Flying Page - Places to Go
In the first year I got my Pilot's
Licence, it seemed like we would fly somewhere almost every weekend.
Sadly, that wears off after a while. For one thing, we've now been to
just about everywhere interesting that makes a reasonable day trip.
I've visited every public-use airport within 50 miles of Palo Alto, at
least for a stop and taxi back, and a good many that are further. Well,
there is just one exception - it would cost about $400 to do this at
SFO. These days most of my flights in my own plane are the short hop to
Livermore and back to fly the Pitts, and even that has diminished since
I started flying the helicopter at Palo Alto.
While California has hundreds of
airports, practicality says that you almost always need a car when you
get there, and that greatly narrows down the choice of airports. Some
small places have car rental, usually Enterprise, and will pick you up
at the airport, but often they close from midday on Saturday until
Monday morning. So mostly these days we fly to places that have
commercial service and therefore have full-time car rental.
Here are some places that were
particularly memorable for one reason or another.
- A trip to the
desert - Furnace Creek (L77) and Palm Springs (KPSP). Two
great destinations, and my first truly long-distance flight.
- Oceano (L52) - worth visiting - once.
Fantastic fish and chips just around the corner from the airport.
Miles-long beach, but walk on it at your peril as it is also a
racetrack for all-terrain vehicles of various sizes and kinds. The
action is at Pismo Beach, a two-mile walk away.
- San Luis Obispo (SBP) - the airport for a really charming
part of California. Car rental is easy, the coast at Pismo Beach or
Morro Bay is only a short drive away, and the deserted interior is
beautiful too - the Carizzo
Plain is one of our favorite places to visit. Paso Robles
(PRB) is also convenient and does have car rental at the FBO.
- a very quiet airport serving an even quieter
- Columbia (O22) - the town, a very touristy gold-rush place,
easy stroll from the airport, complete with stage coach, gold-panning
experience and the rest - a
great place to take visitors.
- Santa Barbara - a $100 hamburger very much above average at
the Beachside Cafe, a pleasant 15 minute walk from Mercury (or they'll
take you there in their van), or you can rent a car and visit the town,
or the Cold
Spring Tavern on the road into the empty hills behind the
- Siskiyou (KSIY). I visited Siskiyou while building solo
hours for the insurance in 5296S. It's absolutely in the middle of
nowhere (5 miles from the nearest town) with not a soul in sight when I
visited, though it does have self-service gas. It's in a beautiful
setting in the plains north of Mt Shasta. It also has the NDB approach
from hell, a major kink at the FAF (the NDB) and a truly dive-bomb
which I'd love to try some day under the hood.
- I've been into LAX a couple of times, to visit a nearby
customer. The FBO handling
charge was very reasonable, $40 I think, and a taxi-back would have
been free. The tower and Socal Approach have always been very helpful,
and it's a real experience to taxi among 747s. I've visited quite a few
of the other LA area airports too. Santa Monica is a lovely place for a
weekend visit, with an excellent aviation-themed Japanese restaurant at
right on the field. It was on the way there that I hit a rotor,
crossing the mountains north of Camarillo, losing 2000 feet in about
ten seconds as everything in the plane clung to the ceiling. That was
quite an experience, not to be repeated if possible! I think I can
honestly say that my aerobatic training saved my life that day.
- One of our favorite spring-time trips is the Blossom Trail
to the east of Fresno. It's an easy day trip but a classic case of
choosing an airport for the car rental possibilities - there are a
couple of airports on the trail itself but we've always gone to Fresno
- Round Valley
is a beautiful place which is prety much impossible to visit other than
by plane. Take a picnic - the town is only a mile away, but there's not
much there. By good luck, there was a rodeo there when we visited - it
was a bit of a hike, but a fantastic opportunity to see rural America
at its finest.
- Having a nice day with not much to do, I recently visited
Quincy (2O1). The town is nice, although only Subway was open when I
got there. But the airport and the approach are really something. You
have to be at 8-9000 feet to get over the mountains, then drop down to
the field at 3400' in a couple of miles. That's exciting enough, but
then you discover that if you try to fly a normal pattern, the terrain
gets seriously in the way. (Hint: so don't - fly a long straight-in
from the east). I think
that if you fly a nice gentle pattern with 30º banks, at 90
knots or so, you will actually hit the surrounding mountains (which
won't be so gentle after all). Another place where aerobatic training
comes in handy.
- A few times I've had the chance
to fly in England
- altthough actual flying is the same, many things are different.
also flown in France a few times, at Biarritz (LFBZ) and
Cannes (LFMD), in some relatively unusual types: a Robin (nice, and the first plane I flew with a stick instead of a yoke), a
Diamond DA40 (which I really
liked - I think if I was buying a new plane now, this would be the
one), and once in a Piper Tomahawk (PA38)
which I can say without hesitation is by a long way the nastiest thing
I have ever flown - underpowered, heavy, poorly balanced, and of course
lethal if you try to spin it, which I didn't.