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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Flying Buddy


Do you have a flying buddy?

Once I got my private pilot license, I initially did a lot of solo flying. It’s fun. But is also quite expensive: if you rent.

rainbow3Eventually you start to think about getting your instrument rating. And I did, after a few months. This meant I flew with a lot of different pilots to complete the necessary cross country time as well as simulated time, using the hood, to enable my safety pilot to record time. And then you realize, you only pay half 🙂

Once you get your instrument rating, it is all about maintaining your instrument currency. With the requirement to have 6 approaches every 6 months, tracking radials, flying holds and other precision flying, you constantly need to have a second pilot on board for a lot of the flying you do.

Believe it or not, it all works out in your favor. Once I started my instrument training and constantly flew with other pilots, my confidence level increased in leaps and bounds.

Out in California, where people fly a lot and the 99s and other pilot groups are extremely active, I had no lacking of flying buddies either within the local 99s chapter, or my flying club. Once I moved east, finding such a support group or a flying buddy was limited.

My flight school did offer ample opportunities for, not only flying to new destinations, but also connecting with other pilots interested in group flyouts. I’ve had my share of flying with brand new pilots and veteran instructor pilots.

last

Fortunately, fellow 99er and flight school member Linda, is often on the lookout for flying opportunities, and interested in flying, so very often, I don’t need to look further. Unless our schedules don’t match.

Do you have a flying buddy?

 

Reunion Flight with M^2


Seems like Old Times

“Cutlas 02B, cleared R29, straight out”

We were off, with familiar sights ahead of us: pristine blue skies, three stacks, Morro Rock and the wide blue ocean.

Straight out, as we departed runway 29 and headed straight for the ocean, following highway 1. Off somewhere to the left, was my home, when I last lived in these parts. It was clear and calm, with unlimited visibility. The sky blended into the ocean and the Cuesta Ridge, Irish Hills, Islay Hills, and Bishop Peak, were all clearly visible. The lack of rains and drought, had rendered the hills brown. Yet, the clear blue skies and turquoise blue Pacific Ocean, provided uninterrupted and unending vistas.

morro

We headed out to the ever familiar Morro Rock, before turning towards North, hugging the coastline. The three stacks clearly visible as was the Morro Rock. We traced the coastline following the Cabrillo Highway past Estero Bay and further north to San Simeon. Circling Hearst Castle is something every pilot did in the Central Coast. Talk about circling about a point!

Hearst1

We headed out further north to Point Pedras, circling the lighthouse, before turning south, keeping the coastline to our left and heading back, looking for seals.  For old times sake, I had opted to shoot the ILS R11 approach in VFR conditions. We headed straight for CREPE intersection, while I attempted to re-familiarize myself with flying an instrument approach procedure without an on board GPS, using ILS and VOR only.

ILS29

Once I got the handle of things, the approach itself was fairly straight-forward. Leveling off a little before HASBY intersection  at 1,200 ft, I circled and set up for downwind 29 with short approach. Landing on R29 brought back fond memories of the innumerable landings I had made here…

R29

I learnt to fly in SLO. The last time I flew with my primary flight instructor Michelle G was back in 2002. The last time I flew with my friend Michelle TG was back in 2005 and the absolute last time I flew here was back in April 2009 when I got my BFR and helped paint the Compass Rose!

slo

m2Good to be back in the air with M^2 in familiar territory.

imageGood to be home!

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Acknowledgements:

Some photographs by Michelle Torres Grant

Tower Tours


I learned to fly in California, at a small GA airport with a control tower. My first tower tour was during my private pilot training. I don’t remember the exact time line, but sometime after I soloed and before my check-ride, I climbed the many steps up to the top with my instructor to meet the local Air Traffic Controllers(ATC) and learn more about what they did, what they saw and what they expected of me as a pilot flying over their airspace. In those days my local tower still operated with little automation. Controllers looked out the windows with powerful binoculars to spot traffic and provide separation in the terminal area.

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Since then, I have made the trip many times with other fellow pilots to learn the changing practices over time. I watched my local control tower upgrade from no automation to increasing automation, availability of radar service, and even the implementation of the Standard Terminal Area Replacement System (STARS) which provided them with latest automation software and computer screens that replaced the old scopes from the 70’s. While the binoculars are not gone and still used as needed, the latest automation provided additional information at their finger tips to not only help them in their jobs but also to better help pilots.

