Monday, May 21, 2012

Not in Vain

Try as I might, I couldn't seem to convincingly re-write the lyrics to Carley Simon's You're So Vain, replacing "Lear Jet" with "Grumman Cougar," "total eclipse" with "annular eclipse," and "Nova Scotia" with "Redding, California." Oh well, Sunday's pleasure flight (my first in a long, long while) did involve a Grumman Cougar and a trip a few hundred miles north in pursuit of ideal eclipse viewing conditions.

Eclipse-chasing crew ...
A carbon-based autopilot (Gadberry model) comes in handy when taking photos

Handed off to Oakland Center, 40 miles south of Redding, it was clear others had the same idea. Numerous requests for VFR flight following to Redding were rebuffed by the controller due to workload. Nearing the airport to enter right downwind, we could see the transient parking was packed.

After landing, we found an empty space near some other twins but soon learned that space was reserved. The kind folks at Air Shasta allowed us to park on the ramp in front of their hangars for the hour or so we planned to be there. Nice, friendly folk, great facilities, pretty good fuel prices, too. If you find yourself in Redding, stop by.

We set up camp in the grass, under a nice shade tree which helped dull the 33 degree C heat. Soon we were joined by another group who had flown in.

Todd, setting up his eclipse viewing apparatus just outside Air Shasta

And there were other interested parties, too.
Start of the eclipse.

The viewing equipment had to be adjusted every few minutes to track the sun.
Our neighbors had a pretty good setup, too.
Soon we noticed that even the sunlight through the trees showed the eclipse.
Almost annular with the ASOS reporting a 1 degree C drop in temperature.
Annularity dude!
Amazing, annular shadows through the tree leaves.
After angularity was achieved, we headed for the plane and beat a hasty retreat to Oakland. As fate would have it we were the first to depart sound bound in a line of aircraft doing the same. And again, we acquired flight following from Oakland Center just before they got busy again.

Returning home, near Lake Berryessa.
About to start a VFR descent to the Bay Area
Thanks to Todd and Emma for joining us, bringing the viewing equipment, and supplying some tasty snacks. Given that I fly for a living, I'd forgotten how much fun it can be to fly somewhere. There's a lesson in there for all pilots: Don't forget how to go flying, just for the fun of it.


Ryan said...

Great job capturing the eclipse! Your photos make me homesick for the northern Sacramento valley.


JohnOCFII said...

Nice! I'd agree with your comment to get a few "real" trips in each year, just for fun. In 1994 I filled a Cardinal RG and flew from Minneapolis to Springfield, IL to catch the annular eclipse. It was a great day.

capnaux said...

"Your airplane, you probably think this eclipse is for you..."! Haha what a cool trip--and great pics! I was stuck in overcast SEA during the celestial event... :(

Ah, the sad travails of an employed airline pilot!!

John Ewing said...

I wish it were my airplane. Just buying the fuel is enough to tax my meager budget.

toddgrx said...

Glad to be your organic autopilot, snack-supplier, and super-nerd eclipse-viewer inventor