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More fun flying The Predator.

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  • Because of intermittent showers I had not flown it two weeks.

    Many of my clients are coming from out of the area so if there is a good chance of rain we reschedule.

    I don't fly when it rains.

    Saturday's flight to Santa Ynez was canceled for rain.

    Sunday was looking good and there was an EAA meeting with a representative from Cal Fire giving a presentation at San Luis Obispo (SBP).

    As is often the case there was some winds trailing behind the storm but I had the fever and wanted to fly.

    It was 43 degrees F when I left the house with the top down so I was bundled up. The temperature had risen to 45 degrees by the time I reached the airport.

    Because I had not flown for a while I was extra diligent with check lists and procedures.

    As I taxied to the run up area the wind changed directions so many times it wrapped my yaw string around the mount. Each of the wind socks was blowing in a different direction and indicating a different wind velocity.
    I asked for a right turn out to the north.

    Air Traffic Control (ATC) came back with the words that start each flying adventure; "Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf, Runway three zero clear for takeoff; right turn out approved."

    Takeoff and climb out was lively in the cool air and I pulled the camera out as I reached 1,000 feet.

    There were lots of people out barbequing in Santa Maria and a few of them waved as I skirted the edge of the city at 1,000 feet above the ground.

    As I crossed the dry Santa Maria River he air tasted clean and I could see all the way to Avila Bay. The hills were starting to turn a lush green from the recent rains. I marvel at how quickly that happens.

    The turbulence made holding my altitude take constant adjustment of the throttle.

    I meandered along California 101 past the five cities and started to work my way toward the Edna Valley.

    SBP ATC greeted me and asked me to make a straight in and report four miles. At five miles I was cleared to land runway two niner but it had to be amended several times as I made my way across the Edna valley and toward SBP at 45kts of ground speed.

    I asked for a long landing and taxied to the hangar where the EAA meeting was. I was warmly received and needed about ten minutes to bask in the afterglow before I secured The Predator and joined the meeting.

    It was a great presentation with lots of interesting information. I found myself reliving my recent flight and longing to be flying again. I feel more at home in the sky than on the ground.
    Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI


    • Sundays flight from SBP to SMX.

      As I listened to the speaker at the EAA meeting I felt distracted by the call of the sky. I was very interested in Cal Fire but a part of me was planning the flight back to Santa Maria (SMX).

      San Luis Obispo (SBP) is nestled in the Edna Valley with two thousand foot hills to the east. I am often haunted by the childhood question of what is on the other side of the hill.

      After a careful preflight and checking the weather I asked SBP ATC (air traffic control) for a right down wind departure to the east.

      “Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf, runway two niner clear for takeoff; right downwind approved.”

      Flying The Predator solo is a somewhat different experience and she sort of leapt into the air and was climbing out at eleven hundred feet per minute as the Edna Valley opened up before me on down wind.

      I pulled the power back a bit and caught some lift as we came closer to the hills. The clouds ahead had some vertical development and dark bottoms suggesting turbulence ahead. Once over the ridgeline I pulled the power well back and just sort of floated along marveling at the view and our capabilities.

      The ridge line ends abruptly with a 1,300 foot drop off to the surface of Lake Lopez. I pulled the engine to idle and began my descent to the swishing sound of the rotor blades. It doesn’t matter how many time I do it, it still feels like magic to me. Once on the lee side of the ridge the sink increased and I added power to enter the Huasna Valley above the wires from the Diablo Nuclear Power Plant that march across the hills.

      I like flying around the Huasna Valley on a windy day because there is very little air traffic and there is beauty in every direction. I could smell the wet earth and feel the clean cool air on my face.

      I followed the winding river to Twitchell Reservoir banking left and right in a wonderful expression of the freedom of flight.

      I checked the weather over Twitchell Reservoir and called SMX ATC inbound to land.

      “Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf; make right down wind for runway three zero; report downwind abeam.”

      As I got closer traffic picked up and ATC restricted a Piper’s altitude to stay above me and a landing jet. As I was about to call downwind abeam I heard; “Gyroplane Two Mike Golf make short approach, no delay on runway.” I pulled the power and turned right around the tower making one steady descending bank and touching down as nice as could be at taxiway Alpha 4 and scooted off the runway.

