Airports That Scare Me

There are a few places I want to fly into but so far have not for one fear or another:

  • Big Bear – tales of high winds over the mountain pass to get into the Lake Arrowhead area have put me off flying into here. Oh, and in the summer density altitude is scary, and in the winter I worry about ice and snow on the runway.
  • Sedona – it’s very busy, it’s uncontrolled, and usually you land in the opposite direction to the take off. I think I have this image of me on final with another guy playing chicken towards me. Oh, and of course it’s a carrier landing, downdrafts and all that.
  • Santa Ynez – mostly this is due to tales of crazy antics, mass disregard to the procedures for getting in and out of an uncontrolled field, just sounds crazy dangerous.

I’ll get to them some point, and perhaps Big Bear for my birthday later this year, but they definitely stand out.

Deciding To Fly or Not to Fly

Friday lunchtime my wife needs to be here in San Diego to take me to a minor surgical procedure and then back home to Brawley. Rather than have two cars in town this seems like a perfect reason to use the privilege of being a pilot: I’ll go out Thursday night and pick her up.

I read about people flying to Oshkosh this week, or from here to Texas and the idea of trying to predict the weather on such a long trip boggles my mind. So here I am working out possibilities for the flight from MYF to BWC and I am already struggling.

  • The mid-afternoon and desert cumulus are here, last two days there has been towering cumulus at 6000 feet a couple of miles north of the route I would take. I get nervous around cumulus.
  • I can probably avoid them by leaving at 7 or 8pm but that means we wouldn’t get back to San Diego until 10pm or so, and that’s discounting dinner.
  • The forecast for the next two days is for “isolated thunderstorms” in the desert in the afternoons. 99 times out of 100 they are edging their bets and there will be none but the bulk of the route has no reporting stations
  • Finally, the runway lights are NOTAM’d out of service at BWC until further notice. I’ve landed no lights at MYF before and it was ok, never taken off with no lights. It’s probably no big deal but if the desert winds are up that all adds to the mix, and potential for trouble.

So it looks like I’ve already decided it’s a no-go though that won’t be decided until Thursday for sure; we’ll work out an alternate plan tomorrow. I tend to be over-cautious and perhaps all of you reading are shaking your heads wondering what is stopping me. A few long distance cross-countries will help me out but until then I will stay on the side of caution.

My New Headset

Thanks to everyone who gave their advice on my earlier post about what to buy. After much online research I went for the Halo from Quiet Technologies and they arrived yesterday. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.


My decision was based largely on price and comfort, the idea of in-ear phones was appealing but I had read some reports that microphone placement could be tough so the small headband (that can go around the neck) that comes with the Halo seemed like a good compromise.

I have my club-mandated annual flight review on Monday and will hopefully get to try them out then. In the meantime I have to experiment with how best to wear them.

ANR Headsets Worth It?

Got my annual bonus last month, some of it will cover my COM rating (slated to start mid-September when my CFI has space in his schedule) but I was thinking of getting an active noise reducing headset. But I wonder whether it’s worth the extra $ ? I’m not buying the Bose (too expensive and it’s almost a religion for me never to buy anything they make) but is there a unit people think is worth it? Part of me worries that it will be too quiet, there is something reassuring about hearing the engine. But it would be nice to buy myself a present. What do you think? And any recommendations?

Night Currency

Its been an occasional whine of mine that people don’t seem to obey the full stop rule in night currency, instead choosing to do touch and goes and saying that counts. Now I’ll admit that perhaps I am being too sticky but rules is rules and all that. Anyway, tonight I was pleased to be sharing various patterns with many different pilots, all of whom were doing stop and taxi backs.

It was a beautiful evening tonight, light mist sitting in the valleys north of Escondido, the sun setting over the coastline to the west; too bad I didn’t have my camera. Winds were almost calm, a perfect night for flying.

2006 Flying Stats

Been another disappointing year, flying-wise. I had hoped to complete my Commercial rating but being out of work for three months killed that idea, can’t see it happening next year either right now. Anyway, here are the sorry statistics for the year 2006.

