I know you have all been waiting with bated breath to hear what happened since the last Thursday Flyer blog post. Well, I survived the training flight I got to tag along on—not without a few scares orchestrated by the pilots as a part of the training. The next few posts will detail our trek into the Idaho backcountry.
Morning light spilled into the MAF hangar as the large door rose to reveal the stunning Owyhee Mountains. Their snow-capped brilliance dwarfed the small Cessna 206 we were about to board. This small, metal vehicle was supposed to carry MAF Chief Pilot Brian Shepson, MAF candidate Chris Ball, and myself into one of the most remote parts of the US. I hoped both the plane and the pilots were up to the task of getting me safely back to my cozy cubicle at the end of the day.
“Here is your headset. You will be able to talk to Brian and me throughout the flight,” said Chris. “Get comfy and strap yourself in. Here is an extra water bottle. Oh yeah, and in case anything happens to Brian or myself, just flip the emergency locator switch there at the front of the cockpit.”
I sat in the backseat of the airplane and waited for the pilots to finish their pre-takeoff procedures outside. I thought about what I read on the Owyhee Mountains before the flight.
Straddling the Idaho/Oregon border, the Owyhees are a barren network of mountains, canyons, sagebrush, and volcanic fields. Owyhee County, Idaho—an area bigger than the state of New Jersey—is still policed by an actual sheriff’s posse and wild horses can be spotted running across the mountain prairies.
Our flight would take us into the heart of the Owyhees to a remote landing strip, where Chris would practice aborting takeoffs and try to master one of MAF’s most risky procedures: Drops.
Once Brian and Chris boarded the plane, Chris said a quick prayer, started the engine and taxied the plane toward the runway. Little did I know, the flights there and back would be just as exciting as the planned training exercises…