Welcome to the Santa Cruz Flying Club Blog
The following posts are created by a collection of club members, CFI's, or other pilots whom we felt might write content you would be interested in. The content of the posts is the property of the respective authors, and Santa Cruz Flying Club assumes no responsibility or liability for the contents of their posts. You might also want to read the biographies of the authors.
July 8th, 2019 by Gryphon (Bio)
For many years SCFC members have enjoyed renting N3504A. Student pilots completing their pilot training have rented the 172SP Skyhawk after completing their ‘checkride’ and existing pilots have done cross-country trips to destinations as far east as AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI and north through Canada to Alaska and back. Sadly, as of the end of June the well-loved Skyhawk made her last flight.
While some details of N3504A’s disappearance are now known with some degree of certainty, other details may never be known for sure. The following FAQ will try to address many of the questions around N3504A’s unscheduled departure from the Watsonville Airport (KWVI) on or around 9PM on June 26th.
Q: What happened?
A: See the ASIAS preliminary notice (link) for the most official details.
Q: That’s not a lot of information, what else is known?
A: The “final” location of the aircraft was determined from radar data by reliable sources (military) to be in the Pacific ocean 3.3 miles off the coast, directly west (270 heading) of KWVI. Very little else is known with absolute certainty, and speculation is not helpful to anyone, especially those that lost a loved one or just a well-loved aircraft.
Q: Was a SAR (Search and Rescue) operation performed?
A: Yes. The US Coast Guard (USCG) conducted a SAR operation but was unable to find any sign of wreckage at or around the GPS coordinates provided from radar track data.
Q: When was the aircraft first discovered missing?
A: The aircraft was discovered missing from its tie-down space on June 27th when a pilot arrived early to dispatch his noon reservation and did not find the aircraft where he had parked it the previous day. No reservation had been made for the aircraft in the scheduler for the intervening time block. The pilot immediately notified the club manager. The club manager then contacted all active club members that may have forgotten to create a reservation to determine when the aircraft would be back (by noon the aircraft was obviously overdue).
Q: Do pilots often fail to create and dispatch a reservation for a club aircraft?
A: Sometimes pilots forget to dispatch a reservation or “check-in” when they return. This is the first time a plane has been taken without an existing reservation in the scheduling system.
Q: Was the plane taken by a member of the flying club?
A: Yes, based on available information, we believe the pilot was a club member in good standing (dues paid for the month of June). This is conjecture, however — until local law enforcement is able to release their findings.
Q: Do you know the identity of the pilot?
A: To respect the privacy of the pilot’s family, SCFC defers a full answer to local law enforcement. But yes, all but one club member who had recent rental activity in N3504A was able to be contacted. We can connect those dots.
Q: Why has it taken so long to make this information “public”?
A: Many reasons. Government agencies take time to coordinate, and are not always immediately forthcoming with data, for one. Without that data it is irresponsible to conjecture. The aircraft was at first considered overdue under suspicious circumstances. At some point it was determined (not by SCFC) to be “stolen”. Conspiracy theorists will point and say “so-and-so is hiding something!” and, generally, the media will report whatever is the most sensational. The truth takes time.
Q: Who has “jurisdiction” over the investigation?
A: This is also a reason that it has taken “so long” to make more information public. Local law enforcement and the Watsonville Airport have been incredibly helpful and responsive, as has the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) and USCG. Early media reports incorrectly stated (assumed?) as “fact” that the FBI is involved (not to our knowledge?) — MEDIA: cite your sources, check your facts, please! SCFC still doesn’t know the answer to this question, and is nonetheless very grateful for the assistance from every agency helping to investigate this devastating event.
Q: Did the pilot intentionally crash in the ocean?
A: Lacking any wreckage or detailed radar trajectory data (which the military may or may not have in enough resolution, and may or may not eventually share under a FOIA request) we will never know. VFR flight into IMC / spatial disorientation is just as possible, especially over the water near sunset.
Q: Did the pilot make any radio calls?
A: The pilot made no radio calls at the time of departure, or at any time, according to archived recordings of the CTAF (common traffic advisory frequency) and ATC.
Q: I have a question that you haven’t answered in this FAQ, how can I best ask it?
A: Please do not call the club phone number with questions regarding N3504A (calls about getting checked out in a different aircraft are welcome, of course) — for obvious reasons. Please submit questions via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family of the deceased.
Update as of 07/11/2019:
Q: Who does local law enforcement suspect took the aircraft?
A: Law Enforcement continues to investigate a missing person who was a member of the club in June: Mr. Hugo Mar
Q: Will SCFC conjecture as to the mental state of Mr. Hugo Mar?
Q: Was Mr. Mar “denied” making a reservation for N3054A on the night the aircraft went missing?
A: No. All members in good standing can make reservations utilizing the online scheduling system at any time. Mr. Mar could have, but did not, make a reservation for the aircraft on June 26th (i.e., he failed to follow club protocol for taking the aircraft). If Mr. Mar had attempted a reservation and was denied there would have been an audit trail linking that SCFC member and the disappearance of the aircraft. SCFC does not know where misinformation about being Mr. Mar being “denied” originated.
Q: Is it suspicious that the pilot taking the aircraft did not follow club protocol to make (and dispatch) a reservation, and also did not follow standard FAA protocol with respect to making identifying radio calls on the CTAF frequency?
A: Yes, it is very suspicious.
November 7th, 2014 by Dana King (Bio)
On November 8th we will be having our annual pumpkin drop from 12-4pm. Kids and adults alike come fly and drop your pumpkins, hit the target and win prizes! Bring your own uncarved pumpkin or purchase one from us. There will be hotdogs $3 and bottled water $1. Suggested donation per drop $20
See you there!
November 5th, 2013 by Dan Dawson (Bio)
The Santa Cruz Flying Club and Ocean Air Flight Services have joined forces to celebrate the fall season by hosting a post-Halloween dropping of pumpkins from aircraft on Saturday, November 9 from 9 a.m. to 1:00 PM.
Young and old alike are invited to bring their (uncarved) left-over Halloween pumpkins and test their accuracy hitting a ground target for fun and prizes. The ‘Pumpkin Drop’ has been a popular annual post-Halloween event at the airport. Pilots volunteer their time and aircraft to take ‘pumpkin droppers’ twice around the pattern and over a 5’ x 5’ target located beside the runway. Prizes are awarded for pumpkins, or fragments thereof, that land closest to the target.
For community members interested in learning about aviation, or considering beginning flying lessons themselves, this is an excellent opportunity for an introduction to flight. Certified flight instructors will be available to demonstrate basic pilot skills and answer questions.
Donations are encouraged to offset fuel costs. You are invited to bring your own small pumpkin, or the Flying Club will supply one for a $10.00 per pumpkin suggested donation.
A Call for Pilots & Aircraft Owners
Fly-in events like the pumpkin drop are a great excuse to get out and fly. If you're based at any of the Bay Area airports it's just a short flight to Watsonville to join the fun, and even check out the "Second Saturday" airport event with discounted fuel prices and eat at Props Restaurant and Lounge at the airport terminal.
So if you're a pilot/owner, a renter, or a CFI in the area, we would absolutely love to have you stop by and introduce yourself and join in the fun.
If you have any extra small uncarved pumpkins, be sure to bring them along so you can either drop them yourself or donate them to the event so we can connect your pumpkins with visitors who would like to attempt to hit the target as well.
If you're planning on coming out of even considering it, please click the "Register Now" button above and let us know! We would love to have an idea of how many aircraft, pilots and participants will be there.
March 8th, 2013 by Dan Dawson (Bio)
Santa Cruz Flying Club offers it’s members a $5/hr discount on the following aircraft:
- Tecnam P2002 “Sierra” Light Sport Aircraft
- Cessna 172SP “Skyhawk”
How does it work?
- Click to Join the Santa Cruz Flying Club
- Login to your SCFC account on FlightCircle
- Make your reservation!
With increasing fuel costs and already low aircraft rental rates this discount won’t last forever, so fly today! 🙂
March 8th, 2013 by Dan Dawson (Bio)
This month’s gathering is Monday, March 11th at 6:30 p.m. at the Props Restaurant and Lounge at the Watsonville Airport. The general topic will be questions and answers for those thinking about getting started with flying lessons, and for those who are coming back to flying after some time away.
If you’re not able to make it to this gathering but have questions about flight training, go ahead and email them to email@example.com and we’d be glad to get answers to you or assist you in getting the information you need!
