Over the Cascades to Pilot Butte

September 9th, 2007

Yesterday my girlfriend and I flew over the Oregon Cascades to the city of Bend and back in N478ER, a Cessna 172SP. We followed the 095 radial from the Newberg VOR to the North face of Mt. Jefferson at an altitude of 11,500 feet. After crossing the Cascades we discovered the awesome sight of the palisades of Lake Billy Chinook.

The climate east of the Cascades is considerably more arid than the west side, with landscapes unlike anything we had seen in our previous flights. We followed highway 97 south through Redmond, arriving in the skies over Bend about an hour and 20 minutes after takeoff. Our specific destination was Pilot Butte, a location known to be of great significance among my very good friends, and the source of limitless energy when properly harnessed.

We circled the butte at 2,000 feet AGL, then started our return flight without landing, as the winds in Bend were too gusty to permit a comfortable landing experience. We intercepted the Victor 165 airway from the Deschutes VOR, climbed to 10,500 feet in accordance with the hemispherical rule, and passed between Mt. Jefferson and a TFR that had been established for an active forest fire.

During our descent, when we were near the town of Aurora at about 7,000 feet, Tammy decided she was ready to experience airplane stalls. I would never intentionally stall the airplane with a new or unwilling passenger, but this was Tammy’s 15th flight with me, so I figured she was ready. I started by demonstrating a power-off stall; I lowered the flaps, entered slow flight, set the throttle at idle, pulled back on the yoke, and with the stall horn blaring the airplane barely dropped 50 feet before I recovered. She was surprised by how little she felt the stall, and she agreed her fear of the maneuver had been unfounded. Next was a demonstration of a power-on stall; with the flaps up I slowed to 60 knots, applied full power, and pitched for the stall break. This experience left her with a greater appreciation of what a stall really was, as there was a much more pronounced drop, and it put her stomach in a bit of a knot. After the stall demonstrations she wanted to see more maneuvers, so I performed some steep turns and s-turns before crossing the Newberg ridge and entering the pattern at Hillsboro airport. Tammy took over 500 pictures on the flight, with some of her most incredible images to date. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and left me with a great desire to further explore the country on the other side of the mountains.

(Many more pictures here)

7 Responses to “Over the Cascades to Pilot Butte”

  1. Tennille

    Beautiful! Looks like fun.

  2. Phil

    My wife and I have been to Bend more times this year than ever before. It is our favorite place to go. We consider it home. Thanks for the reference to your tiddlywinks friends of Chutney. I was hoping you were going to attempt the impossible landing atop Pilot Butte :) Perhaps if the other three of us where there to receive you, the power of the triforce could have acted like a tractor beam and pulled you in safely. That would be the ultimate picture… us atop Pilot Butte, and you flying by to get some overhead shots – like Julie Andrews in the opening sequence of Sound of Music :)

  3. Phil

    It’s funny… “D” mentioned on our most recent trip that it would be cool to have a private jet so the trip to Bend didn’t take so long and we wouldn’t have to contend with traffic. Obviously it would be considerably more expensive, but it would be pretty sweet to get there in an hour or so.

  4. Marc

    We should take a cabin trip again and use an airplane to get there. We wouldn’t be able to fit all of us in a Cessna 172 due to weight and balance realities, so we may have to take a car too. Once we land we’d need transportation from the airport, so having a car would be handy for that as well. I could rent one for an entire weekend sometime .. I wouldn’t mind the expense at all (I only get charged for the time I’m actually flying). It might not save much time getting there, once you factor in driving to and from the airport and the pre-flight preparations, but it certainly is scenic! We could also go up on a flight or two while we’re out there so whoever got stuck driving could go up for a tour of the area.

  5. Phil

    That’d be a blast for sure. It always amazes me the views you see and Tammy captures. Even if they are pictures of places I’ve been a million times or driven by, it’s mystifying to see them from bird’s eye view (well, maybe birds don’t fly that high).

  6. David

    I heartily support this idea of a cabin trip using a plane. That would be amazing. Yeah, there are so many awesome outdoor sights to see… all those mountain lakes, and the mountains themselves. Those are some great photos Tammy got. Very cool.

  7. Sara

    Living vicariously through you too – beautiful adventure, thanks for sharing!

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