In little over a week’s time, Doug Sperlich will begin a two week-long trek to Antarctica. There, the 24-year-old pilot from Enderby will work as a first officer, flying researchers and logistics teams around the frozen continent.
But when he’s not working behind the yoke of a 6,000-pound Twin Otter, Sperlich enjoys taking his much smaller airplane for a whirl around the North Okanagan – while both awing and terrifying a Morning Star reporter in the process.
Mid-morning on Boxing Day the sun broke through in Vernon. That afternoon some low patches of clouds crept in and by 3 p.m. the conditions were perfect for a jaunt over the Monashee Mountains in the Lumby area.
The cabin is a cramped fit for two, and the takeoff was a touch wobbly as the $30,000 plane hit turbulence in the initial ascent.
“Let me know as soon as you’re feeling sick,” Sperlich said, careful to gauge what sort of manoeuvres he can do with a first-timer.
In just 20 minutes we’re over Lumby and the Monashee Mountains are growing larger. The plane skims over the low cloud formations before Sperlich starts another ascent – this time up to 9,000 feet.
Circling the mountains, Sperlich decides to test his passenger’s stomach.
He makes what looks like a subtle movement of the controls and suddenly the plane turns on a dime, its wings perpendicular to the ground. The rocky formation next to us is jutting upwards towards us such that the mountain and the aircraft appear to be on a collision course.
Sperlich then levels the plane and perspective snaps back into focus.
After a few more loops the mountains are turning pink and purple – and not purely from dizziness. The sun is waning and there’s just enough time to land before dark.
Feet firmly planted back on Earth, this reporter is left with his head still in the clouds.