2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Final Fling

What a week it has been. Frantic but fun. The Falco has been torn down again and packed into the container for its trip home. We've had a bit of time to look around some of the LA beaches and spent some great time holidaying.

Newport Beach

Saturday was yet another fantastic day thanks again to Frank.

We arrived at Chino just before 09:00 to meet up with Frank to go for a fly. What a day he had in store for us.

Departing Chino
Approaching SBP

We took off just after 09:00 and climbed out towards Van Nuys climbing to 10,500'. Again a terrific view of the LA basin. A high altitude smoke cloud raid the visibility a little but it was still a great view. We headed North from Van Nuys flying over some dramatic scenery of mountains and coastlines. After an hour or so we started our descent into San Luis Obispo where the approach has some lovely large homes on rolling parched hillsides.

Vicki enjoying the ride
Finals SBP
Just arrived at SBP

After landing we hired a car and went up the coast. We stopped at Moonstone Beach for brunch overlooking the foggy shoreline. The air was pleasantly cool and fresh.

After a delicious lunch we headed further North to San Simeon and visited the Hearst Castle. I confess to have never hearing of such a place. What an incredible achievement this place is. A castle it is but it is adorned entirely with collections of eclectic art and artefacts from all around the world. It's almost bizarre in its ostentation yet the sheer magnitude of the logistics alone leave one in awe.

We spent about an hour up on the hill looking at the castle but it is such that you leave wanting to see more.

After leaving the castle we headed back down the coast stopping at a few small towns along the way. Again it was just a taste leaving a desire for more but you can only do so much in one day. The whole area would be a great spot to spend 3 or 4 days exploring.

Cute little friend we met along the way.

At Morrow Bay the was a festival of some sort which added to a carnival atmosphere. While here we found out what Salt Water Taffy is. Neither of us had tried it before so we had fun in a shop trying various flavours and left with a large bag of the stuff, only a small portion of which made it home.

Beach dining at it best!

We left Morrow Bay in search of more food and ended up having a tasty dinner at the airport restaurant which is really quite good.

Airport restaurant

Once we'd finished dinner we headed back to Frank's wonderful Bellanca Super Viking.

The sun was setting as we boarded and left the sky with a warm red glow as we climbed out of San Luis Obispo on our way back to Chino.

Takeoff

By the time we reached our cruising level of 11,500' it was dark over the mountains ahead with just a faint red glow behind the right wing. After about 45 minutes we were seeing the lights of LA.

The descent into Chino displayed a stunning sea of lights on a lovely clear night. An amazing sight and one not often enjoyed by many. It was truly a magnificent site.

The day was a real highlight, not only of the week but of the whole adventure. In fact of a lifetime.

Again, thanks Frank. I hope I get to repay the favour sometime.

 

Well folks that's pretty much it for this adventure. The plane will be on its way home soon and life will return to normal by Christmas.

I said at the beginning of all this that it was going to be one hell of a ride.

Boy it sure was!

 

 

Mum, it’s too hot!

Friday I woke up feeling not so great again. Fortunately I didn't have a lot to do so after a bit of a sleep in I ventured out to the hangar feeling decidedly dodgy.

After an hour or so of fluffing around and not achieving much I went and sat in Starbucks until it was time to head for LAX.

Traffic was pretty good so it only took about an hour and a quarter to get to the parking building at LAX. Vicki was also in early and got through customs in about 25 minutes which was great. It was good to see her although I suspect the same was not to be said for me as I was feeling a bit sorry for myself by then.

We jumped in the car and headed for Van Nuys to go and see my new purchase and meet its previous owner. Traffic this time was not so good. Friday afternoon traffic on the 405. Yuk!

Once we found the right place we had a look around, chatted, spoke with the shipper, said our goodbyes and headed for Santa Monica for the night.

The new project
Other parts.
Some rare aeroplanes around too!

There we had a great meal at True Foods and retired. By then I had all but stopped functioning so unfortunately I didn't really enjoy the nice hotel. I just needed sleep.

The next morning we went out for some breakfast and find some Advil. That helped a lot. We had a lovely walk down Santa Monica Pier before heading back out to Rancho Cucamonga to our next hotel. The afternoon we had a walk around Victoria Gardens, which we both really like.

Santa Monica beach.

Sunday we went out to the hangar to do a bit of work while it was still cool. We bought some items I needed at The Home Depot then had a quiet afternoon.

There's some nutty stuff around here!
Hurry up!

The temperature was over 40° so it was way to hot to do anything sensible outside or in non air conditioned hangars.

Tomorrow I'll do the last few bits in the morning before expecting the container on Tuesday.

 

Disassemble begins..again!

What a day. It started yesterday I guess.

When I was boarding in Auckland I was feeling decidedly dodgy. Bu the time we got airbourne I was a bit shaky and nauseous. I wasn't going to eat but when I got back from changing I had some soup waiting so I ate it. It helped a bit. I left the rest and went to sleep. Got a great sleep. Boy 8 hours of sleep cuts the guts out of a 12 hour flight.

After we landed and cleared customs, I jumped on the bus to Bellanca Ave and picked up the car. Gee, Enterprise have a slick operation.

It took about two hours to get to Chino where frank was waiting. I was starting to feel bad again but we managed to drain the Falco and relocate the gas to Frank's Viking. By then it was dark so I checked in to the hotel and shortly after went to sleep. I woke up at 4am in a pool of sweat. I had been running a fever but I think it had broken. It indicated a tough day ahead but sometime you gotta do what ya gotta do and this was one of those times.

I opened the hangar doors around 07:30 and started the disassembly.

Not long after starting.

I had just started when I learnt that by a stroke of Luck, Troy was in town so was on his way out to help.

Troy. Mustang driver extraordinaire.

He was fantastic. I had planned to be able to do everything myself and anything extra would be a bonus. I didn't realise just how much of a bonus. It was really easy moving the heavy stuff around so we made some huge progress. I think I've got two days work done in one day.

Not bad for one day.
Awesome progress.

I'm now miles ahead, which is great.

We've rearranged the packing a bit in the hope to fit things better and hopefully have a more satisfactory engine mounting solution. Everything is pretty close to its final position so tomorrow I shouldn't need much heavy work. Fantastic. Thanks Troy!

End of a big day. Phew!

18:20 and I'm just back in my room. Looking forward to seeing Vicki tomorrow and also meeting Walter and seeing my new bird. Vicki and I can take our time more too so can spend the night at Danta Monica or somewhere similar.

 

 

Reflection time – Part 3. Tourism

I've spoken of my impressions of the people experience and the flying experience but what of the tourism? The scenery and physical aspects of the trip.

It's not until you learn to fly small planes, or at least travel in them that you realise that there are things you will see from this vantage point that you could see no other way. Indeed it goes some way to explaining why light plane pilots love doing what they do.

The USA is a big country, there's no doubting it. From airliners at thirty odd thousand feet flying over the USA it is clear there are vast areas of not much. Indeed any logical thought process would conclude that it's unlikely that the whole place could be populated. But what would we find filling the gaps?

I don't think I had considered it much. I knew that I had little knowledge of the landscape. Sure we hear of passing comments of certain areas but geography was not my strong suit at school and only as I grow older does it interest me along with history and dare I say it, politics.

With its vast area one would expect there would be something for everyone if you could find what you were looking for. But it would require some prior knowledge in order to know where to find certain features. I on the other hand, was approaching this trip largely ignorantly. From a flying aspect I had considered terrain features and likely hazards from density altitude and weather to some degree from a fairly unscientific observation from a year prior, but still had largely no real idea of what things would actually look like.

Right from the first flight I was lucky enough to do with Frank Holbert in his Bellanca I was surprised.

The LA basin is an incredibly beautiful place when appreciated from the right vantage point. It's unfortunate that most visitors, or even locals to that end, only experience the LA basin from the ground. The population has negative effects on the environment. It's no surprise that with so many people living in a valley, the pollution would have trouble escaping. That linked with salt haze from the sea and marine layers formed under temperature inversions really cut down any visibility. Those lucky enough to be able to get above the inversion get an incredible vista of trees and valleys fenced by some rather majestic mountains rising above 9000'. It's a real sight to see and one so close to a large population who would be largely oblivious. I found it quite remarkable.

LA basin

I read on others blogs that many pilots never really leave California in their flying ventures. I can see why now. It is a vastly varied and beautiful state offering so much that travel further afield is an expense that could be difficult to justify with so much on ones doorstep.

Downwind Santa Paula

 

9000' mountainous grandeur

 

How do you ever prepare for such stunning beauty. Vicki had told me of Sedona. She tried her best but even with photos you can never really appreciate the true grandure of Sedona.

Even landing on the Meza (I use that word like I always knew what it meant but truth be known its new to me, one of the many appreciations I now have from my trip) was quite an experience with such stunning scenery all around. Vince told me Sedona was one of the most beautiful places on the planet. He's not wrong. It's certainly one of the best kept secrets that I can't blame anyone for keeping.

Flying further East to Santa Fe we felt it surprising how we had traversed desert to find Sedona then tree lined valleys and canyons only to change back to what would probably best be described as 'almost desert'. It doesn't have the severity of the true desert but by the same token it doesn't appear to be a place that people have considered persevering with to farm or harvest. The terrain continued to rise. We cruised at 9500' with the land only a few thousand feet below but for all intents and purposes it's flat. The occasional rolling hill rises above the vastness but it certainly didn't have a mountainous feel to it.

Airbourne Sedona

 

 

 

 

Gallup NM

 

Santa Fe itself was a short night stop. We didn't have a car so didn't get to explore but the feel of the architecture, if that's the correct word for it, certainly gave a novel feel to the town. The state being New Mexico was certainly displayed in the style of buildings with square buildings with flat roofs. A lot of the locals seemed a bit alternative with a more hippy like feel to them. I think we saw more Harley's here than any other town with the exception of Sturgis. It looks like a fun place to visit with more time.

