Barstow: the last fuel stop

October 5, 2010 by Jill W. Tallman

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.


5 Responses to “Barstow: the last fuel stop”

  1. AOPA's Fun 2 Fly 2010 Sweepstakes » Blog Archive » Safe and sound in Santa Paula Says:

    […] AOPA's Fun 2 Fly 2010 Sweepstakes Follow along with AOPA's 2010 Sweeps Airplane « Barstow: the last fuel stop […]

  2. David Reinhart Says:

    You stopped at the airport where I learned to fly. I used to ride my Honda 50 Sport the 15 miles or so to DAG for lessons. The USMC supply base nearby used to have a flying club and their 7DC champ went for $7/hr. Sadly it had engine problems and I didn’t get to solo it. I had to switch to a Cessna 150 at that point.

    Too bad you didn’t have time to check out the warbird restoration outfit on the field. They’re a couple rows of hangars past where you fueled up. It also sound like the facilities have been improved, finally. That trailer has been there for at least 30 years.

    There also used to be a FSS on the field. That’s where I took my PP written exam. I learned a lot about weather by hanging around the counter there and using the D.B. Cooper guest coffee cup.

    Like many rural airports, DAG is way underutilized. I happy to hear that it’s still up and running!

  3. Jill W. Tallman Says:

    David, had I known there was a warbird restoration place on the field I’d have gone poking around those hangars to find it. : ) While we were there a Cessna 182 and a Piper Cherokee came in for fuel, so they seem to be getting some traffic.

  4. Anthony Tasca Says:

    You final stop is an airport dear to my flying career. Santa Paula was the first short field I had been into as a student. It later became the airport I would instruct many great students with CP Aviation before moving on to become a Corporate Charter pilot. My first student finished in 23 days. She was a natural I believe. Dutch Harbor airport in Alaska is named after her late father, who sadly died in an airplane accident in Juneau. I hope you had the time to be there for the First Sunday where the Aviation Museum of Santa Paula opens up many of the hangars for all to see. Even better, to have the opportunity to get some spin training from 2006 CFI of the year, Rich Stowell or Judy Phelps, owner of CP Aviation. Santa Paula gives all the feeling of a country airport yet so close to Los Angeles. While walking around it gives the feeling of stepping back in time such as the old Steve McQueen hangar or many vintage aircraft based here. Many airports face the threat of closure and while Santa Paula doesn’t face this today, the threat was real as mother nature took its toll on the runway in February 2005 as the Santa Clara river tore through the airport property and the runway. It’s great to see that the airport has recovered. This gem of an airport is a must see for pilots and non-pilots alike. It truly represents the love that many of us have for taking to the skies.

  5. Lynn Searle Says:

    Anthony Tasca pretty much said everything I have experienced about the Santa Paula Airport and about the wonderful folks out there – and it all brought back many pleasant memories. And, the mention in the progress of the plane of leaving Sedona and then going on via Barstow to S. Paula brought back other memories, too. I’m starting to feel as if I were “with” you all flying the plane! My future goal for some time has been to some day make a flight in an LSA (I hope it can be my own) out to Sedona from S. Paula or leave from close to S. Paula. It would certainly be more engaging than the driving out to Sedona, as I am having to do for now.

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