Mentoring young women through discovery flights
March is Women in history month and also Women of Aviation month. Back in CA, my 99s chapter hosted many discovery flights for high school girls. Here is one of my mentees, who got to fly with my friend and CFI and discovered the joy of flying!
The Making of a Compass Rose
Santa Monica Airport (SMO), is a neat little airport in the LA Basin: a stone’s throw away from the city, and a perfect getaway for GA travel. With two restaurants on the field: Typhoon and Spit Fire Grill, it is an excellent $500 Vegeburger flyin. That sunny day, several years ago, the SLO99s had flown into SMO for some lunch and hanger flying with friends at Typhoon restaurant. The weather was perfect: sunny and smooth. The trip south easy, once we cleared the low fog and clouds at our origin airport. A piece of cake, with our newly acquired instrument ratings. We met up with friends for some lunch and hanger flying. Believe it or not, this is very important to the community. Not only do we GA pilots meet to hanger fly and eat. Many a time it is a venue to help us train and build our strength. Many GA pilots learn to fly to GA airports with restaurants to strengthen their skills. Many GA pilots hone on their navigational capabilities by flying to nearby airports. Once confident, many GA pilots volunteer for such events as Pilots and Paws, Angel Flight, Flying Samaritans and more.
Since, moving east, I have come to realize how vital small GA airports with restaurants are to the community. California was incredible on this count. General Aviation Airports are vital conduits for transportation and the community. They serve the community in many different ways: fire fighting, rescue operations, medical emergencies, Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and more. Even more so, local organizations such as AOPA, EAA and local 99s and other pilot’s organizations organize such events as Young Eagles, Scholarships, Mentoring, Aviation, Airshows, Flyins, and Aviation Awareness events among the community.
Santa Monica airport sits smack in the LA Basin, a mere 9.9nm from LAX. The airspace is congested with many regional and GA airports. For years, Santa Monica has been on the cross-hair. Just as many other GA airports have been from time to time. During my time in California, I have helped support airport activities to prevent closure. Oxnard airport for a few years ran the Save Oxnard Airport flyin to promote more airport operations and to prevent closure. Then, there was a time, when Oceano Airport was on the cross-hair and continues to do so. Only strong GA activity by dedicated pilots has prevented this beautiful slice in the paradise from being converted to some developer monstrosity.
In August 2005, SMO airport implemented landing fees. This landing fee saw an increase in 2013, and a sharp drop in piston aircraft activity. The surest way to kill GA, is to impose an increase landing fees. SMO is on the cross hairs again, this election season. People forget that much more than recreational flying happens at small GA airports. GA pilots support many community events. GA pilots volunteer cheerfully than most to many activities: Pilots n Paws, Angel Flight, CAP, Flying Samaritans and more. GA airports are vital for reasons unrecognized: many GA pilots I know volunteer. If we shut down these GA airports, we are losing more than we realize.
So, if you live in SoCal, think before you vote this year. You might be losing your next transport for yourself, your pet or more.
Save Santa Monica Airport.
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.
Eventually 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.
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?
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!
Some photographs by Michelle Torres Grant
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.
I 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!
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.
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.