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Santa Paula Flight 2 July 2017

I planned to fly to Camarillo for lunch at the Way Point Café and then on to Santa Paula for open hangar day. A thick fog filled the Santa Maria Valley as I headed down to the Santa Maria Airport to search the sky for signs of blue beginning a little before eight.  As is so often the case, things didn’t work out as planned.

Santa Maria didn’t go VFR till a little before ten despite my straining to find patches of blue and the temperature/dew point spread didn’t reach four degrees till eleven.  There was a lot of blue in the sky and lots of scattered white clouds.  As I approached Lake Cachuma I could see the fog spilling over the ridge with a solid layer completely obscuring the ocean. Santa Barbara was visual meteorological conditions 1,800 foot ceilings and six miles visibility in mist but there was no visual way to get down through the clouds. There was a strong on shore breeze that pushed the fog hard up against the ridgeline with it spilling over a little in places. 


The San Marcos pass was completely blocked so I decided to climb up to 5,500 feet over the wilderness area. I love the freedom to climb over all the obstacles in my way. My world of rugged mountains expanded as I climbed higher.  With the head wind I was only making 50kts (58 miles per hour) of ground speed and it felt like we were stopped from that altitude. The terrain kept rising and I kept looking at my chart. It looked like 5,500 foot would manage the highest obstacle. With the mist blocking my distant vision it was hard to tell. Normally you can tell if you are high enough because the terrain behind the ridge gets taller as you get closer. The mist added mystery to everything.


The mist even dulled the normally jewel like Lake Casitas. Because of my late start I decided to go directly to Santa Paula and found a spot in the heavy traffic picking my ground speed up to ninety knots (104 miles per hour) to fit in with the faster planes in the narrow pattern (two RVs and a Twin Comanche. 


I had a delightful ham and eggs at the Flight 126 Café and had a nice visit with a helicopter flight instructor from Tehachapi who may get a gyroplane add on to his commercial helicopter certificate. He had been one of the RVs in the pattern. I stopped by Pat’s hanger and got all the latest on recent aviation mishaps. As usual Pat’s hangar was filled with aviation luminaries.  Several people asked me if I had seen the Red gyroplane and it tuned to be a different friend Pat in his red Calidus. 


Things didn’t work out like I had planned but they were wonderful never the less.

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San Luis Obisbo Flight 18 July 2017
A client canceled his flight today so I decided to fly to San Luis Obispo (SBP).  Things were limited because of two firefighting temporary flight restrictions (TFR) for the Alamo fire just to the North East and the Whittier fire to the South East.  As I launched, I delighted in my three dimensional playground and the freedom of the skies.

When I arrived at SBP I was pleased to see a gaggle of Mooneys; some with familiar paint jobs.  Palmdale, Los Angles, San Jose, Fresno and Santa Maria were represented by Mooney enthusiasts. Mitch invited me over to the table on the patio of The Spirit of San Luis restaurant and we had some nice hangar flying with some remarkable aviators. 

My route back to Santa Maria was limited to the coast, so I asked for a left turn out to the east with a turn to the south along California Highway One through the Avilla Pass.  It was a little warm and humid at SBP so I loved the cool ocean air washing over me as I exited the Avilla over Shell Beach. That is part of the magic of flying an open aircraft low and slow. 

Pismo Beach looked like a popular place on Saturday with a steady line of RVs headed for the dunes.

I was set up for a left down wind but tanker traffic had ATC move me to a right down wind and I was to report midfield so I flew along the bluff of the Nipomo Mesa where we live.

I was about to report when I heard; “Gyroplane two Mike Golf; make short approach; runway 30 clear to land I have a tanker on a two mile straight in.”  I take this as a high compliment because if he wasn’t sure I could get off the runway quickly he would have simply told me to extend my downwind.  I dove for the taxiway Alpha Four running her up to 100kts (115 miles per hour) making a steep turn around the tower and setting her down as nice as could be at Alpha four and scooting across the hold short line.  ATC said; “Thanks for the help Vance, Gyroplane two Mike Golf taxi to parking via Alpha, Mike; monitor ground.  Some friends were watching the tanker operations and clapped as I went by.

It was a lovely end to a magical day of flying.
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Oceano Detour  24 July 2017
I love the freedom of the skies and the people at the airports.  Sunday the blue skies called to me. I thought I would go visit with people at Oceano and walk to any number of nice restaurants for lunch.  

As soon as I was up about 300 feet above the ground leaving Santa Maria (SMX) I could see a line of fog along the shoreline and it was not a good day to fly up the beach.  I let the tower know I would be making a slight right instead of a slight left. 

Oceano was just on the edge of the fog but I didn’t want to get stuck there if the fog bank shifted, so I told San Luis Obispo Air Traffic Control (ATC) I would be coming in through the Avilla Pass.  As I approached the shoreline I could see the fog in the pass so I stayed at 1,200 feet and flew over the entrance to the pass and dropped down to 700 feet through the pass.  I love the freedom altitude gives me. 


On down wind I was number two behind a reginal jet; “caution wake turbulence”.  I watched their take off roll and they rotated well past taxiway Foxtrot so I was good to go.  I had set up to touch down early in case the jet lifted off early, so I flew down the runway at about 50 feet and set her down right at Foxtrot and scooted off the runway. As soon as the rotor stopped I slipped between a Mooney and a Cherokee Six. 


As I was working through my post flight list a uniformed attendant from ACI Jet stopped by and began by admiring my parking job and asked if he could help me with anything. I am too cheap for full service so I told him no thank you.


There were two young men in camo flights suits who waited till I put my post flight checklist away before approaching.  They were the mechanics for the two Ospreys out of New Mexico.  They have been flying around Nipomo lately.  I was very impressed with these two that give hope for the future of the USA.

After lunch a Cobra pilot was fascinated with The Predator and asked a lot of good questions.  I also met a fellow from South Africa, his wife and two friends who had flown out of San Carlos.  I love the people airports seem to collect. 

As I taxied for takeoff the two Cobras and two Ospreys were off to my left so I pulled out my camera.
I still wanted to visit Oceano so I thought I would get gas there.


ATC launched the two Cobras before me and I made a left crosswind departure and soon saw the Avilla Pass was filled with fog, so I turned left and climbed to 1,500 feet and made ATC aware of my altered flight path.  I love that freedom and reveled in it as I flew over the low hills on the edge of the Edna Valley and saw that Oceano wasn’t going to work out.  All of Arroyo Grande had disappeared beneath the fog and there I was with blue skies making my way back to Santa Maria.

I sat in the afterglow in front of the hangar for a half hour and was grateful for the freedom aviation provides for me.

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