The sun was setting behind the western mountains as I hit the starter. It was a clear, no-wind night and I was taking a friend up for a long-promised, oft-delayed flight. I love night flying. The air is still, other traffic is virtually non-existent, and there's a sense of solitude that you can't get when the sun is out. My world is a little red-lit cockpit, with windows looking out on everything down below: Houses, stores, cars on the roads, traffic lights...in the country, bonfires are visible below; even a few late fireworks displays catch the eye. I see it all, and above it all, but for a red beacon on the tail and red and green wing lights, I'm invisible.
First it was south to Winchester, Virginia, and a landing on Runway 14. Then it was down to Front Royal, and another landing on Runway 10. Front Royal has an F-86 Sabre Jet there, a relic of another day. I pointed it out to my friend, but we didn't park and get out to look at it. I wish that I had now. That old F-86 deserved a visit. Old 52-2044 used to fly out of Martinsburg, WV's, Shepherd Field. She wasn't very old when they retired her and sold her off. Every time I see her, I dream of making her fly again, even if just one time.
Leaving Front Royal, it was as dark as the full moon was going to let it get. I flew up to Berryville, VA then east to the Blue Ridge, where I set up an orbit over my friends down at Mt. Weather, daring them to send their helicopter up again. But the challenge went unanswered tonight; no response from down below so after a few turns, I got bored and flew off back to the west.
We followed the roads up to my friend's house and did a few turns there too for his kids to see, and then we headed north again, up over Charles Town and Harpers Ferry and up to Frederick, MD. The tower was closed be the time we got there so I just put her down momentarily on Runway 23, then took off again and turned west, heading for Hagerstown. Hagerstown closed their tower down for the night when we were still eleven miles out, but hey, who needs a tower, right? I touched town nice as you please on their Runway 27, then lifted off again and headed south for home. Our tower was still operating so I asked for a straight-in approach just for some variety and put her down smooth as silk on Runway 26, just 2.1 hours after taking off. I couldn't have asked for better flying, and the icing on the cake was tooling home in my friend's newly-purchased Camero with the T-tops off and decent 70's rock on the stereo. His wife calls it his "mid-life crisis car" and says that every guy buys one eventually. But that's not true. Some of us buy airplanes.