OK corral

 

This hotel is typical Santa Fe

 

Nasty!

 

We were also starting to see the expected display of summer desert weather by now with large thunderstorms brewing most afternoons, indicating our choice to fly in the mornings was the correct one.

The next flight, to Longmont, was to be our first real Mountainous Terrain flight and also proved to be our most surprising. Planning these flights from 6500 miles away, you can only get a loose appreciation of what to expect from looking at terrain relief features on maps. From this we had generated our expectations of sharp peaks protruding from flat plains, much like our own south island. From that I had made the descision to skirt around what I considered a minor potential annoyance if weather didn't play ball. Due to not having much in the way of alternate airfields available, we had to take the most conservative approach in all flights and so for this flight, rather than flying over a mountain pass, we flew right around the mountains.

When we got airbourne we tracked around the southern edge of the most prominent ranges before turning north toward Denver. The controller went to great pains to warn us of the fact that we were in designated mountainous terrain and even asked if we were familiar. I said were weren't but we were comfortable. In all reality we were shocked to some degree because where we were expecting sharp rock jutting skyward from flat plains, instead we had reasonably flat plains pushing up to around 8-9000' and rolling up into what really appeared to be more of a large hill. Obviously as we approached Denver this became more of a prominent mountain as we know it from our South Island but by that stage they were well off to our West. I was quite surprised at the concern, or maybe I was surprised due to its lack of extremes. The peaks were high I guess but since the surrounding land was high also they just didn't seem so intimidating.

With all that said, we flew over some very pretty rivers and wooded camping areas that I can see would make for regular annual camping spots. It truly was picturesque landscapes, just not what we were expecting. That all changed as we approached Longmont.

Flying over Longmont it became apparent the area is more affluent. It least the way we flew was. A very pretty town with all the houses placed between trees, the flora becomes the dominant feature. This continued all the way out toward Boulder. On the ground the feel was the same. Incredibly pretty suburbs with what we would probably describe as typical American style modern houses placed thoughtfully between trees and shrubs.

Random Boulder picture

The trees being dense enough that the whole house is rarely seen. It's very tasteful and I can certainly understand the desire to live in a place like Boulder. Of course just on the edge of the city is a staggering display of high mountain peaks pushing out of the most green fields. It's picture postcard stuff and something everyone should see if they get the chance.

 

 

 

 

 

Eastbound toward Omaha the land slowly drops away back to lower elevations. It begins fairly parched and appears again to be fairly useless for farming. As we head East the land slowly becomes greener and transforms into flat farmland broken into typical square plots with large irrigated circles. The Farmland continues on through Nebraska and Iowa slowly getting greener as you go.

As we tracked toward Appleton in Wisconsin the land remains flat. Visibility remained around 10 miles or so with a fairly heavy haze layer which I can only assume is dust. We crossed the Mississippi which clearly supports heavy irrigation on its banks for farmland and on into Wisconsin supporting more farmland.

The farmland differs to New Zealand in that the terrain is largely flat and relatively featureless. It's attractive in its own way and it becomes greener as you position East. It doesn't even resemble the Canterbury plains really. You can't help but feel that farming is a continual battle with the elements to some degree, which it is anywhere I guess, but while there wasn't evidence of it, water seemed a commodity particularly in the more Western states.

Once we visited Oshkosh and survived its 40+ temperatures coupled with high humidity we headed back West but this time via a more northerly route.

The first stop was Lake Elmo, at least that's the airport. A lovely little spot on the outskirts of Minniapolis Saint Paul. A super friendly little field that is immaculately groomed. From there we spent the night in Stillwater on the border (it's river) between Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Stillwater is a lovely little town with a rich history in logging. Sitting on the banks of the St Criox river. Full of pretty old houses from its logging days, many of which are now B&Bs. The town itself is very compact but has a really interesting old town feel with character in spades. We took a trolley tour as recommended by Mary and thoroughly enjoyed it. I think both of us put Stillwater in our more favourite collection of places we visited. I'd love to go back but take Vicki next time.

 

 

Further westward we saw lots of small lakes and rivers. Many of which I would assume be vacation spots. We were to visit Alexandria but unfortunately it was booked out. I'd still like to visit it someday.

Since Alexandria was booked out and we didn't have a lot of options available to us due to TSA requirements we decided to turn an alternate into a destination and visited Pierre in South Dakota. The FBO there was one of the flashier ones we saw with friendly counter staff. Unfortunately it wasn't really a representation of the town.

 

Being the state capital it had some lovely central state buildings with pretty gardens and a man made lake but the surrounding town was almost the other extreme. It looked to us like the town was a true representation of hard times. Perhaps a victim of poor economic times. The were few shops. Many were empty and people seemed to be on a low. It stood out to us as it was the first and only time in the whole trip where we experienced a depressed feel.

Not far East of Spearfish

The following day we spent touring the area by car. The local scenery is very pretty but I must confess that we didn't really appreciate its true beauty as it is very similar to parts of New Zealand. In fact it's exactly like some area just minutes from home so I guess rather than stunned with beauty we were more comfortable than anything.

