in Wanda yesterday. The girls were to rendezvous tomorrow morning at Glendale Airport, where I’d pick them up. Then we’d all fly home together on Sunday. Sounds crazy for just one night, but we always have a good time together and the girls have shopping in mind. But when we got ready to fly here yesterday, Wanda’s battery was dead, and it was too late to address it.”
I asked about the girls’ contingency travel plan. Emily would now drive from Tucson to Tempe in the morning. Libby would come from the west valley to meet her, and they’d continue to Flagstaff together. Returning home Sunday, they’d detour to retrieve the extra car.
“That’s complicated for one night, and quite a drive,” I observed. “Why don’t you and I just pick up Libby and Emily at Glendale Airport in the Flying Carpet tomorrow? Then they could ride home with you and Jeanie Sunday without leaving cars all over the place.” Alan and Jeanie expressed surprise.
“Oh, we couldn’t ask you to do that,” he said.
“Why not?” I asked. “That would give the girls more time to enjoy their brief visit. And you’d get an extra couple hours of family time traveling home together instead of driving separately. Besides, it’s always fun seeing Emily and Libby — and what more productive excuse could I find to enjoy a morning’s flying?“…
READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE FLYING CARPET COLUMN,“FUN FLIGHT.”(Allow a moment for the article to load.)
Photo: Emily, Libby, and Alan Herring at Glendale Airport, Arizona.
Last 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.
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.
Camp 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!
Once or twice a year I hear of friends visiting “Grand Falls,” a seasonal waterfall on Arizona’s Little Colorado River. Although the little-known 185-foot desert cataract is taller than Niagara Falls, it runs in volume only occasionally following mountain snow-melt, monsoon thunderstorms, or rare widespread rain.
Jean and I have always wanted to visit the landmark, but have been hampered both by its ephemeral water flow, and by the tortuous drive over primitive roads to reach its remote location northeast of Flagstaff. The rugged journey favors high-clearance vehicles, and traveling in pairs in case of breakdown. Invariably we either hear too late that the falls have been running, or are otherwise committed when invited to go.
Given the magnitude of the waterfall when flowing, I’d always assumed it would also be exciting to view from the air. But it’s not marked on sectional charts, nor many other maps for that matter, so finding it seemed a task in itself.
Then one late-summer morning I found myself desperate to fly. Not having been aloft in weeks, and armed with a new camera that demanded “testing,” I decided on a lark to seek out Grand Falls and mark it for future reference in my GPS navigator. There’d been little rain lately, so I didn’t expect the falls to be running. But knowing their location would be useful for a future aerial visit when the right opportunity arose.
I first gleaned general coordinates and nearby landmarks via Internet search. I also knew the Little Colorado River runs northwestward from Winslow to ultimately join the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. By intercepting the Little Colorado near Winslow and tracing it downstream, I should easily find Grand Falls.
The instant I departed the ground, I knew I’d picked the right day to fly. The sky sparkled cobalt, punctuated by snowy puffs of fair-weather cumulus. No sooner had I turned downwind for departure than I was mesmerized by a huge field of vivid yellow wildflowers bordering Lake Mary southeast of town. I diverted in that direction and sailed over the sea of golden blossoms. Floating in their midst like a spidery space station was the Navy Precision Optical Interferometer, an observatory that collects starlight from distant galaxies via widely dispersed light tubes, and calculates their distance from Earth via parallax.
Following a joyous few minutes savoring chrome-yellow flowers, I departed Flagstaff’s pine forest over high desert to intercept the Little Colorado River. I found it chiseled as if by a coping saw through crimson rock north of Winslow. Tracing the channel toward its distant Colorado River junction, I almost missed Grand Falls, as it proved virtually invisible from the upstream side. But for whatever reason, I happened to glance back. To my surprise and delight given the dry summer weather, the falls flowed vigorously.
Top photo: At 185 feet, Arizona’s “Grand Falls,” is taller than Niagara (note cars in foreground), but flows in volume only a few times a year. Upper right: Late-summer wildflowers tint the Coconino Plateau near Flagstaff, Arizona. Lower left: Wildflowers envelop the Navy Precision Optical Observatory. SEE MORE PHOTOS!