God’s Eye View of The Wild West: Dust Devils and Flaming Canyons.


Sometimes at 40,000 you get the God’s-eye view of the mayhem below. Here’s that view of the dust storms that raked the western United States yesterday–more forecast for today.

Southern Nevada

Amazing sight: wind driving sand in miles-long billows north to south as we approach the Sierras westbound.

It’s an ugly ride below 24,000 feet as the wind drives south at 80-100 knots. But we have everyone seated and we’re delaying our descent into the chop for as long as possible.

Having crossed the Sierras, here’s the San Joaquin Valley looking south from Modesto.

Beautiful, lush farm land just swallowed up in a gale force dust cloud moving north to south through the valley. Let’s zoom in.

It’s a nasty ride from the twenties through ten thousand. But on the coast?  A pristine day with steady but not outrageous winds.

The coast southwest of San Francisco.

Steady seas, white breakers on shore but from the sea wall you can see just steady waves. Finally, destination in sight: the city on the Bay.

Then San Francisco International.

Time for a quick bite at Tyler Florence’s restaurant in Napa Farms Market, one of my faves, in the American Airlines concourse. The three sides special ($10)–Tyler’s amazing macaroni and cheese, roasted asparagus with shaved Parmesan, and potato salad.

And of course, a cream soda–then a Peet’s to go:

Won’t be eating the salmon salad meal served on board on the return leg. And that leg, too, has a great unfolding tapestry, particularly through Utah as the sun sinks lower, etching the canyons in dark relief.

Somehow the beauty of Bryce Canyon looks different with each crossing–the sun angle, the undercast, the winds; always a new canvas spread below.

The show doesn’t end till the sun goes down.

Which of course, it always does. That’s okay, especially having the nose pointed towards home. And besides, the show starts again tomorrow and once again–you have a front row seat. Time for some crew rest; another 320 passengers have tickets tomorrow as well.

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10 Responses to “God’s Eye View of The Wild West: Dust Devils and Flaming Canyons.”

  1. Thanks, Chris, for reminding me of my first jump-seat ride as an ATC, lo, these many years ago. It was DFW-SFO, with a return on the red-eye. Eye opening in many respects, not least the beauty from up there.

  2. Good one Chris and I’m glad you included the meal at Tyler’s. Don’t tell me that my boy is turning Vegan. On that plate was no meat to be seen. Say it ain’t so!!

    • Calm down: the mac and cheese has a half pound of chopped bacon in it. I also grab a mini-round loaf of sour dough bread and eat it in hunks, raining crumbs all over the cockpit on the return leg.

       Chris

      Sent from my iPhone, so please pardon the typos.

  3. Whew Chris, that was a close one. I must admit, at first I thought you might of gone over to the dark (vegan) side. Remember, thousands of slaughter houses are depending on you and me for their livelihood. Hope my boy is doing well.

    • Yeah, given the circumstances. Gallows humor: our F/As were headed for a different flight, number one says, “Bye–enjoy the restructuring!”

       Chris

      Sent from my iPhone, so please pardon the typos.

  4. Deb Cheney Says:

    Thank you! On this day more than most it is exciting to see what was happening on the ground from your perspective – the great eye in the sky. The winds were fierce and we have a lot of clean-up to do tomorrow. Sand and dirt and debris beat me, rained down and twirled around me all afternoon as I drove through town, met friends for lunch and shopped. Every time I stepped outside, I walked into a twister of wind, leaves and debris. You do have the most interesting office.

  5. Thanks, Chris, for the incredible images. No experience with dust storms…snow’s enough for me.

    The canyon photos are very beautiful. This only proves I could never be a pilot. I’d constantly have my face pressed up against the window, drinking in the amazing view outside.

    Too cool!

    • Miss Giulia!

      Always glad to have your kindred commentary here. So many folks won’t see past the hardware and software to appreciate the aesthetics on a conscious level. I don’t do it enough myself, but I share your enthusiasm: before I leave the jet, I have to wipe the smudge marks off the windows from where I’ve steadied my camera or pressed my fat head up against the multi-paned glass for a better view.

      The tech stuff is all about getting and staying aloft. Appreciating flight is an individual endeavor and really, the only thing that endures.

       Chris

      Sent from my iPhone, so please pardon the typos.

  6. Damn, that is one vivid yet fantastically understated account of what you guys see. Thanks for keeping the passengers in mind, even if they don’t get it, and keep the posts coming, man.

  7. I’m a fearfull-flyer and besides the wine and prescriptions that keep me from crying (little exaggeration here) the views from the window seat, that my husband lets me have, mesmerize me. They are the one thing I really enjoy about flying – and the excuse for drinking more than I normally do…

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