Portland is, if you’ve never been, an interesting city. It’s as if the universe took all the freaks and hippies in Berkeley – from the 60s – then shook them up real good and poured them out – here. There’s a vibe in the city, as a result, that’s as weird as it is captivating. It’s liberal-progressive where the rest of Oregon is conservative. It’s hard-core urban vs cowboys and rattlesnakes. Assuming you’re visiting from abroad, it’s one of the most hospitable cities in the states you can visit. The weather is perfect, the opportunities for alpine/wilderness camping are as good as any you’ll find, anywhere, and if the mood strikes to go skiing, on snow, that is – and not a lake, and in the middle of July, this is the place to be.
Portland experienced quite a renaissance back in the 80s – when high real estate prices (and probably Republicans) caused many of the progressive elements in the Bay Area to pack up their VW camper vans and hit Interstate 5 – headed northbound. My guess is they were headed for Seattle – and either their vans broke-down here or they rolled down the windows to let some smoke out – and realized Portland was actually a pretty kewl place.
Well…it’s actually pretty helpful to think of Portland as Berkeley once used to be, like – once upon a time. There are clothing stores with stuff made of hemp. Dry goods stores with soap made of…hemp. Head shops, where, one supposes, other things can be had – and probably something to do with hemp. Food trucks everywhere, but especially downtown near Pioneer Square. And someone probably cooks stuff made of…hemp.
But…it turned out hippies were pretty good at “selling out” and making money, too, so Portland is getting to be a little like it’s neighbor 500 miles to the south. High priced homes, yuppie grub in every food truck you see (there are a billion of them, too), and legendary traffic jams to lend the air a nice brown sheen – just like the Bay Area. Anyway, before this renaissance hit, Portland was a sleepy little place; today it’s as vibrant as Berkeley used to be – only with more pot (– if that’s even possible).
So, welcome to Portland…where Birkenstocks are still the norm – and nobody shaves.
It’s roughly 550 miles from KSFO to KPDX, depending on routing. Prevailing winds on transitioning to Portland, as along the entire west coast, are generally from the west, so, one way or another you’ll probably end up landing on 28R – assuming you’re flying a 737, or something smaller. Heavies end up on 28 Left, unless a student pilot in a 172 insists on using that one. This will be followed by frantic pleas from controllers to “Expedite! Expedite!”
Coming up from SFO you’ll be assigned one of two STARs: MOXEE SIX or TMBRS TWO. MOXEE leaves room for last-minute wind changes – as frequent runway reassignments are the norm here; TMBRS presupposes you’ll end up on 28R/L. TMBRS is generally “prettier” as your right-side passengers will have a better view of Mt Hood; if, when you turn on base the right wing drops 30 degrees…don’t worry. A little aileron trim might help.
That’s because two geographic features define Portland generally, and KPDX specifically. The first is Mt Hood, the second is the so-called Columbia Gorge, named after the Columbia River – which forms the border between Oregon and Washington State. They look something like this:
Two salient features you should grasp define this view, and do, please, take notes here. Mt Hood is wicked high (like 11,250 or thereabouts), and the wind that funnels down the gorge is hellish. You don’t want to run into Mt Hood, and – assuming you have real weather dialed into XP – you need to be prepared for really gonzo crosswinds on short finals. Oh yes, the winter weather stinks here, too. Rain, low clouds, fog…all the fun stuff. You’ll love it.
The other thing to keep in mind?
Mt Hood is a volcano. And it’s not the only one. Oh, and none of the volcanoes up here are truly dormant.
Really. You’ll love it.
When Mt St Helens blew back in 1980 it put on quite a show for the folks down in Portland, as it’s about fifty miles away. Of course, it was a little higher before the eruption, but hey, c’est la vie, right? Mt Hood is only 30 miles away from PDX…but look at the chain of active volcanoes heading north from Mt Hood. I count six in all, but I left out a bunch of smaller ones…(sorry…).
