Aeronautical Randomness
The Meteor Crater
April 5, 2012

When guests visit the cockpit, they almost always comment about “the view.”  They notice the huge windows that offer us more than a one hundred and eighty degree look outside.  If you’ve never sat in a cockpit during flight, it is quite a contrast to the small, oval, side view you see in the cabin.

Some views out the front never get old.  The sun rising and setting is unique from the air.  A full moon rise is even more spectacular.  We also see land and water features the same way they are depicted on a map.

But, I’d like to let you in on a little secret:  Our planet is much more spectacular and breathtaking when viewed with your feet firmly planted on it.  It’s all a matter of perspective.

From the flight levels, even the most magnificent sites are dulled.  I’ve seen all of our major landmarks from the air… including Niagara Falls, the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon.  I’d rather stand on top of a 14,000 foot peak than fly over it at 35,000 feet.  It seems much more grand and awe inspiring from the ground.

For this year’s Spring Break, we decided to take the kids on a driving tour of the Southwest.  We left Denver and drove to Phoenix to watch the Colorado Rockies play two Cactus League games.  From there, we continued to the Grand Canyon for the night and then up through Monument Valley for a stay in Moab, Utah.  After taking in Arches National Park, we drove over the Rocky Mountains to our home near Denver.

On the first day of the trip, we drove through Winslow, Arizona on Interstate 40.  Like so many other places, I’d flown over it countless times but never driven the route.

“You know,” I said to my wife, “There’s a meteor crater not too far from here.  I wonder how far it is from the interstate.”  It always looked intriguing from the air.  So, I was curious to get a closer look.

She looked at me like I was a little crazy.  “If it’s close, are you actually thinking about stopping?”  Thoughts of relaxing at the hotel were definitely trumping the thought of staring into a hole in the ground.

I started telling her everything I knew about the meteor crater.  All pilots have seen it and pointed it out to other people.  Everyone also claims they know a flight attendant who naively observed “wow… it hit awfully close to that road and building.”  (Ponder that one for a second.)  That’s how I knew there was a visitor center.

Aerial view of the Metoer Crater. Looked impressive from the air. Would it be worth the trip?


A few minutes later, we saw the sign: “Meteor Creator Visitor Center – 6 Miles Ahead!”

If it wasn’t too far off the interstate, we were going to stop.  I was actually a little excited.  My family thought I was nuts.

After we exited, another sign sealed the deal… it was only a few miles south of I-40.

We parked and walked up to the visitor center gate.  Admission price? $16 for adults and $8 for children!  There was no avoiding it… they did a really nice job constructing the parking lot and entrance so there was absolutely no view of the crater without paying to enter.  I mumbled one of my dad’s favorite vacation quotes: “I’m a tourist.  Take my money.”

Although overpriced, I thought it was interesting.  But, only because I’d seen it so many times from the air.  We walked along the rim, down a bit to some of the viewing platforms and watched the ten minute movie in the visitor’s center.

Walking along the rim of the Meteor Crater

The deepest, center part of the crater

Side of the Meteor Crater

My little detour set us back about an hour and a half.  I was happy to check another site off my list and gave my kids an opportunity to poke a little fun at me for the rest of the trip.  They thought it was enormously comical that I would pay that much money to see a hole in the desert.  (It became even more funny when it only cost $25 for a seven day pass at the Grand Canyon.)

There were other aviation related discoveries on the trip.  We drove through Gallup, NM and Tuba City, AZ.  Both have VORs (navigational beacons) that I’ve flown over countless times.  There’s not much in either place… but, I will forever have a family memory every time I’m cleared to one of those places.

Good memories.  But, not as great as the ones I’m going to have whenever I fly over that  darn overpriced crater.


If you want more information about the Meteor Crater in the desert near Winslow, Arizona, CLICK HERE to visit their website.

About author

Renewed Pilot

I've endured a roller coaster career in the U.S. Aviation Industry. Currently flying the 737 on my third try with the same legacy carrier, I have also flown for a regional, fractional and start-up carrier. My piloting experience includes the 737, A320, 727, Citation Excel, Citation Bravo, Saab 340 and many light singles and twin engine aircraft. I reside in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee.

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There are 11 comments

  • Mark D says:

    One of the greatest sights I ever saw while flying was watching a morning launch on the space shuttle from the air. Definitely a totally different perspective!
    Like your crater pics. Never seen it before.

  • Beverly says:

    Great blog! You made me laugh.

  • David says:

    Good story – funny enough my dad took us to see that same meteor crater when I was a kid on the way to the Grand Canyon! I think it is something I will have to do to my kids someday too!

  • Cedarglen says:

    Sounds like a wonderful trip and I hope that you can repeat the adventure. Next time, to the greatest degree possible, try to stay off the interstates. Most of the ‘major’ highways that pre-date the interstate system are still there and most are reasonably well maintained. I remember countless road trips on the early 60s along those roads (always in the West) as priceless experiences. You won’t burn as many miles in a day, but you will have a LOT more fun.

  • Pam Deveau says:

    Loved the quote of your dad’s. I’m going to the Grand Canyon next week. Can’t wait to see it; something I’ve always wanted to go to. Think I’ll pass on the crator though. Thanks for sharing!

  • Toraine Torrence says:

    I absolutely adored this story. It sounds like a Great vacation memory. I believe as you travel it is good to explore a little bit off trail. Life carries many surprises, because I believe your kids will hold this memory at heart. When I was younger, my dad would get the family together and we road trip EVERYWHERE. No Kidding,(Unbelievable Story)- I got to ride my first airplane at the age of 18 when I was learning to fly at college. But my dad did short stops and they were fun memories. We still talk about them to this day, and we all laugh and joke around. I believe this was definitely a good stop, and the pictures are very cool. Your story has me planning a road trip for a Good Ol’ family vacation.

    My teacher, Mrs. Wall, has you as a presenter next week for our class, and I am looking forward to your presentation. See you soon Tori.

  • Brent Mosley says:

    Great story I really appreciated it, I have been very fortunate to take many family vacations and I must say those are some of the best memories I have and will ever have. I have never seen a meteor crater in the air or in person, but is something I would love to see. I’m sure you get a much greater perception for how big it is when your standing next to it compared to when your flying over it at 30,000ft.

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