Farewell to a Friend
Jack and I bought the Piper Comanche that the FAA calls N8270P (and my wife calls 'Gloria) about six years ago. We'd done a bunch of looking, and this one turned out to be the nicest one we could find. I'd brought her home from Reno Nevada (along with a flight instructor) some time ago and had a really great trip. Between the two of us, we'd flown her over six hundred hours, and had some nice trips, some wonderful adventures, and one or two... how shall I say this...'personal growth experiences'. But when Jack's second child turned out to be twins (the plane has only four seats), we kind of knew that he would would be moving on eventually. With some divergant plans of my own, we decided it was time to sell.
After several months of advertising, we agreed upon terms and a price with a gentleman named Marcelo, out in Novato, California. After some rearrangement of plans, we collectively decided that Jack and I would deliver the plane to Marcelo ourselves. We'd always wanted to do the coast-to-coast flight, and here was an ideal opportunity - we would not have to make the return flight.
(This tale will be told for the non-pilot reader. Pilots reading, please skip over the parts that may seem obvious to you.)
The Comanche is one of the nicest single-engine places to come off of the Piper Aircraft production line. Ours was built in 1963 and has experienced slightly over 3000 hours of flight time. As Comanches, go, it's barely broken in - there are others flying with over 8000 hours. Major components have been overhauled or upgraded over the years, making it functionally competitive with all but the most advanced and modern single-engine planes. What this means is that it will haul 4 adults and reasonable baggage (or two adults and a ton of junk!) at speeds between 160 and 190 miles per hour for longer than they can reasonably stay comfortable (the plane holds over six hours of fuel). Normally the plane cruises somwhere between 3000 and 10,000 feet high, with altitudes higher than that possible, but not that common on the flat east coast where we live. The previous owner of our Comanche added an oxygen mask system to keep crew and passengers from getting stupid and dangerous at high altitudes - this is not a common feature for planes of this class.
In this age of jet airplanes flying in the neighborhood of 700 miles per hour, well above most weather, flights like the one we did are not common. Unless you have a need to make a number of stops along the way, its quicker and cheaper to let American Airlines or whoever do the job. On the other hand, if you want to see the country in a way that perhaps only one in a thousand Americans ever will, its an experience not to be missed.
When you look at the picture above, you'll see that our course does not follow the straight line you might expect. Part of the reason for this is that the course deviates slightly to avoid large bodies of water (like Lake Michigan), and partly to accomodate standard air traffic routes (and to make sure stops occur at airports!) But mostly, the difference is because we flew a 'Great Circle Route'; which actually is the shortest course between two points on the globe. It doesn't look like a straight line because our maps are distorted when the land image is stretched from the globe to a flat piece of paper. But if you took a greasy globe and stretched a rubber band between Islip New York and Novato, California, this is the route you'd see.
For a larger, clearer version of any photo, double-click on the one shown.
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