In late June I had a fabulous flight to the very edge of southeastern Oregon, nearly to the Nevada border. A good friend was throwing a fly-in at his remote high-desert ranch. He has a dirt landing strip and enough space for a dozen or more planes. This would be the first long-distance flight in my re-built Talon. Bob Coombs agreed to make the flight with me in his Titan.
Flying east up the Columbia River Gorge was more of a stomach clencher than usual; I was listening very, very hard to the rhythm of the engine. The 65 horses seemed to be cantering easily together, never breaking stride. Still, it was a relief to come out of the Gorge into eastern Oregon and it’s multitude of landing spots. The easy two hour flight had us landing in Bend (Oregon) to refuel.
From Bend to Burns was payback for the ease of the first leg. It was almost three in the afternoon, and the sun was hot. Thermals bubbled up and flung the Talon every which way. I never felt in danger, but I had to pay serious attention to staying as straight and level as possible. When we landed in Burns (Oregon) both of us were worn out. Even though we had only another 90 minutes of flying to go, we decided to flake out in the air conditioned FBO for a few hours. By the time we were back in the air it was early evening and the air had calmed down.
When we flew into Larry’s, there were 10 ultralights and general aviation aircraft already tied down. They had saved dinner for us – the most wonderful smoked duck I’ve ever tasted. Larry hunts with peregrine falcons and the duck was one that his falcons had caught.
The next two days brought howling winds across the desert, and we stayed on the ground. Plenty of hangar flying, sightseeing (by car,) and relaxing, although trying to sleep was anything but relaxing. Lying in my tent I listened to the wind, and got up several times to check my tie-down ropes and rudder lock. One fellow had made aileron locks as well.
When the winds finally died on the third day – wow, did we have fun! The Owyhee River Canyon is spectacular flying, and we had a great time lining up to get in-the-air pictures. It’s always fun to have a gas pump you can taxi up to, and landing at Pelican Point, where both your approach and departure is over water, is an unusual experience for me. I never get enough of landing on the dry lake bed of the Alvord Desert, with the Steens Mountain towering high above.
We left on the evening of the 4th day, and it was on our flight home that I re-committed to core flying principles that I had adopted years ago. They are:
- Follow roads as much as you can. This is imperative where the terrain is hostile, since the road may be your only possible landing spot if your engine fails.
- If you choose to fly a direct route, choose one with benign terrain, with lots of possible landing spots along the way.
- Fly as much as possible over terrain where you can land unharmed if your engine fails.
- Fly over terrain where rescuers can find you and reach you.
In my next blog post I’ll share why I recommitted to these principles on the flight home.