Wednesday, February 24, 2016

flying under a full moon

I have always said that I love the world from above at night. I will take night flights whenever possible, window seat, to see the lights and patterns from the air. Monday night, I got to do that from a more personal perspective...a local flying group does a monthly Full Moon Flyout, and I called dibs on the backseat in the Cessna Skylane 182 that Will had reserved for the night. Will as pilot, Matt S. in the right seat, and me kicking back in the was an awesome night.

The evening started out with some glitches, though. I had taken my car in for its annual service earlier in the day, and we were going to pick it up in the afternoon then head to the airport. Got a call with the news that my rear tire had a nail in the inside sidewall; the the technicians did some bubble testing on it to see if it leaked, and it didn't, which was good news. Wisely, Will pointed out that it was better to remove it there and find out it leaked than to find out the hard way at midnight when we got back, so we waited for a bit while they removed the nail and tested the tire. I lucked out, it was only a short stub of a nail that didn't penetrate far into the rubber, but now we were running about 30 minutes late and ran smack into Bay Area traffic (the highways near the Google/Facebook/Microsoft campuses are *not* fun during commute hours).

The other (much bigger) annoyance came as Will was doing his pre-flight checks...the plane had been overfueled by 13 gallons. Not usually a problem, but with the three of us, it meant we needed to burn off some fuel before we could safely take off (fuel is heavy, 6 lbs/gallon, so the weight adds up fast in a small plane). This led to Will doing laps in the KPAO pattern (take off, make the right turn back parallel to the airport, another right turn, land, turn off the runway, taxi down to the start of the runway, get clearance to take off, repeat) for almost an hour before enough fuel was burned off. The hazards of general aviation (GA) could have been worse; when Will flew himself and a friend down to San Diego earlier this month for a work conference, he ended up with a flat tire and a five hour delay before being able to head home.

Once the three of us were in the air, it was beautiful. It was an amazingly clear night, and the full moon on the water was spectacular. I got a few pictures, but they just didn't quite capture it. We were heading north to Charles M. Schultz airport (STS) in Santa Rosa, so we got to see pretty much the entire Bay Area under the full moon. We had dinner at the Sky Lounge with the rest of the flyout group, then headed back to KPAO (Palo Alto airport) with stop-and-go landings at Oakland and San Jose airports (holy crap, do those airports look different from a small plane than the normal passenger jets I see them from).

An awesome night, with awesome company and awesome views...looking forward to the next one.

Silicon Valley at night.

You can see the Bay Bridge lights in the center here.

Another shot of the Bay Bridge. I liked how the grid lined up in this one.

Looking back at the Golden Gate Bridge, with the moon reflecting on the water.

Flying over (Oracle) Coliseum
(photo courtesy of Matt S.)

Downtown San Jose
(photo courtesy of Matt S.)

Landing at SJC (San Jose International)
(photo courtesy of Matt S.)

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