Last night Dave and I rented 386ME and flew to Tacoma Narrows Airport for dinner. The Oregon Air Show is this weekend at Hillsboro Airport, so there were some pretty cool airplanes parked there in preparation for the event. Right next to the Hillsboro Aviation ramp were two F/A 18 Hornets, and the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Jump Team’s C-31 and a Red Bull MiG-17 occupied the Runway 30 runup area. For this flight I did not set a course in the GPS, instead navigating exclusively by pilotage and VOR. It was exceptionally hazy, and we opted to climb to cruise at 8,500 feet so we could look at blue skies instead of murky gray. The haze was so thick that in the distance it almost looked like an overcast layer! But directly beneath us we had adequate visual ground references to navigate by pilotage to Olympia, following I-5 and identifying rivers and cities along the way.

When we reached Olympia we decided to tool around the south end of Puget Sound for a while before landing at Tacoma. Although it was exceptionally hazy, Dave still managed to get some pretty cool pictures. It was actually very easy to keep track of our position by comparing the shapes of the inlets and islands with the depictions on the sectional chart. After a few minutes of sightseeing we landed at Tacoma Narrows airport and taxied up to the “Narrows Landing” restaurant. Dave ordered a salad and I had a cheeseburger; we were actually both very impressed with the food, and left the restaurant satisfied. The sun had set and the tower had closed by the time we got back into the airplane, so I announced our intentions over the CTAF frequency as we departed to the south.

On the return flight we used radio navigation, selecting and intercepting radials from the Olympia VOR and the Newberg VOR. I also played around a bit with the Autopilot’s ability to automatically intercept and track courses defined by VOR radials. As we approached Longview we witnessed occasional but massive eruptions of lightning from a distant thunderstorm over the Cascades. Sometimes the lightning resulted in localized, explosive flashes, and other times it appeared as chain reactions that lit up lines of clouds for several miles. As we approached Hillsboro we spotted an object on the airport that is rarely visible from the air: THE ROTATING BEACON! Hillsboro is surrounded by city lights, making the rotating beacon next to impossible to locate from the air, but this time we actually located the airport by first spotting the beacon’s green and white flashes. With Hillsboro Airport in sight I closed the flight plan and touched down smoothly on runway 30 after a slightly high approach. Dave and I geeked out on the computer for a while back at my apartment, checked out the photos from the flight, and called it an evening.

See the rest of Dave’s pictures here

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