Weather sucks, okay complaining complete.
Snow and wind kept me from flying the last two weeks which was really frustrating, but better safe than sorry. Fortunately, this week has been absolutely stunning and I have flown my guts out. Five flights in three days to be exact. I won’t give you the full run down in one post, but I have a bunch that I will be posting in the next few days because I learned so much and I have so much to share. I really just want to skip to my favorite part, but there was so much learning before that part that I will control myself.
On Tuesday I was scheduled to fly out to Elko, for some tactical fun in an area that we really don’t get into very often. It is always fun to check out new places, which happens a lot for me right now since I am still new here, but when it comes to mountain, low-level flying, it is also useful to have someone who has been there before to keep you safe.
The flight out there was a little boring as is to be expected when droning along for 45 minutes. Though I will say that there is still something beautiful about the high desert mountain ranges. Especially while they are still covered with a good bit of snow. I know the dry isn’t for everyone, but I do feel at home here.
Upon getting to Elko, it was a lesson in high altitude approaches for the pilots. The aircraft commander was an experienced, born and raised Nevadan who has been flying in the area for a long time. Our co-pilot is still relatively new to the plane, but soaks up information like a sponge and really applies the lessons he learns. The funny thing is that both of them had similar struggles.
When you fly at high altitudes, the plane just does not slow down as quickly because the air is so much thinner. I am not sure if it is quite as dramatic on jet aircraft, but for the C-130 it makes a huge difference because those big barn door propellers don’t act as effectively as air brakes. That being said, both pilots landed safely in the zone and some good learning was accomplished. There was also a fun little crowd lined up along the road by the time we finished enjoying the beautiful majesty that is the mighty Hercules.
Once we were done with our patterns we headed out East of Elko into the Ruby mountains. This area is well-known for its Heli-skiing which was easy to understand as we headed out into the still completely snow-covered mountains. They Ruby Mountains are a pretty small little range, but are incredibly majestic because they just explode out of the desert floor. I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me, but there is about a 5-6000 foot increase in elevation in a matter of maybe 5-6 miles. It was truly a sight to behold.
The route we had built split the gap between the Humboldt and Ruby ranges and then proceeded to the south along the East side of the Rubies. A few miles down the ridge we climbed up for an expected ridge crossing, which looked a little with some clouds, but proved to not be a huge deal. We crossed the ridge and dropped down into this gorgeous valley that was also still full of snow all the way to the bottom. You could see the ski tracks from those who had partaken of this incredible terrain.
While I would hesitate to take a small aircraft down as far as we fly, it was a nice wide valley with nice easy turns, that was sloping down the entire way through the valley opening up back into the valley East of Elko. The video below doesn’t really do it justice, but it gives you a little taste of just how stunning this experience was.
Not to give up after only one fun valley, we proceeded further down the range where we were able to do a little more exploring through this gorgeous range of mountains. It was easy to see why people would pay ridiculous amounts of money to experience them on skis.
We took advantage of the less dramatic mountain ranges on the way back to educate the young co-pilot on mountain flying and how to execute turns through the valleys safely, which he picked up quickly. It was also a great chance to help him build his sight picture for ridge crossings and how to do that effectively. For most people these skills are not as important because you should give such dangerous areas plenty of room, but for a C-130 crew, it is how we live, and not just because it is fun.
Training of any type can get a little monotonous if you just do the same stuff over and over again, so no matter what you are flying, or what other passions you may be pursuing, make sure that you mix it up a little. Fly to a new airport, rent a different type of plane, try some formation flying (with proper preparation of course), just do something different. It will keep you engaged and enjoying the variety of life that makes aviation so much fun.
Speaking of variety, my flying wasn’t complete for the day yet. To hear more about the rest of my day check out my next post…