Fernando


There was something in the air that night
The stars were bright, Fernando
They were shining there for you and me
For liberty, Fernando

–ABBA

“Cleared for the Fernando Five Arrival,” said the SOCAL Controller.

What…. OMG. I was almost freaking out. I thought they used Standard Terminal Arrival Routes (STARs) to manage airline traffic going into major airports. Why does ATC want me to fly this route? I hadn’t really planned for this.

It was Spring of 2005. Grace and I were newly minted instrument rated pilots anxious to try our new skills. The day was a picture-perfect California spring day. Couldn’t ask for a better day to practice instrument flying skills as we planned our trip to the Southwest Section 99s meeting in Van Nuys, Southern California. We had both gotten our instrument ratings the previous year. Most of my flying since getting my IFR rating was to file and fly IFR.

There was a drastic change in how I recorded my flights in my logbook since that fateful day almost a year back in May of 2004 that recorded my Instrument Check ride with the added notes “It’s finally over!”. Most of my entries began with “Crepe 3 FRAMS” or “Crepe 3 PRB” depending on the destination and direction of departure for my flight. On this fateful day the flight record was

Crepe 3 D>RZS Fernando Five VNY ILS R16R

While during the past year, I had mastered punching in the departure procedure into the flight plan, I had never flown an arrival procedure yet. The departure procedure was always easier since it was assigned during the departure clearance while still on the ground with ample time to insert it into the flight plan. Crepe 3 was the most frequently used Standard Instrument Departure (SID) at SBP for departing aircraft.

Grace quickly sifted through the stack of instrument charts we had to pull up the Fernando Five Arrival (FIM.FERN5) chart as I tried to keep the aircraft straight and level. Since we were heading to San Marcus VOR (RZS) direct, this would require us to fly the OHIGH transition (OHIGH.FERN5). First the 087-radial outbound from RZS to OHIGH thence Filmore VOR (FIM) radial 267 direct FIM. Then the notes say:

LANDING VAN NUYS RWY 16: Via FIM R-053 to UMBER INT, then via I-VNY localizer. Expect ILS RWY 16R

Watch your altitude. Watch your heading. I kept reiterating to myself. This was serious business. Flying under IFR requires pilots to maintain their altitude within 200ft and heading within 10 degrees. While flying IFR departures and enroute cruise flight seems fairly relaxed, arrival and approach flight is whole lot more complex and complicated. Not only due to the high density air traffic but also because of the step down altitudes to ensure safe descent to the airport environment, the frequent heading changes to orient the aircraft towards the airport, and transition to the approach procedures such as the localizer or instrument landing system (ILS). It was the first time either of us was flying a STAR and the first time flying into Van Nuys (VNY) airport which is considered the busiest General Aviation (GA) airport in the National Airspace System (NAS). Furthermore, it is in the busy LA Basin area. It was nerve racking, but we came out of it unscathed with the ultimate prize of flying the first STAR under our belt. Exhilarating!

That was not the end of the exhilaration. During that very memorable SWS meeting we got to visit Caltech and NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), saw Mars Rover exhibits: Spirit and Opportunity. That year they were the two most popular rovers on everyone’s minds as they had successfully completed their mission in April 2004. Although the original mission was for three months, the life of the rovers continued for much longer. Communication with Spirit ceased in May 2012 after being stuck in a sand trap for two years and couldn’t be rescued. Last year, in February 2019, NASA finally declared the Opportunity mission over after losing contact with it since June 2018.

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Fresh on Fridays: Countdown to OSH#1


Name the Airport Game #16: Where am I?


Every New York Minute Matters! or Jersey Shore

Answer: Monmouth Executive Airport (KBLM)

$500 Vegeburger: Montauk Point


New York’s Easternmost Airport

Sometime during the winter term, I realized, I really needed to have a golden goose at the end of the tunnel, if I were to keep my sanity and survive the semester. Gert and I had talked about flying the Hudson River corridor again some time. “Let’s fly to Montauk Point as well,” he had said. And I was hooked. I have fond memories of driving here eons ago with my sister and even making the trip a couple of years ago when I visited my friend who had relocated to Long Island City from the West Coast.

This was the golden goose I needed!

