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West Coast Favorites – So Far!

By Eric McCarthy 

Last time I shared with you some of my favorite New England airfields. There are others, but let’s shift gears and take a look at some that I’ve discovered here in Southern California. I’ve been flying here for about five and a half years, and I fully recognize that I’ve barely scratched the surface when it come to visiting all the great airports the west coast has to offer – but, we’ve got to start somewhere. So here goes:

Santa Paula (KSZP)– Wedged in against a line of mountains to the southeast, Santa Paula is my favorite airport in Southern California. It is such an “alive” airport, full of old hangars and small aircraft of every description. I’ve flown in there a handful of times, and every time there was a busy traffic pattern full of aircraft ranging from Piper Cubs and Cessna 120s, to Decathalons and Swifts, antiques, homebuilts, and of course, more contemporary Pipers, Cessnas, and Beechcrafts. Aeroncas, Navions, Pitts’, and Extras – you name it, you’ll often find them at SZP. Pilots young and old, student and veteran, ply the pattern and ramp, lining up to refuel for another round of touch and goes or an aerobatic training session. In addition to some of the least expensive avgas around, the airport has a nice restaurant overlooking all the activity, and they’ve even got an aviation museum. Despite being non-towered, traffic sorts itself out smoothly, easily accommodating all comers. Once on the ground, open hangars reveal beautiful and pristine antiques and other aircraft in various stages of assembly. There’s a surprise around every corner! Steve McQueen, the King of Cool himself, used to keep his aircraft there in the hangar near the approach end of 22. 

Santa Paula Decathlon.Speaking of runway 22, be aware of the utility lines crossing the approach near the runway – no dragging it in low! There aren’t any glide-slope indicators, but the threshold is displaced to help you over the wires and at 2,700 feet. The runway is plenty long enough for most small aircraft.

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What do You Think?

By Ed Downs

This writer regularly teaches classes for most FAA written exams in addition to flight instruction and conducting special tutoring. Last weekend was no exception, as I taught a two-day IFR program. Yes, aimed at primarily passing the written exam, this class is a bit like taking a drink out of a fire hose. Classes always have a mix of students learning their IFR skills in all imaginable aircraft, ranging from a modest Cessna 150 to a Cessna Citation (really!) with Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) always well represented.  Some students have zero IFR flight training while others are being pounded on by their CFI-I’s to “get the written out of the way,” as they are ready for a check ride. The diversity makes such classes challenging to teach yet fun. This writer started his instrument flying career very modestly, learning in a 1955 Piper Tri Pacer, equipped with a 27 “crystal” transceiver and Narco Super Homer VOR (with whistle-stop tuning!), top- notch equipment back in the day.  As the years passed, advance technology became a part of my world, primarily through air transport aircraft, corporate jets, the most recent GA entries, and even a spacecraft.

Given this background, one of the class attendees caught me on our lunch break and asked an interesting question. This student was planning to purchase a plane, using that plane for IFR training. Budget considerations permit the purchase of a nice used plane with a six pack and upgraded avionics, or perhaps a plane that has already been upgraded to a high tech, flat panel form of display, complete with an integrated database and autopilot. Of course, the latter is more expensive but still a top-end option.  Now came the questions, “Would it be best to learn in the six-pack plane, with good avionics (to be upgraded later), or should I start by learning in a TAA equipped machine?” Good question, eh? What advice would you give?

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