Today’s article is contributed by Lear 35 First Officer Sean Oprea. A graduate of Ohio University’s Aviation Program, Sean has flown with Corporate Flight Management for five years.
As a professional charter pilot there are quite a few things that I must know: the weather for departure, en route and arrival, fuel load, runway lengths, weight limits; and, at the very least, our actual destination. One thing that surprises some clients is the fact that at certain times during the flight, I haven’t the slightest clue as to where I am. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in an airplane, performing flight functions - monitoring, predicting, communicating and flying. I just have no idea what that city is beneath us, the name of that river over there and certainly not which highway seems to be making its utilitarian way across our great nation.
I knew that in front of me was my destination, but when I first came to the realization that below me was a complete enigma, I turned to my trusted captain.
“Captain, oh captain. Which river are we traversing?”
“That, my fledgling First Officer, is the mighty Mississippi!”
At first I was utterly surprised at my lack of geography. How could I possibly have mistaken the biggest river in our nation for anything else?! I then replied to that wise captain:
“Hey man! We’re flying through Pennsylvania!”
There is a colossal geographical void that is easy to fall into when your mental capacities are dedicated to your destination and the smoothness with which you deposit your plane there. And, it seems I wasn’t alone in it. I haven’t stopped laughing about that Mississippi River joke and have actually used the same one with curious clients when they ask about the small, innocent river winding beneath us. They must have a different sense of humor.
In all honesty, I truly enjoy revealing America’s best views to clients and most of them seem to enjoy a bit of scenery. The best is the Grand Canyon as seen from 40,000 feet. On a trip with a well traveled client from Fayetteville, Arkansas, to Laughlin, Nevada, we passed right over the Grand Canyon. Just before our descent, I traveled back into the cabin to make sure that he and his companions were comfortable. He asked where we were and I said that we were traveling over the Grand Canyon, which was then visible off our right wing. He took a cursory look and announced that the canyon off our right wing was not, in fact, the Grand Canyon. It seems that there is more than one canyon out in the middle of Arizona. My middle school geography teacher must have been sick and taken that day off. When the Grand version came into view about 15 minutes later, I wished she hadn’t.
On a flight from Knoxville, Tennessee, to San Bernardino, California, we passed right over the same stretch of beautiful western scenery again. I saw the Fake Grand Canyon slip by and, with a smile, I headed back to speak with our new clients.
“Folks, coming up on our right wing will be a beautiful view of the southern end of the Grand Canyon. Feel free to take a peek through the cockpit window, for that is truly where you will find your best view. But, don’t be fooled by the smaller canyons; we are flying over canyon country.”
I really felt good about that last comment, even if there really isn’t a canyon country within our great country. The southern view is a good one. It seems nature knew it would be and designed great big bleachers stretching up on either side of that river for people to look down into it in amazement. It also seems that nature ran out of money because the southern end of the Grand Canyon drops off in cliffs as the Mississippi River continues out of the Grand Canyon on its way south to Louisiana.
I kept that last geographical fact to myself as I, too, took in the view.