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  • Oceano Airport Toys for Tots was 12/2

    Fog can be a challenge at the Oceano Airport (L52) so I was pleased when I woke up to find twelve mile visibility (I can see the sky over L52 out my bedroom window).

    It was 42 degrees as Ed (my wife) and I made it down to the Santa Maria Public Airport (SMX) (I can see the airport from my office window).

    We soon found out that the toys were too big for Ed to manage in the aircraft so it would be a solo flight to L52.

    The windsocks were flaccid as I taxied to runway 30 and the air had a bite in it.

    Ed takes better pictures; mine are pretty much straight over the nose and my new taller yaw string mount gets

    in the way.

    The Pacific was a wonderfully rich azure offset by the white of the breaking waves.

    The event has been better attended in years past; this is year number nine. Lompoc had their event the same day.

    It was a delightful way to spend a day at the beautiful Oceano Airport with some very nice people and it was a lovely excuse to go flying up the beach.
    Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI


    • First Sunday to Santa Paula Open Hangar Day.

      I tried and failed last month so I was pleased when the Santa Maria valley looked clear from my window.

      I hoped to get an early start so I had plenty of time to visit with the amazing people at Santa Paula.

      I dressed in layers because it was 42 degrees F and it would be colder at 3,500 feet over the San Marcos Pass.

      Preflight went well but when I checked the weather the temperature/dew point spread was only one degree. My personal minimum is four degrees so I found things to do around the hangar.

      It reached four degrees about 10:30 so I headed for fuel. As I warmed her up I used my cell phone to check the Santa Barbara ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information Service AKA local weather) and before I could turn my cell phone off I got a call from a friend wanting advice and I finally asked ground to taxi to runway three zero around 11:00.

      The wind was variable at five knots and performance was good in the cool air. After takeoff I began a casual climb to the 3,500 feet I wanted to go over the San Marcos pass. Twenty miles west of the San Marcos VOR I called Santa Barbara Approach, was given a squawk code, altitude was verified and transition approved without an altitude restriction.

      I overheard an excited call about extreme turbulence near the Gaviota pass about ten miles to the northwest so I climbed to four thousand five hundred feet in anticipation and it was smooth as could be over the San Marcos Pass but colder.

      Radar services were terminated over Carpentaria and I made my way through no name pass and over Lake Casitas.

      The Sespe creek snaked beautifully to the sea and seemed in conflict with the jumbled radio calls from Santa Paula.

      It seemed a gaggle of inept pilots all arrived at Santa Paula at the same time reporting badly and cutting each other off. I ran her up to 90 knots so the trouble would mostly be in front of me and reported the Saticoy Bridge, the junk yard, over the golf course, turning left base and turning final. Someone actually requested “traffic in the area please advise”. The landing was uneventful and a friend was pulling out as I arrived so I had a place to park after an exchange of waves.

      A friend had flown his Calidus in and we had a nice lunch together outside at the Flight 126 Café.

      I loved visiting with old friends and meeting new ones.

      I checked the weather for the return flight and the report was full of strong winds and wind shear. The afternoon mist restricted visibility as the sun reflected off the drops of moisture.

      I bundled up and headed for home and except for a lot of traffic advisories near Santa Barbara it was nice as could be until just outside of Santa Maria. Winds were 060 degrees at 17kts gusting to 27kts and runway 2 was in use at SMX. I asked for time on the runway to spool my rotor down and heard; “approved as requested Vance, whatever you need to be safe; Two Mike Golf.”

      The turbulence near the ground was substantial. I lucked out and caught everything just right and touched down as nice as could be. I paused until my rotor was stopped and made a somewhat shaky path back to the hangar in the gusting winds.

      A ten knot gust spread is my limit so if had been a little worse I would have gone elsewhere. I was grateful for the cross wind runway but the wind was moving through almost 50 degrees. I landed near the wind sock so I could see what the wind was doing at that moment.

      Once again I found magic in the air!
      Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI


      • Vance, thanks for the detail on your flying fun! Is your dew point spread limit about fog forming, icing, or something else?

        I read lots of info from the FAASTeam and AOPA regarding icing before my cold flight November 18, and the general consensus seemed to be below 32ºF (OºC) is safe if there is no visible moisture, while if moisture is visible (snow) it needs to be 15ºF (-9ºC) or colder to be safe from icing.

        On that flight, I launched with a temp of about -8ºC and a 1ºC dew point spread under cloudless skies, with no frost or dew visible on anything, and the only issue I encountered was fogging of my helmet face shield if I had it fully closed. Opening the face shield just a crack was enough to keep it clear.

        I'm quickly concluding that winter flying here in the desert is something I want to do often, and I want to gain as much practical knowledge as possible on managing the unique challenges. I've already observed that it's going to be harder to evaluate the quality of an off-field landing opportunity if there's snow on the ground.

        On these colder mornings, the machine performs well, the view is spectacular, and the skydivers and gliders usually aren't operating.
        Paul W. Plack
        Private ASEL, SP Gyroplane
        Secretary, URA & PRA2
        Editor, Western Rotorcraft


        • Thank you for noticing the detail Paul; glad to have you along.

          My four degree C temperature/dew point spread minimum is about fog forming Paul.

          It is my personal limit based on my experience with where I fly.

          The dew point is where the moisture becomes visible and if it is too close to the temperature a little cool air can mix in and suddenly I may be surrounded by fog.

          Cool air trapped in a little valley may spill over the ridge and create mountain obscuration without warning.

          Fog around here is usually a layer less than 1,500 feet thick with a fairly flat bottom and usually does not go all the way to the ground although sometimes the bottom is irregular. In the inland valleys it often does go right to the ground.

          I feel it is important to remember that the weather is based on what is happening at airports or weather reporting stations and my not represent what is happening in-between.

          Fog has killed a lot of pilots in California and I don’t want to add my name to the list.

          As far as icing goes; I have had a very small buildup of ide with no visible moisture. I have only had ice upset the balance of my rotor once and there was no visible moisture at the time. I was climbing over the top of some clouds at the time and was perhaps 2,000 feet above the clouds at 7,500 feet MSL.

          I don’t understand much about ice and my comfort is usually important enough to keep me out of icing conditions.

          I have also had hale get thrown out of a thunderstorm more than ten miles.
          Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI