formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 3, 2012 The Great Northwest part 2

The Liberty Gazette
July 3, 2012
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Picking up where we left off last week, the post breakfast-with-my-brother flight from Boulder City, Nevada brought us to Twin Falls, Idaho for fuel. Linda appreciates the natural beauty of Twin Falls in early summer weather. She wouldn’t like it so much in the winter. But on this trip the serenity of bountiful farms slid along under our wings, though it was getting hot enough for an airplane’s climb performance to be a concern. Airplanes don’t perform equally in all conditions. When the field elevation and temperatures rise significantly, performance drops and climbing higher is noticeably affected. That’s why flying in deserts and mountainous areas requires adjustments in consideration of these factors.

Linda: Over a corner of the west side of the Rockies, northwest we flew toward Boise. Mike pointed out places from his past when he came to this part of the country regularly, such as Bogus Basin just northeast of Boise in the national forest there where he learned to snow ski. Picking out points on the ground can be more challenging in mountainous terrain than on flat lands but we had one great big landmark to follow most of the way, the Snake River. We meandered downstream from Twin Falls, following the Snake curves which form most of the Oregon-Idaho border. Through a deep canyon, earning the name Snake Grand Canyon, the river bursts out from the mountains onto the flat lands of eastern Washington near Walla Walla and joins an even bigger river, the Columbia, which winds through the Cascades near Portland, Oregon and empties into the Pacific Ocean. It was here that we experienced an unsettling interruption to our otherwise peaceful flight: a drone passing closely underneath us without warning and unknown to the Seattle Center air traffic controller providing us with information about other aircraft along our route. These things are life threatening and we do not support their use in public airspace.

Mike: Here and there along our route were areas temporarily restricted for flight where aerial slurry tankers battled forest fires, and where the pall of smoke hanging in the air made an otherwise clear weather day rather hazy.

Linda: Finally reaching Ephrata, Washington for the Great Northwest Air Race our group of piston-powered aircraft was outnumbered by gliders and their pilots who had come for the Great Northwest’s soaring competition. Aerobatic competitors were there too, practicing for a contest to be held after our race.

In the racing league we compete by class, and for this race our class had the most entries: 10. By all accounts we were favored to win but were upstaged by a local airplane weighing 400 pounds less than ours and with lots of speed modifications, some of which we have yet to do. The pilot flew a good race, staying on our "six o’clock" around the entire 170 mile course. Crossing the finish line 20 seconds ahead of him, we smashed our speed record that Mike set at Carbondale, Illinois just a week before by more than a mile an hour. But the other pilot was able to squeeze just enough more out of his airplane to break our new record by a mere .07 mph. That’s right, the difference between first place and first loser was just seven one-hundredths of a mile-an-hour.

Mike: Linda took the defeat pretty well, though determination set in. We’ll talk about that next week.

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