Archive for October, 2010

Safe and sound in Santa Paula

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Hailstones the size of golf balls in Arizona. Snow in Nevada. Looks like the Southwest’s weather patterns are starting to heat up, so to speak. You better believe that I’m relieved the Fun to Fly Remos is safe and snug in a hangar at Santa Paula airport as I write this.

Our final leg to SZP was tinged with both anticipation (We’re in California! It’s almost over!) and regret (We’re in California… this amazing trip is almost over). Watching a Southwest 737 cross beneath us as we chugged along at 8,500 feet was more than enough excitement for one day. We left the Remos in the care of CP Aviation, where Clay Phelps and his crew will give it an oil change and a detailing.

Strapped into Row 22B on a United Airlines Airbus headed east on Friday, I could only catch intermittent glimpses through a tiny window of the vistas I’d just traveled.The world is a lot more interesting from 5,500 feet than from 37,000 feet.

We’ll return in about a month to bring the Fun to Fly Remos to Long Beach for AOPA Summit 2010. Then, oh unknown winner, new adventures await you in this fun airplane!

Barstow: the last fuel stop

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

About the only thing I knew about Barstow, California, was that it was the subject of a quote from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.¬†When Patrick and I landed at Barstow-Daggett airport last Thursday, it represented an important milestone for the Fun to Fly Remos’s trek out West: our last fuel stop before Santa Paula. This leg from Sedona, Arizona, also provided some of the starkest terrain of the trip–mottled, grey-brown stretches that more closely resembled the surface of the moon than Earth.

Thirty miles out from the airport, splotches of green had begun to show up on the Garmin 496, and we decided we’d check the weather thoroughly before taking off again. Having come so far, we didn’t want to fall prey to get-there-itis. An Army helicopter maneuvering in the vicinity offered to let us get in first, saying, “I’m sure you’re faster than I am.” We laughed and said, “Probably not.” On final to Runway 26, Patrick hit the PTT switch to bring up the VASI–nothing. And we heard a laconic voice on the unicom say, “It doesn’t do any good.”

The voice belonged to our lineman, who came out to help us fuel up and directed us to the FBO behind the FBO–a brand-new pilot lounge with weather computer situated behind a trailer. As I was fueling–which can be a lengthy process with the Remos–he explained that the pilot-controlled lighting doesn’t activate until dusk. Of the 87-degree temperature, he observed: “Don’t let this fool you. In July and August it gets to be 115 degrees. ”

But it wasn’t 115 degrees that day, and the Remos did fine with a climb to 8,500 to take us over the ridges and mountains. The last bit of excitement was a call from Los Angeles Center advising us that a Southwest 737 was at our six o’clock, 1,000 feet below and 10 miles behind. The rational part of my brain knew that was plenty of separation. The other part–the part that hates turbulence–worried about the possibility that a wake vortex might, on this occasion, decide to travel upwards. It didn’t happen.

Arms wide open in Arizona

Monday, October 4th, 2010

When we started planning how to get the Fun to Fly Remos from one coast to the other, we asked you for stopping points along the southern route–and you did not disappoint. Arizonans in particular were bursting with ideas, especially Flight Training contributing editor Greg Brown, who bases his Flying Carpet at Flagstaff.

There were so many suggestions for Arizona that we had a hard time choosing. Flagstaff? Winslow? Prescott, home of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s “other” campus? Sedona, where you can actually take off and land on a mesa? In the end, Sedona won the day. Why? I’ll let Greg Brown’s words do the talking, from his May 2003 column:

“…Sedona, Arizona, ranks among the most memorable pilot destinations anywhere. Set in the massive shoulder of the Colorado Plateau, the town is nestled among fantastical columns of rose-colored rock. The airport perches atop a 500-foot-tall mesa.”

So forgive us, Prescott, Winslow, and Flagstaff. The lure of landing on a mesa was too much to resist. Greg promised to meet us there with a picnic lunch, knowing that the Sedona airport restaurant was closed and our schedule for Thursday was to complete three legs.

As we topped a ridge and pointed the Remos’s nose downward, the airport lay just ahead. Greg had told us to land on Runway 3, which goes uphill, and take off on Runway 21. Getting down and stopped on the 5,132-runway was no problem for the Remos. Greg was parked alongside the runway taking photos of our arrival. When we called final, the reply came back on the CTAF: “Smile–you have a friend taking pictures.”

I wish I had the talent to paint a verbal picture of the view from the scenic overlook just a few hundred yards from the airport. I hope these photos help convey the astonishing beauty of this part of the country.

Our time in Sedona was long enough to feel entirely welcome, short enough to make us want to return immediately. Departing the airport requires some planning and careful airmanship, thanks to the elevation and density altitude. You keep the airplane in ground effect so that you can gain enough power to climb, else you might dip below the edge of the mesa when you reach the end. From there it was on to Barstow, California, our next-to-last stop on this journey.