Sunday, February 8, 2009

Downtown at Sunset

Few days ago, going home on an early train, I looked out of the window towards downtown skyscrapers and gasped in amazement. The low setting sun put all the glass buildings on fire creating an unforgettable image. As I was watching the sunset from the ground, I noted the time (5:25pm) and decided that I’d try to get downtown at sunset again, but this time in the plane.

I had a booking for 4pm on Sunday, but knowing my Wx and airplane luck, I was not really counting on everything to fall into place, but, surprisingly, it did. The Wx was as perfect as early Feb can be, -5 and sunny. Wind was 10 gusting 15 at 40 degree to Rwy heading, but that was not an issue after my previous practice flight with twice that x-wind angle. The airplane was available, it had flown before, was de-iced and all the mandatory light were working – I was ready to go.

I wanted to get downtown at about 5pm, so I had lots of time, so I went and did three circuits. Rwy 33 was in use and the control zone was busy, so all three circuits, I was asked to extend downwind and ended up almost half way downtown anyways.

Back at the Rwy after my 3rd circuit and with circuit traffic not getting any lighter, I decided that I may as well go fly circles around downtown instead of Buttonville and requested departure for the “downtown tour”. As customary, I was assigned the special transponder code and cleared left turn off south. Crossing 401, I called City Tower, got clearance into the zone, was assigned 2,000 ft as my altitude (the lowest they usually give) and was told to remain north of the City Centre (or Toronto Island) airport.

As I was settling into my first circle around the downtown core, I realized that the zone was busy: there was one other plane circling (but they called after me and got assigned 2,500 ft), then there were a few planes practicing circuits at Toronto Island and a few more were arriving and departing.

I flew my circles wide – crossing the downtown core north of Bloor St heading west, then turning south heading towards Exhibition Place and then another turn to bring me along the shoreline, north of the airport, but south and right next to the CN Tower. For about half of each circle, the interference from all the transmitters and receivers on CN Tower made a deafening noise in my headphones that only disappeared when someone on the frequency was talking, so I was grateful for the fact that frequency was quite busy.

The sun was getting lower as I flew, with the skyscrapers and the CN Tower basking in the warm yellow to reddish glow making them really stand up against the bleak surroundings. On one pass, I took a picture of all the bank buildings, thinking it would look great on my office wall in one of those buildings!

As I flew around, another airplane in the area asked for permission to go south of the airport and was allowed. I figured I may as well ask too and was allowed, but had to climb to 2,500 ft. It was really strange to fly over water of Lake Ontario and the view of downtown was incredible.

Eventually, it was time to head home to Buttonville, so I informed the City Tower that I was heading North and was told to switch to Buttonville Tower. As I followed the DVP on the way to the airport, there was a sunset to my left and a moon to my right.

Tower routed me straight in for Rwy 33. As I was on a short final, the sun was disappearing below the horizon coloring the skies around me deep red. I landed uneventfully and tied down my airplane just as sun was putting the clouds above the airport on fire. What a flight!

No comments: