Monday, November 10, 2014

Saying hello to a Chinook from a safe distance

I went on a wonderful scenic flight, with a great pilot at the controls, this morning to central Pennsylvania. Our destination was an airport, KLNS in Lancaster Pennsylvania where they have a nice pilot/hobby shop on the field. Few clouds, although it was a little hazy up there with minimal winds. A glorious fall day.

There are somethings that I can do from the right seat. I follow along on my aviation chart, looking for visual references to pinpoint our location. The pilot had flight following, which means that the various controllers assigned us altitudes, gave traffic advisories, etc. Traffic advisories are important. The controller gives an advisory by distance and altitude. For example, Piper Cherokee 2 miles at 11:00 at 1,400 feet. Yes, 11:00 is what you think, traffic straight down the nose is 12:00. We look and when we spot the aircraft the pilot says "traffic in sight." When the control determines that the traffic is not a factor, s/he will say so that we can stop looking.Anyway, as it was such a clear day a lot of general aviation aircraft like us were flying. In addition to the Commercial flights and the corporate jets. 

I am getting better at spotting traffic, especially on a day like today when it was hazy. My pilot told me some tricks about finding traffic in the haze. Which worked, sometimes. But I still missed some. The important thing is that he could see what he needed to see. 

As we were getting closer to KLNS, approach/control had advised us of two aircraft. One was another Cessna 172, and the second was a CH-47 helicopter five miles from us at 3,500 ft. We were at 3,000 ft flying west. Now most aircraft I see from the air  are smaller aircraft and if I am lucky they will be the size of a pencil eraser. But not today because of the haze. Anyway, so I was looking for something that if I was lucky might be the size of pencil eraser when I see this large aircraft and I tell the pilot what and where I see the aircraft crossing our path. Turns out that was our CH-47 Helicopter. I had forgotten that a CH-47 is also referred to as a Chinook. If the controller had told us to look for Chinook, I would have known right away what I was looking for. 

Anyway, the Chinook was five miles away at 3,500 feet flying south. It was an impressive sight from the air. Made my day. One of those special moments from a flight that I'll carry with me. I grabbed my camera and got this shot that I am sharing with you. Not a great shot, and with my 55 mm lens the Chinook looked smaller then it did in real life. And you might have to trust me that this is indeed a photo of a Chinook. After we landed I thought of my good friend Matt who loved helicopters. Matt passed about five weeks ago and is flying in favorable winds. He would have loved that I saw a Chinook on a flight. 

CH-47 "Chinook" east of KLNS. We were at 3,000' MSL flying west and the Chinook was at 3,500' flying south. He was about five miles away from us.

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