To give you some perspective on how all this affects the weather, consider that as moisture travels across the North Pacific the first thing it runs into is this chain of mountains/volcanoes. Mt Baker, north of Seattle, holds the record for most snowfall in North America, with 2,000 inches in one winter. That’s 166 feet, in case your calculator is broken. Winter approaches at PDX or SEA are often right in the middle of heavy winter storms, so keep that in mind, too. Of course, if a volcano blows-up, odds are you’ll want to turn around and head someplace else…and really fast, too.
The other factor? Low pressure hangs around off the coast, while high pressure in the Northern Rockies tends to come straight down the aforesaid mentioned Columbia Gorge, so when that high pressure moves west, watch out. Winds in the Gorge can easily clock out over 60 knots, and you’ll note PDX is right on the banks of the river. It can get real snotty real fast, especially on super clear days. Sitting right seat you can see idiots out there on the water kite-surfing – flying across the water at, well, whatever the wind is doing.
I suppose it’s entertaining to be a paramedic in that neck of the woods.
Here’s KPDX as it looks in XP 11.10, as rendered by MrX in his Phantabulous Phreeware Phile. Note runway 28 Right, top of the image? And…note that river? Gusts can blow 50 knots out of the west one minute, then 60 out of the east – a moment later. “Gusting and variable” takes on a whole new meaning at this airport.
Zooming in a little closer you can see MrXs customary attention to detail. If you look real hard on the roof of the parking garage, you can see a food truck selling Eggs Benedict –with lingonberries and a goat cheese ganache. Hey…I told ya…
Night textures are up to Xs usual high standards, and with HDR at MAX even the food trucks smell good (that’s the new Stink-o-rama feature in XP11.10).
Move in closer still and you’ll soon understand what we mean by “cluttered ramps.” No, not cluttered rumps. I said ramps.
And look – not a food truck in sight.
What you WILL find is ramp specific detail all over the place: baggage trains, fuel trucks, even those smelly tank-trucks they use to empty the raw sewage from the holding tanks (we used to call then stool buses, but then again, we were BAD).
And it all looks good from the cockpit, too.
So, depending on where you’re coming from you might pass over downtown Portland on your way to PDX – and it might look like some scenery magic has taken place down there, too. Kind of depends on the light, though.
And…you can just about see downtown along the river out there, but let’s see if we can get closer…
The city is noted for its bridges.
Don’t ask me why.
Now, continuing into the pattern, let’s check out PDX from our Downwind…on this side of 28 Left is an ANG base, as well as air cargo OPS. There’s even a GA/bizjet ramp down there somewhere…
And, on final…to 28R…most of what you’re seeing over to the left is custom buildings around the airport.
And touchdown, then…on the road again.
Now, a few more details…
Let’s see…roof…roof…food truck…roof…
I think the above is a lounge for food truck drivers.
The main terminal entry is under all that glass…and it looks just like this…
…under all that glass.
At lower texture settings, that parking garage looks like a food truck. It’s a textured box, by the by. Too bad. This could’ve been a decent scenery file…if only it had a real parking garage.
And no, this is not a food truck. This is the commuter rail station by the main terminal entry, complete with operating commuter rail cars.
So, it’s time to head back to SFO.
Good thing FF included a pushback truck, too. And my-oh-my, but somebody is going to run into low oil pressure somewhere over Idaho…look at all that mess on my clean ramps…
It’s SO nice to taxi out to the active with no traffic!
And take note of the muddled, blurry pavement markings. A MrX trademark!
So, off we go, but one last shot to tide you over…
Right above the tail is…KPDX. Off to the right…yup…Mt Hood. The pointy, zit-looking thingy in the middle…that’s Mt Adams. Next, on the left, that’s what’s left of Mt St Helens. And down at the bottom of the image?
A food truck. Serving Eggs Benedict with a lingonberry and goat cheese ganache.
Adios, y’all. We’ll seeya at the Pike Place Market, first thing day after tomorrow. Be there, or be square – C