 

 

Deadwood

 

We visited the two popular attractions in the area. Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse. Both monuments are quite something and well worth a visit. I never thought I would get to see Mt Rushmore in my lifetime so feel privileged to have been. Crazy Horse on the other hand is a complete other issue. Approached as a 'tack on' to seeing Mt Rushmore it became the highlight of the day. It was even quite moving. The size of the monument is quite breathtaking. The undertaking itself is impossible to describe. How one man can take something on of this magnitude is quite unbelievable. Clearly he would have known he would never see it completed. I won't see it completed. Larger than the Pyramids it is the largest monument in the world. My advise, go see it. It truely is amazing. I know I've run out of superlatives but I'm not sure there is one to do it justice.

Crazy Horse

 

The Presidents

 

After sharing a hotel with the Hells Angels, another story in itself, we headed off to Lander in Wyoming to stage for a high altitude flight into Jackson Hole. In itself not really necessary but ran in the conservative nature of the trip. The flight to Lander was another surprise. Again we expected sharp mountains bursting out from flat land forming the Rocky Mountains but instead flew by some really tall rolling hills that stretched well about our 8500'. Certainly not what we expected but still some stunning scenery with magnificent colour changes in the soil. Even the man made scars in the land from huge open cast mines were impressive if only for their size.

Enroute Lander

 

Downwind Lander

 

What a treat Lander is. Another small town that sits in our favoured list. Unfortunately AT&T don't service Lander so we had no contact but who needed it. A great little town with some stunning mountain scenery right on its doorstep. Lander is placed in the top 100 adventure towns as selected by National Geographic magazine, something I learn as I write this but something well deserved. The local Sinks Canyon was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Just 10 minutes drive from town the scenery had everything from towering mountains to gorgeous Redwood and Pine forested hills to the most wonderfully classic rolling stream with footbridges and overhanging trees. Even if Darryn did lose parts of his camera and discover a less than impressed rattle snake it was a highlight for me for sure. The signs cautioning of Bears, which we didn't see unfortunately, or the torrential downpour didn't put me off either.

The town of Lander has a quaint cowboy feel to it but has some of the best coffee we've experienced on the trip along with some terrific food and locally brewed micro brewery beer at the Cowfish. It's a little town I would highly recommend. While its unlikely I'll visit again in his lifetime, I certainly would like to. Again it's a place few who don't fly will ever see. Thanks for the recommendation again Duane.

Sinks Canyon

 

The next day was the main high altitude flight for the trip. The pass into Jackson Hole from Lander would require 10500'. On the climb up again we were treated to a wonderful kaleidoscope of colours in the soil and mountain rocks. The left wing was flanked by steep rock, just what we expected. What we didn't expect was what greeted us at the top of the pass. Again a high altitude flat and rolling terrain with trees, streams and lakes just 6-700' below. Quite a surprise and very pretty.

Climbing out of Lander

 

High but flat. Pretty!

 

From there we had to descend fairly quickly through a wide gorge in order to be in reasonable shape to land on a runway not yet in sight but a few thousand feet below and not a lot of miles away. As we broke out of the gorge the full splendour of the Tetons opened out for us. The whole western side of the massive valley of Jackson Hole is fenced by massive mountains. The mountains were just what we had been expecting on so many legs prior to this one but hadn't seen. These mountains jutted straight up from the flat terrain of the valley floor just as the Southern Alps rise from many parts of New Zealand's south island.

The Tetons bursting into view

 

I feel like I'm not doing the scenery justice. The Tetons are very grandiose indeed and reach very high but as a New Zealander it's not a sight I haven't seen. I wasn't dissapointed by any stretch but I guess you build expectation on reputation so to find something that reminds you, in part, of home it's a surprise. Then bartender at Lander had told us of a great place for breakfast. The name escapes me but you sit outside on picnic tables and take in the view of the Tetons while you eat your pancakes. It's pretty easy to take!

The best breakfast views I've have for a while

 

Jackson Town with modern cowboy wheels

 

 

The next day we flew on to Cedar City UT. This flight had one of the absolute highlights of the trip. The flight down from Jackson was very pretty with rolling green hills. Again it could be parts of New Zealand. The sky was beautifully blue and visibility was some of the best we'd had. Where then flight struck the highlight was as we approached Provo.

 

 

The mountains were again becoming classic mountains poking skyward from effectively flat terrain adding to their grandeur. I'd known that we had to navigate a mountain pass to get through to the western side of the ranges but I wasn't prepared for the Provo canyon. The dramatic effect as the city and lakes open up as we traversed the canyon has to be witnessed to be believed. I couldn't help but pop out a 'yee-har'. Derwood managed to stay poker faced but I knew he was having fun really.

 

 

On to Ceday City and again we we were seeing hills with Multi coloured rocks and a mild rolling desert. The town was probably what I expected of a town built in a fairly dry climate. Our hotel was on the edge of town and didn't enjoy many sidewalks. In fact we wondered at times if we would come across another unhappy rattler. The afternoon was spent blogging while enjoying yet another soy mocha coconut frappacino followed by Thai for dinner. Overall we didn't get to experience too much but noted friendly folk as usual and some characters for taxi drivers.

The next day we found ourselves back over the extremes of the Nevada desert with rich red layered rock on parched sand on our way back to Chino. The desert while beautiful from our 8500' vantage point also returned us to our slight unease of desert flying.

Heading for Desert

 

Moonscape

 

Extraordinary colours

 

Its a big country

 

 

Desert extreme

 

 

Reflection Time – Flying (Part 2)

 

The flying aspect was always set to be an experience in itself. We are going to be facing a lot of new procedure and experiencing situations that until now were nearly theory. So how did it go?

Cedar city

Firstly we had learnt a lot about various airspaces and how you deal with them from a VFR standpoint. Experience was another matter. It was a little intimidating dealing with the SOCAL controllers and their class C. It needn't have been. In reality they are extremely welcoming and helpful given the traffic they deal with. It seems the norm is that you are accepted into class C airspace. They work on the principle that they prefer to know what you are doing so acceptance is preferred as opposed to having an unidentified target flying around. The biggest problem we noted was finding the appropriate frequency but once that's sorted out it becomes easy.

I woke up after writing this blog and it dawned on me that the airspace system in the US is geniusly simple compared with our own. I know understand why some of my student had trouble understanding airspace. Why do we have CTZ, CTA, TMA and all that other crap. Call it what it is. Call it by its class. As it stands, I would say most Private pilots only recognise the need for a clearance and that's it. Wll that works for the most part but what about understanding what is going on, who is separated from who and what met minima apply. This helps understand where threats may exist. Hell I know guys in the airline today that don't know that they aren't separated from VFR traffic in certain airspace. In making it simple by calling airspace what it is, it makes this easier to understand. We don't need those British hangovers.

In fact, personally I'd love to see our CAA get scrapped and pay a fee to the FAA to use their system. Re register the aircraft with a N and move forward. Leave this preciousness behind. Of course they think they know better here but I'm fairly sure the Wright Brothers were Americans.

Flight following in the USA is far more of an offering than anything available in NZ. The closest would be controlled VFR but it's available in some pretty remote airspace both E and G. Our 'flight following' is really nothing close. In fact it's more like just filing a plan. Plan filing is fairly similar in both countries as is activation and termination. It just uses simpler terminology of Open and Close. The briefing on the other hand is night and day different. New Zealand used to provide similar services to the USA but now it's been whittled away to basically zilch. They are happy to take your money, in fact they demand that, but provide almost nothing in return. On the flip side, in the USA you get as much info as you want and it's all totally free. To be honest I don't see why the taxpayer should pay but the system sure is safer with so much information available. One of the benefits of population I guess.

Once enroute the services from flight watch are excellent. Our service is similar but has not a lot of information to give however the process is there.

One great bit of Kiwi technology.

Now that there are more benefits sneaking into the US system in the form of ADS-B and XM NEXRAD etc the US are streaking ahead in the safety and service stakes, while our system seems to be taking up a stance of making things more difficult and expensive. In effect legislating against freedom of aviation in order to achieve the perfect safety record when private flying is abolished.

We noted a huge difference in the quality of airfield too. There seemS to be an abundance of high quality, long, paved runways. It appears that the municipalities see benefit in having a quality runway to serve its people whether it be for recreation, commercial transport Or simply as a means of employment. The quality of the airfield was astonishing even if unattended. Here in NZ most small towns listen to minorities and close airfields in preference to maintaining them. Meanwhile Civil Aviation add excessive compliance cost structures to larger airfields for no real benefit other than absolving themselves of responsibility. These costs will obviously be passed down and eventually force private flying away. Another blow to any freedoms we once enjoyed in the name of being ICAO certified, whatever benefit that may pretend to be.

It certainly was a joy to experience aviation as we once enjoyed before the slippery slope of over regulation was cast apon us. Alas we are heading into the European experience of regulating private individuals away from flying. A real shame. Once it's gone, it's gone for good. I hope the guys involved, who are basically making names for themselves, recognise what it is they are actually doing. They are anything but heros.

I see all these wonderful services to aviation in the USA and I realise we in NZ need to move on past our expectation that the Government will provide for us. They've shown the aren't interested. Met service has hiked fees, Airways has too. It's obvious that these services will only get harder to obtain. I personally think we need to start being the masters of our own destiny. For weather services it would be great if flying establishments would see benefit to providing a quality weather system such as we saw at FBOs in the USA, for the good of all. And I don't mean let's run down to the local electronic shop and hook up some cheap rubbish to some software we wrote ourselves. I mean a QUALITY system that has AWIB capability as well as hooked to the Internet to a common website for all to use. The problem we have is nobody will want to pay. Everyone will bleat at the cost and therefor bleat that it isn't provided for them. It's the old 'the Goverment should be looking after me' mentality that is quickly ruining New Zealand. What a great system we could have if we took control to provide for ourselves and our children. Leave to idiots in the Goverment behind and show how things should be done.