  • 15 daytime landings; 5 night landings
  • 12 approaches (all simulated)
  • 4.5 hours of instrument time (all simulated)
  • 2.4 hours of night flying
  • 13.0 hours total flight time

I read quite a few flying-related blogs but I’d like to single out the following for an extra special thank you this year for keeping me in the air vicariously: Big Country Flying, the IFR Pilot, and Pilot in Training (who we all look forward to celebrating her exam success next year).

Personal Minimums

Was reading some aviation magazines and blogs last night, mostly about “exciting” flights or accidents and it got me thinking that despite 300 hours of flying time I am still quite the ‘fair weather’ flyer. I find it hard to understand people who fly VFR into IMC because if the weather looks anything like it would be like that I don’t go, or I file IFR. Maybe this makes me a wuss, I don’t know. It obviously means I don’t fly as much as I could (though to be honest my wallet is the main captain of that decision).

Shortly after getting my Private certificate I took a short VFR trip to Riverside Municipal airport. Visibility was 4 miles which is VFR, right?! Getting to the LA basin I was met with a wall of haze, very hard to see much of anything. I had my Anywhere Map GPS showing me the way but it was not pretty. The tower gave me “suggested headings” to find the field but I can’t believe how late I saw it; the tower was still reporting 4 mi.

There are a few small hills on the way out of Riverside back to San Diego and I decided that my GPS would keep me out of the way. So, of course, on departure the PDA that was running the software froze and that was no longer an option. Some quick dead reckoning came up with turns and times and I was soon out of the murk and my heartrate back to normal. I called FlightWatch and RAL was still reporting 4 miles.

I really can’t believe that was 4 miles or, if it truly was, then I can’t believe that VFR minimums are 3 miles because I couldn’t see much of anything useful. So one of my personal minimums is 5 miles vis if I am going VFR, less than that and its IFR.

Catch Them Young!

I was hanging out at the airport tonight waiting to meet some friends, sat outside transient parking listening to the traffic on my radio. After a while a car pulled up and a lady got out with a young boy, obviously thrilled to be watching the planes. I had time to kill and I thought why not offer the kid a look inside one of the club planes – I had the key with me, though not my flight bag. So I went out, told the lady I was a pilot and would her son like to sit inside a plane?

Well, the kid needed no prompting and after what was probably a weighing-up of the likelihood of my being a child molester (or more likely the realisation that she could take me if it came to it!). I picked a 172, opened it up and told the kid to sit in the left seat while I got in the right. I explained some of the controls but it was going past him as he looked around. I flicked the master switch and let him put the flaps down. Pretty soon his mother said it was time to go, the kid thanked me with a big smile and off they went. I felt a smile myself from having given the boy something to remember for a while.

Medical Renewed

Just back from seeing the AME for my new medical certificate. As I expected, no problems anywhere though I did make a couple of tiny mistakes on the vision test, more because I was going too fast than any problem, I think. I have been told to expect my 20/20 vision to deteriorate rapidly now I am 40 so maybe this is the beginning! Anway, I have clearance for another two years, now to think what to do with them…. first though, tonight is the first of two lessons to transistion me to the Archer. I might become a low wing guy.

Marriage Proposal Goes Awry

From news in Canada:

ROME, Ga. (AP) – A plane chartered to help a man propose to his girlfriend crashed, injuring the couple and the pilot, authorities said.

Relatives holding a sheet with “Erica, will you marry me?” painted on it watched from the ground as the Cessna 127 circled low over the airport, stalled and then crashed Friday evening.

The couple, Adam Sutton and Erica Brussee, and the pilot were taken to a hospital with injuries that did not appear to be life threatening, authorities said.

Brussee suffered a broken leg, and the other two had cuts and gashes.

As Brussee was loaded into the ambulance, she said: ” ‘Tell Adam I said yes,’ ” said Joshua Willis, Sutton’s cousin.

The ring was lost in the wreckage, he said.