Tonight Tammy and I rented N3555L, circled the summit of Mt. Hood at sunset, then made a few passes of downtown Portland before returning to the Hillsboro Airport. It was a rare break in the rainy weather we have become accustomed to in the winter and spring months, so it was also a busy General Aviation day in the Portland area. Accidents had shut down Troutdale Airport and runway 12-30 at Hillsboro. Fortunately the wind was from 020 magnetic, perfectly aligned with Runway 2, so the runway closure did not affect us.

After takeoff we heard the tower controller scold another pilot in the pattern who evidently was not responding to his traffic advisories. As we circled the traffic pattern and climbed out of Hillsboro’s Class D airspace we both scanned vigilantly for other traffic. Our course veered south to avoid Portland’s Class C airspace, and proceeded to the north face of Mt. Hood. As we gained altitude I increased the airplane’s angle of attack to maintain a reasonable rate of climb since Vy — the “best rate of climb” speed — decreases with altitude.

I leveled us off at 11,500 feet MSL and leaned the mixture. We made our way around the mountain’s east face, made a few turns to get better camera shots, and came around the south face of the mountain as the sun was beginning to set. We had been at 11,500 feet for probably 30 minutes when Tammy informed me she had a headache and felt light headed and very dizzy. I recognized these as the symptoms of Hypoxia and immediately descended 1000 feet to increase the available Oxygen. She recovered pretty quickly, although her headache lingered for a few minutes longer.

We returned to Portland directly into the sunset, making good use of the airplane’s see-through visors to keep the sun from etching spots into our eyes. 20 miles southeast of PDX I called Portland Approach on 118.1 and requested to fly along the east bank of the Willamette River below 2000 feet. The controller responded that there were 4 incoming aircraft on the Boxer 4 Arrival, and requested that I stay above 3000 feet until he could call my descent. I punched the code he gave me into the transponder and descended to 3000 feet as we entered Portland’s Class C airspace.

As we approached the Convention Center I was handed off to another controller who cleared me for an altitude of my discretion below 2000 feet, so I dropped us down to 1300 feet so Tammy could get some pictures of the Portland skyline. I remember thinking how incredibly cool it was to be able to look down and see Portland’s familiar bridges directly beneath us. After some searching I spotted my work’s office building in the maze of downtown’s high rises, and made quite a big deal of it to Tammy. I advised ATC of our intentions as we made three passes of downtown, flying directly over the east bank of the Willamette at 1300 feet MSL. I was definitely pleased with how willing ATC was able to accommodate my requests, and I thanked the controller for her patience as she terminated our radar service and we climbed to 2000 feet and followed Highway 26 to the Hillsboro Airport. When I called McMinville Radio to close my flight plan, the FSS specialist asked us how Mt. Hood was. I told him it was spectacular!

(Note: unfortunately the photographer encountered some technical difficulties on this flight, so I only made the jpeg images available at a reduced resolution. The images were taken at 1600 ISO so they have a lot of noise; all have a blotch in the same spot from a dirty lens or sensor; and most of the night photos are out of focus and blurry, mostly attributable to vibrations from the aircraft and it being dark and all)

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