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The Sky Gets Even Friendlier

Over the years I've done lots of flying. But one of the most exciting landing's I've ever experienced was on an air strip in Bahrain back in 2003, shortly before I was to catch a ride on an old UH-3H Sea King helicopter, fondly called "the Desert Duck," up to the coast of Iraq to begin covering the U.S. Coast Guard's participation in Operation Enduring Freedom. "We're gonna come in real steep," explained the pilot in a deadly-calm tone, just before dropping the plane into a descent that was so steep that it felt darn near vertical, "just in case somebody starts shootin' at us."

The guy's flying style came to mind just recently, during a boat-test trip to the wilds of Canada. I was winging my way from Seattle (check out the photo I took of the Space Needle below) north to a spot in British Columbia called Campbell River in an old de Havilland Beaver of uncertain vintage (shown above), although she'd been totally rehabbed (new paint job, rebuilt engine, refurbished cabin, etc.) by Kenmore Air, the folks who fill the skies of the Pacific Northwest with Beavers and Otters or what most folks would today call "bush planes."

The exercise of going anywhere on a Kenmore airplane, by the way, typically entails numerous stops at marinas, boats (including inflatables), towns, and settlements along the way. To pick up and drop off passengers, luggage, and parcels. It's kinda like riding a sleek and fabulous old flying bus, with broad wings and a loud (they give you ear plugs) nine-cylinder Pratt & Whitney engine.

Anyway, at one particular spot on our route we had to drop out of the sky like an anvil and then come to a stop at a dock on a stretch of water that was not much bigger than your average motel parking lot. With a bunch of boats zigging and zagging back and forth, mind you. And the wind blowin' about 20 knots from a dicey direction. Unfortunately, the experience was so adrenaline-pumpy, I totally forgot to even break out my video camera. It was like Bahrain all over again. Only just a tad louder. 

I did manage to record a subsequent and considerably more sedate landing, however. It wasn't quite as much fun. But, hey, it was still way cool. Check out the video here:

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