It’s taken me a couple of days to realize that N616JA is not an airplane – it’s a time machine. It’s a bit smaller on the inside than the TARDIS and doesn’t make a weird grinding sound when it operates (unless you, ya know, leave the parking brake on), but when you get in it and pull and push the appropriate levers, you climb back out in a remarkably different time and place.
Take today, for example: Rich and I spent the morning with the Tornado Alley Turbo folks. The TAT system basically lets our engine produce full sea-level horsepower all the way from sea-level (duh!) up to something like 20k feet, where most normal engines would be sputtering like a toy. Even on the ground, say, on a hot summer day in the pointy mountains around Jackson Hole, a normal engine would be producing about 65% of its normal takeoff power. Not what you want around, oh, pointy mountains with your family in back. The TAT system gives you 100% for that take-off. Also means the plane is faster and more efficient once you do get up to altitude. Of course, that magic means that, under the hood, 6JA is only slightly less complicated than the TARDIS, which is why we spent the morning with Bill Wallace from TAT poking around the insides and getting some practical flight training on which gauge to watch while poking which lever.
After a morning of ground and flight school, we went out for a leisurely Ada, Oklahoma lunch with some of the TAT gang while Dave and the maintenance team adjusted some things and pulled and calibrated some others. By the time we got back, checked the weather and did some flight planning, it was around 1:30 in the afternoon. Shall we head out? Let’s.
Up and into the western sky at 180 knots (about 207 mph – we were throttled back for efficiency). We wrestled with turbulence over Arkansas, stopped for fuel in Texas (Hereford), dodged some rain showers in New Mexico and found ourselves, a few hours later, watching the sun go down from the Sky Ranch on the mesa above Sedona. New Mexico. One fuel stop. We did the math – if we’d started in the morning, we could have been home by now. Not an airplane; a time machine. I’m honestly at a loss for how to describe the day – we saw so much of this country pass beneath our windscreen, mile after glorious mile. And when we popped out over the pass into Sedona, well…uh, wow? This is me, being speechless.
We’re planning to spend the day here and make the jump for home on Saturday. In the meantime, maybe we’ll do some hiking, maybe we’ll rent a Jeep and drive some of the backcountry. Dunno yet – I’m still stunned at being here.