Thursday, November 20, 2008

Flying over the Grand Canyon

I got a last-minute invitation a week ago fly over the Grand Canyon in a small plane. At first I equivocated, since I had some other commitments, but after thinking for a little while, I realized that I might not have such an amazing opportunity for a long time, and I decided to go.

I showed up at the Provo airport on Saturday afternoon and met my friend Alyssa, her friend Dan (who has the plane and is a pilot), and Alyssa's friend Jenny. We loaded up, and Dan took off. After he got his Cessna 172 off the ground, he turned over the controls to me, and I got to fly pretty much all the way to Las Vegas. We flew over Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park on the way, and we stopped to get gas in Mesquite.

Flying was amazing. I've been interested in aerospace since I was a little kid, and I've always wanted to become a pilot, so I was living the dream last weekend. I had to concentrate while I was flying to keep the plane at the right altitude and headed in the right direction, but it wasn't too hard.

We landed at Henderson Executive airport in Las Vegas on Saturday night. After checking into our hotel, we headed to the Strip. We rode the Big Shot at the Stratosphere, which was really fun, although it was almost 3 a.m., so I was pretty tired. We went to church in Las Vegas the next morning and then headed back to the airport.

We flew the length of the Grand Canyon from Vegas to Page, Arizona. Along the way, we got great views of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, Havasupai, and the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. We stopped in Page for gas, and when we took off from there, the sun had just set over Lake Powell, and the reflections of the vivid sunset off of the lake were beautiful.

The weather was beautiful and the views were great this past weekend. I'm really glad that I got to go. Thanks, Dan and Alyssa!

I took a couple of sets of pictures (set I, set II). You can see a few of my favorites below.

The cockpit. There are two sets of controls for everything, so either person can fly. I sat on the right.

Jenny and Alyssa

Zion National Park. Angel's Landing is the small mountain (below all the others, on the left edge of the valley) in almost the exact center of the picture.

Landing in Mesquite. The airport wasn't much more than a little shack.

On top of the Stratosphere, with the Strip behind us. We were all a little tired.

Dan's Cessna 172, tail number 20529
(that's "two zero five two niner", just like on The Incredibles :))

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

Grand Canyon. Turns out it's a pretty big hole.

It was kind of hazy on Sunday. It made some things less pretty, but I really like how it gives depth to this picture.

Glen Canyon Dam. Lake Powell is on the left.

Sunset over Lake Powell


Gabe said...

I knew it! Bruce, you have just confirmed a long held suspicion of mine. Every time I fly and walk past the cockpit where the door is conveniently open wide enough so that you can see the million convoluted-looking controls I decide that one of two things is going on:
A - String theory is in fact true and for some reasons pilots are the only ones that need to worry about navigating through the extra 10 dimensions.
or B - Pilots are ensuring their own job security, something they've been concerned about ever since the release of Microsoft's Flight Simulator.

Seriously though, how can you need that many controls when you've only got 6 plane-directions to move in? I'm now convinced that only every tenth control is legit and that flying is quite simple. Maybe they will let you land it next time?

Bruce said...

Excellent point, Gabe. After my induction into the ranks of pilots, I learned a little secret: only one of those gauges is actually functional (the "am I there yet?" indicator). All of the others are there to make you look smarter. The reason that big planes (like 747s) cost more isn't because they're bigger or faster; it's because they have a lot more gauges, buttons, and levers. I mean, think how smart you'd look sitting in one of these. It costs a lot to appear smarter.

Seriously, I have to admit that I didn't use all of the gauges while I was flying. The airspeed, heading, altitude, vertical speed (d altitude(t)/dt), VOR heading, artificial horizon, engine speed, GPS, and fuel indicators were useful. I don't even know what the other ones are.