Although rallying other pilots to join us failed, my copilot Gert and I set off, bright and early, with an ambitious plan to fly the Hudson river corridor and land at Montauk for lunch. It was one of those rare days when my plans were unfolding flawlessly.

Right on cue, a few minutes past 8:00 am  we pointed our nose East flying through the WHINO gate, before turning north-east and flying contentedly at 2,000 ft skirting airspace and making it on time to our first pit stop of the trip.

Arriving at Monmouth Executive (KBLM) by 10:30, we refueled, stretched our legs and were off again by 11:00 am heading towards APPLE intersection and the mouth of the Hudson river. There was some haze and scattered to broken clouds above 7,000 ft. A new addition to the special flight rules area over the Hudson River is the perpetual temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) over Trump Towers from surface to 3,000 ft.

In comfort we headed northbound up to GW bridge and headed back southbound to circle the Statue of Liberty. Other than some helicopters flying scenic flights, it was perfect day to enjoy the New York skyline. After three loops, we headed back to APPLE and circumvented the JFK Class Bravo airspace and headed east tracing the Long Island coastline seeking an occasional clearance from Class Delta airports along our way and in good time landed at Montauk Point by 1:30 pm.

Although we had planned to grab some lunch at Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Cafe, we took the advice of the Airport personnel to visit the Inlet Seafood instead. Located just a half mile away and sitting at the tip of the inlet, it provides some fantastic views and both outdoor and indoor seating, and some excellent seafood alternatives. If you are vegetarian like me try the Cucumber Avacado Sushi and stay clear of the Beetroot and Fresh Greens Salad!

All photographs courtesy of Gert. Heading north from the South, right seat is the best spot for photographs!

See Also:

New York, New York
Flying from the Right Seat
The City that never sleeps
Falling in Love with Fall
Finals are here and all I can think of is my NY trip in April

Best of 2016


Flying season in 2016 didn’t get started till almost March for me. Although I love to fly on January 1st, this was one of the years when I couldn’t. My first fun flyout of the year was a $500 lunch with the Flyout group (FOG) at Williamsburg, VA.

I have been yearning to fly in a foreign country. I finally checked off one item on my bucket list when I flew in Sydney, Australia in April.

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In May, the FOG again made a successful flight to Chester County for lunch. We had a huge turnout on an incredibly fine late Spring day. And in June and July, we flew to collect stamps for the VA Ambassador program: 11 more!

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After years of trying, I finally made it to Niagara Falls! Another bucket list item: Check!

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Weather hasn’t been all that cooperative this fall, but we did fly down to Tangier in October for lunch and stamps. What a beautiful fall day!

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The year is almost wrapping up, and although I didn’t fly to the Bahamas or Oshkosh, it has definitely been a fun year!

Have a Very Happy New Year!

Name the Airport Game #14: Where am I?


Highest commercial airport in North America with scheduled passenger service

Telluride4

Answer: Telluride Regional Airport (KTEX), Telluride, CO.

Another Four Stamps


Monday Morning Inspiration

My flying this year has been limited to a stray, once a month flying. But it has been incredibly rewarding, and more inspirational, than the previous year.

As it happens, it’s almost finals week!

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Although I have flown to Tangier Island at least a couple of times before (See Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Tangier Again), each time I missed getting my VA  stamp. Although Gert and I had comfortably made it to Niagara Falls in August, I still wanted to plan a fall flyout to Tangier, since I obviously have missed getting my stamps the previous times!

It was one of those rare days when we departed right on cue and arrived 30 minutes earlier than planned since Pax River was not too busy to let us cut across their airspace for a direct flight into TGI.

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Lorraine’s was the only restaurant open in October which was great since that is the restaurant I had selected for lunch. After getting our VA Ambassador stamp,  we headed into town for lunch,  just ahead of a group of 10-15 people arriving from Hampton Roads!

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Lunch and a pleasant walk back to the aircraft, we headed out for three more stamps: Hummell, West Point and Tappahannock. Three new airports to fly into, especially Hummel, a good short field practice. With four more stamps, we headed back home right on schedule. It was one of those rare, but incredibly beautiful and fun fall days of flying,  enjoying nature and just the joy of flying for flying’s sake.

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What an inspiring and incredible day!