I left work in euphoria. It was 3 pm, sunny, warm and beautiful...The perfect Colorado day. I peeled out of my work parking lot and made my way out of town. My destination? The Jeffco airport.
I met up with Doug and we went to his hangar. He pulled open the huge sliding metal doors and I was introduced to the machine that would be flying me 14,000 feet above sea level. It was the size of a tuna can.
Honestly, I think it was about as tall as I am.
For a moment I was a little nervous. The previous comment that my mom made about being careful rang through my mind. She warned, "be careful up there. My uncle died in a small plane crash. Call me as soon as you are back on the ground." Jeez, thanks a lot mom.
I pushed my nerves aside and climbed in the cockpit.
Doug gave me a short run down of all the switches and dials and told me to put on the huge headphones. I was an obedient co-pilot and did everything he said. Visions on Maverick and Goose started passing through my mind, and Highway to the Danger Zone running through my ears as I lowered the microphone to my lips.
We taxied to the runway and took off.
It was amazing. Totally different from any other flying I've ever done. I could feel the roll, pitch and yaw of the plane like I never had in a commercial jet.
As we gained altitude we made wide looping circles over the city of Boulder. I could look down and see all the familiar details of town, but looking from above completely changed my perspective. I saw CU campus, my work building, Pearl Street and tried to make out Colin's house.
When we were high enough we flew over Corona Pass.
Oh. my. gosh.
The jagged ridges and rocky precipice shot out at us. The snow-capped majestic hills that have stood for centuries were no obstacles for us as we dipped and whirred past them at over 100 mph. I was awe struck and had no words to describe what I was seeing other than beautiful, which felt so incredibly inadequate.
I took the controls and flew the plane. I made wide turns, left and right, and made the plane climb to the legal limit of a small plane without oxygen.
We flew over Eldora, Winter Park, KeyStone and Breckenridge. Down into an alpine valley that highway 285 runs through. We did "touch and gos" on a little dirt road. We flew down past Pikes Peak. We watched the colors of the light change with sunset and I was amazed by the real "purple mountain majesty" that I saw. After night fell we flew up over Colorado springs and over the city of Denver from the south. There were so many lights I was dumbfounded.
As we prepared to land the plane Doug told me all about how to line up with the runway, how to raise the flaps, how to adjust the locator dial. It was awesome.
The total trip took us 2 hours and we flew 270 miles. If you ever have the chance to go on a trip like this, I highly recommend it.