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ISSUE 150 - December 2010
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A Flying Holiday - "Flyfest 2010" - Part I

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Roslin, Ontario, Canada

Our two aircraft on the ground at Santa Ynez (KIZA), Noel's 182RG "Romeo Mike", background left, and Peter's rental 182 G1000 " Six Three Sierra," right.

If you're a pilot or simply somebody who is interested in flying, you may have, at one time or another, thought about making a flying trip. That is to say, a trip you and maybe a spouse or friend makes to a destination, or series of destinations, by light aircraft. Whether the aircraft you fly for such a trip is your own or borrowed/rented, it's the flying and the trip itself that makes it unique and all your own.

The flight from Toronto, Ontario (YYZ) to Los Angeles (LAX
meant for some great views of the still snow-covered mountains.

Yes, most people (non-pilots) will simply book a trip using commercial aviation and, once they reach their destination(s) they will hike, bike, rent a car to tour the area and then, after a week or two, hop back on that 200+ seat sardine can and head home again. Fun, well, the destination is, being packed into a sardine can with sick people, crying babies, misbehaving children, and seat mate that just doesn't shut up, not-so-much.

Landing at LAX, left and the massive Qantas Airbus A380, right.
(You can just make out the nose of a Qantas Boeing 747 behind the A380).

So, why not find a friend or two who love to fly and research borrowing or renting a small aircraft and making your own trip. Even if you decide to pack yourself into a large flying tube in order to get to a specific geographical location and then make your way from there in a small 2 or 4-seat airplane, the experience can be unique and an experience you'll not soon forget.

The mountains just outside of Santa Ynez, looking eastward, left.
Soaring through the valley, this beautiful hawk set the tone for the coming trip, right.

Such a trip was made by the author and three friends earlier this year, starting and finishing in California with Arizona sandwiched in the middle. It began with an airline flight from Toronto to Los Angeles (yes, in one of those sardine cans) with my first destination to visit family, my cousins Ian & Christine, in the foothills of the Santa Ynez area. At the same time 'chief' pilot and friend, Peter, flew to San Francisco to begin his part of the journey (the other two joining us on our trip, Noel & Landis, actually live in the San Fran' area).

Our 182 G1000 rented from West Valley Flying Club in Palo Alto, CA (KPAO).

While one of us was lounging in Santa Ynez for a few days the other was busy getting checked out in the 182 rented for our trip. The booking and renting of the 182 was all pre-arranged well in advance of the trip by Peter to ensure the airplane was available for the period of time we required it. The late model 182 G1000 equipped aircraft was rented from West Valley Flying Club in Palo Alto, near San Francisco and was ideal for the flying we wanted to do, and roomy enough for two big guys, luggage and full tanks.

"Romeo Mike" beside us on the ramp at Santa Ynez before our departure for Big Bear, CA (KL35), left. Our 182's Garmin G1000 showing us departing from Santa Ynez, CA (KIZA), right.

If you've never looked into renting an airplane for an extended period there are certain criteria that most clubs require before they'll allow you to take one of their airplanes hundreds of miles from their airport. Rules differ from club to club and West Valley Flying club tends to be very strict, adhering to a check out policy that includes, amongst other things, ground briefings, written tests (aircraft performance and systems, and club policy to name a few) and check out flight(s). Also, a current flight review (every 2 years), recency, endorsement in the type of aircraft, e.g., high performance and mission planned, e.g., mountain checkout .

Even in mid-May, there was still plenty of snow atop the mountains along our route, left.
A pair of freight trains running through a deep valley on the way to Big Bear, CA, right.

This can take a couple of days or more, depending on weather and your performance as a pilot. No club is likely to let a pilot take their aircraft unless they are satisfied you have met all these requirements and are comfortable with your ability. Many clubs lease aircraft so they are responsible, not only to other club members, but to aircraft owners as well.

One of the most beautiful Rutan Long EZ's you'll see, this one built and flown
by my cousin, Ian, and hangared in Santa Ynez, CA (KIZA).

Once Peter's checkout was complete, the aircraft was his and the trip was underway. An uneventful flight from Palo Alto (KPAO) had Peter reaching Santa Ynez (KIZA) in about 2 hours flying time. Santa Ynez is a beautiful airport situated in a valley near the quaint town of Solvang, CA and where Ian hangers his magnificent Long EZ. Arrangements were made to tie down the 182 for a day or two and where we'd arranged to meet Noel and Landis in Noel's 182RG, "Romeo Mike," the next day before heading to Chino, CA for their Planes of Fame Airshow. That was the plan.

Having a a telephoto lens offered me the opportunity to get some great shots
of "Romeo Mike," flying some distance off our wing over Southern California.

