Smooth Day for Flying

Let’s hope I get six like this in a row.

I start my final Southwest Circle Helicopter Adventure 6-day helicopter excursion for 2009 today. And after a week of extremely blustery weather — by Arizona’s standards, anyway — it looks like we have a week with calm wind conditions.

I can’t express how happy I am about that. While I’m not afraid to fly when the wind is howling — even up to 20 or 30 knots — it’s so much more pleasant to fly without all that wind. You can really feel the joy of flying when there isn’t some natural force (other than gravity) messing with your flight path.

Wind makes for mountain turbulence, which is caused by the flow of air over uneven terrain. Think of a stream with rocks in it. How does the water move over and around those rocks? Now imagine the water being air and the rocks being hills and mountains. Helicopters are flying only 500 to 1000 feet off the surface, so we’re in all that bumpy air. The more wind and hills and mountains, the more bumps. It’s usually not bad enough to be unflyable, but it’s certainly a lot more pleasant to fly when you’re not being bumped around all the time.

When I flew at the Grand Canyon, it was windy every day from April into June. Oddly, the bumpiest air usually occurred during flight segments over the National Forest. We were 300 feet over the ground, not far from the ponderosa pine treetops. The ground was gently rolling plateau that ended abruptly at the edge of the Canyon. It was the rolling hills that set up the bumpiest air. Over the canyon, with several thousand feet of open air below you, the wind wasn’t nearly as bumpy — despite all those buttes and “temples.”

Anyway, I’m looking forward to a smooth flight, where each moment in the air feels like gliding through space. Let’s hope it holds out for the whole week.

One thought on “Smooth Day for Flying

  1. I was up flying yesterday around Wickenburg and it was one of those days where there isn’t a bump to be found and the visibility was crystal clear. I remarked to my flying partner that we were lucky to be alive and to enjoy such a day. I have been flying for over 37 years now and have accumulated over 24,000 hrs, but it’s days like yesterday that reawaken the 22 yr old in me who learned to fly because he had a dream. Last week I flew into La Guardia and ATC let me fly up the Hudson River at a lower than normal 2500 feet at 6pm at night. What an incredible city New York City is! The Yankees were playing and we flew over the stadium= wow- twice in one week I was reminded just how lucky I am! You are going to be working hard this week Maria, but I am sure you will find yourself at times feeling as if you too are the luckiest person to be alive at that moment. Enjoy and keep the wonderful accounts of your life coming!

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