Kelsey Bregar, 13, had never been in a small plane. She had never seen the Mogollon Rim from the air. So when her father bestowed a gift certificate for a 30-minute scenic flight from CAVU Aviation, the teen was excited to go.
Bob Oswald, owner of CAVU Aviation, pilot and flight instructor, has been flying since 1985. He offers many package deals from a quick 10-minute flight to a two-and-half hour flight to San Diego.
Kelsey was not such a unique guest --any locals take the trip, Oswald told her.
"After the locals take their visitors to Sawmill and Wal-Mart, we are third on the list," Oswald said jokingly. In fact, he said, he gets many locals bringing along guests to see Rim country from the sky.
So with ease and confidence, and Oswald's calm guidance, Kelsey stepped into the tiny aircraft's passenger seat. He handed her the headset and went through his checklist. As he did this, the plane's engine revved.
"I was watching a truck on the ground and then suddenly I realized we were in the air," she said -- a credit to the smooth take off.
Quiet at first, Kelsey's eyes were wide with wonder. Watching things get smaller and smaller, she slowly started to identify the features carved into the planet below. Following Highway 87, Oswald took her over the Tonto Natural Bridge.
"Do you see any wildlife up here?" she asked the pilot.
"Even something as big as an elk or a horse is hard to see," he said. "We don't like to fly low and pester them."
"Whoa. Look at the bridge," she exclaimed as the pilot flew her past the natural wonder.
Oswald pointed out the plane's Halo on the hills below. It has something to do with the low sun and being further than a shadow, sort of a reverse shadow, he explained, as Kelsey spotted the bright moving spot following the plane's path.
He flew the teen over Strawberry where she picked out her house, her best-friend's house and even saw her own horse. She was most amazed by the view of Nash Point and how close Strawberry is to it.
Swinging around, Oswald headed east toward Baker's Butte.
Oswald toured the face of the Rim, over places Kelsey had hiked before, giving her new perspectives to take back to earth.
A circle over Payson and into the airport for a smooth landing ended the journey.
"I feel small now," she said, once the plane landed. "I can't see anything."