Cross Country: LVK-RDD

Every once and awhile there is a flight that is so amazing and incredibly beautiful that I have trouble coming up with the words to describe it. This flight topped all the others that have left me speechless in the past. Yes, I brought my camera. No, the pictures do not do justice.

First off, what the hell is a “cross country”? In aviation, a cross country flight is one in which a pilot uses navigation to land at an airport at least 50 nautical miles (nm) from the starting airport. For my commercial license I was required to have 2 hours of daytime cross country and 2 hours night cross country time to an airport at least 100 nm away with my flight instructor. We chose to head up to Redding. The goal was to fly two hours there during the day and two hours home at night.

It was a gorgeous autumn day, and a nice high pressure ridge meant it was hot (90 degrees) and clear! We set off from Livermore with our route taking us first to the Sacramento VOR, the Williams VOR, the Chico VOR, and direct to Redding.

For this flight we used an ATC service called “flight following.” When workload permits, ATC will give VFR (visual flight rules) traffic warnings to other traffic in the vicinity. It is a really helpful tool to keep situation awareness about the other aircraft sharing your airspace. Just past the SAC VOR we got an advisory to turn 30 degrees right to avoid a FedEx DC-10. The FedEx heavy got a similar vector to their right. The next picture has a little dot off the wingtip: that’s the FedEx heavy.

As we headed north the sun got lower and lower. To our right was the Sierra Nevada and the associated foothills. The western sides of the hills glowed orange and contrasted starkly with the long shadows off the eastern sides. We came into Redding at sunset. I think the sun actually set while on approach,  but I was busy and had more important things to pay attention to. In the distance the snow capped peak of Mt. Shasta glowed orange.

Our departure took us west instead of south. We had some time to kill so we climbed over the 8,000 foot peaks of the coastal mountain range towards Mendocino. Cruising at 8,500 feet we were treated to a brilliant orange and red glow over the pacific in the distance contrasted by the dark and misty mountain ranges below us.

The Pacific in the distance

Our route programmed in the GPS

Our route then took us south over Santa Rosa into the spectacular sight of the Bay Area at night. The city, and the bridges, and the cars… its indescribable. We took the long way around Mt. Diablo because we needed a little more time to meet the requirements. We landed and called it a night.

Our route (click for large version)


There are no pictures of the night flying because the camera isn’t capable, hopefully someday I’ll have a better one that can help capture to absolute beauty of night flight. My instructor has been around the block, flying with two airlines previously before taking this job. He kept looking out the window and remaking how amazing and beautiful it was, almost mesmerizing. It doesn’t matter if it is your first flight or your 1,000th, it really never gets old.

Until next week…

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~ by Marcus on October 15, 2010.

3 Responses to “Cross Country: LVK-RDD”

  1. absolutely amazing. your blog is one of the few that i actually follow consistently. miss you, brofriend!

  2. Incredible description. I enjoy following your progress. I can understand about your amazement of the night sights. I just took pictures of Budapest at night from a hill and it too was an amazing sight — just magical.

  3. Great job Marcus!!! As always your descriptions put the reader there. Looking forward to next week. L&GB

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