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Power-Off Plunge Over the Sierra Nevada Mountains

December, 2012

My daughter did a weekend road trip from Cal Poly to climb at the Owen’s River Gorge.  Would we like to fly down and join her and her friends for the day? You bet.

The weather was great so we got up early, got the dogs in the plane and headed down to Bishop.  When we got there I took Belyn, Jason and Nick for ride over the crest of the Sierra.  It was spectacular but unfortunately I didn’t get photos.  In situations like that with people in the plane and at 15,000 feet over the crest of the Sierras I figure it best to just focus on flying.

I did a maneuver I had done once before and it is definitely my favorite wild, “out there” maneuver.  I like it because it is actually very safe and at the same time quite thrilling.  Like flying under a bridge except no bridge to hit.

I was at about 14,500 feet just west of the 14,000 foot peaks of the high Sierra.  I pull off the power, lower the landing gear and lower all the flaps.  So we are gliding at about 90 knots but dropping quite fast.  A 210 with full flaps and the gear out doesn’t drop like a rock, but pretty close.   I picked a dramatic and steep side canyon that drops into the Owens valley and let the plane sink right into it.  It is an unforgettable moment when the peaks and steep side walls of the Sierras rise up and then tower above you.  You get a feeling of imminent danger sinking into the dark canyon with the walls quite close (you have to do this on a calm morning).  Yet if anything were to happen, like the engine fails to come back to life, then you can easily glide out into the Owens Valley to land in a meadow. Well, in theory anyway.

After the plunge we spent a nice day climbing in the Gorge, probably one of the last nice days before winter really sets in.

Coffee cup (1)

Early morning coffee while crossing the Sierras

Creek north of Bishop

Creek north of Bishop

Belyn Climbing

Belyn Climbing

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