Monday, April 30, 2012

BPPP number 3

This weekend I completed my third BPPP.  It was a lot of fun and I highly recommend the course for Baron and Bonanza pilots who haven't done it.  It's a bit pricey at $1395 for the weekend, but the training is top notch and worth it as there is nowhere else I know of that a person can get access to such a large number of extremely experienced pilots in person.  Some of these guys are ridiculously experienced, I mean thousands and thousands of hours, carrier landings, etc.  It's also great to meet the other pilots who are local to me and generally all a super cool group, they are flying Beechcrafts after all!  A shot of the last row of the Hotel ramp, how cool is it to see thirty odd of the finest Bo's and Baron's all on the same ramp?

My instructor for the weekend was Erik Slayback, a JetBlue captain and he was awesome.  My Saturday morning flight started at 8am.  We went through all the paper work,  and he quizzed me a bit on the IFR charts, the textual descriptions and symbols, etc.  Then we blasted off and did steep turns, accelerated stall, power on/off stalls, emergency decent, some "flying by the numbers" stuff, failed the left engine and simulated step downs for getting all the numbers, failed and feathered the critical engine and then held it at blue line max climb configuration until she could climb no more at about 8500 ft, ILS to MOD to published missed and hold, single engine ILS, single engine partial panel RNAV (he failed my AHRS by pulling the breaker) to circle to land, eng failure on takeoff, popped door, VOR approach to SCK, emergency gear extension and back to CCR. 3.5 hrs and an IPC in the books. My thigh is actually sore today from stomping on the rudder so hard.  What a work out!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Flying M

I got a short email from a guy that reads my blog inviting me to fly in to his private airstrip sometime, the Flying M airport.  Of course I was immediately intrigued, I have a bucket list item to land at every airport in California someday, and this might be my only chance to see CA03, how could I refuse?  It was kind of a notable flight for a few reasons, I first hit up Tracy because it's on the way and I needed gas, and of course TCY has the cheapest around.  I took on 80 gallons, confirmed with the owner Zak that I was indeed going to fly in, and blasted off towards Merced as the airport is near Castle.  I was enjoying a perfect afternoon day with clear and a million weather...

So I'm flying VFR, happy to not be talking to anyone on the radio for once, hand flying and checking out the scenery and I go to plug CA03 into the Garmin and lo and behold it's not in the DB.  Hmmm, am I that dependent on modern tech?  The Garmin glass panel avionics is nice and all but come on, it's clear as day outside... there is a old thing called PILOTAGE right?  I don't need a GPS fix!  I pressed on and as I neared Merced I started flying around where it appeared to be on the sectional but I couldn't find the darned thing!  Feeling like a total goob, I finally dialed up El Nido VOR, flew over it, then tracked outbound on the 015 degree radial which looked like it would run me into the airport.  In my defense, it IS a bit hard to spot, no?  See it right off the wingtip?

I setup for landing and the derned Garmin is lighting up yellow and red and screaming "Terrain!  Terrain!" because it doesn't know there is an airfield there and thinks I'm about to fly into the ground.  The runway is not wide, but it's plenty long at 3,000 ft and it's in good condition so an easy, non event landing.  I pulled in between another Baron and a new SR22 turbo in a little ramp area at the end of the runway 19 (I think).  From a house perched on a hill over looking the airstrip, the owner comes rumbling down a dirt road in a big diesel truck, a fat cigar hanging out of his mouth.  I felt like I had come to see William Randolf Hearst.  

I wish I had more time to spend there, but I had guests coming over my house and had gotten a late start (as usual) so I didn't have nearly enough time to check out the digs.  The owner turned out to be a really cool guy and fellow Colemill Baron owner.  I also met a few of his delightful friends and family members and got a quick truck tour of the property.  Photos can't possibly do it justice but it's an absolutely incredible pastoral landscape, on 15,000 acres with rolling hills, creeks, cows and we even spotted a coyote.

Before blasting off for home I added a GPS waypoint for CA03.  I really must come back here! 

Thursday, April 12, 2012


So my tail cone lens cover, AKA "stinger" lens is cracked, so I thought I'd order a new one.  Also the storm window seal is old and makes a bit of a hissing sound so I ordered a new one of those as well.  Today the goods arrived!

See that piece of plastic on the left that looks like it's worth about $2.50?  Care to take a guess? The plastic is surely worth $2.50, but with the FAA approved paper underneath could it possibly be worth.... $132.89 ?  You got it!  Gotta love aviation!  How about the little coil of sticky tape on the right for the storm window seal?  Surely $1.99 right?  $4.99?  $9.99?  How about $32.90 !@?  Crikey!!!  We've got to take the government out of this, all I can say is W T F.

Glad I'm not flying today though, it's been a long time since we've had TSTRMS strong enough to send my dog to the closet!

By the way that's the new Garmin Pilot app for the IPad.  I actually like it more than ForeFlight, it's really really good.  I must hand it to ForeFlight for pioneering the low cost flight apps on the IPad, surely this app would cost $500+ per year if even available had Garmin been allowed to pave the way... yet this app is really slick.  I hope ForeFlight can catch up.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Thermals to Thermal

This weekend I loaded up the Baron and took a little weekend jaunt down to Palm Springs.  I thought I'd do a little writeup because it's pretty much the perfect weekend getaway spot for this time of year.  We departed a cold and drizzly bay area just before a big storm blew through, leaving behind 50 degree temps and buckets of rain for 88 degree endless sunshine, all just two hours by Baron.

I decided to land at Thermal airport which is 20 or so miles south of Palm Springs.  I could have gone to Bermuda Dunes and Palm Springs International and been closer to my destination, but who likes to spend $30 a night for a tie down and $8 a gallon for gas?  Not me.  Thermal Self Serve is really good, don't let the name fool you.  You need to pump your own gas but otherwise it's basically a full service FBO and they even have a little putting green.  I called ahead and the rental car was waiting for me.  Super nice guys there, and only $10 a night for tiedown or $30 for the week.  If your plane can fit, they charge you $10, not like Signature which charges you double the $25 rate if you have a twin even though you take the same amount of space.  I even saw a king air squeezed in...  and a gaggle of warbirds even came in for gas, cool!

Our destination was Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage... (  this is an awesome resort and very family friendly, complete with a large swimming pool and their own water park.  The water park has two water slides and an endless river, as well as a kiddie beach for toddlers.  It was built in the 1930's and just oozes with period charm.   I'm not a big golfer but it looks like it has an amazing golf course too.

The weather was perfect.  I was a little concerned about turbulence because the last time I flew in here we got tossed around by some major thermals.  This time it was smooth as butter flying in.  Also got to check out Joshua Tree national park which was about an hour drive away.  Very cool place, it was like a Dr. Seuss fairy tale land, these photos don't come close to doing it justice.  The wide open spaces and desert landscape are really surreal.  I really want to go back and camp.

A low pressure system blew through northern california on Saturday bringing heavy rain, ice and general miserable weather up north.  As the system moved in it brought some major wind and dust storms to the Cochella valley so I was a little concerned about turbulence on the trip home, Palmdale was seeing gusts to 70mph and calling for MVFR due to dust. NWS issued a severe weather warning for high winds.  Despite that, the trip home turned out to be reasonably smooth though with moderate bumps in the valley but nothing more than light chop over 10k.  I needed to climb to 12k to get over the slag that was left over from the storm, and up there that meant a big 60 kt headwind.  2 hours down, nearly 3 hours back, but at least it was smooth!