Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Salt Lake Flying

Geographically, Salt Lake City is quite amazing. On one side, mountains rise to over ten thousand feet. They're literally right against the city: the north-south VFR route is called the mountain road, and the GPS keeps popping up with extreme terrain warnings as I fly it. On the other side is an immense lake, saltier than the ocean, and around the lake stretches a plain so flat that it's the place to come to set land speed records.

I'm not sure whether the person who said this was not paying attention to the name of the city and the lake, or simply possessed of a sense of humour drier than I could detect, but with deadpan delivery he observed curiously, "It looks as if there is salt all over the ground."

And well, it does look that way. Sort of like it looks as though there are huge pointy rocks to the immediate east. The Great Salt Lake is salty on the inside and salty all around the edges. And it's vast. And flat. There are a few islands, though, here's Antelope Island.

I pity the pioneers who had to cross this state at ground level and at walking pace. Here's a sample conversation between me and a coworker while we drove across part of the state.

"That's sure flat."

"That's a lot of salt."

"I guess that's why they call it the salt flats.

fifteen minute pause in conversation

"Man, is that ever flat."

I can just picture the poor pioneers with no other topic of conversation for days.

I know Brigham Young's crew stopped at Salt Lake City, but I know others went further west. There's a peak west of the lake called Pilot Peak and it's not named for the benefit of people like me, but for those who navigated by it in much slower times.

From my modern vantage point the lake water looks purple in places. I don't know if that is from the minerals in the water, or the lake bed. There's a whole lot of nothing everywhere else, especially north of the lake. I loaded twenty-five litres of drinking water just in case we had to land out there for some reason. If I had a double engine failure or an uncontrollable fire and had to land immediately I think I would not land out in the flattest part. Although I know it is as flat and hard as a runway, I might take my chances in the scrubbier part closer to the road. Getting down is one thing. Getting out is another.


Anonymous said...

"Getting down is one thing. Getting out is another." ...

The essence of every forced landing ... what happens next, assuming we survive this?

I used to wonder about that even flying airways across the far north in January. Or taxyying to the far end of the airport in the middle of a freezing blizzard. (as in - should we have to abandon ship right now, how long would it take to get busses out here to keep us from freezing to death?)

Thanks for the thoughtful, interesting posts!

Dagny said...

very cool.


Ramiel said...

don't know about others but I learned
(actually I just had my PGI about it yesterday)

C- civilization
O- obstacles
W - winds
L - length
S - surface

On the second picture on the bottom left...can't think of the name of the thing..but its pretty cool and so cliche i guess.

fun stuff!

Lord Hutton said...

I have seen salt pans in the south of France. They too ate pinky-purple in the sun

Aviatrix said...

Actually, the thing in the bottom left of the second picture is the rear view mirror on a Ford SUV. That picture is taken from the passenger seat of a rental vehicle. It looks funny because I blacked it out in MS Paint, to remove my own reflection from the picture.

Anonymous said...

Rumor has it an ARMY (not AIR) National Guard unit was flathatting at speed in a Blackhawk helo over the lake and dipped just a little too close. Not a lot of visual reference I imagine.

An AIR (not ARMY) National Guard unit in the early Nineties had to land their Blackhawk in a Sierra Nevadan meadow due to warning lights. They cleared the problem, then had a geology lesson in terrain succession...meadows at one time were lakes or ponds, and they will tend to pool water in the form of thick deep muck.

Teams of two (including the crew of the stuck aircraft) stood guard on that critter around the clock for nearly a month until a heavy lift helo was lined up and the stricked...or stucken...whirlybird prepped for being pulled out of the mire.

Anonymous said...

PS: pinky purple tends to be bacteria and/or the brine shrimp who eat them.