rclad's blog View Details
Archive for May, 2016
Posted by rclad | May 17, 2016 @ 03:32 AM | 4,905 Views
[Updated 5-24-2017]

Dense fog shrouds Coronado, diffusing the morning light. I'm supposed to take off on my first solo cross country flight as a private student pilot in an hour. It's Saturday, February 18. I glance out the window from the Navy Flying Club here at NAS North Island in San Diego, where I'm stationed for a year with an S-3 squadron. Still no sign of clearing. I review the aeronautical charts with my instructor, listen to a weather briefing, verify weight, fuel and takeoff calculations, and file a VFR flight plan. Visual Flight Rules require that I maintain eye contact with the ground and stay clear of other aircraft by sight. So I have to wait for the fog to burn off before I can fly. Hours tick away. Finally, the sun breaks through. I do a quick preflight of the plane, a Cessna 152, and depart. It's well past noon, but I 'm relieved to be in the air and on my way.

My destination is Yuma, Arizona, on the border with Mexico, about an hour and thirty minutes east of San Diego. The sky is a silky cerulean, and the plane hums along without a hint of trouble. Heading southeast I climb out of San Diego at the maximum rate I can coax from the plane, leveling out at 5,500 feet above sea level before turning east toward Otay Mountain, its peak rising to 3,551 feet. When I leave the coastal mountains and enter desert air I can see forever, beyond the green Imperial Valley, past the Algodones sand dunes to the Chocolate Mountains over seventy-five...Continue Reading