Pilot’s Blog – April 2024 New Blood

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Pilot’s Blog – April 2024 New Blood

Date: 04/11/2024     Category: Captain's Blog    

Pilot’s Blog Starship 1XE, Day 11 in the month April, Earth Calendar year 2024.

Bruce here, it’s that time of year again when we make like F-15 pilots on a scramble alert. We drop our ski equipment, drop our ice-climbing gear, shed our super heavy down parkas, and hop into our trusty aircraft to begin another jam packed flying season. Enter Whitton Feer: a fearless adventurer, professional photographer, passionate conservationist, and pilot extraordinaire.

Over a year ago, soaring over the Northern Colorado landscape at 140kts indicated, I was more focused inside the plane than outside, something we discourage for our EcoFlight passengers. My attention commanded by the complex systems of the Cessna T210, a marvel of 1970s engineering that, to this day, has no viable replacement. The subtle vibration of the engine was interrupted by a not so subtle voice, “Keep those CHTs under 380!” Certainly you have figured by now that I am not Bruce, who has spent cumulative years of his life in this exact plane, and who can fly it eyes closed, hands free, mind elsewhere.

So I’d like to introduce myself, as EcoFlight’s newest pilot, and as someone with very big shoes to fill. I’m Whitton Feer, and have been flying alongside our other pilots (Bruce Gordon and Gary Kraft) for the past six months, gleaning all I can regarding the Cessna T210 and EcoFlight’s operations. As I’ve spent more hours in the planes, Bruce and Gary’s advice has begun to ring true. They assured me that with enough time behind the controls, “an airplane is an airplane,” not too different from any other I’d flown. I’ve started to hone in on what is truly special about the job – the deep and broad knowledge one gains of the West, along with all of its issues, solutions, characters, and a storied history of land management.

Bruce and Gary have an ingrained sense of the landscape and its associated conservation history. On flights to Jackson, Portland, Tucson, Sacramento, and elsewhere this winter, we seem to never be over unfamiliar territory. A halted dam proposal out the left window, a wilderness study area out the right, invisible to all but the most well educated and experienced eye. This is the knowledge base I look forward to building, one that Bruce and Gary have in spades. My perspective of the West, honed via 24 years of exploring a landscape I thought I knew well, has been shaken and will now be rebuilt. The incoming flow of information, all related to conservation in the West, has been overwhelming, in the best way possible.

On one trip to California recently, I sat in on a coalition meeting to bolster salmon populations in the Central Valley, before flying with journalists, decisionmakers, and scientists over their collectively proposed solution – intentionally flooding the abundant rice fields, which provide prime habitat for juvenile fish and migratory waterfowl. This natural solution has seemingly universal support and has been implemented by an incredibly effective coalition of farmers, land managers, and conservationists.

To take part in such an fruitful project and see our critical role within the coalition was rewarding enough, however I also left with a new understanding of predator prey dynamics for salmon, air quality politics in the Central Valley, and the economics of balancing rice production and ecosystem health. I added these experiences to my growing knowledge bank, departed runway 20, and turned south to work on upcoming national monuments, before heading home.

As we flew back to Aspen, dodging restricted airspace and the F35s, I continued to add to this mental map of interconnected issues and landscapes sprawled across the West, an area so vast that it can only be conceptualized from above. As for now, I am just beginning to plot the landmarks. I can only hope that in the coming years, I’ll retain a sliver of the information stored somewhere deep in the back of Bruce and Gary’s minds, because as Bruce once told me, “Whitton, I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know.

Whitton Feer

We welcome Whitton to the EcoFlight family however I think he got the last quote wrong. I think I said, “I’ve forgotten more than I even know.”
Bruce Gordon