Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.


Mike and his airplane I had a wonderful opportunity last week — to go flying. The invitation was from my friend, Mike, who used to live next door and who I still see frequently at Lifetime Fitness where we both work out. Professionally, he is a pilot for Southwest Airlines and recently bought his own plane, a Beechcraft Bonanza. He has been working on it to upgrade the instruments and fix up the interior — after all, it is a 40-year old aircraft.

Finally, he felt the six-seater was ready to take passengers into the wild blue yonder — and we set the date. Mike is a very meticulous pilot and before we took off, he carefully inspected every part of the aircraft and went over all the safety aspects of the flight with me — including details like how we would ditch the plane if the engine quit on us. Some folks might become nervous due to such a safety briefing but it made me feel more comfortable that he is mentally planning for problems even though we don't expect to experience them.

Stellar Airpark His airplane is based at Stellar Airpark — a suburban community in Chandler, AZ where most of the residents have airplane hangers attached to their homes. Naturally, these owners must make the big bucks in order to afford a huge home with swimming pool, multi-car garage, airplane hanger and airplane. The photo at left shows the view of the community on takeoff looking out the right side of the aircraft. By the way, if you're interested, I think I see a vacant lot where you could put up your dream mansion complete with hanger.

Mountains #1 After takeoff, we swung around to the east then turned north to a mountainous area just east of the Phoenix metro area. Most of us have flown commercially on many occasions, but we really don't get to see these views because airliners fly at a much higher altitude. As you can probably tell from the photo at right, we were flying just above the mountain peaks. So I began snapping shots — but I must tell you these small photos do not do it justice — the views are incredible.

Four Peaks Here we encountered Four Peaks which is a well-known landmark which most of us in the Phoenix area have seen from a distance. How spectacular to see them up close.

Snow Peaks Although the ground temperature that day was in the low 70's, there was still snow on Four Peaks — some seen above — more seen at right. Wow!

Dam and Bridge There are several canyons in this area that have been dammed, creating reservoirs that provide water to the Phoenix area. Here you can see one such dam plus a bridge crossing the outlet.

Reservoir #1 Flying over a mesa to get a view of the entire reservoir and canyon.

Reservoir #2 And from another angle.

Dam Still another dam with a concrete spillway.

Mountains #2 More mountains, this time with the peak above us. Ain' t it beautiful.

Mountain Wildflowers This winter we have experienced more rain than usual which results in a profusion of wildflowers. Here an entire hillside was carpeted with wildflowers — my guess is Mexican Poppies (very similar to California Poppies). Wouldn't it be spectacular to go hiking on this hillside?

Landing Well, time to head home. When you fly commercially, you don't get to see the aircraft lined up with the runway (unless you're in the cockpit). This was great for me because it reminded me of flying a flight simulator on a PC — only this was real and in the hands of a very capable pilot. Thanks Mike! It was a great experience and I'm ready to go again any time.

 Life is good.

 B. David