March 8th, 2013 by Dan Dawson (Bio)
On the second Saturday of each month the Watsonville Airport will be sponsoring the following activities to encourage flying and share our passion for general aviation from 8 a.m.–4 p.m.:
- Historical Aircraft Display
- Fuel Sale: The airport will substantially lower self service fuel prices onAvGas and Jet “A” and there is no limit on amount of fuel purchased from 8 am–4 pm. (No other discounts apply)
- Props Restaurant Special Offers: In support of Second Saturday, Props Restaurant and Lounge will offer a “Second Saturday Special”. Details will be available on the Props’ website and Props’ Facebook page.
Additional information can be found on the Watsonville Municipal Airport website.
November 12th, 2012 by Dan Dawson (Bio)
Someone from Specialized Aviation will be introducing us to their 2007 Diamond DA-40 XL aircraft which is equipped with a Garmin G1000 full glass cockpit.
They will also be introducing us to their G1000 simulator. So bring a snack to share and come on out to learn about these new resources at the airport!
This month’s potluck is on Monday, November 12th at 6:30pm and will be located at the offices of Specialized Aviation, 150 Aviation Way, Watsonville, CA.
October 31st, 2012 by Gryphon (Bio)
[Be sure to read Part 1 if you missed it!]
The good news about storms passing through is waiting them out. Our first night in Nebraska, my boss tells me it’ll be a late start in the morning and to me that means sleeping in. Excellent! I set my alarm for 7am. Compared to the time I woke up to leave Watsonville, it was a significant improvement. I go to bed exhausted, and wake up to country music playing on the radio and the sun shining. I know the coffee left in hotel rooms isn’t the best, but I get excited about it every time I travel. The novelty of miniature shampoos and soaps has worn off, but I can’t help but be giddy about the complimentary coffee. I think it’s the fact that I can have something warm and comforting to hold onto before I go out and face the world, even when I’m far away from home. But when did hotels get rid of their mugs? There’s nothing like a cup of coffee in a plastic cup. And I don’t mean that in a good way.
Well anyways, after my morning coffee and solitude, I go downstairs to meet everyone for breakfast. All three of my travelling companions are glued to either a laptop or phone….Dave and Tim checking weather and Darwin simply not wanting to waste a single second away from his new phone that he has to give up at the end of the trip. I fill up a plate of food and realize too late that there’s biscuits and gravy, my favorite. As I’m eating what I wish were biscuits and gravy, Dave sums up the weather and mentions I should review the NOTAM for Oshkosh, since we’ll be getting there in the afternoon. Naively, I’m expecting the usual abbreviated sentence, perhaps a paragraph. Instead, he hands me a binder. Really? The NOTAM fills up a binder? Luckily, I only had to review the arrival procedures for now, so that meant only reading ten pages or so on all the different scenarios of what runway to land on, what to do when they have to close the runways, where to hold, so on and so forth. And you’re supposed to do all that without talking on the radio. Reading through it, I was amazed people flew in at all. To be honest, a lot of it was diagrams and maps, but still, it’s a little intimidating for someone who has never done it before, and maybe even for someone who has. After breakfast, we head out to the airport. Somewhere up ahead along our route, the storm is still blowing over, so we relax at the pilot lounge. Still reading that NOTAM, I grab a wingback chair and ottoman and make myself comfortable. Shortly after I finish, it’s time to forge ahead. The pilot that helped us the day before was there again to see us off, and to point out the fires burning from lightening strikes.
We could see the smoke before we took off, but flying by, the smoke was a thick cloud, like we were flying over a fog bank. For a moment, it was like being back home. After that, there wasn’t much else going on for the next hour and a half. In fact, I was a little worried I’d get bored. It was the first time I’ve ever seen flat land as far as the eye could see, even several thousand feet up, although the visibility wasn’t exactly unlimited with all the haze. The most exciting event of this leg was crossing the Missouri River, with Lewis and Clark Lake off to our left. We cross-referenced our position over VFR charts to identify landmarks along the way, as a way to entertain ourselves. The farmland was more scattered this leg. The land below looked more rugged and brown. Over time, though, the farms became more clustered and the land turned a lush green. They weren’t the circular fields that I’ve gotten accustomed to seeing after crossing into Nevada. They were the familiar square fields like the ones around Watsonville and San Joaquin Valley. Eventually, we caught up to the remaining remnants of that storm we were trying to wait out, but were able to skirt around most of the rain. After that, the view cleared up significantly. We even passed over old fashioned grain silos. Hundreds were scattered all over the place.
