As great as it was to fly all over the Los Angeles basin and out into the desert with Adam, yesterday was really the image in my head that brought me down to Santa Monica airport to begin with. I soared over the Malibu coastline, checked in with SoCal and then looked across at Nell. She smiled at me. I looked over my shoulder and saw the boys singing into their voice-activated microphones, listening in their headsets, and each looking out the window on occasion at the landscape sliding below. Rudy had a Calvin and Hobbes book in his lap.
Nell said, “When you are driving around down there it seems so random, but when you get up here and look down it all makes sense.” In ten minutes in the plane she nailed exactly one of the things I struggled with for months to get a handle on, one of the enticing things about being in the air.
We flew from Santa Monica up to Santa Barbara. It was about a fifty-minute flight. We were in N2902S (zero-two-sierra), which is nearly identical to Victor Pappa, which I have flown over sixty hours in. Tiny little things were different, which made me nervous. That meant that I looked over at Nell and said, “Sorry it’s so hot up here, usually it cools off nicely at altitude.” She glanced at me and smiled, “It’s perfectly nice in the airplane. You’re just sweating a lot.”
The push-to-talk button on my yoke failed eight minutes after take off. That was a drag. I swapped intercom places with Nell (by passing her my headphone plugs while she passed me hers.) From then on I spoke on the radio by pressing the button on Nell’s yoke (she wasn’t using it).
The boys certainly liked it more than riding in a car. There were times I looked back and it didn’t seem any different from being in a car, but they looked out here and there and they asked questions over the headsets. Neither one seemed uncomfortable in the plane and they amused one another.
We were meant to have Victor Pappa available at ten o’clock. When we arrived it was not yet back from it’s early morning flight. We waited around for half an hour. Nell went up to the Farmer’s market with Rudy and I went down and got the boys each a flight log so that they could record their flights from now on. The plane still wasn’t back so we decided to take Two Sierra.
It was hazy near Santa Monica (the Santa Ana’s are blowing and pushing a few hundred feet of dirt up into the atmosphere. That meant there wasn’t a great view of Santa Monica, the Palisades or the beginning of Malibu, but it cleared around Point Dume.
Flying over Oxnard it seemed like that would be a good place to have a beach house. It looks like you can walk from the Oxnard airport to the beach.
Santa Barbara approach vectored us inland at the harbor and we followed the 101 to the airport. I lined up nicely for one-five-left and touched down with a slight bump but no bounce. I’ve talked to Nell a lot about landings and she said that bumps don’t bother her. Adam and I will remain much harsher critics of our touch downs than most of our passengers.
I had arranged a cheap-as-possible rental car for our arrival. We taxied to Mercury Air, a service that is at a lot of general aviation airports. They waved us to parking (I felt like I was piloting a much larger plane, follow a guy in a gold cart who was waving a fluorescent baton) and we walked to their little building and out to the rental car.
We drove down to our friend Rodman’s beach house and had lunch with him and his son at a nearby Chinese place. Nell took each of the boys for a nice walk on the beach. We drove the fifteen miles back up to the airport and started home in the late afternoon. It was really a great day for flying. As we headed south we watched the sun set into the Pacific. For a short while we had the grey haze that makes it hard to see the horizon, but I just kept my eye on the artificial horizon.
It had turned into a real night flight as we came in over the Palisades. It was a little clearer over Santa Monica. As we glided over the intersection of the 10 and the 405 it was nothing but brake lights down there. I did a passable landing for my second night landing without an instructor.
It really couldn’t have been better. Flying is a whole other world and being able to bring Nell and the boys along into it is better than I could have hoped.