Flying in the 2000s

“The year 2000 marked not just a new decade but also a new century. The previous century saw the birth of powered, heavier-than-air flight and the amazing development of this world-changing technology. The 20th Century also saw the horrors of two world wars, the Great Depression, the tension of a cold war, the Civil Rights movement, the space race, the spread of democracy, the rise of the internet, and significant advancement for women.

It is unlikely the first decade of the 21st Century will be considered any type of Golden Age. September 11th, 2001 — more simply known as “9/11″ — was a day of tragedy, keenly felt by all of us for whom flying is an integral part of our lives”

Quoted from the April 2017 Aviatrix Aerogram


Flying was lighthearted, fun and innocent until 9/11. That changed everything. Not immediately, but in the months and years following that tragic event. Living in California the impact was not as strong, but still prevalent.  I am more cautious of what I say and how I behave in the wake of 9/11.

Although I flew three or four times back in 1998, my first official flying lesson was in August 2000 and I got my private pilot certificate in May 2001, and Instrument rating in May 2004. Although I started my first round of Commercial flight training in fall 2006, I am yet to complete it.

I had a terrific support group with members from my local 99s chapter (SLO99s). Several of us learnt to fly at the same time. We did cross-country flights together, interacted with controllers and other pilots to organize events: we sponsored discovery flights, mentored high school girls, supported airport day events such as Tower Tours, organized safety seminars, and sponsored scholarships.

Fun Flyouts from the 2000s

  • Flew the legendary Palms to Pines Air race from Santa Monica, California, to Bend, Oregon, and back. What a fantastic trip!
  • Flew into Edwards Air Force Base, organized by the San Fernando Valley 99s.
  • Flew to Lancaster Airport for the Southwest Section (SWS) Meeting, visiting NASA Dryden and Scaled Composites and surreptitiously touching SpaceShipOne before its historic first flight into space and history.
  • Flew to Catalina Island. What fun we had landing at this airport!
  • Flew my first foray into the clouds after getting my instrument rating to Watsonville for lunch with the SLO99s.
  • Flew to Columbia for another memorable SWS meeting, camped under the aircraft, and got a chance to fly a Taylorcraft.
  • Flew to Van Nuys under instrument flight rules and flew my first standard terminal arrival route (STAR) after getting my Instrument rating, making it to another fantastic SWS Meeting. Visited Jet Propulsion Lab.
  • Flew the San Francisco Bay tour several times with friends and family members.
DCF 1.0

Note: A version of this appears in the April 2017 Aviatrix Aerogram

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!


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


Good to be home!


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!

Half Moon Bay

Quaint fishing village. Art Galleries. Shops. and so much more.

Even the name sounds quaint… like a town out of a story book!

Half Moon Bay (HAF) is a delightful town in the North Coast of California. Less than 30nm by car from the San Francisco, it is easily accessible by car or airplane. More fun by the later.

Pacific Coast Freeway or Cabrillo Freeway as it is known in these parts meanders as it winds its way south through Monterrey, Carmel and the Big Sur Coast, continuing south through beautiful Central Coast, San Simeon, Cambria, Morro Beach, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and further south to San Diego and beyond. It is the most driven road out west for it’s pristine beauty. Most tourists stop over on their way south at the famous Lone Pine Tree golf course and the town of Carmel as they make their way south along the scenic Pacific Coast. Art Galleries abound. Quaint local restaurants and shops grace the streets.


Half Moon Bay (HAF) is one of the most frequented airports for it’s pristine location along the CA coastline. Be it a $100 hamburger run, annual whale watching fun  or part of the scenic SFO Bay tour. Paralleling the coast, HAF is a delightful airport to land in. Park and walk over to the town of Princeton by the sea. Don’t be surprised if you run into streets such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Stanford and more.


Flying here is always fun. I have flown here many times — be it to take  my sister to lunch with the SCV99s for the annual whale watching fun in January  or meeting fellow SLO99s from the central coast  for lunch. Although there are many alternatives, Mezza Luna comes to mind as a wonderful $500 vegeburger place!

If you haven’t done it, make it there… it is a must do airport!

Tangier Again

Hotel booked. Passport in hand. We were all excited about our upcoming fall trip to Niagara Falls. We had strategically planned this for the 3rd weekend in October to see the full splendor of fall colors as we journeyed north to fly over one of the natural wonders of the world and then visit them up close and personal both from the US and Canadian side.

Seven days prior to our flight the forecast called for clear skies and 50’s at Niagara Falls. Slightly warmer but ditto in the mid-Atlantic region. Exciting! Maybe this year we would get lucky and actually make this trip.

Three days prior to the flight the forecast called for partly cloudy and 20% chance of rain and still 50’s at Niagara Falls. Not so exciting but still things could change. There were still 3 days to go.

Two days prior to the flight the forecast was still the same but chance of rain was up another notch at 30%. This was not looking good. Hotel reservation cancelled. Maybe best to put the passport away.

One day prior to the flight forecast was 40% chance of rain, windy and still 50’s. Then by the hour chance of rain dramatically kept increasing: 50%, then 60%, 70% and on the day 80%. The low temperatures also meant freezing levels were going to be low. The winds meant moderate turbulence. So both Airmet Sierra and Tango would be in place.

In the mid-Atlantic though it was going to be a glorious fall day: 60’s and sunny. Tangier called for 70’s and abundant sunshine. Niagara will have to be another time. Tangier here we come for some crab cakes and veg cakes!

Four aircraft set off from four different airports and converged on Tangier. It was a little hazy but a picture perfect day to be up in the air. Nary a bump. Not a TFR in place along the route of flight as Linda and I flew blissfully south VOR to VOR, an hour later than planned (I don’t think I remember a time when I took off on schedule!). This time the aircraft was just back from 100 hour inspection and the GPS was being checked and updated.

The runway at Tangier can be intimidating: 2427 ft x 75 ft. I remembered my previous flights there when I had to do a go -around the first time before landing safely during my second attempt. This time I was well prepared, slowing the aircraft down and giving myself enough room to execute a stabilized approach on final. For good measure Linda reminded me that the TPA (traffic pattern altitude) was only 600ft at TGI. I touched down softly with plenty of room and gently applied the breaks.


The nose wheel shimmied and continued to shimmy excessively. Luckily having experienced this before I knew I had to pull the yoke back. But it continued to shimmy and the plane kept moving forward. We were going to run out of runway here soon. Finally it required both both Linda and me yanking the yoke full back to get the shimmying to stop.

Turns out most of Tangier shuts down in October in preparation for the upcoming winter and only Lorraine’s is open for business all year round. So it wasn’t hard for Linda and I to track down the others. Maryland is famous for it’s seafood,  especially crab. So it wasn’t surprising that everyone ordered crab cakes except Linda and me. Linda was not a big fan of crab meat and I of course ordered the only vegetarian item on the menu: Fresh garden  salad with a side of the potato wedges.

After lunch, we took the traditional leisurely tour of the island on a golf cart.  Our tour guide rattled off  historical  anecdotes and antidotes (as Debi calls them). It was fun and informative.  With a population of only 500 people, with one police officer, mainland a stone’s throw away by boat or aircraft, with few visitors this time of the year, Tangier is an idyllic getaway.  One where you could disappear without being found, all of us agreed.

The return was uneventful. Except for the periodic beeping on 121.5 and one or two broadcasts. And the final shimmy of the nose wheel on landing on return. This time Linda and I were better prepared.

Why does a nose wheel shimmy?

Turns out nose wheel shimmy is quite common on single engine Cessna. It can happen either with a problem with the nose strut assembly, the tire, the shimmy dampener or a combination of the three.  The best way to reduce or eliminate nose wheel shimmy is to keep the nose wheel in the air as long as possible when landing. Ultimately best to spend the extra $$$ to get it fixed to have a piece of mind when you ace your next landing!

See Also:
An Evening in Tangier
Planes, Trains, Automobiles

Gettysburg: History & Lunch

“Four score and seven years ago
our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation,
conceived in liberty,
and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…”
— from the Gettysburg Address
by US President Abraham Lincoln (Nov 19, 1863)

The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the American Civil War. Confederate army led by General Robert E. Lee was defeated by the Union army led by Maj. General George Mead ending Lee’s invasion of the North. The battle fought over 3 days between July 1-3, 1863 had the most casualties of the American Civil War.  The famous Gettysburg Address was given by the then US President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA. History abounds here.

It was almost an hour later than planned that Darya and I set off from Leesburg for a short hop to Gettysburg for our monthly flyout with the dc99s. Different aircraft. Different airport than originally planned. At the rate this year has been shaping up, this almost seems the norm. But nothing about flying is business as usual. Even on a fine, sunny day. Sponge stuck in the elevator hinge blocking the hole. Keep or remove? Maybe give Darya some practice for some wingwalking if the elevator gets stuck? After some deliberation, out it came; fuel topped off; oil added; doors closed and tight, we set off for W05 mindful of the Prohibited Area P-40 and Restricted Area R-4009 surrounding Camp David.

Where was the airport? According to the GPS we were less than 3 nm miles away and neither of us had identified the airport yet. We knew it was at our 12 o’clock since the GPS clearly indicated we were heading directly towards it! In the nick of time we located the airport, did some quick maneuvering to get re-oriented, and landed without incident.

As has been the norm on most occasions, three aircraft departed from three different airports and convened at W05 for the monthly DC99s $500 ham(vege) burger flyout. The plan was to get lunch at Herr Tavern and get a ride in the blue trolley into town to checkout the battlefield and other historic sights.

A short walk along the Route  30 highway (about 7/10 miles) led us to the Sharpshooter Grill adjacent to Herr Tavern, where Debbie, Norm and Rani were already enjoying a sumptuous meal having arrived an hour earlier.

We should have expected it I suppose, but it wasn’t until we were ready to head to downtown did we realize that the blue trolley only operates during the week! After a half an hour wait, we finally negotiated a ride into town in the only available shuttle service paying $25 each way.

Gettysburg is a quaint little town. The whole town is supposed to be the battlefield, although there is the specific designated Gettysburg National Battlefield and the Gettysburg National Military Park. Shops line the streets of downtown Gettysburg, with historic landmarks such as the location of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, museums and other historical buildings still standing 160 yrs later.

After walking through historic Gettysburg downtown; visiting the free Gettysburg museum filled with artifacts ranging from bullets from the American Civil War, to JFK boxers, even Elivis’ memorabilia, Eva Brauns’ attire and many more; it was time for cupcakes and the ride back to the airport and the end of another perfect day of glorious flying, camaraderie and hanger flying.

Gettysburg airport (W05) is tricky to locate. Has very little transient parking. No fuel and no public transportation to town during the weekend.  No cab service is available in Gettysburg at all. Period. Yet if planned well is a great flyin destination. What better way than to spend a day or two visiting the rich history of the American Civil War? Fourth of July weekend is the ultimate weekend to visit this historical place. Note to self: next time call Enterprise ahead!

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Some photographs courtesy Rani Spivey and Darya Pilram

CGE Finally!

We almost didn’t make it this time too.

I tried twisting the key in the ignition one more time. All we could hear was a clicking sound and the propeller refused to budge. “It might need a jump start, likely the battery is dead,”  said Ed from the flight school. A quick jumpstart later, Linda and I proceeded with the pre-flight.

“Avionics On”.  The MFD flashed and died. I could hear sputtering and noises which sounded like electrical shorts and the alternator CB re-setted. The noises were unsettling and I turned off the engine.

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Williamsburg (JGG)

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.

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Miles of Runway

When I heard that the San Fernando Valley 99s were planning a flyin to Edwards Air Force Base, I jumped at the marvelous opportunity to land on the base at one of the longest runways. Anne and I signed up promptly and waited impatiently for the day to arrive. With paper work done and explicit instructions on what to do and not do on the day at hand we were ready to fly!

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