Yesterday I rented 386ME and flew to Yakima, Washington to visit my dad for Father’s Day. I’ve been planning the flight to Yakima since I first started my flight training, and yesterday I finally had the perfect opportunity. Growing up, my sister and I visited my dad in Yakima every other weekend, so I’ve made the journey from Portland to Yakima literally hundreds of times by car. By land it takes about 3.5 hours; in a Cessna 172 it takes under 1.5 hours. For the first time in my life it was practical to leave for Yakima in the afternoon, spend plenty of time with my dad, and return later that evening.

I flew solo on this flight with my point-and-shoot camera, so the quality of the pictures is not up to the normal quality standard because I was primarily focused on …well… flying the airplane. I wasn’t able to get any good pictures of Yakima itself since I was busy with the approach and landing, but I think a few of the Gorge pictures turned out okay. The flight itself was a great deal of fun—immediately after departure I requested a frequency change to Portland Approach and received “clearance” through the Class C airspace. The controller had me fly the standard path over PDX, then over the city of Vancouver and on east through the gorge. I cruised at 7,500 feet, and kept in contact with Air Traffic Control with their “Flight Following” service for the entire flight. With Flight Following, ATC keeps track of your position on their radar scopes and they will alert you of any other traffic that may be a factor. After passing by the Klickitat VOR near The Dalles I turned northeast and intercepted the V497 airway to Satus Pass, north of Goldendale.

Over Satus Pass, Seattle Center issued traffic alerts for me and two other aircraft the vicinity. ATC was able to verify that we were all at different altitudes, and the controller kept a close eye on all three of us as our courses intersected without incident. Flight Following definitely proved to be a valuable service on this flight. I followed highway 97 north over the arid, hilly terrain. It was a hot day, and as the sun warmed the ground it produced thermals which created some very uncomfortable and unpredictable turbulence that pummeled my poor little Cessna. As Yakima’s lower valley came into view I was instantly able to identify the familiar towns of Toppenish and Wapato. Union Gap, which separates the lower valley and the upper valley, was also clearly visible to the north. When I had the Yakima Airport in sight I informed Seattle Center and changed to Yakima Tower’s frequency. The tower controller instructed me to fly left base for runway 27, “report the gap”. After doing so I landed smoothly on runway 27 and taxied to GA parking, and found my dad waiting for me at the gate!

In Yakima we had some delicious seafood at a restaurant called Zesta Cucina and had some great conversation about everything from the foreign exchange market to aviation user fees. After dinner my dad drove me over to his house in his MR2, showed me some websites on his computer and gave me a container of protein powder to take home!! As 8pm rolled around we drove back to the airport and he watched from the gate as I inspected the airplane, taxied to runway 27, and departed to the south.

The flight home was amazing. The sun began to set as I reached my cruising altitude of 8,500 feet, and I could clearly identify Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Rainier out my right window. I swung around the south of Mt. Adams essentially following the same course I flew to Yakima and snapped a few more pictures before it got too dark for the images to turn out. PDX was operating with only one runway for some reason, and over the frequency I could hear that the controller was busier than normal as he lined up the airliners for landing. I tried my best not to be a nuisance as I descended through Portland’s airspace with a course that took me directly over PDX and downtown Portland, then west to Hillsboro Airport via Highway 26.

I think my dad got a kick out of seeing me arrive and depart via airplane, and I’m sure I’ll be visiting more frequently since aviation makes Yakima so much more accessible.

(Access a few more pictures here)

3 Responses to “Father’s Day Solo to Yakima”

  1. David

    Very cool! That would be rewarding to actually fly somewhere and do something, rather than just flying for the sake of flying… although that’s extremely fun as well. I’m glad you got to have a good visit with your dad. :)

  2. Steve Litchfield

    Fun to relive the event through your pictures and narration. What a cool experience watching my kid inspect the plane, taxi, take off, bank and grow to the size of a dot and then disappear! Your visit has got to be one of the most memorable experiences in my life. But a ride around St. Helens someday may top that one (?) .

  3. Marc

    It’s a deal, Dad—one of these days I’ll fly to Yakima, pick you up, and we’ll circle Mt. St. Helens!

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