Goodbye Lakeland… till we meet again!
“Aircraft arriving over Lake Parker, expect holding until 7:15 pm over Lake Parker,” was what we heard on the radio a few minutes after our planned group departure from Leesburg International Airport (KLEE) in Leesburg, Florida.
Four aircraft from the Mid-Atlantic had made it easily, albeit, at different times to our chosen airport of rendezvous. Considering the aircraft in play: a Columbia 400, a twin Baron, a Cessna 182 and a Cessna 172, we definitely needed a rally point to meet, prepare, and plan a departure to Sun ‘n Fun (SNF).
According to our original plan, we had all congregated at KLEE, briefed the arrival procedures and departed on cue around 6:00pm. The plan was to arrive at Lakeland Airport around 6:30pm for a group arrival.
Being the slowest aircraft of all, a Cessna 172, we had departed last. Hearing the SNF radio communications, Linda and I, pondered our options…
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It was one of those days when nothing was working in my favor. Have you experienced one of those days when you feel more like a spectator and things appear beyond your control? When you want to protest or butt in and say that is not what I want to do or how I want to do it? Or realize just a tad bit late that was the wrong thing to do? I was determined to not let the day’s somberness pull me down. After all every cloud has a silver lining.
So when Mike offered the greatest show in the world, I jumped at the chance to ride right seat in the Baron down the Hudson river corridor southbound past the Alpine Tower, GW Bridge, Intrepid, The Clock, Circle the Statue of Liberty, VZ bridge, and back home to DC at night. New York city was resplendent as always with lights turned on all over the city. The Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building stood majestic as always lit up to brighten anyone’s day. If seeing New York from 1100ft during the day was awe inspiring, seeing it in all its glory at night left us breathless. It was one of the coldest days of the season, but the air was clear and crisp in the night sky. With very light traffic flying the corridor that time of the night, we flew in complete contentment enjoying the splendor of the New York skyline at night.
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A trip down memory lane
It was a cold winter day- sunny, but cold. The preflight briefer warned that it was going to be clear, but cold, with headwinds all the way up the Sacramento Valley. Lower is better he reiterated. Decision time was nearing. Go or no go? It has been so long since I had flown alone, I racked my brain to remember when last I had flown solo. Since getting my instrument rating, I have always had another pilot along, so I could fly an approach and stay instrument current. This flight though had to be done solo.
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Okay I agree I am way behind on the bandwagon… But I have not been flying as often as I would like to, the last year or two.
After my visit to California last time (see Hanger Walk Anyone?), I came away excited and enthusiastic to invest in a new iPad and ForeFlight for iPad. But the iPad I had was wifi only and so all I used it for was pre-flight planning for almost a year.
I saw Stratus in action a few months ago on a $500 hamburger run with fellow 99s and friends Pat and Linda. We dodged clouds and traversed the VFR corridor through the DC SFRA. Wow! I thought, I need to get me one of those!
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Flying the Hudson River Corridor Exclusion
“First will be xxxx aircraft, then John in xxxx will follow on and next will be…” continued Bob from our flight school, who had planned the whole flyout to the last minute detail.
I wondered how in the world we were going to keep the order straight leave alone spot the aircraft in front of us. Countless times ATC gives traffic warnings routinely. Only on a rare occasion am I ever able to spot the traffic. Often, I rely on ATC to tell me that I was clear of the traffic or to provide me deviations to avoid the traffic.
Maybe it will all work out, I thought.
Being on a C172 and in no hurry to exit the Hudson river corridor, I and my passengers opted to fly second last.
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Ten years ago…
It’s funny how the mind plays tricks. Two days prior to our monthly dc99s flyout to Bay Bridge (W29) Airport, I found out that the aircraft I had reserved had one NAV/COMM inoperable. Since I intended to fly in VMC anyway and my destination was a mere 100 nm miles away, I said not a problem. This close to the flyout date I would be hard pressed to find a replacement aircraft considering the gorgeous weather forecast for the weekend. Moreover, I had been preparing the aircraft to be only partially loaded to enable extra passenger weight.
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Day in Solvang
When I think of Santa Ynez (IZA), the first thing that comes to mind is the Chumash Casino. The advertisements on TV were so frequently aired that one couldn’t think about Santa Ynez without thinking about the Chumash Casino. But back in 2001 though, the casino was non-existent, so Solvang was foremost in mind when thinking about Santa Ynez.
