Trip Report: Castle Air Museum

Article by Steve Bond

Elsie H, Terry S, and Steve B jumped into Steve S's 172 (thank you Steve!) and cruised over the coastal mountains and across the central valley to the former Castle Air Force Base in Atwater, CA, now known as Castle Airport.  It was a sunny day, perfect weather for the trip.  Around 80 other private planes with pilots and passengers made the trip as well.  There was plenty of room, the air base has a 11,802 foot runway and the facilities for former air wings of USAF bombers and tankers of the cold war era.

What a treat it is for us who adore flying machines to be able to wander among scores of airplanes representing 80 years of aviation history.   Castle AIr Museum has more than 50 warbirds and this day was "Open Cockpit Day"  Each aircraft has a group or organization of volunteers to restore and maintain the old birds and they were on hand to provide background informations and conduct tours of the planes.  There was more to see and explore than anyone could do in a single day.  From the pre WW-II warbirds, bombers trainers and transport, to the modern cold war fighters, tankers, and bombers including a B-52, an SR-71 'Blackbird' spy-plane.  Some aircraft are historically obscure, such as the North American B-45 Tornado from the 1950's period of early jet aircraft.

We rode the shuttle van from the airport to the museum.  It was operated, like everything at the museum by volunteers.  Once inside the gates, we split up and wandered throughout the museum exploring various pieces of history and technology.  For example, we visited the behemoth warplane, the Convair B-36 "Peacemaker".  I stood in line for 20 minutes waiting for my turn in the flight deck under the expansive wingspan of the B-36.  It is the largest piston powered aircraft in the world.  It carried up to 22 crew and could stay aloft for more than two days (51 hours record) without refueling.  This thing weighed 410,000 pounds and had ten engines.  Elsie and I agreed that George Lucas must have seen its retractable gun turrets and used them as the prototypes for  the Star Wars turbo-lasers on the Imperial Starships.

In the giant delta wing British Avro 'Vulcan' B-2 Bomber.  I channeled an experience from the 007 film adventure "Thunderball" by climbing the passageways and exploring the cockpit and navigation stations of the 60-year-old nuclear bomber.

This place is haunted.  For years, museum staff have reported apparitions, voices, and other paranormal events around some of the warbirds. The museum was featured on an episode of UPN's  Real Ghosts (1995).   We brought our lunches, but there were vendors and with food and drink for the thousands of visitors that day.

We stayed until the museum closed the gates at 5 pm and sent us on our way.  No doubt they were concerned about visitors encountering the poltergeist that wander the museum.   It was a clear flight back. Elsie piloting, delivered Terry and I to KWVI before departing for KSNS.

For more information on the Castle Air Museum visit

Trip Report: Bay Tour Flight, January 28, 2012

Members of the Santa Cruz Flying Club flew the Bay Tour Saturday, January 28. 2012. The flight of two (a Cessna 150L and Cessna 172N) departed Watsonville, California (KWVI) and landed at a very busy Livermore Airport (KLVK).

The route took us clockwise from Watsonville, over Highway 17 and the Lexington Reservoir, up the peninsula, just west of SFO and AT&T Park, then East of the financial district at about 2,500 feet. The airspace around KSFO was very busy as evidenced by ATC chatter. I often had up to 7 targets on my TIS display (Garmin 430W) at a time.

Over the bay, we passed near Alcatraz, the Golden Gate and Angel Island. After flying over San Pablo Bay, we headed east to the Carquinez Straights and the mothball fleet, then southeast over Concord and down the valley toward Dublin.

The controller at Livermore was up to his armpits in weekend warriors, as evidenced by his comments to some of the inbound aircraft. At one point, the controller told one of the pilots who was having difficulty orienting himself, to leave the airspace because he couldn't follow instructions (I removed that conversation from the footage so not to embarrass the pilot who's N number and call sign were clearly audible).

Landing was a bit left of the centerline but there was pretty stiff crosswind blowing from left to right and I didn't want drift into the soft stuff.

Three GoPro Hero cameras were used to capture the footage; one attached to the port wing just aft of the pitot tube, one below the horizontal stab on the starboard side and one handheld in the cockpit. The cockpit camera was a new GoPro Hero 2 that allowed me to capture ATC chatter by plugging it on to the 1/4 jack in the plane that is connected to the audio panel. The external cameras were attached using suction cup mounts. Video was edited using Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5 (first time for this program) and time compressed from 2.2 hours to just over 20 minutes.

Overall it was a great day and flight!


Google Earth map of the flight track

Day in the Sky at Watsonville Airport

Following is a note from Dean McCully about the Watsonville Airport "Day in the Sky" event. Santa Cruz Flying Club will be there, so tell your friends and be sure to stop by!


Greetings Aviators

Heads up, the SEVENTH annual Day in the Sky Watsonville is heading our way like a freight train... only 2.5 weeks away!

Who: Thousands of Central Coast families, especially families with kids with disabilities + low income families.

What: Biggest springtime Watsonville Airport festival ever. Plus about 100 exhibitors of Science/Technology/EngineeringMath/Aviation. Hot air balloons. Static aircraft displays + tours. Tons of hands-on fun for kids of all ages!

When: Saturday April 30, 9am-4pm

Where: Watsonville Municipal Airport, Watsonville. Easy access...
Take Hwy 1 to the "Airport Blvd" exit. Turn east, drive about 2 miles, you're there. Or if you're flying in, follow the coast until your GPS starts flashing WVI. (If it's flashing LAX, you've gone too far 😉

Why: We're continuing the 7 year long tradition of getting hoards of kids interested in general aviation and science, in an incredibly fun hands-on way.

