It was 25 years ago on a rainy April 1st in Seattle that Devon and I took ownership of N33395, a 1946 Commonwealth Skyranger. We were just dating at the time, but two days later, sitting in the plane together on the ramp at Boeing Field, that we came to the logical conclusion that, as long as we owned a plane together, we might as well be married.
We’ve raised a couple of kids in the intervening quarter century, but Devon still refers to the Skyranger as “our first child.” It’s crossed the country four times with us, coming out to Boston for my postdoc, out to California for my first startup, back to Pittsburgh, and etc. We’re had a surprising fraction of the lower 48 states under our wings, but it’s never been back to its “home” – the Pacific Northwest, where Tom Scott and his father found her bones rusting in a garage in the 80’s and brought her back to life.
The Skyranger was practically built for the northwest. She’s not particularly fast, but there are dozens of islands up here that you’d spend a day or more getting to by ferry that you can simply drop into after a 30 minute flight. And she’s ideal for lolling lazily along a coastline, up a lush valley, or over a mountain lake. All things which the Pacific northwest has in spades. The Skyranger belongs here.
I’d hoped to bring her up last summer, but one thing after another got in the way of finding the right time and the right weather to make the 750 mile trek over the fickle Siskiyous, along the Willamette Valley and up the peninsula.
To make a long story short(er): we had a couple of days of good weather open up as Devon and I were planning our next spell of time up on the farm, and I leapt on the opportunity. I’d been planning to make a two day trip of it. The Skyranger was designed in the late 1930’s for folks considerably more compact than my lanky 6’1″ frame, and folding my body into the cockpit for the eight-plus hours it was going to take was a little too much to contemplate.
But there was a brisk tailwind over the Siskiyous (as well as some snow in the air), and once I passed Corvallis, I could practically smell the hay up at the farm. Had to endure some rock-tumbler turbulence up the Willamette Valley and dodge some glorious downpours over Kelso, but as soon as I started seeing Salish water ahead, it was all worth it. In some odd way, it felt right – the Skyranger belongs up here, and she was going home.
She’ll be up here all summer – I’ve rented a hangar at the JeffCo airport. When winter comes…well, we’ll see. After being gone for so long, she may be reluctant to fly south again so soon.
See photos below for a glimpse of the trip…