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Thursday
Jan172019

Bouncing Around the Inland Empire

By Eric McCarthy 

The Inland EmpireI shared in an earlier column that when I moved here to Southern California, one of the first things I did was get to work on my Commercial Pilot Certificate. I joined a local flying club with airplanes at the airport I intended to fly out of, Palomar (KCRQ), and connected to an instructor there. I decided to do this for several reasons: 

First and most importantly, to improve my piloting skills; that’s pretty straightforward – as pilots, we should always be learning and striving to improve our skills, and upgrading my license would provide a great opportunity to do so. 

Second, as a newcomer to Southern California, I needed to get familiarized with the area, landmarks, airspace, etc. Flying around the area with a seasoned, local instructor who understood that this was part of my motivation, provided about as good an introduction to the area as possible. As the weeks of training passed, I grew more and more familiar, and comfortable, with the area, just as I had hoped.

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Thursday
Jan172019

Thinking About the New Year

By Ed Downs

Here it is, Dec. 31, and this writer is wondering what lies ahead for the New Year. Actually, one should be wondering about the wild party to be enjoyed later this evening, but as the years move on, “wild” may be little more that watching re-runs of MythBusters. Yep, I do believe youth has left the building! But as an active CFI guy who works with some 300-plus students each year and conducts Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics (FIRC’s), this old pilot looks ahead to the hot topics that might make 2019 an aviation year that has plenty in store for us aviation types. So, what are the hot topics? What is the FAA asking FIRC instructors to emphasize? What good or bad things might be out there that you may wish to keep in mind?

Let’s start with the FAA. It would be nice to have a full time administrator who, preferably, knows the difference between an aileron and an ATC procedure. Regrettably, the August establishment generically referred to as “The Congress” (Senate and House, both sides of the isle) have apparently decided that their job definition as contained in the U.S. Constitution and their responsibility to the American people has been replaced by power games and empire building whilst their thumbs enjoy a soothing massage offered by their own sphincter muscles.  

Yep, Congress chose not to vote on major executive appointments, leaving many government agencies lacking in leadership at multiple levels. To be sure, the acting administrator does have true aviation/piloting experience, but even he comes from a background of Washington lobby organizations that certainly do not support business or general aviation. Past years have burdened the aviation community with FAA administrators who are political operators or major campaign financial organizers, not individuals who come to the job with a clear vision of the future of aviation in America. Hopefully, we will do better in 2019.

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Thursday
Dec202018

A Long Journey

By Eric McCarthy


Marine layer on departure from CRQThe day began, as many summer days in southern California do, with a thick marine layer along the coast – only, it was no longer summer. In fact, it was late October. I had been watching the weather for several days and we were definitely in a rut – each day for the past week had featured marine layers both in the morning and late in the afternoon. The marine layer faithfully burns off by 10 a.m. mostof the time and usually doesn’t rematerialize until evening, but even that would lead to a late start for an all day flight, and could well result in a return not only into an advancing marine layer, but also at night. 

With the days getting shorter and shorter, I had planned to do my night-currency takeoffs and landings during the week prior to my planned flight north, but the aforementioned marine layer had thwarted that effort. I was neither instrument nor night current and there are way too many rocks in the clouds in SoCal to be flying around in the dark with clouds if you’re not current and proficient. Time to move to ‘plan B’…

I’d be flying this mission with my friend Jerry; Jerry and his lovely wife Eileen live in Murrieta, not far from French Valley Airport (F70). Located in the Temescal Valley on the other side of a mountain range from the coast, French Valley is usually a safe weather alternative to the airports located along the coastal plain. If I could coerce, or convince, them that I’d be a good houseguest, I could depart Palomar (KCRQ) late afternoon on Saturday and reposition the plane to French Valley for our flight Sunday and spend the night at their home. This would provide several benefits including better weather, an earlier start, and saving Jerry from driving to Palomar. I could also do my night currency there under the forecast clear night skies of French Valley. 

