One moment you are trundling down the airport runway and then, impossibly quickly it seems, you are lifting off. The tiny craft twitching and shifting with the wind.
Few people experience flight in a small plane. Most of us fly in a large jetliner, viewing the world from the vantage point of a small window high above the earth protected from the outside by what feels like a thick skin of metal. Our view is vast and often interfered with by passing clouds.
In a small plane you enjoy looking out through a larger window and you are so much closer to the earth. You still have a unique bird’s-eye view but you are low enough to spot small details.
The first thing that strikes you is how close everything actually is. The topography that shapes our land travel flattens out under our sky high eye. Elk Lake may seem a long ways from the Cordova Bay Golf Course though really it’s the ridge that separates them that creates the distance.
Heading towards downtown Victoria details that stand out are the large playing fields of the University of Victoria and the light coloured roofs of Uptown glowing with reflected sunlight.
Royal Jubilee Hospital appears as a surprising interruption in a sea of residential housing.
We pass over Royal Athletic Park, the ball diamond clear to the eye, if only the HarbourCats were playing now we could easily see each player at his position.
Looking to our right, the green fairways of the Gorge Vale Golf club stand out on the horizon, looking from this angle like the runs of a ski hill.
We view roads, houses and apartments interspersed with industrial areas and we clearly see and perhaps for the first time really understand how our various waterways affect our travel and construction.
In the harbour the wake behind boats and taxiing seaplanes stand out against the dark water.
Over downtown we recognize so many buildings and areas. The construction site that surrounds the Johnson Street Bridge, the unique sinuous shape of the Shutters condo complex in the Songhees, the MV Coho ferry at dock and the iconic Empress Hotel and B.C. legislature building, still impressive from the air.
We spot our favourite parks, many just small green squares but Beacon Hill is a large presence with it’s heavily treed areas contrasting with the, at this time of year, dried out grassy fields. We note the number of trees along streets.
Too soon this short flight is done and we turn to return to the airport, a descent that brings us back to our street level view of life and leaves us looking up and envying the eagle soaring above.
Don Denton is a staff photographer with the Victoria News.