How can you help? Many ways:

  1. Escort kids to the airplanes. Tell fun tales of aviation. Whatever you would like to get them hooked on GA.
  2. OR if you can fly in, come on down and give tours of your aircraft to the captivated families.
  3. OR Help give ground school and teach families how the planes work.
  4. OR just come on down and hang out with us and have some fun in the Watsonville sun...

We hope you can join us Saturday April 30...

See the website for more info: (for pilot registration -- go to the homepage for lots more info...)

Blue Skies!
Dean McCully
Shared Adventures Day in the Sky

Bay Tour flight over San Francisco

On New Years Eve 2010 I took my co-worker John Hamilton up for a flight in my Cessna 150. We headed up to San Francisco, did a Bay Tour, then returned via Half Moon Bay Airport where we had lunch at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. Then we continued down the coast back to Watsonville.

John brought along his camera and a GoPro that we mounted in the back window. I thought you might enjoy seeing a bit of what a Bay Tour looks like from a Cessna 150. If you've never been on a Bay Tour, I highly recommend giving your instructor a call and ask them to show you what it's all about! Give the Santa Cruz Flying Club a call at 831-722-4580 if you're looking for an instructor or rental aircraft!

Final Flight of 2010 from John Hamilton on Vimeo.

A Short Video of a Morning Flight

I'm quite surprised I never blogged this video previously, but thought it would be worth sharing with you now. One day last year I stayed home sick from work because I didn't want to spread my cold. So, I decided to head to the airport and fly since it was a beautiful day and I didn't have to work!

I had recently gotten a Canon 5D Mark II camera that could shoot video, so I decided to make a little video project out of my flight, so what you're going to see is some flight planning, pre-flighting the plane, and some shots from my flight to King City, Hollister and back to Watsonville.

Jet West Grand Opening at the Salinas Airport

On Friday, March 5th, Gryphon McArthur from Ocean Air Flight Services gave me a call and invited me to fly over to the Salinas Airport with him, I jumped on the opportunity right away!

The first thing that made me want to join him on this short trip would be that I would get to fly one of their new Light Sport aircraft, the Tecnam Sierra, also known as the Tecnam P2002 Sierra. You can read more about my experience with the aircraft in my post at


The other reason I was glad to join him was he told me about the grand opening of Jet West over at the Salinas Airport. We arrived in time for their ribbon cutting ceremony and got to meet a lot of great people and enjoy some of their food and beverages.


The facility itself is incredible, they put a lot of work and thought in to the layout and design of it to make it comfortable for those they would be serving. They had a variety of crew cars and vans out front, a well set up waiting room, pool table, pilots lounge, flight planning area, and even sleeping quarters and showers. Below are some pictures of their amazing facility.

Flight Planning

Board Room 1.jpg

Crew Lounge

Board Room 2.jpg

Half Moon Bay for Lunch with Friends

One of my favorite local destinations is still Half Moon Bay, KHAF. On Sunday after church my wife and I were planning on having lunch with another couple, and I proposed Half Moon Bay as an option. The other guy was a pilot but not current, and the girls liked the idea, so we headed to the airport. The girls and my infant daughter were going to drive up, so they dropped us off and departed.

Dan Dawson & Aaron Abell

We started preflighting my Cessna 150, N88808, hopped in, and were disappointed to find a dead battery. No fear, that's the benefit of being checked out in multiple aircraft at the airport! We put the 150 away and switched to a C172, within a few minutes we were airborn! The nice thing about the 172 in this case is it was faster, so even after our delay of preflighting two aircraft, we still beat the girls by about 10 minutes.

Below is an image I didn't photograph, but I found it on Flickr and was licensed via Creative Commons so I thought I might share it here to give you an idea of the airport environment. That is the Half Moon Bay airport in the foreground. The restaurant is just off the South end of the field by the boats inside the harbor. Upper left of the image is San Francisco International, and the San Carlos Airport is on the right side, with Palo Alto Airport just a bit further South. Oakland International is directly across the bay from SFO.

Creative Commons Licensed image from Flickr by: mrwilloby / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

My favorite restaurant up there is the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, they've got excellent food, plus indoor and outdoor dining. We didn't take the dogs this time, but if you eat outdoors, dogs are welcome. We had a great meal, walked the girls out to the parking area so they could see the plane, then departed back for Watsonville.

This time, since there were no delays in switching aircraft, even though we flew down along the coast, we still beat them by probably an hour, and got to see a great sunset starting along the way 🙂 Here's a picture of my wife Ellen and I, along with our daughter Daria.

Dan & Ellen with the Cessna 172

Angel Flight West, Watsonville Airport

Angel Flight is an organization that helps connect pilots with people who need transportation for medical reasons.  Often when someone is receiving treatment, the specialists or facilities they need the most are hundreds of miles away.

Traveling in cars for many hours can be very uncomfortable for those patients, but a flight in a small aircraft can easily cut that travel time in half, often cutting off even more time than that! And, with the speed of transport, the patients are often able to return home that same day saving the expense of a night in a hotel or in a distant city.

Angel Flight West is the branch of the organization that covers our area, and a collection of member pilots at the Watsonville Airport were recognized for their assistance to the organization. I was able to photograph the group of pilots and provide the image for the Santa Cruz Sentinel article discussing their recognition.