Towards the end of the leg, we crossed into Minnesota and landed at the Austin Airport, home of the Hormel Foods hangar. A classic Midwestern boy, garbed in baseball attire, fueled up our plane and I went inside the FBO where I met Austin’s greeting committee… a friendly yellow lab named Tex. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of Tex, one of the few times where I didn’t think to snap a photo. Actually, I didn’t know where we were until I looked on the map hanging in the FBO. I was reminded of the joke about the pilot who lands at an airport and tries to get the fuel attendant to tell him where he is without admitting he’s lost. Thank God for maps! We grab the courtesy car yet again and head to a local diner and grill. I order a Rueben sandwich, something which Darwin points out I have a habit of doing, seeing how they are my favorite. We linger at the diner, trying to get a feel for the traffic heading into Oshkosh by listening to the updates on the ATIS. Dave decides to fly directly to Oshkosh, rather than to a nearby airport, since the traffic didn’t sound too congested.
Back at the airport, Tim tells me I should fly right seat since I studied the NOTAM more closely than he did. I have to admit, I was hoping to fly in back since I have never gone into Oshkosh before and I just wanted to hang back and watch. Oh well! We tookoff for a much shorter leg, but also for a more hectic one. Over the green fields once again, I notice another shift in convention. Rather than square or circular fields, they follow the natural contour of the terrain. The fields here are more reminiscent of clover leaves or lace. It’s like each field is a separate piece of artwork and they’re sewn together into some kind of huge crazy quilt.
I know I’ve been talking a lot about farms, but let’s face it, that’s all there is over there. Or is it? Up ahead is something so monumental, such a figure in history, and yet I totally forgot about it…. the Mississippi River. I’ve always imagined the Mississipi as a vast gushing river with “river boat queens” as CCR calls them, rolling along up and down the river. Where we crossed, it was definitely vast but was also scattered with islands in the middle of it so that it looked as if it were contaminated with pond scum. I think next time I’ll “hitch a ride on a river boat queen”, if I want to appreciate the river better. Get down in the trenches, so to speak.
With Oshkosh fast approaching, Dave, Tim, and I rehearse what we need to do and when to do it by: turn lights on and put transponder on standby 30 miles out, get ATIS and tune in the approach frequency prior to 15 miles from Ripon, be established at 90 knots at 1800 feet before Ripon, follow the railroad tracks to Fisk, listen for ATC instructions after Picket, do what they say, if we get this runway do this, if we get that runway do that, don’t mess up… Nah, there was no pressure at all. During the initial stages of this dry run, naturally I forget just about everything I’ve read. When Dave first asked what to do with the lights, my response was something like” uuugh”, and fumbled through the binder once again, having never left the clutches of my hands. The good news is, we get everything together and do just fine getting in, despite the fact that when we got within range of Approach, we found out no planes were landing due to some mishap on the ground. The planes that were already on the published arrival had to end up holding around one of two lakes that was alongside the approach path. Since we weren’t quite there yet, we ended up circling on our own, rather than joining the holding pattern.
Eventually, though, we continued toward Ripon and fortunately traffic started moving again, so by the time we came up to one of the holding lakes, we were able to merge in easily. What we didn’t realize, is that we were closely followed by several other planes trying to merge in as well. First we were passed up by a biplane. Of all planes to pass up an RV, an antique biplane is the last plane I would’ve thought to do it. Dave’s RV did not like flying at 90 knots either. We were passed again by a V-tail bonanza on the left, passed again by a Mooney on the right, and passed again by another biplane from above. All close enough to read their tail numbers practically. But we all fell in line single file, following the tracks on our way to Fisk where we would be told where to go from there. It turns out, as it is first and foremost an experimental aviation event, there are a lot of RVs on their way to Oshkosh ahead of us, and a couple of times we weren’t sure if ATC was talking to us, or another RV. After a plethora of planes ahead of us were cleared to various runways, they finally called us up and uttered the most heraldic phrase of AirVenture… “Rock your wings.” I mentioned before ATC does not want pilots talking on the radio since, as it says on the first page of the NOTAM, it’s the busiest air space in the world. There’s no time for chit chat. So when I heard that phrase, it was like the trumpets calling, confirming that, no I haven’t been dreaming, I did fly across country and I’ve made it to general aviation’s greatest event and community. Oshkosh was here and it was just starting at that moment. It was such a thrill, I had to get the “Rock your Wings” T-shirt later on. And believe me, I don’t need any more T-shirts.
