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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

SunRiver - Flying and Nature

What could be better than a Jet, a Biplane, a Soarplane and a river with a blue canoe, all one summer day? (Summer 2007)

We are in a canoe, a blue canoe, and paddling slowly down the Deschutes, along the right bank, following the current. We are in a natural areas of astonishing beauty. Riders on horseback kick up puffs of dust along a riverside trail. Overhead, a red and white Travelair, with “Bi-plane Rides” stenciled beneath the bottom wing purrs along the river, the unmistakable sound of the rotary engine thock-thocking into the distance. A few lazy paddle strokes and we watch the now-distant biplane enter a steep bank and turn back, descending for a landing, the site seeing flight over. The Bi-plane disappears behind the low trees towards the airport. A few more lazy paddle strokes and a Cessna Citation, approaching from the north on a descent for the airport whistle –hums along, quietly for a jet, and very very smooth. It’s fuselage glistens and the sun catches the shining leading edge of the wing. It too disappears behind the trees. We stop and admire a flowering plant along the marshline, purple and white on a thick stalk. The sky is cobalt blue and the river is clear and translucent, a blue so dark it is nearly black. A dragonfly zips by. I angle the canoe away from the eddy and push towards the main current flowing around the bend.
Overhead a high performance soarplane appears, white long winged and slender, whistling through the wind. The soarplane is low, very low yet also very fast. They are playing with energy, storing it in airspeed for a conversion into altitude. They whistle over the footbridge, so close you could touch them, you think, though they are probably over 100 feet above us. We in our slow moving canoe, they in their speeding soarplane, a contrast in vehicles and ways to move. They hit an invisible marker at the tall pine tree and pull up steeply, slowing, airspeed dwindling while altitude gains. They tip back to level by dropping the nose and they are suddenly at pattern altitude, lazily floating along at 50 mile per hour, a thousand feet higher overhead. The high performance craft seems alive, shimmering with energy from the wind and the sun, dancing a balance between gravity, lift, thrust and drag. Approaching the pattern entry point, the soarplane abruptly pulls up, converting airspeed energy into altitude energy. Now at pattern altitude, perhaps 300 feet higher and significantly slower, the soarplane meanders out of site behind the treeline, established on downwind for their pattern and landing.
I take another paddle stroke, realigning the canoe with the Deschutes current and marvel at how aviation and a wilderness river area can fit so well together. At SunRiver, the airport is a harmonious and integrated component. It provides an open area where in winter coyotes hunt mice beneath the snow in the fields around the airport and in summer deer and horses roam the same fields. The airport provides an alternative transportation source to the area, an income source for some businesses directly and indirectly, if customers who land then spend money off the airport at a restaurant or other establishment.
Soon the airport and pattern area disappear from sight, and my mind drifts with the current and the canoe, and the simple joys of a river on a sunny summer day. Today it is the slow route on the river, discovering what may be around the next bend. It’s not too different from flights taken where the discoveries are beyond the next ridgeline or over the mountain range on the horizon.
Our natural environment is awe inspiring, and SunRiver is one of those rare places where different ways to explore and come to understand our environment all come together in one location. Nature attracted me to flying, the opportunity to be immersed in the environment enjoy it moment by moment. Some of my best inspiration arose while flying and SunRiver is the type of place where pilots and those who simply love to fly and experience the outdoors can spend time relaxing and remembering why they became involved in flying and exploring the great outdoors.

onwards & upwards!
r bremmer

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