Since my friend Dave just finished his private pilot certificate, the first order of business was - you guessed it - flying!
Monday evening we met at the Hillsboro airport and got his aircraft, a Cessna 150 rental from the flight school he's enrolled at. Then we departed to fly around the area. It was fun to be a passenger, and I was impressed and very comfortable with Dave's flying technique and his attention to detail.
We flew over Beaverton and Aloha a bit, then headed south to the Aurora airport. It was dark, and the airport was easy to find. Dave's done quite a bit of night flying, but this was the first time in many years I'd flown at night in a small plane. It was pretty fun, and made me remember flying as a teenager at night. Dave let me do some of the radio calls, and I practiced the process of reading the chart (map) and notifying other airport traffic (of which there was basically none, but it was good practice) when were were flying over and approaching, as well as the pattern "calls."
In many ways it's easier to find your way around at night, at least for the lit areas. We made a couple landings at Aurora, including a full stop and plane exit so we could walk around a little bit. Okay, I'll be honest - We did your classic "fire drill" like the kids do at red lights on the street: Jump put, run all the way around the vehicle and jump back in. In reality, though, we ran around the plane and then hung out on the ramp there for a few minutes. We swapped headsets so Dave could try mine out with the noise reduction turned on for the rest of the flight.
Then we got back off the ground and headed over to McMinnville. The runway lights for McMinnville are pretty darned cool (and really bright at their highest setting). There's lots of colored, bright flashy lights on the approach for Runway 20. Like many airports, you can turn the lights on and off and change brightness by keying the microphone a set number of times on the right frequency. It's fun if there are a few airports around, and at night it's one good way to figure out where things are visually. One thing's for sure - you can't miss it unless you're blind, and in that case I hope you're not at the controls.
Next we flew back to Hillsboro over the Newberg VOR at plenty of altitude (it's on a high ridge) and found our way back to Hillsboro. It was surprising to me how hard it was to find the Hillsboro airport at night visually. It's easy to lose in the huge amount of business, street and residential lights. But once there, it's a huge and well-lit runway to land on (at least compared to the small runway at Twin Oaks). The radio work there is a little different, too, since it's a tower-controlled airport.
We have a fun flight, and we're both looking forward to the next one.