We were told to head for Runway 36L and to switch to tower. We did a 90 degree turn to our right and followed a road parallel the runway. Tower cleared us to land on the yellow dot on 36L. It’s so busy here, that ATC has planes landing on the same runway simultaneously. The runway has four dots along its length and the yellow one was second from the approach end. Good thing Dave was up on his short field landings. The NOTAM told us to exit as soon as possible, even if it meant taxiing onto the grass. Before we reach a lineman, I put a sign on the windshield to let them know we’re going to experimental parking. Honestly, this part is a blur. Wittman Regional Airport is huge, and we are passed off by a myriad of linemen. It is the most packed airport I’ve ever seen, and it only gets fuller as the week goes on. Somehow we end up parked in a field and join the ranks of the other homebuilt and kit aircraft.
It’s hard to believe that it only took nine and a half hours (Hobbs time, that is) to get here. If it weren’t for the fact that we couldn’t top off the fuel tanks, Dave said we could’ve gotten here in a day with only two legs instead of four. I’ve really got to get an RV for myself! Out on the ground, I can feel the heat and humidity. It’s Saturday, July 21st, late in the afternoon. People started flying in the day before, but there’s still plenty of space in the surrounding fields. We get the plane tied down and covered and flag down a courtesy truck. Fortunately, we got a ride right away, whereas other people weren’t so lucky. It reminded me of people flagging down the fuel truck in Watsonville during the airshow… everyone wants fuel at the same time. We get dropped off where we thought our rental car would be waiting for us. It turns out Hertz gave our car to someone else. The nerve! Oh well. The FBO had free cookies so I was satisfied. Eventually, we solve our mishap by taking someone else’s rental car and we go on our merry way to where we will be staying the first couple of nights: the University of Wisconsin. Those dorm rooms brought back memories, whether they’re good or bad I’m still undecided, of my freshman year in college. We freshen up and meet back up again ready for dinner. Where is the best place to be in town, aside from the airport? The local brewery of course! We decide to walk the mile or so to the pub in order to compensate for the fact that we’ve been sitting down for the last two days straight. As soon as we get there, Tim runs into an old friend. I guess that doesn’t surprise me. I’ve heard aviation is a small world, and I suppose you’re bound to run into an acquaintance at Oshkosh. After the last two days, we sit down to a good meal, and even better, a good beer. Sure, I was still nervous as all hell about my presentations, but those were fears for another day. Today, I just arrived to the greatest aviation community and just concluded the greatest adventure I’ve had to date. Cheers to that!
October 31st, 2012 by Dan Dawson (Bio)
The Santa Cruz Flying Club and Ocean Air Flight Services have joined forces to celebrate the fall season by hosting a post-Halloween dropping of pumpkins from aircraft on Sunday, November 4 from noon to 2:00 PM. Young and old alike are invited to bring their (uncarved) left-over Halloween pumpkins and test their accuracy hitting a ground target for fun and prizes.
The ‘Pumpkin Drop’ has been a popular annual post-Halloween event at the airport. Pilots volunteer their time and aircraft to take ‘pumpkin droppers’ twice around the pattern and over a 5’ x 5’ target located beside the runway. Prizes are awarded for pumpkins, or fragments thereof, that land closest to the target. Certified pilots can also participate in a “Spot Landing Contest” where they attempt to guide their airplane to a perfect touchdown on a line drawn across the runway.
For community members interested in learning about aviation, or considering beginning flying lessons themselves, this is an excellent opportunity for an introduction to flight. Certified flight instructors will be available to demonstrate basic pilot skills and answer questions.
A raffle will take place during the event and the winners of the Pumpkin Drop and Spot Landing Contests will receive special prizes. There is no charge for the flight if you bring your own small pumpkin, or we’ll supply them for a $10.00 per pumpkin suggested donation.
