Yesterday in the hour I had I felt reasonably impressed but not shaken in awe. I took off and flew from Butler to Pittsburgh slewing from side to side alarmingly. (This was before I'd sorted the controls out. I've fiddled with options a lot and it's a lot more manageable now, though I've had to nearly annihilate the rudder sensitivity.) I was impressed how aside from individual buildings being wrong it still felt like the place, and that I could navigate from the 30 miles from the small town to the big city. It looked pretty good, but it was early afternoon with no cloud, I was flying low altitude and I wasn't blown away.
This evening I upped the graphics settings a mite, not worrying myself if I dipped into the mid-twenties. I took a little pusher-propellor dinky two man cockpit into the skies above Canada's Vancouver Island. Scattered cloud at all altitudes, pre-dawn. My God.
First of all the ascent. Pulling up over the streets of Courtenay having taken off from Comox Valley Airport, the street-lamps all lit up. I decided to see how high I could fly in a dinky little plane before something disastrous happened. I flew West towards Comox lake nestled snugly in a mountain valley. Snaking rural roads alternately lit up and plunged back into darkness revealing glimpses of small mountain towns, glowing as if with strung-out fairy-lights - quite magical. Outside was the night and I was in my own little world with the engine throbbing in my headphones, punctuated by the odd rattle as I hit a brief air pocket. It really felt like those night-time cross-continental flights suspended high up in the void, feeling alone but and suspended in time.
The altitude clock kept its steady crawl. Ten thousand feet. As I rose higher the sun began to rise over the Strait of Georgia. The undersides of the clouds lit up in beautiful soft palette of ochre and salmon pink tones. The sea below took on the faintest glow, and the islands of Denman, Hornby and Texada lay dark and formless like sleeping giants. Up and up I rose, to twelve thousand feet. The cabin began to take on a soft roseate glow as I tilted towards the sun. Looking around I saw the still-dark Western sky and back to the sun the filtering of the light through the alternating layers of cloud. I imagined the people down below. Mothers and fathers waking to softly descend barefoot down the stairs, into the kitchen, flicking on the lights and reaching for the milk, the cereal boxes, kids still fast asleep up in their beds.
Fourteen thousand feet now. A gentle - almost subliminal - brittle crackling noise. I looked to the side and saw the window very slowly begin to ice up. The golden light traced out the spider-web threads of ice expanding into rivulets. It was mesmerising but of a sudden I began to wonder if this was indeed the limit. I pulled back on the throttle and began to descend.
I'd like to poetically wax on about a gentle descent down over the lapping shore of Union Bay, gracefully curving into Comox Airport in time for black coffee and a quick muffin in the airport cafe, but in reality my plane broke up mid-flight as, unused as I was to the tolerances of airframes, I committed to too steep a descent at around five-thousand feet whilst at the same time banking the aircraft. The sudden frightening and then fading sound of the piercing death-note accompanied by black screen was a jarring and mildly harrowing moment but it's not going to spoil my memory of a strangely magical experience staring into a PC monitor in a dimly lit bedroom.