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Postcards: Flying the empty skies

Two pilots, one Cessna, in the middle of a pandemic

Faced with being housebound during the COVID-19 pandemic, pilots Filip Wolak, a professional photographer in New York City; Sarah Tamar, a commercial pilot for Tailwind Air in Westchester County, New York; and a 1973 Cessna 172M named Rusty finally made a dream come true. Sarah writes:
Pilot Briefing September 2020
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Sarah Tamar and Filip Wolak wrote about and photographed their trek across the United States in a Cessna 172, which began in early May. They said the majority of their trip was “flamping” (flying and camping) in order to keep costs low and avoid the crowds. The empty parking lot at Cedar Point’s amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, on May 28. Other remarkable images included John F. Kennedy Airport at a standstill on May 7; a wastewater treatment plant in Texarkana, Texas, on May 12; the landlocked and desolate Navajo Nation on May 16; a cattle farm in Nebraska on May 25; and a healthy green rim of the Grand Canyon on May 17. Tamar blogged daily about the trip and her observations on a COVID-19-affected world are poignant.

Unsold cars at the Port of Los Angeles on May 20.“We’d been dreaming about it for years. Flying across the country coast to coast in a small airplane. It is the ultimate fusion of flying, discovery, adventure, and the unknown. When COVID-19 hit and the world became precarious, we decided it was finally time. We also knew it was an opportunity to document the world from above in its remarkable new state.

“It took us 20 days and close to 90 flight hours, but we find it hard to only measure the experience with simple time. The adventures we found along the way were unparalleled; the people we met incredible, brilliant, helpful, and kind; and the journey was like nothing we could have imagined. It was a boundless explosion of joy, challenges, brand-new vistas, and the bittersweet and unique opportunity to witness our country during a global pandemic.”

Social distancing at California’s Oceanside beaches on May 19.
The airplane “graveyard” at Roswell, New Mexico, on May 15.

For more photos and stories, visit the website and read the blog.

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Julie Walker
Julie Summers Walker
AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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