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  • EAA chapter 170 is based at the San Luis Obispo Reginal Airport aka McChesney Field (SBP) and they were having a particularly interesting presentation about the multi decade long restoration of a Ryan STM-2. In the 20s my father was a demo pilot for Ryan and I have always liked the looks of the Ryan STs.

    It is about a 40 minute drive from our home to SBP and it is a 20 minute drive to Santa Maria (SMX) and then a half hour flight so when the morning fog is lingering I sometimes have to drive to make the 12:00 meeting. I had done my preflight the night before so there were only some minor things to attend to and get a weather briefing.

    At 10:20 there were patches of blue to the North East and Weathermeister’s satellite pictures were showing progress. I called flight services for a weather briefing. SBP was 1,300 overcast with a four degree temperature-dew point spread and SMX was 900 overcast with a three degree temperature-dew point spread. AIRMET Sierra was in affect for ceilings below a thousand feet, mountain obscuration and/or visibility below three miles. VFR was not recommended along my route of flight. The briefer studied the satellite pictures and said it was clearing up fast so I headed for Santa Maria top down and watching the growing blue in the sky. I was looking for a path in case I launched special VFR. In this area in generally clears to the north east first and that is where California 101 runs; one of my routes to SMX.

    By the time I reached the gate; SMX was visual flight rules with a thousand foot ceiling and a four degree temperature-dew point spread. I checked tire pressure and checked the fuel before getting an abbreviated briefing.

    This is all aviation foreplay for me and I love the process.

    The takeoff was nice and the world opened up as I climbed into the sky. There was a little traffic to work around and it was easy to see it was not a good day for a flight up the beach. I had a slightly convoluted course as I worked to maintain cloud clearance watching the dark shadows of the clouds rolling across the fields.

    SBP tower was surprisingly busy so I ran her up to 85knts to better fit into the traffic flow and asked for a long landing. There was a group of three that watched the landing and clapped as I taxied by.

    The hotdogs were on the grill and some computer adapters delayed the presentation so we were able to get a lot of hangar flying it. Greg and I struck up a lively conversation about world war two. Greg had gone to the D Day celebration in France and shared some of his pictures. It seemed particularly relevant as the Ryan STM-2 was a World War two military trainer.

    The presentation was a delight and we headed over to the hangar to have a look at the consequence of a very long fantasy.

    As I was filling up at self-serve Greg stopped by and I invited him for a short flight. I did not have to offer twice and he listened carefully to my preflight briefing. He is not the first chapter member I have taken up and I had an extra helmet for just that purpose.

    The wind was 260 degrees at 17kts making for a short takeoff roll.

    I gave Greg the controls on cross wind and he was very smooth on the stick. We needed to climb to 2,300 feet to clear the ridge making managing the throttle easy. His airspeed control was excellent and his turns very smooth. We found some bumpy air and I never once felt him over control. Greg claimed this was because of his experience flying ultralights in the wind.

    I took the controls over Lake Lopez and did some slow flight before pulling the power and demonstrating a near vertical descent. We had some traffic to manage and an odd approach so I kept the controls and handled the approach and landing. I suspect Greg would have managed both nicely. He said he was happy just to look around the Edna Valley.

    I expected the flight home to be sort of anticlimactic and was surprised at the joy I found in this simple flight. I left the camera in my pocket and sort of basked in the experience. It was over too soon.

    A friend stopped by the hangar and asked if I would take three young women flying in The Predator on Wednesday. I told him I am glad to do it as I love sharing the dream of flight.
    Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI


    • Always great Stories Vance, thank you for keeping this thread going.