Rock Jumping and Cloud Surfing
Wow, what a day! Just back from a long day of flights over the rocky mountains to Kelowna for lunch. We loaded up the Seminole this morning with an oxygen bottle and planned our route over the mountains an into the Okanagan valley where we dropped into the Kelowna airport. Although there was a cloud layer just above the mountains, we did get a few great views along the way of peaks and a few glaciers and bright blue lakes.
As this was my first flight with oxygen, I was a bit nervous, but my instructor Ben has flown many times with oxygen and he had the system all ready to go. The climb to 16,000 ft was slow and painful as we battle strong mountain waves and once we got to our cruise altitude, we found sustained headwinds of 45+ knots, which dropped our groundspeed to about 110 knots, a slow haul in a Seminole.
Dropping into the Okanagan valley, we were presented with some amazing views of the massive mountain lakes and beautiful rolling hills and vineyards. I setup the ILS approach and flew the glideslope down on autopilot, a real blessing in some bumping conditions during the decent. We touched down and had to taxi behind a WestJet 737, as I flashed ahead to one day flying one of those myself.
Hopping out of the plane, it felt like summer with a warm breeze and bright green grass all around. We headed down to the waterfront and had a great lunch on a patio overlooking the marina.
The return flight found me much more comfortable at the high altitude and I was really starting to get familiar with the plane and the avionics and flew a great RNAV approach back into Cooking Lake.
The day was a big leap forward in my flying career as I can now add mountain and high altitude experience to my resume.