Flying Destinations: Santa Ynez


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.

Photo courtesy Nicole Kraus.

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!

See Also:
Solvang, CA
City of Solvang

Repost: Fall Flying – A Day at the Beach


Ocean City, MD

It was another of those beautiful fall days: sunny and crisp. A day made for flying. It was closer to 11:00 am by the time we departed Manassas airport and set off for Ocean City, MD for our monthly flyout with the DC99s.The plan was to meet close to noon, take a ride into town for some $500 eating fun.

Continue to read here.

Flying Destinations: Santa Barbara


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!

Repost: Williamsburg


My first recollections of this historical place dates back several years ago when I visited Busch Gardens with college friends. That was a memorable trip that will always be fresh in my mind.

It was supposed to be a partly sunny, but a beautiful fall Saturday. But of course when has the weather forecast been accurate? It was overcast at 4000 ft at HEF and there were scattered to overcast skies along the way. Being instrument current I was less worried about that.  My friend, Laith and I, set off for the 99s flyout to Williamsburg (JGG) with anticipation and excitement. With terrain not a factor, we flew in content at 2500 ft. There were dashes of color in the trees sometimes purple, at times orange, rendering the landscape in vibrant hues. The partly cloudy skies, with the sun peeking in between, the rays of sunlight striking the still fresh green earth, the lakes and rivers in startling blue colors all presented the most amazing landscape along the way.

Continue to read here.

Repost: First Solo


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?

Continue to read here.

Ten Year Anniversary


This past weekend marked 10 years since I moved my blog to WordPress back in October 2010. Here is a fun flight from 2010 to commemorate the joy of flying from November 2010. Enjoy!

Island Hopping in the Keys

I had been mentally planning this trip for almost a year. Since last December to be precise. So when the opportunity arose to visit Florida I went prepared: logbook, medical and pilot’s license in hand. The checkout at the local flight school was a breeze. An hour in the air and I was licensed (again) to fly in Florida.

 

It was a little closer to 10 o’clock the next day, when my friends and I set off. I had reviewed the route with my instructor the previous day. My instructor had indicated the previous day that the coastline clearance to transit Fort Lauderdale International Airport (KFLL) was usually at 500 ft. As expected, we departed straight out on runway eight out of Fort Lauderdale Executive (KFXE) and headed straight for the coast. I leveled off below a 1000ft. Once at the coast and cleared to transit the KFLL Class Charlie airspace we headed southwest at 500 ft.

The Class Bravo airspace of Miami airspace adjoins the Class Charlie airspace of Fort Lauderdale. With scattered clouds hovering above 2000 ft, flying around 1000 feet fortunately kept us out of the Class Bravo airspace and provided enough clearance from the clouds. We traced the coastline all the way to Homestead Air Force Base then followed highway 1 past North Key Largo, Key Largo, Isla Morada, Indian Key, Duck Key and Marathon Key. Tracing the highway all the way to Key West was the safest route for a single engine airplane.

Continue to read here.

Repost: SLO the Simple Joy of Flying


My first glimpse was from the observation lounge of the Pacific super liner as it winded around the curve past the California Men’s Colony into the city of San Luis Obispo. Nestled in the valley approximately midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, away from the maddening crowd yet within easy distance, San Luis Obispo or SLO as the locals fondly call it, is a small campus town of 40000 plus inhabitants mostly students, and staff of the nearby CalPoly (California Polytechnic State University) and retirees.

Founded in 1772, it is one of California’s oldest colonies. Famous for its Mission San Luis and Thursday night Farmer’s Market. Where Jamba Juice, was first established as the Juice Club and aviation legend Burt Rutan went to college.  Home of the eccentric Madonna Inn established by Alex Madonna, I Madonnari Italian street painting festival (usually hosted in September) and Bubble Gum Alley.

To me it is and will always be Home Sweet Home!