Oops.. Slipping into a bit of a political statement,sorry. I'll move on.

 

It's always fun learning new things and also when you get to put things you know into practice.

I knew density altitude would be an issue. It's something you learn, or rather, get told about when you learn to fly. In NZ the highest airfield is around 1600 feet with a few exceptions in the form of mountain ice etc.

I appreciated that in real terms we knew nothing about it. It had been totally theory. A few people had said something along the lines of 'no brainer' but living in the environment, that was fine for them to say.

I was weary enough to put myself on a diet an lose 12kg or rather gain 30min fuel depending on which way you look at it. So we approached the altitudes with caution.

We learnt a LOT and it was great having Duane around to pass on advise. Sure, the plane used a lot of runway and the engine only pulled about 20″ at higher DAs but there was so much more. For instance, after takeoff you can forget about the black knob. Just leave it all the way in. On approach don't use full flap. You need power to overcome the drag and power is one thing you don't got! We found this out the hard way. Landing at Santa Fe once we had full flap we had the black knob a long way in and a lot of noise coming out the front!

One instructor Darryn chatted to at Longmont said that a 172 is a 2 seat aircraft up there. In the peak heat of the day they knock off the training since the aircraft just don't perform.

We also noted the prop would slightly overspeed on takeoff. Just not enough to bite against on the full fine stop I guess.

Takeoff is a really gentle affair. You really need to feel what the aircraft wants to do. Ham fisted yanking the plane into the air would only end in tears. We would always set a slight nose high attitude and let the aeroplane run on the mains until it gently lifted of. We then held it in ground effect until we had a more comfortable energy state before gently climbing away.

The climbs were another consideration. Temperatures had to be watched like a hawk. You can pretty much forget best rate of climb. That would cook the cylinders lickerty split. I settled on around 120 indicated for climb. It kept a good airflow, had a good view over the snout and managed the temperatures well enough. The rate of climb dropped off up high but that was the least of our problems.

Having the DA displayed on the PFD was a handy thing. We did note that regularly while cruising at 8500' the DA was around 10500' and the highest we saw it was around 12500' when we had a short stint at 10500' going into Jackson Hole. It was quite and experience.

Then there was starting and finding the right mixture for takeoff. You can forget full rich. We went days with it never being full rich.

Vapour locking at the hot and high altitudes meant that we needed different starting procedures if we didn't want to flatten the battery. Fortunately Duane helped out there. Certainly his methods worked a treat and explained the trouble we had at Santa Fe when we tried to taxi from the pump to the park with a hot engine.

Hot and high at Jackson Hole

I'd heard of vapour lock before and in hindsight probably have had a minor version of it maybe twice ever before. Here, it's every time a coconut so you need to do things right.

I learnt more about flying light planes over the past three weeks than I have in a long time.

 

Other things that were different that we enjoyed immensely were the equipment and services available for flight planning. Our iPads came into a world of their own. We used an app called Foreflight for planning and use throughout flight for aviation data. What an amazing piece of software. It's no good at home as the data doesn't exist for it to be useful. The benefit of population again but I could certainly get used to it. It has to make flyin much safer. I still wonder how we would have managed without it. We certainly would have needed to spend a lot more time flight planning. Even with a computer there would have been a lot more references to various websites. Foreflight has it all.

Foreflight

Along with Forefilght, my aircraft mounted EFIS had a lot more functionality. Safe taxi was excellent and we used it regularly. AOPA data and internal charts all made it a lot more functional. Jeppesen provide much more data and are interested in the business. NZ just doesn't represent a significant market and gets treated appropriately.

Another aspect that was new, FBOs or Fixed Base Operators. It's still a bit of a mystery and I don't know how they make money but they are a business on the airfield that does everything and I mean EVERYTHING for you. They will guide you into the park, greet you, fuel and oil your plane, tie it down. You can ring in advance and they will book you accommodation and a rental car. Some have crew cars that are basically free to use for a short time if all you want is to run into town for lunch. Just fill it up before returning it. One place we went to gave us the crew car for the night. No paperwork, nothing, just jump in and go.

Maddy refuelling the Falco
Car ready to go.

If you have a car booked, some will have the car at your plane with the trunk open for for bags before you get out of the plane. The service really is amazing.

They have nice offices, some not little, with free wifi, a flight planning computer for everyone's use, toilets, lounges, TV. Vending machines, food, you name it. They are a real treat. One gave us free bottles of water. One gave us free hangarage for the night and drove us into town to our hotel.

I don't know how they make a buck. A small tip ain't gunna do it but boy I wish we had them here.

All this stuff has given me ideas of things I want to do over the next few years. I guess we will see what I achieve.

Resume normal service….

The flying was fun, the services were outstanding. Again the benefit of population but also of attitude. And I guess that's the key. In the USA they don't suffer tall poppy syndrome, rather they appreciate success.

I really loved the flying and the learning. It's aviation as it should be. Sure there were a few TSA hassles but it didn't stop us from enjoying every other bit the aviation system had to offer. Truely outstanding.

