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 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.