Views from 7500 6300: “Runway 8, touch-n-go, Boulder”

Yes, I did go flying this past weekend, thanks for asking. I’m just late with the blogging of it, is all. Plus it was kinda boring. It involved absolutely no corn mazes, for instance. But I’ve still got some pics to share! As promised! So there.

Downwind turning to base for Runway 8. Great view of Boulder, incidentally. You can even see my apartment building!

Journeys Aviation, the FBO from whom I take lessons and rent Cessnas, recently moved into the Executive Terminal at the Boulder Municipal Airport. This means no longer having to drive to Broomfield in order to go flying. However, Boulder’s got a funky little airport pattern, and the Journeys Aviation C172 currently based in Boulder is of slightly different specifications than the ones I’ve been flying out of the Rocky Mountain Metro Airport. So that meant a little bit more time with an instructor before I could just up and rent.

So Saturday morning I biked on over to the airport, and me and a Journeys instructor (Tracy Spence, who endorsed my biennial flight review, also the manager of Journeys Aviation’s Boulder FBO) did about five turns around the pattern in the 180-horsepower C172-M.

By the third landing I was feeling right at home. See, Boulder’s the first airport I ever flew out of. Some time in 2002 I took an after-work walk over to that airport, stuck my chin over the fence, and watched the little fixed-gear single-props flirting with the runway on touchdown–and the sight, combined with the nearby “Learn To Fly Here!” sign, flipped a switch in my head. You know that switch? The switch that for most of us is by default set to “Pilots Are A Supernatural Class Of People”? Its other setting is, “Hey, I Could Do That.”

So I walked into the office and signed up for the customary half-hour introductory flight. A few days later I biked over, met my first instructor, and walked out to the plane.

(There are often hot air balloons all over the sky early on a weekend morning. It was the case this past weekend just as it was on the day of my first flight. But the difference was, this past weekend they all stayed up in the sky and well away from the airport. On the day of my first flight, one of ’em landed right on top the numbers of Runway 26. They’d winched up the balloon and carted it off the runway in time for us to take off, though.)

I had lessons every week for many, many weeks. Very little about Boulder’s airport pattern has changed since then. Airport elevation is 5,288; pattern elevation is 6,300. It used to be 6,200 but it got raised because the people living in Gunbarrell do not *heart* airplane noise. (You can get a bumper sticker that says I *HEART* AIRPLANE NOISE.) And because they don’t *heart* airplane noise, you’re supposed to fly your downwind leg (the bit of the rectangular pattern parallel to the runway and in the opposite direction of landing/takeoff) south of Jay Road. If you don’t, the airport gets irate phone calls from people living along Jay Road who don’t want airplanes flying directly over their houses. (Why, then, are they in those houses? You’d think they’d have considered that airport next door when they chose their new homes. Or have they really lived there since before 1928?) You’re also supposed to try to turn your base leg (the bit after you turn from downwind towards the runway) before 30th Street, and absolutely keep it east of 28th. This means practically every approach to land verges on being a short final.

So you’re higher than usual, and you have less time to get down from that height to the runway. Also the runway is fairly short at 4100 feet. Also there’s this lake just before the Runway 8 threshold that tends to result in a slight loss of altitude due to cool air down-drafts or whatever. And did I mention glider operations on parallel runways? Like I said, funky little pattern.

On final, Runway 8
I think we'll actually make the runway this time!

I asked the instructor Saturday morning to take some pictures while we went around, because I can’t take pictures and land the plane at the same time. I get a weird feeling just looking at some of these pictures and some of the ones my husband took last flight, a sort of vertigo that arises from instinctively imagining myself simultaneously behind the camera and on the controls during the landing flare. Even though I wasn’t behind the camera. I know, it’s weird.

Next time, I’ll probably be taking that C172-M to Cheyenne. I haven’t flown cross-country in a while. And Cheyenne’s fairly easy. Not sure if there’s anything worth getting out of the plane for like there is in Pueblo, though. We’ll see. I wonder if anyone in town rents fold-up bikes? It might be neat to pedal around once I get there.

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