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 ūüôā

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.


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.


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!


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.


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…


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!


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

imageGood to be home!

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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.


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.


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?


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: to the free google and finally to

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 (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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