A Flight to Arnold
Ward 2 Councilman Bill Moritz offers a flight on a Cessna to Arnold, from St. Charles, and a unique view of the city last Friday.
Flying in a propeller powered, 160-horsepower Cessna airplane, as a passenger, can give a person a unique perspective on, well, a variety of issues.
Ward 2 Councilman Bill Moritz extended this Patch editor an opportunity on an airplane ride Friday afternoon.
Moritz, who works full time at airplane manufacturer Boeing offices in St. Louis County, has a pilot’s license and rents planes from the St. Charles Flying Service in Portage Des Souix.
There are three lessons learned from the experience:
- A lot of lives depend upon a very small piece of metal/carbon fiber/plastic.
- It takes a lot of information to prevent a crash between two planes 3 miles apart traveling at 100 mph.
- A person in an airplane never sees the political turmoil in a neighborhood.
It's a pleasant change of perspective.
Hourly rental rates range from $92 to about $150, and the business offers numerous planes, from small, agile planes to larger two-propeller commuter planes.
The flying service's community bulletin board lists used planes selling at $25,000.
After receiving his plane reservation, Moritz went through a 40-item list to verify the plane’s airworthiness. Wings, flaps, rudder, tires, propeller, and gasoline purity were methodically checked.
Moritz checked gasoline purity by draining fuel into a glass test tube “Water is heavier than gasoline, so if you see bubbles in the test tube there’s water in the gas tank,” Moritz said.
The risk is whether the plane can keep aloft at 2,000 feet above the ground with water in the tank, Moritz never said to me.
Narrow Cabin, No Air-Conditioning
Inside the Cessna, seating was narrow. Moritz is about 6 feet 2 inches tall and is broad shouldered. Despite my 5-foot-7-inch stature, I wear a 44-inch suit coat.
There’s no air-conditioning inside the plane, Moritz said. “There are two air vents each for the two of us,” he said. My main vent was on the front windshield, a smaller vent was behind my head and above the door.
The vents rerouted a 100-mph wind, after the plane is airborne, to cool the passengers inside the plane flying in 96˚F heat.
The propeller and engine were noisy. Pilot and passenger, who were shoulder to shoulder, needed headphones and microphones to speak to each other.
Moritz announced his intention to taxi the plane to the runway. The St. Charles airport lacks a control tower, Moritz said. Pilots have to provide their location, direction and intentions to other pilots, on radio frequency, continuously.
After another checklist, Moritz powered the Cessna to takeoff speed. At about 70 knots, which is the plane’s speed through the air combined with the wind speed, the Cessna will lift off, Moritz said.
The plane seemed to inch away from the ground and climb at a roller coaster’s angle to 1,800 feet.
Eventually, the plane flew at 100 mph, although it felt as if it was crawling through the air. Without the road noise or signs whizzing past my eyes, it was impossible to know our speed.
Luxury and Information
Moritz used the radio to call Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and requested a radar officer to watch him as he flew through the region and provide air traffic information.
The Cessna flew at approximately 1,800 feet and flew east from St. Charles airport.
It will enter Illinois airspace to the north of St. Louis city, turn south toward Arnold then circle back to St. Charles airport, Moritz said.
A radar officer gave Moritz a specific frequency then said there are numerous aircrafts in Moritz’s flight plan: A helicopter flew toward the Cessna, but at 800 feet, a traffic plane could enter Moritz’s flight area and soar at 3,000 feet, and numerous passenger planes were flying at 6,000 feet.
“This is a luxury,” Moritz said about the information from Lambert’s control tower. Radar officers only watch small planes, like the Cessna, when there are few flights at Lambert, Moritz said.
Moritz looked for movement—instead of the aircraft in the sky. “You don’t want to scan. You want to examine sections,” Moritz said. A plane or helicopter can disappear when the city or trees are in the background, he said.
After locating the plane or helicopter, Moritz gave his desired flight course. The radar officer relayed Moritz’s flight plan to the other pilots.
Without the radar officer, Moritz would have to find any movement in the air and listen to the radio for pilots announcing their location and intention. Moritz had to announce his location continuously.
See St. Louis, Arnold, Chesterfield, St. Charles in an Hour
As the Cessna flew past the Gateway Arch, Moritz guided the plane along the Illinois side of the Mississippi river. A safe distance, about a mile, from The Arch, Moritz said.
As the Cessna turned toward Arnold, neighborhoods, subdivisions and homeowners’ swimming pools came into view.
People were down there, but it was impossible to see anyone, hear their conversations or know whether anyone had a good day at work.
It was a peaceful view.
There are a lot of trees in Arnold.
Moritz turned the Cessna northwest and told the radar officer the rental the plane would head near Six Flags, then west of the Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield and would land at the St. Charles airport.
Mansions and estates replaced Arnold’s subdivisions as the plane traveled toward Eureka, Chesterfield and St. Charles.
Six Flags’s parking lot, the same size as the park, was empty. Moritz pointed to plutonium burial site between the entertainment park and Chesterfield.
Through the headphones, Moritz heard a radar officer relaying the Cessna’s flight plan to the Spirit of St. Louis control tower.
Moritz thanked the Lambert radar officer for the help and said the Cessna would land at St. Charles.
No further help was needed.
Moritz changed to the St. Charles airport radio frequency and said to pilots in St. Charles that he would enter the landing pattern from southwest of the airport.
The landing pattern is shaped like a rectangle and helps pilots know when others will land and organize their approach to the runway, Moritz said.
Along each side of the rectangle, Mortiz lowered the plane’s height to the ground and watched the distance between the Cessna and other planes landing at the airport.
Runway lights told Moritz the plane was flying too fast to land. He moved a control, and the engine made less noise.
About 70 mph is the proper landing speed, Moritz said as the plane approached the ground.
A minute later, Moritz brought the Cessna to its parking site and worked through another checklist to secure the plane.
Someone driving a golf cart moved the plane to a storage area.
Moritz and I went to the business office. He needed to pay his rental fees.
We talked a short time then decided to face the Friday rush hour traffic back to Arnold.
Related Article - A 2,000 foot View on Arnold, St. Louis and Six Flags