Many Buffalo

Happy Hiking Couple

Happy Hiking Couple

But not enough of them seen.

Here are Rudy and Helen out on Catalina, just before we started the usual 2.2 mile Airport Loop hike around the airport.

It feels like we haven’t spotted the buffalo in a while. This was the fifty-ninth time I have been to the Airport in the Sky, although that’s probably under-reporting by a couple. That was the number fastest and easiest to grab out of my logbook.

Usual Loop

Usual Loop

The hike was a little slower than usual, but it was so beautiful that it was nice to see more of the landscape in detail. If you click the map you’ll get all the fine print on the hike over at RunKeeper. I think the buffalo are missing because of the drought.

I asked the manager of the airport once if he enjoyed the job and he said the only thing he didn’t like was having to chase the buffalo off the runway with a tractor. They get stubborn and go past the cattle grates and need to be forced back to their pastures.

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Seven Years Back

A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods

I used to have half a dozen photographs of this crash. The fellow who sold me our plane sent them to me. He knows I am always thinking about walking away from a forced landing. This one was just so close to my nightmare scenario, with a dream outcome, that I would open the photos and look at them every now and then, especially when we were headed out for a longer trip. I am not sure what I did with them, all I can think is that I decided I was looking at them too often and I deleted them. Continue reading

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Never Bent

I’m pretty sure when I mention to people that I fly a small plane the first thing they think of is a small plane crashing. That’s when the little planes make the news, so that’s probably what is in their memory. Of course, I think about it pretty often, as well.

The thought of crashing is overwhelmed by all of my memories of amazing trips across the country with the entire family on board, all the first flights friends and family have taken in the plane, all of the long, interesting flights I have flown on my own, and the very important flights with instructors. When my mind drifts to thoughts of our little plane three quick images parade past: the view past Nell as the wheels lift from the concrete and we rise over our little beach town and I can see from the ridges of the Santa Monica mountains to the curve of the Santa Monica bay; the perspective from my seat down past the wing to our airport and Venice as they slide beneath the leading edge and we head south over LAX; and the boys, usually lost in their own worlds already, looking either way out their own windows and listening to their podcasts or dubstep. Continue reading

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Staying Out of the Way

I have flown in and out of San Diego’s Lindbergh Field dozens of times now. I first landed there for Rudy’s first visit to ComicCon and since then we have discovered The Old Globe Theater and seen a bunch of Shakespeare and a bunch of other stage productions. We park at the only available FBO, Landmark and they will often run us up the hill in their shuttle van. Most of what we want to do is in Balboa Park. Continue reading

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Paper or Plastic

On of my favorite aviation bloggers, Aviatrix over at Cockpit Conversation, had a bunch of questions about changing over to an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) and how the iPad might compare to paper maps. As I was reading her entry I started thinking of a comment or two to post, but the more I read, the more I realized it would be too long for a comment. Here are my answers to her very astute questions. Continue reading

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Pilot Window

It’s amazing how happy this little piece of metal makes me.

A lot of small airplanes have these little windows. They leet you put your fingers into the wind stream without filling the cabin with noise. They let you call out “Clear prop!” right before you hit the starter. If you are sitting on the tarmac waiting to take off on a hot day you can open this little vent window and cup your hand to direct some cooler air into the cabin.

A pilot is sad without this little window.

Continue reading

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A Better Approach

I’ve flown sixteen hundred hours in the airplane and I’m still learning. 

On Tuesday, July 1,  Nell spoke at the Great Books Summer Program up on the Stanford campus. It’s the perfect trip in the plane, two hours twenty minutes up and we landed right at the Palo Alto airport. It’s so cute, a real throwback to another era. As a bonus we flew over Moffett field on the way in, and the blimp hangars are huge. One of them is stripped to just the steel structure, so beautiful to see. (The hangar was going to be demolished, but the Google boys stepped up and said they would pay for the renovations to the skin.)

The weather was clear on the way up, although we dodged some clouds on takeoff. The forecast was for everything to remain clear, but on our way home it looked like Santa Monica had the marine layer roll over it and the very slight four knot breeze wasn’t helping clear it back off. As we turned inland over the Oxnard airport and the Camarillo VOR SoCal’s approach controller gave us a clearance direct to DARTS and said we would be cleared for the approach. (This is the first time I have come in from the north and gotten a clearance direct to DARTS. Usually the clearance includes flying over the Van Nuys VOR and along victor airway 186 to DARTS. So already I was a little off kilter.) Continue reading

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Up the Coast and Back

It seems unlikely that we will make our usual jaunt from coast-to-coast this summer. Rudy starts college on August 20th, Dexter is booked solid for the entire summer up until a Shakespeare performance on August 9th, and we are here in Los Angeles for a wedding the following weekend. So we’re pretty pinned down.

I’m going to count our trip up the west coast as our summer family flight. I’m hopeful that in August we’ll get up to at least the Bay area, or maybe even Lake Tahoe, but for now this one will have to do. 

For Rudy’s college tour we flew much of this same route, stopped overnight to look at Berkley (too big) and stretching as far north as Wala Wala, Washington for Whitman college (too small) while also stopping in Portland to look at Reed (just right!).  Continue reading

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Where the Buffalo Roam

The great thing about flying little planes is that you never know which flight is going to be an adventure. It could just be a milk run, or it could turn into the time you saw the most gorgeous sunset of your life as you flew past the largest wildfire you’ve ever seen, complete with fire service planes dropping fire retardant on the conflagration.

You never know. Continue reading

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Why Engines Fail

As mentioned in many other posts, I fly along waiting for my engine to fail. That was an integral part of my training: always have an emergency landing location picked out. The whole way from airport to airport. (And, subsequently, I plan my routes to fly over enough airports that there is a real runway within gliding distance most of the time.)

I felt much better after being up at the Lake one summer and watching Rudy running a little ten horsepower outboard motor that my brother got started after it had sat inactive for nearly twenty years. The thing (very similar technology to the tractor engine in the front of my plane) just hummed along.  Continue reading

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