Roughly a month after I got my PPL, I planned my first cross country as a pilot: to none other than Santa Ynez. A short flight, not quite 50nm, one I could easy trace following Highway 101 without getting lost. If you can imagine flying in a C152 with single nav/com, no GPS onboard or hand held, no smart phone, and a newly minted pilot, you will understand how important it was not to get lost 😊.
Although I had been doing some flying locally, it was time to spread my wings farther to new airports in search of new adventures. The plan was simple: fly to IZA and spend the day in Solvang. Just barely five miles from IZA, Solvang is a Danish village located in Santa Ynez Valley. Founded in 1911 by a group of Danes, it is home to bakeries, restaurants, and merchants offering a taste of Denmark. Many of the buildings reflect Danish architecture. But even before the Danish arrived, Santa Ynez Valley was originally inhabited by the Chumash, an ingenious and industrious people. Mission Santa Ines served as a gateway for the Chumash Indians.
As I made my plans, my only thought was to get there safely. I forgot totally to plan for the other logistics on getting to/from Solvang or even the return flight. One goal at a time, right?
The inbound flight to IZA went without hitch. After all, I was used to driving up and down the coast of CA on 101 so often, that flying a couple of thousand feet and following it seemed a piece of cake. Goal 1 achieved. As it happened I needn’t have worried about the rest. Checking in at the FBO, I ran into a pilot and when he heard my plan was to head out to Solvang, offered me a ride since he was headed that way anyway!
There is a lot to do in Solvang. Wander the avenues, shopping nooks, and walkways, or rent bikes to ride along the streets. Checkout the Santa Inez Mission, Hans Christian Anderson Museum, replica of the Round Tower from Copenhagen, windmills, Danish architecture and so much more. Relish the traditional Danish treats and gourmet food at sidewalk cafes and restaurants.
After a fun filled day, I took a cab ride back to the airport and flew back home with the experience of my first solo cross-country flight as a PPL under my belt and a boost in confidence to plan more adventures!
A Day at the Beach
My first cross country flight training flight was to Santa Barbara airport (SBA). Although it was typical during flight training to fly to near by airports such as Santa Maria, Oceano and Paso Robles for practice, neither of those were considered sufficient to log cross country flight time. In order to satisfy the requirements for cross country flight for PPL, the distance between origin and destination has to be at least 50nm.
A few days after my solo check-off and some practice solo flights, my instructor deemed I was ready to master pilotage and cross country flying. SBA is a fairly busy airport with three runways, control tower with radar coverage, and approach/departure control. My recollection of the actual flight is vague. I do remember that it was rather hectic keeping up with the aviating, navigation and communicating required to transition into a much busier airspace and airport. I was also a tiny bit disappointed that we did not stay to explore the area or even get some lunch. I was excited and exhausted by the time we returned. This particular day was memorable not only because of the excitement of having my first dual cross country flight under my belt, but also because that evening I had the opportunity to attend the first SLO99s banquet.
SBA is a fun airport to fly into. Located along the California coast, Santa Barbara is a quaint city flanked by the Santa Ynez mountains that provide a dramatic backdrop, and the Pacific ocean. With a Mediterranean climate it is considered to be the American Riviera. It’s historic downtown is filled with white stucco buildings with red tiled roofs, with Mission Santa Barbara on a nearby hill reflecting its Spanish heritage, and upscale boutiques and restaurants. Santa Barbara is also home of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
A few months after I got my PPL, I did return to SBA for some lunch and a day at the beach. While there are several amenities in the airport terminal building, tie down the aircraft and take the short trail that leads to Goleta beach where there are picnic tables, cafes, fishing pier, paddle sports, and other amenities. Pack a picnic basket or try a cafe for that coveted vege or hamburger. And don’t forget to pack your beach towel and sunscreen!
Two decades ago
Lights. Camera. Action!
That’s how I always remembered it.
Strobes. Transponder. Throttle.
No pounding heart, sweaty palms or shaky legs as I raced down the runway, applying a little right rudder to maintain center line, eyes glued to the airspeed indicator.
At least not yet.
Airspeed indicator needle gradually turned, as the airplane gained speed. 40, 50, and finally 60 Knots. Gently ease back the yoke and lift-off. I was airborne.
Oh my God! It finally sank in. I was all alone in the cockpit having just performed a take-off, for my very first solo flight. I still had to land this aircraft all by myself. Would I remember all that my instructor had drilled into me?
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