It’s time to share our explorations beyond our Central Luzon backyard. Easily the best place to fly to in Luzon is Baguio, high up in the Cordilleras, the summer capital of the Philippines.
Baguio’s Loakan Airport is intimidating. High density altitudes, forbidding terrain and a lack of lift due to the black hole in the sky that spews anti-matter, ghosts, gremlins and hobgoblins — Baguio has it all.
A self-aware pilot fully attuned to the capabilities and limitations of his airplane and himself has NOTHING to fear, but for one minor thing.
There is no lift there.
We celebrated Carlo’s birthday by flying to Baguio. If my logbook was up to date I could tell you how often I’ve flown there. Definitely somewhere between 10 and 300 times.
I love Baguio. Every Filipino over 50 does. Fond memories of pine trees, pine scents, and pining for serene pine scenery.
Boats at Burnham lagoon, horseback rides at Wright Park, PX ice cream from John Hay, the sprawling American R&R camp.
Since the 1990s, pollution, population, and the global warming conspiracy between Dick Cheney and Saudi oil princes have chipped away at Baguio’s fairy tale.
Still, Baguio holds magic for me. I once got lost with 2-year old Carlo in the hills behind the Mansion House. We slid down a hillside (just meters from a proper stairway) to get to Wright Park. That was painful.
I’ve bounced on pony saddles, waiting for the kids to slip off and fall on horse poo on the trail… .
For decades Baguio was just a 5-hour car ride from Manila. One drove through four provinces and capped the trip with a steep climb up the narrow, twisting Kennon Road, a towering mountain on one side and a white-water river ravine on the other.
In the 1990s that became a 7-hour odyssey in insane bumper-to-bumper traffic. So I stopped driving there.
Then I learned to fly. And, of course, Baguio has an airport.
I was with my instructor, hunting for holes in the solid Cordillera overcast at 8,000 feet.
No way were we going to let down in that. There are 6,000- and 7,000-foot mountains — the highest peaks in Luzon — down there.
Later there were nervous approaches over 1,000-foot cliffs onto an aircraft carrier beached on a plateau 4,250 feet above the sea.
The cliff is daunting. You cannot land short. If your engine fails on approach, you are screwed — permanently, into the terrain.
Remember this when I explain why I approach too high… .
The runway slopes down from east to west. Optical illusions taunt you as you flare uphill and reach for the elusive pavement.
Last week Carlo and I had CAVOK weather. From 6,500 feet, 40 nautical miles out, we could see the 7,300-foot high Mt. Sto Tomas near Loakan’s traffic pattern. The whole trip took just 55 minutes.
Wind calm, cleared to land.
On the ramp, we put rocks against the wheels (a neat gift idea for blog readers this Christmas would be a pair of personalized chocks inscribed “Capt R” and “The Other Capt R”…).
I tightened the loose cowling screw you see in the video 🙂
We had lunch at Mario’s on Session Road. Chatted about important father and son topics like girls, allowances, Middle East peace.
Then it was time to depart. We almost departed, alright. You thought I was joking when I said there is no lift at Baguio?? There’s a video to prove it.
But that’s a coming article.
Posted from Bangkok, Sep 7, 2008
Coming soon: Rolling, rolling, rolling on the runway at Loakan.