Bravo Juliet


2 May 2024

I write this sitting in a Best Western Courtyard in Corona, California. Tomorrow begins my biggest flight adventure ever, though it takes some topping (“Flying across Kenya,” “Niagara Falls from the gun turret of a Lancaster bomber,” “A barrel roll in a Spitfire over Ben Lomond,” and “Wingwalking atop a Boeing Stearman bi-plane,” to name a few – but to be fair I was not at the controls for any of those experiences).

Well, after thirty years of talking about it, Tim and I are going to have a go at flying across America in a small plane. We start tomorrow.

The plane is PA-28 N991BJ (if you want to try to look us up on Flight Following), or Bravo Juliet for short, which is A GREAT NAME FOR A PLANE. It is a PA-28/Piper Warrior which is what I just renewed both my CAA (UK) and FAA (USA) licenses in last week. I can’t believe that flight test was JUST LAST WEEK – they already managed to send my new license!

Tim arrived here in California two days ago and did a training flight to Big Bear Airport very high in the mountains (because Scottish mountains are dinky and California mountains are ginormous), and I arrived yesterday and am doing a local training flight today because I have not done as much flying in the USA as Tim has.

Then tomorrow we set out, flying as far south of the mountains as we can go without busting the Mexico border. We have rented the plane for three weeks. We’re going to see how far east we can get, and then turn around and come back. Our stops are not planned in advance as they are weather-dependent, but we’re routing via Arizona and Texas towards Charleston, South Carolina.

As Stella North says in Stateless, “Oh, the astonishing freedom of wild geese!”



(Full disclosure: This adventure is brought to you by a Roz Chast cartoon captioned “Middle Age – the clouds before the storm” and featuring a lady thinking, “I bet if I really wanted to I could bicycle across Canada”; and by Christian Miller, who actually did bicycle from Virginia to Oregon at the age of 59. She chronicled that trip in a book called Daisy, Daisy, which includes very good advice for how to plan a low-weight wardrobe. I am mindful also of the possibility of having to spend “a frozen night in the back of a Fox Moth,” as Maddie once said.)