The wild blue yonder

What better way to celebrate a birthday/ Thanksgiving weekend than with a flight in a small plane?

We’ve enjoyed a prolonged summer here on the left coast, and that precipitated Cyril saying on Saturday that we should book the flying club plane and go for a flight.

Although I earned my private pilot’s licence in 1999 and my commercial licence in 2001, I haven’t done much flying in the past few years. Life, work, finances and sometimes weather have gotten in the way.

We joined the local flying club this year (thank you, Gina), and purchased a block of time on the club plane. Cyril flies every day in his job as a flight instructor, but doesn’t often fly for pleasure. On Oct. 7 we booked the plane, called Gina and asked if she wanted to come with us, and I became reacquainted with a Cessna 172.

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I admit I was extremely rusty. But it’s kind of like riding a bicycle: you never really forget. During flight training you repeat things over and over again, until they become automatic. Things like the pre-flight walk-around, or the downwind check. Setting up the plane for takeoff or landing.

I’m extremely fortunate to have a husband who is a flight instructor, and also a check pilot for the flying club!

We took off from CBS8 (Port Alberni Regional Airport) and flew toward Comox Glacier, to the northwest. We were high enough, and the clouds were non-existent, that we could see Tofino to the west, and Powell River to the east, all the way to the Coast Mountain Range on B.C.’s mainland coast. We landed at CAH3, the Courtenay Airpark, for a visit before returning home.

It is a feeling like to no other when the wheels leave the runway and the plane becomes airborne. The higher you go, the more you look down upon a live map: mountains and rivers leap off the navigational paper, cities are no longer a dot on the map but have homes and roads and farms and schools and shopping centres.

ImageComox Glacier from about 7,500 feet.

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Mount Washington Alpine Resort, without a lick of snow.

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Comox Peninsula, with Goose Spit and HMCS Quadra sea cadet training facility in the foreground.

I remember one of the first flights I took following my solo, I looked down and saw the wheel of the plane. It wasn’t moving. When you have spent many years driving on a road, it’s a disconcerting feeling at first. Then you think of the freedom.

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Wheels over Royston, BC.

Yes, it was a blue sky day over Vancouver Island. One for the memory books.

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About susiequinn

I'm a journalist with a pen, notebook, camera and pilot's licence in my toolkit, and a passion for telling people's stories.
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