Near the end of his life Sam Shepard, playwright and actor, divorced his wife, got in his pickup truck, and started to wander.* I’m nowhere near that point and would like to stay with Nell until the end of this ride, but I think I understand Shepard’s compulsion a little. There is something you get from a random drag through a series of places, a look at humanity through the lens of interest and curiosity with no other motive. Once the Lyft driver, the counter person at the FBO, or the hotel clerk knows that you no longer want something in particular from them, carry no animosity or judgement as you approach, you might see a moment of their true self. Just a story, maybe a banal comment about the city you are in, it’s hard to know. The possibility is there.
Dexter is pursuing his PhD up at the University of Ottawa. It is an eight hour drive from Cambridge, which he and I have done a couple times, but that burns a whole day for each direction of the trip. The little plane makes it in two hours up and a little longer on the way down, in calm winds. Lately it seems that the way up is two and a half hours and the way down is about the same with the stop, but we’re fighting that mean North wind.
(On the way down because we have to stop in Burlington to clear United States Customs, which treats a returning citizen much worse than Canada treats visitors. To clear customs on the way north I call ahead, answer a few questions, and then use a nifty little app on the phone (ArrivéCAN) to tell them that I have a negative Covid test, a plan for isolating myself, and where I’m landing. There is always the chance that they will show up with some customs agents in a van, especially since I am landing at a major airport and it would be a short drive for them over to the FBO, but so far that hasn’t happened in Ottawa. (It happened once in London, Ontario, I’m certain because I pissed off an American Customs and Border Patrol agent in Michigan flying home the summer before.) On the way south I need to show my passport and a bunch of FAA documents and answer too many questions. It should just be an app. I could do the same thing entering my own country: land, call, report my landing time, and place, and know that there was a possibility that I was going to have to wait for the customs van to show up at Norwood.)
Not on purpose. I am an inveterate rule follower. Montessori forever, man. One of the things I like about aviation is that there is a place for everything and everything has its place. And there are little tricks to remember the myriad, spiraling, layered regulations that you need to follow. Here’s one: ARROW. It is what you are required to carry on each flight. Your Airman certificate, the Registration for the aircraft, your Radio station license, the Operating manual for the aircraft, and the Weight and balance calculation for the flight.
It is hard to describe how great it was to open this Tupperware bento box at a mile above and a few miles south of Pittsburgh. The challenging times we’ve been through have made me sensitive to the cardboard I am usually willing to shovel in as I cross the country. After four hours of flying those strawberries were mind-altering.
But the bagel is getting ahead of things. (Although since I am ahead of things I should point out that Nell’s banana bread is an excellent breakfast to *start* a long flight on.)
This is too soon after an accident to say for sure what caused it. But I can talk about accidents in general and probably answer a few questions. And, because of the technological advances we have made in the last few decades, we already (just hours after) know a lot more about the accident that killed Kobe Bryant (and the other passengers, including his daughter) than we will ever know about, for instance, the accident that killed Otis Redding.
As Nell and I crossed the country (my thirty-third flight across in a little plane) we were very lucky with weather and spent almost no time ducking around thunderstorms, which was supremely fortunate for a summer flight.
On our evening descent into Cedar Rapids there were a few moisture-laden clouds still hanging around. With ADS-B and ATC watching me on radar, and with the evening hour dropping the little plane number to just us as far as I could see, we were a little relaxed about the cloud regulations. I will fly through something gauzy in that instance. Continue reading →
This was a flight that would have been considerably more difficult in the single engine DA40. In part because as I was departing Friday Harbor (FHR) I was climbing into the clouds at the same time as I was crossing water. The forecast along my route of flight said that there would be four thousand foot ceilings a lot of the way, so technically I could have just flown VFR at 3,500 feet from Friday Harbor, past Seattle, down to the west of Portland, over Eugene, on to Roseburg and then cut through the hills to Medford. Then it was meant to clear up. Continue reading →
As Nell and I return to the east coast after escaping the single-digit temperature for a month, she flew on a large jet and I crossed in the little plane. Again. And when I was talking to her from Kansas City, where I had stopped for the night, she said, “Aren’t you lonely in the plane? What do you do?” I was momentarily stumped. What am I doing up there? JetBlue can get my butt to Boston a lot faster, I’ll have WiFi the whole time and if the goal is to be in Cambridge a little ahead of Nell, then it’s smarter to be in the big jet. There must be something else going on. Still going on, after a dozen years.
Science, freedom, beauty, adventure: What more could you ask of life?
– Charles Lindbergh
For a lot of the time, I am busy. Certainly within an hour of landing and for an hour after taking off, I am planning, talking, gathering information to increase my situational awareness (weather, runway lengths, FBO location, where are the airliners coming in from), and changing our course and altitude. So on a four hour leg I’ve got two hours to myself, interrupted with some regularity to talk to Air Traffic Control (I am always on frequency with someone, and they are watching me on the their radar screen) or to collect the usual information (has weather changed up ahead, how are the engines doing, what does the fuel range look like?).Continue reading →
If you are here to learn about flying your DA40 Diamondstar (or similarly-sized and equipped airplane) across the country, you might be a little disappointed since we switched planes. But my friend Ilya has done it, and documented his experience, and I have a feeling that if you keep an eye on his blog you will be learning more about those adventures.
Due to some maintenance issues, the plane was stuck in Long Beach while Nell needed to be in Stowe, Vermont to give a talk. I stayed in California to wait for the work to be completed. We really needed the plane on Thursday for Nell’s appearance out on Martha’s Vineyard, the other ways of getting out there seemed arduous. So I stayed while she headed across on the redeye. The part we were waiting on was meant to arrive on Friday, then it was pushed until Monday. On Monday after lunch I went down to Long Beach and just kicked dust around in the hangar until the work was complete. The idea was that if it was early enough in the afternoon I’d make one push and clip some flying hours off the fifteen or so necessary to make it across the country. Continue reading →