Sunday, October 19, 2008

Flying high

Ask me what is my favorite thing to pictures of and I would have to say airplanes. If I took pictures of nothing but airplanes puttering around the sky for the rest of my life I would die a happy photographer. So if I like taking pictures of airplanes you know I must love going up in them as well. I grab any chance I can to take a flight and this weekend’s Young Eagles Flight Rally was a great opportunity for a little airtime.

Sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association the program gives free airplanes rides to children ages 8 to 17 to expose them to field of aviation. Who knows what future pilot is waiting in their school desk? So with an invitation to ride along with one of the Young Eagle flights I headed to Tracy Airport Saturday morning for my ride.

I would be going with pilot Larry Shinn in his Cessna 170 along with 10-year-old Daniela Ceballos who would be going for her first airplane ride ever. Settled in the airplane back seat the game plan was to get shots of young Daniela behind the controls and whatever aerial shots of the city I could get along our route.

We lined up on the runway and with a final thumbs up we lifted off into the light rain. The flight plan was a 20-minute trip around the edge of the city to the corn maze in Lathrop. After a quick circle of the maze we would head for home passing over the southern edge of town.

The first thing I notice when we break ground is the quiet. The ground just slips away as we climb from the airport. The drone of the engine is muffled by the radio headset with the occasional call of other aircraft in the pattern breaking the silence. We follow another Young Eagle flight airplane toward the maze as I gaze at the cityscape beneath me. It is easy to pick out the major landmarks. The new Kimball high site slides by, the Redbridge development and then an endless sea of homes. We reach the outskirts of town and cross Highway 205 and Interstate 5 as we reach the corn maze. Our young pilot Daniela has been taking the controls as she gets the feel for the plane trying the wheel under Shinn’s watch.

And then it is over all to soon. The Cessna is throttling down as we settle in for approach to Runway 30 at Tracy. We cross over the gravel pit and the runway looms in front of us. A thump and squeal as the wheels touch pavement and our flight is over. Daniela signs the pilot’s logbook commemorating her flight time and I think how lucky she is to have flown an airplane at only age 10. I hope I have more airplane assignments in the future; the view from above is just spectacular. Nothing beats an airplane assignment, especially if you’re flying onboard, the sky is the limit!

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