The Santa Cruz Flying Club is a non-profit social club focused on aviation and pilot training based at the Watsonville airport. The club atmosphere aids in learning to fly by sharing experiences with others, going on group flights to interesting destinations, and sharing flight expenses with other pilots. They have monthly potlucks and training opportunities throughout the year. For more information about this or other events visit the club online at https://scfc.org or call 831-722-4580.
Ocean Air Flight Services is a flight school and aircraft maintenance facility featuring new light sport aircraft (LSA) and offering training toward both the “traditional” FAA Private Pilot certificate and the newer and more affordable Sport Pilot certification. For more information about Ocean Air visit them online at http://oceanairflightservices.com or call 831-763-0290.
The ‘Pumpkin Drop’ will be held from noon to 2:00 PM at the Ocean Air hangar located at 170 Aviation Way, just off of Airport Blvd in Watsonville.
July 8th, 2012 by Dan Dawson (Bio)
The engine started at 6 o’clock in the morning of my boss’s RV-10 on July 20, 2012. Passengers included myself, my two bosses Dave and Tim, and Dave’s 12-year-old son Darwin. Departing point is Watsonville, California. The destination is Oshkosh, Wisconsin, with a few stops along the way, of course. With the four of us and no more than 25 pounds of luggage each, we crammed into the plane, rather comfortably. I thought to myself you couldn’t do this in a Cessna 172, the plane I’ve been flying for the last five years.
I was surprised to see that the typical morning fog had decided not to grace us with its presence, and had instead left a clear and bright summer morning. I was in the back seat for the first leg, which I was thankful for, thinking I would get a nap in before my time came to fly right seat. Getting up before eight in the morning really isn’t my thing. However, as I found out that morning, and throughout the rest of the trip, I couldn’t stop staring out the window. With my camera practically a permanent attachment to my hand throughout the trip, I snapped quite a few pictures. More than I could practically share in this article, topping out at 605 photos. I have to say I documented my first true cross-country flight fairly well.
You might be wondering at this point why we were going to Oshkosh. Obviously a business trip can’t be purely for fun. The company I work for, Aircrafters, is a builder-assist company for people building experimentals. I was asked earlier this year if I would like to go to Oshkosh AirVenture to present a composite workshop. My boss asked me to think about it and let him know by the following week. I remember thinking, “Oh, is this something I should think about.”, as if there was a reason why I should not go to the world’s best airshow, all expenses paid, have a flying adventure, and all I had to do was volunteer my time and present a composites workshop. I already knew my answer as soon as I heard the words “…do you want to go to Oshkosh…” Well, naturally, I agreed to go and take advantage of a rare opportunity to not only attend the legendary AirVenture, but be a part of it.
As the months went by with July rapidly approaching, I realized it wasn’t just one presentation I had to do, but at least two, and they weren’t just 30 minutes long, they were an hour and 15 minutes. And it wasn’t just on how to make a composite block, but it included a brief history and just about everything an A&P student would have to learn on the subject. So naturally, I was getting a little nervous, because honestly, talking really isn’t my thing either. So by the time July 20th came around (anniversary of Apollo 11, by the way), I was a mixture of excitement for the adventure and anxiety for the presentations and the inevitable questions that would be sure to follow. Good thing I skipped the coffee that morning.
We took off with the sunrise, and I’ve never seen the valley more beautiful. It was as if the ocean had spread into the valley, with the fog rolled in, with waves lapping against the hills and the sun reflecting off their surface. It was a whole different landscape. Our route programmed into the GPS, we made our way over to Lake Tahoe and then to Elko, Nevada. However, before we could make it into Elko, nature called, and we made a pit stop at Battle Mountain instead. Just descending, I could feel the heat creep up. We got out and stretched our legs and filled the plane up with fuel. I snapped off a few more pictures, including one of the airport cat. One of the things I’ve noticed at the various FBO’s throughout the trip, is quite a few have pets. I think we should definitely get one for Watsonville. Another thing I thought was funny, not being used to it, even though I ran the fuel truck part-time at Watsonville for ten years, was the linemen. They just stand out there, not even facing you sometimes with their hands up. Well, apparently, that’s where we were supposed to park. Good thing Dave was at the controls, otherwise I would have just waved as I went by in search of a tie down.
