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2017

2017 was a banner year for flying. My long awaited Alaska trip finally took off, and an even longer awaited chance to see a total solar eclipse was helped by some last minute airport juggling. With no more space shuttles to chase, I've taken to watching SpaceX launches from Vandenberg instead, and got to see all five of their west coast launches this year. Put it all together, and I logged a whopping 220 hours this year!

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Over KLPC, Lompoc, CA, January 2017
After the trial run with the Atlas launch last year, I was back in the air over Lompoc for the first of several SpaceX Falcon 9 launches from Vandenberg. This launch carried the first 10 of what will eventually be 75 Iridium NEXT satellites to orbit.

South of Albany, OR, March 2017
What was supposed to be a short VFR flight from Eugene to Salem turned into a bit of an IFR (I follow roads) adventure. Reported ceilings were around 2000' at both airports, but turned out much lower enroute. Throw in some showers and low visibility, and I found myself debating whether to land at Albany. Conditions improved again approaching Salem. I figured it was probably a good dress rehearsal for Alaska weather decisions later in the year.

KFLG Flagstaff, AZ, May 2017
A friend and I flew out to Flagstaff for a couple days to do some hiking and made a visit to the Lowell Observatory.

Over KLPC, Lompoc, CA, June 2017
On the way home from this year's Hayward Air Rally, I took a short detour to see the Iridium NEXT 2 launch from Vandenberg. This shot was an Aviation Week editor's pick (partway down page)!

KMYF San Diego, CA, July 2017
All packed and ready to go to Alaska! Read more about my Alaska trip.

CYZY Mackenzie, BC, CAN, July 2017
My second time flying in Canada. Departing out of Prince George in the morning, Mackenzie was a short fuel stop just prior to taking the "Trench Route" up to Watson Lake and Whitehorse. During the 15 minutes or so I was inside chatting with the attendant, a cloud drifted over, dumped a bunch of rain, and left.

PABR Barrow, AK, July 2017
Barrow, the "top of the world".

PAVD Valdez, AK, July 2017
Final approach to Valdez Airport. The tops of the mountains were all hidden in the clouds, but it was a spectacular view nonetheless.

PAIN McKinley National Park, AK, July 2017
Denali National Park was a nice fly-in stop. It was my first time into a gravel strip, which was in good condition. The visitor center is a few minutes walk from the airport, and there are shuttles into the park and to the hotels in the area. The park has been renamed, but not the airport.

PAYA Yakutat, AK, July 2017
On the way from Homer to Juneau, I made a fuel stop in Yakutat. The area is popular for sport-fishing, and is on one of the Alaska Airlines milk run routes. There's a DC-3 hiding in the hangar next to the fuel pumps.

Over Madras, OR, August 2017
My original planned destination for the eclipse was Casper, Wyoming. As eclipse day approached, forecasts were calling for 30% cloud cover, which was 30% too much for my liking (I'd already been clouded out once, 18 years ago). My backup was Madras, Oregon, but a large wildfire nearby had me worred about smoke blowing over. This was one of the solar eclipse tent cities that sprouted in Madras.

Huntington, via KPDT Pendleton, OR, August 2017
Totality! Awesome!

I wound up flying into Pendleton, renting a car, and driving down I-84 to the small town of Huntington. While the town was much larger on eclipse weekend, it was far enough off the beaten path that it was by no means crowded. The eclipse itself was a sight to behold. No photos do it justice.


KCNM Carlsbad, NM, October 2017
I took a friend of mine for a New Mexico tour: Carlsbad Caverns, the Trinity Site, VLA, and Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

Offshore from Avalon, CA, October 2017
A Falcon 9 first stage being towed back to port. This one flew the Iridium NEXT-3 mission.

KSMX Santa Maria, CA, November 2017
This Radisson hotel is about as convenient as it gets for fly in pilots! It's a shorter walk to the lobby than it is to get to the FBO at some airports. The restaurant inside is pretty good too. I stopped here for a layover after a launch scrub at Vandenberg.

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