Friday, October 1, 2010

Commercial Travel

Commercial travel can be fun too... Especially for the overly enthusiastic student pilot. Today I'm flying from SJC to MDW to MSP. [I'm going to Minneapolis to spend time with my little brother and his family and run the Twin Cities Marathon for the 3rd time... It's one of my favorite races in one oaf the best cities to run in. I'll talk more about the race and the destination in my running blog :).] While waiting for my flight at SJC I listened to norcal approach on liveatc. Conditions were IFR and the pilots and ATC were using IFR terminology I am not so familiar with, something new there.

While taxiing I've got my face glued to the window and I'm looking at all the runway markings, directional signs, etc. I'm trying to imagine the clearances the pilot is getting as he taxis and trying to interpret the signs correctly. It seems that the one taxiway has many different designations depending on what section your on? Will need to look up the chart and verify. We taxi up to 30R and hold, then taxi to 30L for takeoff. Too bad they don't let us use electronics during taxi. I want to be listening in.

Takeoff was smooth of course. It was cool to watch a little bit of a contrail ? develop over the edge of the wing for a moment. The air is a bit humid and cool. Shortly after takeoff we do a steep right turn ... I'm on the right side of the plane so I get to see the city below us and the low clouds. When we pop clear of the clouds the air is crystal clear. We continue the turn until headed south.

Still climbing I start to see familiar landmarks from flying at RHV. Approximately over Mt. Hamilton we turn right again (so the "lick" waypoint I was hearing on norcal approach was probably an IFR waypoint over Mt. Hamilton? Lick Observatory is there.) as we continue to turn I see the reservoir and ridge line I use as references when flying to the practice area. We turn more and I see RHV over our right wingtip (or is that winglet tip?) it was a perfect picture, but my camera was under the seat *way* in front of me so I couldn't get the shot :( my nose is still stuck to the window as I watch my airport from 10,000 ft instead of the usual 1,100 ft. We're headed north again now and *ding* the pilot announces we are at 10,000 ft and approved electronics are Ok.

The other cool note... A short while later I look up from reading and see out the window a deep river valley though the mountains, i think that must be Yosemite. Sure enough, the pilot announces "on the left side is Lake Tahoe and on the right is Yosemite on a beautiful clear day." How cool is that?! How often does someone get to see two of the nation's most incredible natural features out the window at the same time. And this guy probably sees it every day, but he likes it enough to point it out to all of us. I wish I could be in the cockpit with that crew. That is something you only get when flying.

I suppose your wondering why I think the above is cool enough or interesting enough to write about. The excitement comes from having a bit of a feeling of being a part of that world. Being able to guess why the pilot climbed, the turned south, the climbed and turned north again. Why we leveled off briefly at what looked like 5,000 ft the started climbing again between the 1st and 2nd turn. Recognizing specific aviation landmarks from the air. Even having a home airport. Being a part of the world where people routinely see Lake Tahoe and Yosemite out the same window, or a crystal clear morning sun shining on mountain peaks over a soft grey carpet of fog. Those things that make flying a joy. And the more I learn about that world, the closer I am to being able to be there too... as my own PIC.

1 comment:

  1. Two notes from Chicago.
    1. the taxiway designation does not change at sjc. I was reading that wrong.
    2. What is it about jets? The last two commercial flights I've been on have just flew into the pavement hard... No flare and fly over runway... Will observe further.