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A good day to fly

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Sometime in the early 1970s, I rented the Cessna Skyhawk from our aero club near where I was stationed in Germany. Although it was a little breezy, the weather forecast was good for that Saturday afternoon. I took my camera along, which was a Minolta 35mm film SLR at the time; I was hoping to get some aerial photos of some nearby landmarks. As I flew over a fairly good sized mountain ridge, I hit a down-draft that made everything not fastened down float. A split second later, pencils, charts and my camera came crashing down. On the floor was my camera with a slight dent in the upper metal housing, but it still worked, seemingly none the worse for wear, save the dent.

Some people would have gotten queasy or become airsick due to the choppy air over the mountains, and maybe would have said that it was a “bad day to fly.” For hawks, falcons and eagles however, a breezy day is a good day to fly. The wind blowing over mountains creates ridge (orographic) lift, and multiple species of raptors grace the sky to take advantage of this gift as they effortlessly soar overhead. 

The images for this week’s column were taken a couple of days after Christmas at a single spot on the Delaware River as a half dozen eagles cavorted overhead. As the breeze started to pick up around mid-morning, a singular thought may have crossed each eagle’s mind, “It is a good day to fly.”

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