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Thursday
Dec202018

Let’s Remember Christmas

By Ed Downs

Sure, there are lots of regulatory, safety and political subjects that warrant comment, but this writer has had just about enough of politics and regulations for 2018. Maybe give it a rest, and just talk about Christmas and some of the traditions that many of us remember. Having stumbled across an article I wrote several years ago, this writer’s memories and passion for aviation, astronomy and astrophysics seemed to come together. Read on and see if some of your “good old days” come to mind.

My twin brother and me were born in Van Nuys, Calif., just before the U.S. entered WWII. It sounds funny now, but Van Nuys was a small, independent town that was somewhat isolated in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. An excellent street car system allowed residents to get into “the city” when circumstances required. Surrounded by citrus fields, Van Nuys was primarily a bedroom community, serving wartime manufacturing at the Lockheed/Burbank and Van Nuys airports. The town’s secondary purpose was to support the movie industry, with many surrounding locations and sets (like a full western town) used in hundreds of “B” western movies and early TV productions. My parents were part the movie industry, Mom as a dancer (and former Olympian) and Dad as a stunt man and bit actor. We kids also did some bit parts in movies and early TV, enjoying the privileges of grammar school run by the studios. Dad eventually entered the photography side of the business, opening a camera shop on Van Nuys Boulevard. Some readers may even know about Van Nuys Blvd., where Wednesday night “cruising” was perfected to the point of becoming a main theme of the movie “American Graffiti.”  

My brother and I grew up in the company of family friends that included guys like William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy), Roy Rogers, Leo Carrillo, Andy Devine and others, along with dancers, such as Marge and Gower Champion. Thrown in with that mix were Lockheed test pilots (Dad did photographic work for Lockheed) and trips to Van Nuys Airport to watch P-38’s taking off and landing. Both me and my brother were hooked on aviation before the age of five. As avid model airplane builders, our father invited us to open a “hobby department” in his camera store at the age of 13, and $500 dollars later, we were in business, able to pay for flying lessons ($11 per hour, dual) at Van Nuys Airport, flying Aeronca Champions with wind driven generators and a two-crystal low-frequency Lear radio… advanced technology! Yep, fun childhood with cowboys, six shooters and airplanes setting a pace that continues to this day. You see, being an aviation professional meant that I never had to grow up!

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Thursday
Nov082018

FAA Christmas Present

By Eric McCarthy 

It was cold and gray, as I recall. Christmas Eve in Boston often is, but the ceiling was a respectable four or five thousand feet with no precipitation forecast for the afternoon. I’d be flying from my home base of Lawrence Municipal Airport (KLWM), about 30 miles north of Boston, to one of my prior home bases, Norwood (KOWD), about 13 miles southwest of Boston, to pick up my mother for Christmas. It’s an easy half-hour flight, replacing an at-least one-hour drive on the crowded Massachusetts highways 93 and 128, and besides, it’s way more fun to fly! My mother might think otherwise…

I had flown N2313M, an underpowered 160-horse Cherokee, many times in my pursuit of the coveted Instrument Rating, which I had secured just a few months earlier. I knew that this particular airplane didn’t like to start after being shut down, so I told my mother, and my brother who would be driving her to the airport, that I wanted to keep the engine running when I picked upMom – under no circumstances is anyone to move forward of the wing!

The flight was easy and uneventful. While Boston’s classic “upside-down wedding cake” Class Bravo airspace is basically comprised of several concentric circles rising as they extend outward from Boston, we generally fly straight lines rather than arcs to reach various waypoints. Departing Lawrence, a heading of 220 for 17nm takes us to Hanscom Field (KBED) where we turn to a heading of 180 for the remaining 18nm to Norwood. Simple. It can get a little congested over Hanscom, as apparently I’m not the only one to have figured out that KBED is a good waypoint to circumnavigate the Class Bravo, but the tower at Hanscom does a good job managing traffic through their airspace. The only other concern, besides other aircraft, is the Needham Towers, 1,200-1,300 foot radio and television towers that pierce the sky halfway between Hanscom and Norwood. They’re well lit, well known, and easy to avoid so not too much of a problem.

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