The Window of Opportunity

Sometimes you just get lucky.

This is a follow-up to the post that appeared here on Friday, “The Tour Operator’s Fly or Don’t Fly Decision.” In that post, I explained why I wasn’t going to take a party of three passengers on a 3+ hour scenic flight in northern Arizona in Thursday’s high winds.

It was a very good decision. We flew on Friday instead. What a difference a day makes! The skies were completely clear and winds seldom topped 10 MPH anywhere on our route.

We had a smooth flight up the Verde River before climbing over the Mogollon Rim west of Payson to Meteor Crater. We passed a herd of buffalo just southwest of the crater and I was able to do a low-level circle around them for the benefit of my passengers.

Here’s a quick video of the Meteor Crater overflight, taken from a camera mounted inside my helicopter’s bubble. Narration was added afterward.

It was a bit bumpy from there to the Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River, which were flowing but not exactly “grand” that day. (We need more snow melt to really get them going.)

This video shows the no-so-grand Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River. Look closely and you’ll see a truck parked along the right rim of the canyon; gives you an idea of scale.

Then south of Flagstaff Airport to Oak Creek Canyon and into Sedona. My passengers had lunch at the airport restaurant while I arranged for fuel and chatted with the folks at the terminal. On the way back, we did a quick flyby of Montezuma’s Castle, climbed up the mountains southwest of Camp Verde, and followed the Agua Fria River to Lake Pleasant. I showed them the ruins atop Indian Mesa and one of my passengers spotted some wild burros, so I swung around to give them all a good look. From there, we returned to our starting point at Scottsdale Airport.

I logged 3.4 hours of flight time in the nicest of conditions. My passengers — and I! — really enjoyed the flight. And it was nice to put a little cash in Flying M Air’s coffers.

On Saturday, the wind kicked up again, although not as bad as it was on Thursday. Then storms moved in. It rained almost all day in the Phoenix area (and Wickenburg) and snowed up north. There were low clouds all day Sunday and even now, as I write this around dawn on Monday, I can see low clouds out my window. (Oddly, I got a call from a Phoenix area concierge asking if I could do a nighttime tour of Phoenix last night; what kind of scenic tour did they expect when you can’t see more than a mile or two in mist? Sheesh.)

Of course, all this rain is very unusual for Arizona. We’ve had more rain in the first two months of this year than we did all 12 months of last year.

In general, I consider myself (and my passengers) lucky to have slipped into that narrow window of opportunity for such a long flight. It worked out great for all of us.

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