 

San Luis Obispo airport (SBP) offers convenient access to residents and visitors to/from the central coast to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Phoenix. It is also a full service general aviation airport with several FBO on the field. If flying in from northern or southern California the coastal route is the most scenic. Flying south from the Monterrey coast affords spectacular views of the Big Sur coast, Hearst Castle and Moro Rock. Approaching from the south along the Santa Barbara coastline be aware of the restricted areas surrounding the Vandenberg Air Force Base and the flight restrictions over the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

The Spirit of San Luis on the field provides excellent cuisine options for that $100 hamburger. General aviation pilots can park right outside the restaurant near the base of the control tower. Outside as well as inside seating provides marvelous views of arriving and departing aircraft. If you like me fancy rating landings, take an outside seat! For the more adventurous, ride into town for an array of dining choices in downtown SLO.

Drive 40 miles north along the pacific coast freeway to tour the famous Hearst Castle in San Simeon, designed by architect Julia Morgan for the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Morro Bay, just 10 miles north of SLO provides spectacular views of the setting sun. Take a tour of the Morro Bay Aquarium and dine at one of the many seafood places. Or drive south to Avila Bay or Pismo Beach for an afternoon on the beach. The multitude of activities listed in my previous blog on Oceano Airport, are all possible from SLO.

“We’re going to stall the and not recover” said my instructor Kurt.
“Okay” said I. Is this for real? I wondered but didn’t say.
“Instead we are going to stop it from tipping over by applying opposite rudder, are you ready?”

I must confess, I was never comfortable with learning stalls, is one ever? But I was willing to try. We were up in the air in a Citabria for my first tail wheel lesson over the gorgeous California coastline, a few miles southwest of SBP. Down below, I could see scores of people enjoying another beautiful day in the central coast: sun bathing, surfing, wind surfing, boating, ATV riding, horseback riding, running or simply sitting back with their favorite book.

Soon with throttle eased back, and nose pitched high we were poised for a stall. No stall warning in this aircraft… hope I can recognize when it stalls! Before long, I could feel the mushiness and impending stall. Stalls in a Citabria compared to a Cessna 172 are feather-like, gentle, and almost non-existent. “Right rudder” shouted my instructor. And we were off dancing with the rudder pedals. First right, then left, preventing the aircraft from tipping over.

This was way too much fun! I could really start to like this stuff.

This appears on Forbes Wheels Up Blog.

Just like that – To Hearst and Back


After I got my PPL, there were many a time when I would show up at the airport for a quick flight early in the morning before heading out to work or in the evening for a sunset flight. Living in a small campus town, close to the airport made this sort of thing easy.

Just an hour or so, flying along the coast, first heading west, then turning north, swinging around the Morro Rock, peering at the waves, the beach goers, the surfers and the rising or setting sun, following the coast up north towards the Hearst Castle.

Looping around Hearst Castle. Swinging by Piedras Blancas, before heading back south. Through San Simeon Bay, back over Morro Beach, and continuing south to Avila Beach, Pismo Beach and Oceano before heading back home.

What a fantastic flight, just like that!

Repost: Avalon Airport in the Sky


“A Mediterranean resort off the coast of Southern California”

Now that my Instrument training was finally over, I was ready for new adventures. The past few months had been hectic and nerve racking. Instrument training is very demanding and I am glad that, it is finally behind me. Browsing through “Fun places to fly in California” I thought I may as well start with the first airport listed there, which happened to be Avalon. I have wanted to fly to Avalon for sometime now. I had been under the misapprehension that I needed some kind of checkout prior to attempting to fly there. As it turned out, the flying club I rented from had no such restriction.

So it happened, that my friend Michelle and I set out from SBP airport one fine September morning. Low clouds and fog had laced the morning skies over SBP rendering the airspace IFR but this was not a cause of concern for me. The weather south was already clear all the way to Catalina island. By the time we set out at 10 am though, the fog had already lifted denying me an opportunity to depart in actual IFR. The skies were clear, which meant another perfect day for flying. The plan was to shoot my first GPS approach at Avalon in the 2004 C-172 I was flying, which contained MFD, autopilot and all the latest shebang. It was only the second time I was flying the aircraft and I had never flown a GPS approach before, but Michelle was there to help me through.

Continue to read here.

Note: A version of this appeared on Forbes Wheels Up here.