 

Reflection Time – Part 1

The aeroplane is still sitting abandoned ( only by me) in Chino awaiting it's return ride from Chino. Early indications are not good for a smooth recovery but that will play out in weeks to come. For now I find myself reflecting on the trip with all it's triumphs and whether there were any parts that perhaps didn't quite hit expectation.

The trip we made to OSH the first time had always felt like a missed opportunity. I really had no idea what to expect so I mismanaged my time. I really met nobody. Even the Falco folk that were there remained largely a mystery. I really wanted to change things this time. I wanted to make the Oshkosh experience more socially focussed and about people.

I think people that know me well would say that I'm not really a hugely social person. They would probably be right. I don't enjoy small talk, I can't see the point and I don't do it well. I don't have a wide selection of friends. I prefer a couple of good friends rather than a lot of fake ones but with all that said, it doesn't mean I don't enjoy meeting people, particularly if they have similar interests.

This trip for me was to meet people interested in aeroplanes as well as getting more of a feel for the American people along the way. It was going to be an aviation overindulgence and experiment in immersion of a similar but different culture.

Being a flying trip it was of course going to provide experiences that are rare for a New Zealand aviation enthusiast. I wasn't solely about people. Aviation was certainly a large part of the focus too as well as all the things that go with it. Anyone who flys light planes will tell you that you will see things flying small planes that you will never see any other way. It's the nature of the beast and it's part of why we love doing what we do so much. Only an aviator can understand this part of it.

So how did it stack up?

People.

I wasn't let down on the people front. Along the way we were delighted by the American people. Right from when the container arrived at Chino we had people more than willing to help. In fact they wouldn't take no for an answer. Certainly without the help of Vince, Thom, Roland and the rest of Chapter 92 I couldn't have started this whole adventure. But that's aviation too to a degree.

As for more mainstream America I now firmly believe that the US people are the friendliest on the planet. They are more than willing to help and everything is done with a smile. I even noted it with driving. Here in NZ, people seem to switch into an 'angry mode' when they jump behind the wheel and road rage seems the norm. The US drivers are a lot more relaxed and as a result they are considerably better drivers. I think it's all part of their outlook.

Joe from the FAA. A nice guy and really helpful.

Certainly economic pressures could play a big part in adjusting people's attitude to a more depressed and stressed state but I certainly didn't see evidence of this with the exception of the people in Pierre SD. Something there had them on a low but everyone else we met were very upbeat.

Longmont Times reporter enjoying the machine.

The attitude I noticed and liked a lot was that people go about doing what they do. They are happy for you to join in. If you don't like what they do, tough! I like that attitude. For instance when we left Ceday City UT our taxi driver turns up unshaven, a straw cowboy hat on playing Steppenwolfe on the radio. “There a little bit of Rock and Roll for ya” all with a cheery smile. I got the impression that if we sang with it he'd be all for it. If we asked to turn it off I'm sure we'd have been told to jam it. I love that.

The ground crew at Appleton.

The folk at the show at OSH were great. Pretty much what I expected since they are aviation enthusiasts. What was new for me was my new found (and short lived) celebrity status. I'm not big on this anyway but what I liked about it were the people I got to meet. It's always interesting meeting people whose articles you read etc and seeing what they are really like. I particularly enjoyed Bob the homebuilder and his radio show. It was fun and he is a really great guy.

Eric from AOPA. Another neat guy.
More trouble in the making.

 

So the people along the way and at OSH itself certainly made the trip all that I hoped it would be but the real icing on the cake for me was meeting Duane and Mary. I had emailed Duane many times before, himself being another Falco builder and flyer, we share to bond of a similar life track in all things Falco.

Falcos North and South
Duane and the reporter from the Longmont Times

When I was in Chino I spoke with Duane on the phone for the first time in my life. He offered Darryn and I accommodation at his house. That for me is a mixed blessing. It's usually well out of my comfort zone and I don't like to outstay my welcome if things start derailing.

Trouble in the making. Boys Night

From the moment we taxied in at Longmont and saw Duane on his Peugeot moped we knew this guy was different. For the next few days we enjoyed Duane and Mary's hospitality and thoroughly enjoyed their company.

The maestro and his egg sandwiches.

For the remainder of the trip there were very few passing hours when one of their names didn't pop up in conversation usually with a laugh.

Thanks Duane and Mary. You guys really made the trip for us. I hope we get to repay the favour down our way some time.

Duane

 

Back to base.

I need to sum the trip up. That will be a long considered post. For now I'll describe the final flight.

Derwood woke me up. I had a really solid sleep last night. It was a good time to wake up though.

The weather for our trip looked good. There was an airmen for IFR weather in the Chino basin but it hadn't eventuated. We decided to indulge in the hotel 'food' for a bit of a breakfast. Chino is on a different time zone so we wanted to wait until 08:00 local so we would get a METAR from Chino produced by a person, not a machine, at 07:00 Chino time.

