Marie Marvingt In March 1915, an injured pilot of the French Aéronautique Militaire was transported to a field hospital behind Verdun, 200km east of Paris. There, one of his nurses learned he had been the only pilot available to fly an important bombing mission. Within days, that nurse would become history’s first female combat pilot. […]Eagle & dove — airscape Magazine
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.
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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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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.
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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.
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!
“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.
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Note: A version of this appeared on Forbes Wheels Up here.
“Memories of my very first flight!”
When Les asked me if I wanted to go flying that weekend, of course I jumped at the chance. Having never been in the air in a small plane, I was excited and exhilarated at the prospect of being airborne.
After all, wasn’t this my dream?
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Celebrating 20 years
Sifting through my logbook, I noticed something I hadn’t realized previously.
The very first entry in my logbook was recorded on 8/19/1998. Under the remarks the instructor had noted “INTRO FLT”. The recorded time was a mere 0.7 hours. Over the next few weeks I flew three more flights for a total of 4.1 hours.
After a hiatus of almost two years, I returned with greater determination for what I consider really my first flight lesson towards my private pilot license (PPL) on, you guessed it, 8/19/2000.
And today happens to be 8/19/2020. Quite a coincidence!
“A first time racer’s personal account”
“You have to go down to 350 feet for the flyby,” I reminded gently. “I am not going any lower“, pat came the response while Grace stayed steady at 400 feet. “We’ll be disqualified if we are not at or below 200 feet for the flyby,” I said a trifle forcefully.
It was a beautiful, pleasant day. The heat wave we were expecting hadn’t caught up with us yet. Earlier in the morning, fog over Santa Monica had cleared rapidly, affording us an early departure on our first leg to Merced. With luggage stowed in baggage compartment, cooler with ample water in the rear seat and neck strap comfortably around our shoulders to keep us cool from the heat, we had set off from Santa Monica with anticipation for the race ahead. This was the first time I was participating in an air race, but for Grace this was old hat, as she had flown the year before.
Skirting past the Van Nuys and Burbank airspace, we sped towards the Gorman Pass. Having scouted the area the previous day, we had no trouble finding the pass. Staying as low as terrain permitted, we raced through the pass and headed towards Merced which was the checkpoint for our first flyby. Once past the Gorman Pass, the terrain flattened out and all that lay ahead were green fields, haze and beckoning skies. The haze layer hung steadfast over the surface washing the fields below with gentle whitish hue. Staying high enough to avoid the airspace below and slightly above the haze layer, we made it to Merced in good time for lunch. The first flyby at Merced called for a pass at 350 feet MSL at full throttle over the adjacent taxiway. Grace finally acceded after realizing that the elevation of the airport was 156 feet and we nudged closer to 350 feet and sped down the taxiway at 110 knots. I could feel the rush inside me as my heartbeat quickened. This was racing indeed!
Continue to read here.