      “Gyroplane Two Mike Golf, taxi to parking via Alpha; monitor ground. Thank you for your help Vance”

      What a lovely way to end a lovely day of flying.

      It took me about a half hour of siting in the afterglow before I was ready to climb down and push The Predator into the hangar.

      I down loaded the pictures from my little camera and relived the flight.

      Now I get to fly a third time as I share this with my friends.

      I love being a flight instructor because I get to open the door to this magical world for others.
      Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI


      • Thanks for sharing your adventure Vance. Looks like you had an enjoyable flight.


        • Glad to have you along Vernon, it adds to the fun.
          Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI


          • Brad wanted to learn about gyroplanes and see if they were right for him so he gave me a call the end of last year. We talked a lot and he asked some good questions.

            As someone new to aviation it is a big commitment to become a gyroplane pilot and it the fixed wing world most don’t complete the journey. I like to spend a day talking about the challenges and teaching people the basics of flying so they can make an informed decision so I have a special introductory rate of $450 for the day. Typically we fly up to San Luis Obispo for lunch with the client flying most of the way and then talk about the flight over lunch usually unlocking some misunderstanding and then fly back to Santa Maria over Lake Lopez and the Huasna valley where there is very little traffic and they can explore the freedom in the sky. Brad agreed that spending the day was a good idea; he was coming from more than three hundred miles away.

            Things finally aligned in April just when I was off the Bensen days and Sun N fun. We scheduled the flight for April 21.

            April 20 I sent him an email saying the weather looked good and he began the first steps of his gyroplane adventure.

            Brad was unusually patient with my explanations of gyroplane aerodynamics and demonstration of the preflight that takes about an hour when the client is anxious to fly. We spent another hour checking weather and describing the process of flying. It has been described as drinking from a fire hose as I try to get people familiar with how a gyroplane works and comfortable with the aviation environment. We go over exchange of controls and emergency procedures. Brad asked some thoughtful questions and had read the gyroplane portion of the Rotorcraft Flying Handbook.

            We were up flying a little after 11:00. I talked Brad through the procedure as I made the takeoff and first gave him the rudders at 500 feet (260 feet above the ground) and then at 800 feet gave him all the aircraft controls. He did the exchange of controls well.

            He had listened well and was very smooth on the controls. His track was surprisingly straight and his speed and altitude control good.

            I briefly demonstrated steep turns and a power off vertical descent before giving Brad back the controls.

            We turned north along the shoreline with an on shore breeze making The Predators nose point out to sea. Managing the curved ground track of the shoreline can be hard for primary students because they are used to a car where it goes where the nose is pointed.

            We slipped through the Avilla Pass and Brad gave me the controls for the landing.

            We had a nice lunch debriefing and talking about the magnitude of the gyroplane adventure. Brad had been concerned about his fear of heights and did not experience it at all when flying. I share his fear of heights and sometimes feel uneasy when I fly too high above the ground.

            A quick preflight and a check of the weather and we began our flight back to Santa Maria. This is a great test for fear of heights because we climb to 2,200 feet to clear the ridgeline while the valley floor is 200 feet so you can look straight down 2,000 feet.

            We double down when we leave the ridge line and fly over Lake Lopez where the ground drops away very suddenly and we are about a quarter mile above the lake surface. There is usually turbulence to add to the experience and today was no exception.

            Brad handled it well as he maneuvered across the lake descending into the Huasna Valley where we did some turns, climbs and descents. I felt no signs of trepidation.

            I called Santa Maria Tower and reported “Santa Maria Tower, Experimental Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf; Ten miles to the north east over Twitchell reservoir, with information Foxtrot, descending through two thousand feet inbound to land.” I was to make a left base entry for runway three zero and report two miles. I asked Brad if he had the airport in sight. To my surprise he did.

            His approach was great, alignment over the centerline good and I took the controls near the ground as I talked him through the landing.

            After a quick debrief we flew two more missions and six landings with Brad on the controls. Brad managed the final takeoff as I talked him through it.

            He had now done everything involved in flying a gyroplane and the rest is just improving accuracy and getting me to stop talking. Brad left with three hours of dual instruction in his new logbook and eight landings.

            I sent Brad the pictures and he is anxious to get back in the air before he forgets what he learned. I look forward to being part of his gyroplane adventure.
            Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI