Red Bull

Keeping in line with my target of flying hours is not an easy task. If I look back, almost all the flight bookings I have made in advance are washed out for some reason or the other; in majority of the cases, it's the weather. When I made a day-long booking with the intent of flying 6 hours, the weather would give me 2 hours at most, or none at all. And then there was this one day when the weather was unbelievably good, but the jinx had to extend to the aircraft. Nothing less than fuel leaking from the right wing. The leak was fortunately noticed on the ground, just before take-off, by my instructor, who was a passenger on that flight. We had planned to have lunch at McMinneville, a little airport in Oregon, some 500 KM from Vancouver. Fortunately, opportunity knocks ever so often, and I grab every one of them. In 2 weeks, I have managed to garner 30 hours of flight time. Compare that to the 70 hours in 8 months for my Private license. YES! I couldn't be more joyous.

There's this one requirement for the Commercial license that's the bane of every student pilot - the 300 Nautical Miles (NM) cross country trip. 1 NM = 1.9 KM approximately. That's the one way radial distance to be flown. It's not really difficult, but when you consider that one has to fly back as well, it adds up to 600NM. It's a whole day of flying, sometimes spilling over to the next. Most of the other cross country flights are 100NM to 200NM. So this 300NM trip is like a marathon, it's like an endurance test, and in other ways, it's also a confidence building mission. In Canada, particularly this side of the country, there are mountains every where. If you have to fly 300NM, you HAVE TO fly into the mountains. Then there are people like me, who get a USA visa, and fly down south, where there's little or no terrain for nearly 400NM.

The day I had planned to do this trip, the weather came down. Fortunately, dispatch at school was able to adjust some other flight bookings and give me another full day booking only 2 days down the line. And that day, the sky was as clear as it could be. I flew to Eugene (Oregon, USA), a 320NM trip. The flight in itself was rather boring, because I was alone, for I couldn't get anybody to ride with me on that day. No incidents to report, everything went quiet and well, only mild turbulence, landings were OK, lunch at Eugene was good (and expensive), basically an uneventful flight.

The different thing on the return flight was that I had just had a big lunch and was beginning to feel the mental and physical stress, with another 3 hours of flying staring me in my face. I knew such a situation was imminent, and had prepared myself adequately for this. Out came a can of Red Bull. 1 can of 250ml. More than one of my pilot buddies “strongly” advised me to carry a couple of these on the trip. I’ve never had this thing before, so I wasn’t sure it was OK to down a couple of cans, and the can had a warning on it – do not drink more than 2 cans in a 24 hour period. I just had one. And at more than $3 a can, I didn’t want to indulge anyway. But this can of Red Bull, it did what it’s meant to do. In 15 minutes, I was feeling fresh and alert like I had just woken up after 12 hours of sleep. I made it back, safe and sound, and 3 hours later, was still raring to go.

The bird’s eye view was beyond imagination, sights I probably won’t forget ever and those a camera cannot capture (at least mine couldn’t). Most of us have flown in big commercial airplanes, at 30000 feet, and in turbo props, at 20000 feet. But I feel so lucky and thankful to be able to fly at 3000 feet, the bird’s eye view. The one that blew me away was the coast line. From 5500 feet, I could see the Pacific Ocean, some 20KM away. And the no-brainer that I am with words, I won’t even try describing those scenes, but for this:

Water had become delicate cloud,
Mighty waves like tranquil sand dunes.
The ocean was but a white desert,
It felt for many moments a mirage.
Not quite. Was true enough. I fell in love,
Over, and over, and over again.

The entire coastline was covered with a thin layer of dense fog. Here’s a picture, the green surface is an island, there’s water on both sides, the far side is the ocean, and the picture was taken from the near side (inland). There are more pictures in the picture gallery.