Monday, October 6, 2008

Mountain Waves

When Brigid and Michael invited me to drive to their cabin in Accident, Maryland to watch the U.S. Kayaking Open, it was with great delight that I asked if they would mind picking me up at the airport instead. They quickly agreed, and I took care to prepare for my first solo cross-country in the Tiger.

Low-lying clouds in the mountain valleys made for a beautiful sight as I sailed along. There was a bit of a headwind, but the Tiger was still averaging almost 130 knots. It didn't seem like long at all before Cleveland Center was telling me that the airport was at my 12 o'clock.

I was still 18 miles out when ATC gave me permission to change to the local airport frequency, so I stayed with them for another 10 miles, until I was able to pick out the airport carved into the mountain top. At nearly 4,000 feet elevation, I had been warned that the airport conditions could be tricky between high crosswinds and low-lying fog. Beginner's luck had the winds blowing almost straight down the runway, and the Tiger cleared the tree line and touched down like a charm. Brigid and Michael were waiving at me as I pulled up. We tied the Tiger down and quickly set off to watch the races.

The semi-finals were in the morning, followed by the finals in the afternoon. Several Beijing Olympic medalists were participating on behalf of the U.S., Canada (featured above!), Slovenia and Slovakia. Battling class 5 rapids, even former gold medalists were occasionally bested by the ever-changing waters. We cheered them on, taking a quick break for lunch and a little rock climbing excursion in between events.

After a fun night of visiting and catching up, we were all moving a little slowly on Sunday. We managed to make it out to the national forest and hiked along the river to the falls, enjoying the fall scenery as we went. Around 1:30 we headed back to the airport so that I could take advantage of the crystal blue skies once again. I called my Dad and Laura before I left, and arranged to meet them at Gaithersburg for a late afternoon flight over Harper's Ferry upon my return.

The air was even clearer on the flight home, and I snapped a quick picture of Deep Creek as I climbed up to 5,500 feet. One the way home, I took advantage of a tailwind that had me cruising at 165 knots. I eventually climbed up to 7,500 feet to get out of some mountain wave turbulence, and then cruised back down to 2,400 feet to get under the Bravo and ADIZ restricted airspaces.

As I passed over Harper's Ferry, I took note of the visual landmarks -- left of Sugarloaf Mountain and right of the Control Towers and you'll find Gaithersburg. Of course, I verified my route on the GPS as I flew along, but it's nice to have such prominent landmarks on a run I expect I'll do with a good many first time passengers.

Mum and Dad were waiting at the gates as I landed. As my Dad took photos, I couldn't help but laugh at my Mum, who had teared up something fierce. She was a bit hard to understand, but I think she said something about "not quite believing until now that my baby girl is a pilot."

I suppose seeing is believing, eh?


At October 8, 2008 at 5:16 PM , Blogger Jude said...

Hi Amy,
I marvel that you can take such beautiful photos as you fly while figuring out diections,while identifying landmarks and measuring windspeeds. The countryside around Washington is very beautiful and yes, even I know the story around Harper's Ferry.
Rob's exuberance is almost contagious. I wonder if he will take up flying as he took up scuba diving? Thanks for sharing your adventures, Judy

At October 9, 2008 at 4:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said... now the whole world knows I am a crybaby :), but it is truly a very special experience to see your daughter so happy, and confident in the pilot seat of an airplane! And yes we are so very proud of you!


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