The next day we awaited the arrival of "Romeo Mike" but we had a long wait. As is so typical with coastal flying, fog had rolled in over the Santa Ynez area and we knew the likelihood of fog in the San Fan area, where "Romeo Mike" was flying down from, was all but guaranteed. The airshow in Chino was a no-go as Noel & Landis didn't arrive at KIAZ until noon. We decided on lunch and made plans to head to Big Bear, CA for the night. We headed back to the airport, readied the aircraft with fuel top-ups, flight planning and a check for weather and we were airborne after saying our goodbyes to my cousins.

On the ground at Big Bear, CA (KL35), left. Noel, Landis and Peter in front
of "Romeo Mike" at Big Bear on a beautiful, bright blue sky morning, right.

For every flight and every part of the trip we sat down and talked about where we were going, pulled out maps, wrote down related radio frequencies, and made any necessary notes about specifics along the trip and the destination. Flight and weather briefing with Flight Service Stations at (800) WX-BRIEF were done and a flight plan was filed for every flight. Once in the airplane, information was input into the GPS, and maps, notes, etc were secured.

Landis refueling "Romeo Mike" at Big Bear, left.
"Romeo Mike" and "Six Three Sierra" posing at Big Bear, right.

We then took to the air, bound for Big Bear, CA (KL35) following a path that took us past and to the east of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles and up into the mountains. A unique and interesting place to fly into, Big Bear was our first stop together , Peter and I in "Six Three Sierra" and Noel and Landis in "Romeo Mike." We taxied in, tied down and secured the airplanes and then headed to our hotel for the night.

The next morning, planning and briefings done, we took to the air bound for our next destination of Tucson, AZ (KTUS). Departing Big Bear, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, was soon to prove a very different landscape and experience from where we were headed and what we'd be flying over. Once out of the beauty and majesty of the mountains surrounding Big Bear, the landscape below soon changed to desolate desert and barren, dry rock. A stark difference in climate and colour both.

Flying from Big Bear, CA to Tucson, AZ meant flying over very different types of landscapes that seemed to change constantly along the entire length of the trip from river lines in the dry desert-like foothills, to sandy dunes dotted with cactus and sagebrush, right.

With GPS coordinates set we spent time 'sight-seeing' and checking out the different landscapes. One of the more visible oddities all over the desert-like landscape are the 'dry' rivers. When the rains do come to the area, the ground is so hard and dry that it simply runs off, down from the mountains and hills it comes forming temporary creeks and rivers, bringing sediment with it and leaving dried up 'river beds' as the landscape returns to desert.

As we crossed over the border from California to Arizona, the difference in landscape and population at the border between the two states was very evident.

As we approached Tucson we started our descent, listening to control, maps and frequencies on hand, prepared for changes to our heading as required. "Romeo Mike" took the lead and pulled ahead, landing first with "Six Three Sierra" a few minutes behind. We taxied to our FBO, Atlantic Aviation, who had "rampies" waiting and ready as well as a rental car. If you've never used an FBO when flying into a large airport such as Tucson, the services that AA in Tucson offers is outstanding. They have bottled water on hand for aircrews, a lounge with comfortable recliners and tv, computers available and, most importantly, excellent tie-down facilities available. Accommodations were made through Atlantic as well and, once we made sure the airplanes were secure, we headed off to the Staybridge Inn only minutes from the airport.

While in Tucson we spent time visiting a few museums, including the Pima Air & Space Museum with this fantastic piece of art at the gates, left, and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base "Boneyard," right.

The next couple of days were spent visiting a number of attractions in the Tucson area including Pima Air & Space Museum, The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, The Titan II Missile Museum, and the Colossal Caves all of which the four of us would highly recommend. There were, of course, a number of other attractions we would have loved to have visited but it was time to head off to our next destination so we packed up and headed off to the FBO to ready the airplanes and look after all the necessities before our departure.

Tucson is home to a U.S. Air National Guard squadron of F-16s, one of which declared an emergency just as we were preparing to depart which left us sitting idling for 20 minutes while the aircraft was recovered and other aircraft that had been waiting in the air were given priority landing.

While at the FBO taking care of all our flight details, the local Air National Guard unit launched as many as two dozen F-16s on routine training missions. With the last of them launched, we boarded our aircraft and checks and run-up done, started to taxi out for take-off. Now, you can plan all you want for flights and trips, but you can't always plan for the unexpected and the unexpected was just what we got while taxiing out to depart Tucson. An F-16 pilot declared an emergency which meant all take-offs and landings were on hold until the F-16 landed and the all clear was given. So, while we sat on the taxiway, engines running burning fuel and time, we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, some 20+ minutes later, we were cleared for take-off and climbed out to the north-west, departing just over the 'Boneyard' of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, bound for our next stop, Sedona, AZ (KSEZ).

Next week we'll complete the trip with the next stop Sedona, AZ for lunch before flying along the Grand Canyon to the Hoover Dam and on to Palm Springs, CA.

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer

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