Saturday, October 07, 2006

I (heart) Mount Hood

I see Mount Hood every time I approach Portland on the BONVL4 arrival, and it's gorgeous, but you're still about 10 miles away. On clear days, I've been known to get VFR-on-top and treat my passengers to a close up scenic tour of Mount Hood, and it is always spectacular. Still, the closest I can legally get is 4 miles from the nearest terrain 2000' below me. At that distance and at the speeds I'm flying, you don't get a true sense of the immensity of the mountain.

Yesterday I took my cousin Amanda and her friend Eli on a Mount Hood tour in a rented Cessna 172. It was the first time I've seen it up close from a light plane. I was absolutely amazed by the details I missed from just a few more miles away, such as the massive crevasses in the glaciers on the north side. At one mile away and 120 knots, you are acutely aware of just how tiny your aircraft is compared to the mountain. It's all quite breathtakingly majestic.

Flights like this remind me of what I miss about flying light planes. To be sure, the scenery from FL250 can be wonderful, but it's like looking at a master's painting from across a large room. Flying low and slow over the same landscape is like inspecting the artist's individual brushstrokes. Neither vantage point provides the complete picture; only through both do you gain a complete appreciation for the masterpiece. Seeing Mount Hood by light plane makes me want to see more of the Northwest that way. Pity it's so expensive. Perhaps once I upgrade I can look into getting a little Taylorcraft or Aeronca...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've flown in from Dallas to PDX twice and lucky to be on the left side to get the same spectacular views.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Flygirl said...

Great pics as always!

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sam-- I'm not a pilot but I love flying and hope to take lessons someday. I enjoy your blog and other flying blogs. Here's a truly ridiculous question based on your photos and flyby of Mt. Hood (which I always enjoy seeing from as an airline passenger): how do you know how close you are? And how close is safe? Let's say you don't have GPS and you're just eyeballing it. Is it easy to fly too close to be dangerous, or is it pretty simple for experienced pilots to judge how close they are when they are buzzing around a mountain? The two times I've been up in a small plane, the pilot was able to say, "Oh, we're about 2 miles away from the runway," and I could see the runway but had no concept of what "two miles" meant up there. Just wondering about perspective. Thanks.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Anon -

In the MegaWhacker, the terrain is on the nav display, so it's pretty easy to figure out when you're four miles away. In the C172, sans GPS, I don't really know, I just eyeball it. At 120 kts, one mile is 30 seconds worth of flying, and that looked about right.

In good day VFR, it'd be pretty hard to crash into the side of the mountain unless you were really screwing around buzzing glaciers or something. The bigger concern is turbulence. The day we flew, there was about 15 kts of wind at the top, which created a few bumps on the lee side. When you get 30+ kts the turbulence can get pretty sporty - I don't do mountain tours in the MegaWhacker on those days.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Hamish said...

Ah, that's so cool (next spring I hope to be doing the same thing around Mt Shasta). Do you ever do some sort of Bay Tour in the Megawhacker on departure out of OAK or anything? I occasionally hear a Southwest 737 doing something like it on NorCal's frequencies.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Hamish - I've done the Bay Tour by small plane but not by MegaWhacker. It just doesn't work out well with their congested airspace, and it'd be pretty out of the way for us. On arrival into San Jose, though, we often use the Point Reyes arrival which takes us over P.R. and then down the western side of the Golden Gate, then directly over SFO at 12k'. We're still high enough that we can naarate the tour for the pax without violating sterile cockpit.

10:46 AM  

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