Early last week the national weather service began predicting a break in the weather on Saturday, so I booked an airplane for a 6 hour block and planned a cross country flight to the coast and Albany for dinner. Yesterday Dave and I made the long awaited flight, with Dave capturing some really amazing images with his digital SLR. We got off to a bit of a late start due to an inoperative left position light, but at around 2:15 we were cleared for takeoff. Our first checkpoint was the town of Vernonia; although the town was hit hard by the recent storm, we didn’t really see any signs of the damage from the air. We continued over the coastal range, around the south side of Saddle Mountain, and intercepted the coast at the town of Seaside. Since it was a nice clear day we got a great view of Astoria and the bridge to the north. We descended and turned south along Cannon Beach. In a previous flight I had mistaken a rock formation off the coast of Pacific City for Haystack Rock, but this time we got pictures of the real Haystack Rock! It was a perfect day for flying and the coastal terrain was really spectacular.

As we passed by Tillamook Bay, the GPS stopped reporting our current position and the map went blank. I tried rebooting the device a couple of times, but nothing seemed to work. So for the remainder of the flight we used old fashioned navigation techniques! We navigated by pilotage down the coast to Siletz, then turned to the east on our planned heading. As we crossed the coastal mountains I tuned and identified the Newport and Corvallis VORs and plotted our position on the sectional chart. The winds aloft were stronger than forecast, so we had been blown to the south of our course, requiring a different heading than planned. As we entered the Willamette Valley, Albany was directly in front of us, and Corvallis was to our right, so the course correction seemed to work out just fine.

We entered the traffic pattern at Albany airport on the 45 for runway 34’s left downwind leg, landed, and taxied to the Chinese restaurant on the south end of the airport. The only tie downs were ratty old disintegrating ropes, but they worked. We enjoyed some tasty Chinese food, and shortly after sunset we hopped back into the airplane and took off to the North. We followed the Newberg VOR’s 163 radial north, and compared the shape of the city lights to the sectional chart to confirm our location as we progressed to the North. I called Hillsboro Tower as we crossed the Newberg VOR, and entered a left base for runway 30. This was really an incredible flight; we saw some amazing sights, and there was an element of challenge introduced by the GPS failure.

(See the whole flickr set here)

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