Derwood dug up a taxi for us and he duly turned up in his Toyota capable of 7000RPM ( ask me how I know) playing Magic Carpet Ride. 'A little bit of rock on roll on' he advised. A nice guy, down to earth.

By 08:30 we were away with a positive weather outlook ahead. The briefer told me he wanted to visit NZ. I hope some of these guys do. And I hope I get to help them out one day, even a little bit.

The flight headed south initially. Level at 8500' I was keen to avoid the Las Vegas Class B so we tracked to fly around it. The terrain slowly changed from high hills, desert in style, to desert proper.

We flew along taking in the amazing colours of the land below as we flew to the South of Las Vegas.

“TRAFFIC” came through our headset. The box showed' about and close on the right. A quick scan and we had a Southwest 737 off to our right. He was on a high right base to the ILS into Las Vegas runway 26. What a cool sight. This happened again a little while later. While we were clear of airspace I can only assume we were probably giving the controller something to do. With the speed the second Southwest Jet flew by I'm sure he was just as interested in us as we were of him.

Shortly after that we spotted a Twin Otter heading for the grand canyon on a sightseeing tour.

We turned right at our track intersection to head more toward Chino. The land changed to a vast sandpit. Lots of nothing with the occasional road and railway.

I confess to not enjoying the desert flying. We both were certainly more on edge. Duane had told us that rather than water, you're better off with a .45 when flying over the desert. “just how long to you want to prolong it? “.

A we approach LA we shuffled for a frequency to get a clearance into the Class C. We got shunted around a few frequencies until we finally ended up being directed back to our first choice. They are busy. I can only assume the controller didn't hear me and thought we were somewhere else. Anyhow, someone finally acknowledged us which here is the equivalent of a clearance into the C. In reality a clearance isn't required but you do need to have two way comms. So if a controller doesn't want you, he just ignores you. They are extremely helpful for the level of traffic they have to deal with. I won't make comment on our own guys at home but I certainly will see them differently after this trip.

Before we knew it we were cleared to land on 26L and the adventure was over.

I find myself slightly emotional again. More to come I a day or two. I think I'll write it on the plane home.

For now I'm off to find my FedEx box of clothes. I'm sick of these ones!

 

Skippin’ Town

A quiet night in Jackson Hole. We were lucky enough to meet briefly with Alfred's Daughter Sara and her husband Stephen and thier gorgeous little daughter Elisabeth for a brief drink. After that we ventured into town for a quick meal and returned for an early night.

We were both looking forward to a great sleep in our flash separate rooms. Big comfy beds, flat screen TV, you name it. But did it happen? Nope. I had a fairly broken sleep and Derwood reported similar. I was awake at 05:00 so I had a look at the weather. I was ready to go by 06:20 so I rang Darryn and he was ready to go too. We headed for the airport. It was a touch chilly at 8 degrees at that time of the morning. Typical alpine weather.

The rental car girl said it was beautiful at the airport at 5am as there was a big thunderstorm brewing West of the Tetons with the lightning adding to the beauty. I wasn't that impressed as I could see the storm moving closer so we were keen to split ASAP yet again.

Back at the FBO Darryn had everything all set so we walked along the line of Business jets to our ride and got it ready for departure. At 07:30 local Darryn was pushing the throttle in as it was just starting to hail lightly at the arrival end of the runway. We rolled clear of the weather on the takeoff roll and climbed into beautiful clear skies.

At our selected cruising altitude of 8500' we were below the tops of the terrain but it was fairly easy navigation through some fairly mild valleys. The scenery as we headed south from Wyoming into Utah was absolutely beautiful in the morning light with nature showing us all the colours of the rainbow in the terrain as it slipped on by.

Our Destination had changed. Initially I had planned Provo but everyone we told about it could only respond with 'Oh'. That did it for us. So the day's destination was Cedar City Utah, which was initially only an alternate. This particular flight was bound for a tech stop in a little town called Nephi. I had chosen this as a tech stop earlier on since Provo was charging around $6.70 a gallon for 100LL but Nephi, just 10 minutes further on was down at around $5.25 provided you pump it yourself. That was good enough for me. I mean the gas at any price is cheaper than home but there is no point in throwing money away. And anyhow, we prefer the smaller town to stop at anyhow.

As we approached Provo from the East we had the mountains to contend with. There is a very beautiful canyon just East of Provo, aptly named Provo Canyon that we headed for. The weather was great and the wind light. The majesty of this area has to be seen. Certainly an iPhone camera doesn't do it justice.

We flew through the canyon at 8500' with peaks 3500' above us on either side. Unbelievable and indescribable. Derwood did a great job at not smiling but I couldn't help it. It was nature at its best and seeing the terrain open out to Provo City and the lake beyond was stunning.

From the exit of the canyon we hugged the edge of the cliffs to avoid Provo class D. We were above it but we wanted to be sure and it was fun, but don't tell anyone.

Within minutes we were on descent into Provo for a well earned leg stretch. We gassed up, chatted to the pilot of an executive jet who was waiting for his customers to return from their business.

One hour had passed all too soon so we jumped in and headed for Cedar City just an hour down the line.