Taking off from Battle Mountain, I got to fly right seat. Dave let me fly for a little bit, but then after a while we just turned on the auto pilot. Dave said, “Now all we have to do is remember to switch fuel tanks.” The autopilot is a nice thing to have. I’m sure flying without one would have been a lot more exhausting, but satisfying as well. I remember when we finally got to Oshkosh, we were supposed to have a rental car waiting for us at one of the FBOs, but it wasn’t there. Another pilot duo out of Van Nuys also was left stranded without a car. They flew up in a Cessna 195. I didn’t ask, but I imagine an auto pilot wasn’t part of their avionics platform. They must have had a whole different experience flying by hand.
Eventually we wandered over to Utah and passed over the Great Salt Lake dessert and the lake itself. The dessert was the brightest landscape I’ve ever seen. It was a blinding white and stretched on for miles. I sure was glad I was in an airplane far above it than down on the sand. I don’t think all the sunblock in the world would have prevented instant incineration. Then passing over the lake was interesting as well. It was divided into two sections, split by a railroad in the middle. One side of the lake was pink with algae, and the other a crystal blue. I always thought Lake Tahoe was good sized, but Salt Lake is huge.
Pretty soon afterwards, we started flying over some colorful terrain that I’ve only seen in pictures and movies. It was like going back in time to my grade school social studies class when we learned about the Oregon Trail. Not that I’m a well-traveled explorer, but there have been only a few times where I’ve gone on a trip and have actually seen distinctive features from one place to the next. Underneath the green, instead of the mountain being a dull brown, they were striped red, white, and orange. That’s when I told myself, “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” so to speak. The further we got into Wyoming, the more the red faded into brown, but the striations were still unmistakable. Our second stop was in Sweetwater, Wyoming. We took the airport’s courtesy car out to the town to grab some lunch. If the mountains didn’t give it away that we were in the Midwest, the cowboy hats sure did.
With our bellies full and the wings filled up once again, we we’re off to Nebraska. Finally, storms came into view. We knew they were coming and figured that we would fly between them. Frankly, at this point, between the food coma and the two hours of sleep the night before, I slept through most of it, being in the back seat again. But I woke up here and there and took some more pictures, including one of a microburst off of our left wingtip. Definitely a new experience.
After we made it through unscathed, our final destination for the day of Valentine, Nebraska was close by. We tuned in the ASOS and Judy Garland’s voice runs through my head once more when the temperature calls out 40°C. How can there be nearby thunderstorms and the temperature is that hot? Apparently, as I was slowly discovering, it’s seems to be the norm for most of the country. We rolled up to the fuel station and climbed out of the plane. One of the local pilots was there to greet us, help us fuel up and showed us where the courtesy car was. One of the first things I noticed, aside from the weather, was how they bundled up the hay surrounding the runways. I’ve only seen rectangular hay bales before, but here the hay is rolled up into bundles. Maybe not the most riveting fact about the Midwest, but I thought it was interesting.
Now, I know I wasn’t PIC, and I was only copilot once out of three legs, and even then it was more sightseeing than copiloting, but after a long day of flying, I was ready for dinner and a full night’s sleep. We drove to the hotel we saw on approach to the airport and checked in. Thankfully I got my own room. I did feel a little guilty with the three guys crammed into one room, but I got over it. Time to myself was much appreciated. We went to the Valentine Lounge for dinner, which is apparently the place to be in town. The food was pretty good, and any place that makes their own blue cheese dressing gets my seal of approval. Back at the hotel, I looked over my pictures I took that day, listened to my favorite music, and just sat thinking how amazing it was that only this morning I was in California. Up to that point in time, the longest flight I’ve been on in a general aviation airplane was down to Camarillo. Today, I went all the way to Nebraska.
*Note to readers:
I started writing this account at noon, thinking I would write about the whole trip in one afternoon.. The day is half over now, and I’m only one day into my trip. Hopefully, you’ve found it interesting so far and would like to read more, but I’m thinking it would be best to stop for now, and write some more next week. Stay tuned.
Santa Cruz Flying Club, 50 Aviation Way, Suite 4, Watsonville, CA 95076 · Phone: 831-722-4580 ·