AS IF THERE IS such a thing. The purpose of any flight may sound routine: “Flight instruction,” “Aircraft test flight,” “To Sebring for engine maintenance,” but the flying itself nearly always has some unexpected gift. Those can’t-be-planned events filter into a pilot’s life nearly every time she lifts off the ground, whether or not he makes a note of them in his logbook, “Cloud of flamingoes rose from the reeds.”
Today’s flight was the above, “To Sebring for engine maintenance,” with Dan Nickens. He said he’d be flying over the house around 9:30 and did I want to join him on his trip for maintenance?
Puff and I met Dan and Jennifer (WT’s less formal name) at 1,500 feet at 9:30. The air was still and smooth, I switched the camera on for a crossover and return, floating in the air:
After a while, a large lake ahead, Dan eased down from altitude and of course we followed. Dan’s preferred cross-country cruising over water, as I may have mentioned, is at an altitude between zero and two feet. Puff and I were conservative, flying way up at six feet to take these pictures:
Soon as there’s a populated area ahead, as you noticed, they climb back up over the altitude required by the FAR, the Federal Air Regulations.
Here’s this odd contrast about the man, one hour he’s flying 80 mph inches over the uncaring wavetops, the next I imagine him installed at the Club, wearing one of those jackets with suede at the elbows, discussing geological sediment layers, Pangea and the structures of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. I smile at contrast like that, even when i don’t have the courage to drop into formation with him at that altitude (as wingmen usually fly lower than the lead plane).
There’s your routine flight.