I think interaction with the ATC is such a key aspect of being a pilot. In my time, I have had many opportunities to not only  visit the local control tower, but also interacted with the controllers at a personal level. Controllers seemed really interested in helping pilots understand what was expected of them. As a member of a very active 99s chapter, I have had occasion to organize or attend safety seminars that included ATC. Each year as airport day activities, we volunteered to enable the general public take Tower Tours in small groups. I have had numerous occasions to visit Terminal Radar Control and Center facilities to better understand the kind of support they provided to VFR pilots.

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I almost took it for granted that private pilots visited control tower at their airport with their instructors to better understand the air traffic control aspect of flying. Just as I took it for granted, that an instructor hopped out of the aircraft and went up to the tower, while the student pilot taxied timidly off to conduct his/her solo flights.

So it came to me as a surprise, when I found out recently that instructors don’t necessary visit the tower, even though it exists at the airport. True it is not needed. A handheld radio will suffice. For some reason, I felt a little disappointed.

I have always been curious to see the faces behind the voices, to give a name and a face to the person I was talking to. While one trip might not do the trick, I am happy that after wondering about it, I finally made it up the tower to make some new friends in high places at my local airport.

See also:
Faces behind the voices
Hanger Walk  Anyone?

Randomness


IMG_3516I have been writing articles about my flying adventures or blogs as they are now known as since 2001. My website has transitioned from geocities (remember that free website from yahoo?) to a hosted site on yahoo: flynthings.net to the free google flynthings.blogspot.com and finally to flynthings.wordpress.com.

Over the years, unfortunately I have lost photographs I have posted in older writings. While it was easy to transition my writings from these other sites, transporting my photographs wasn’t as easy. Please bear with me as I work through these older posts and update them.

It is always interesting to see what posts visitors of my site read. For example, very recently, I was surprised and excited to see someone read my blog entry on From Palms to Pines. That adventure occurred almost 8 years ago.  Still a pleasure to read and treasure. Although I am sorry that the photographs no longer exist.

One of these days I hope to track the media where I stored the photographs and re-post them to the appropriate blog. Just as well, that I mean to re-post my exciting photos from my trips to OSH during my earlier visits.

Before I forget, thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you enjoyed your time here!

Guest Post: The Still Small Voice


Women, reputedly, have exhibited, or lay claim to, a greater sense of ESP, clairvoyance or at the least, a heightened sensitivity to situations. This should serve us well when we are measuring our personal limitations, as in what weather we shall fly in.

VFR limits are usually proportional to one’s experience. However, sometimes, they are inverse. For instance, if you, as a new pilot have experienced unforecast three mile visibility, or flown into a haze layer while climbing into the sun, you may have decided that five miles visibility is way worse than you want to fly into, for pleasure and set your limits at 7-8 miles in familiar territory (which is still far worse than what we usually encounter around the San Luis Obispo area on normal days).

It may be that, as a new pilot, you set 10 miles visibility as your limit and found that by planning obvious checkpoints & navigation, whether by visual or radio navigation you operated fine in 6 miles visibility when you were prepared for it. Your limitations just transitioned.

As far as scud-running, picking your way underneath a low overcast in poor visibility-FERGIT IT!

Listen to that still, small voice that is saying to you…”I don’t like the way this feels and I don’t have a specific reason for it!” Discuss it with a CFI or another experienced pilot and verbalize what you are sensing. …..and USE THE TELEPHONE…AWOS, ASOS numbers are appearing with great regularity….call those destination airports and en route airports to back up what your FSS person told you. Learn to be a discerning pilot.

Whatever you do, listen to your inner feelings. If you are going to be uncomfortable, is this pleasure flying? Also, think about the closure rate between airplanes when there is only 5-7 miles visibility.

Wanda Strassburg

Originally appeared in The Slipstream, a monthly newsletter of the SLO99s in 2005  
Posted by permission on Flynthings.net (now defunct) and re-posted here in memory of  an excellent CFI, FAA Examiner and fellow 99.

Hanger Walk Anyone?


Revisiting Old Stomping Grounds…

The Spirit of San Luis was as it always was. Sitting on the outside deck it could have been business as usual: a normal SLO99s meeting or a gathering before the traditional Cookies to the Tower or a Hanger Party of some extraordinary Aviatrix in the Central Coast planning the next big event.

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