A perfect flight to San Luis Obispo in The Predator.
70 degrees F and clear, wind calm; how could I resist?
I had canceled a training flight at Camarillo Saturday seventy nine nautical miles east south east of Santa Maria because of winds gusting to 40kts. Sunday was forecast to be the same. I did not expect winds to be calm at Santa Maria Sunday.
There is something magic about watching the gate to the Santa Maria Public airport opening the world of aviation to me simply by waving my wallet at it.
I get so excited I have to keep repeating “never hurry aviation” as I work my way through the preflight check list to ensure she is airworthy and check that my tools are all in their place.
I resisted the temptation to say “Blue Skies, let’s go flying!” and called flight services for a proper weather briefing for the flight from Santa Maria (SMX) to San Luis Obispo (SBP) and the outlook for my return flight.
Despite sitting around for a week The Predator came alive with the slightest prodding and quickly settled into an even idle as I leaned for taxi and checked the ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information System).
The years of flying have not reduced my excitement at hearing the magic words; “Gyroplane One Four Two Mike Golf, runway three zero clear for takeoff with a slight right departure to the northwest” that denotes the beginning of another flying adventure.
I read back the clearance, engaged the pre-rotator and began my takeoff roll. 180 rotor rpm and full power, her nose came up gently and I balanced on the mains till she lifted off as nice as could be. The lack of wind made it feel like I was at a different airport and lengthened my takeoff roll. 2,450 engine rpm gave me a 900 foot per minute climb at 60kts indicated air speed. I reduced power at seven hundred fifty feet mean sea level (MSL) and leveled off nicely at the rotorcraft pattern altitude of eight hundred feet.
I marveled at the serenity I felt as I climbed into the sky and the Santa Maria Valley expanded beneath me.
As I flew over the fields along the edge of Santa Maria I waved at people in their back yards having barbeques and many waved back.
Over Nipomo I checked the San Luis Obispo ATIS and it was information Zulu, runway 29 was in use. Pattern work and opposite direction traffic were prohibited because of staffing shortages.
When I reached Arroyo Grande I called SBP air traffic control (ATC): “ San Luis Obispo Tower, Experimental Gyroplane one four two Mike Golf ten miles to the south west at one thousand two hundred feet inbound to land with Zulu.”
I had to call them twice as my fist transmission was stepped on.
ATC responded; “Gyroplane Two Mike Golf, runway two nine clear to land.”
I cleared the ridge and descended into the Edna Valley leveling off at seven hundred feet MSL marveling at the beauty that surrounded me.
I requested a long landing and it was approved.
I reduced the power to eighteen hundred rpm and began a gentle five hundred foot per minute descent aiming for my touchdown point just before taxiway Mike a mile down the runway.
I always feel a little pressure landing long because if I am a little too long I cannot exit to the left and have to talk to ground to taxi back and cross runway two nine to get to self serve or our EAA meeting.
The touchdown was as nice as could be with plenty of room to exit at taxiway Mike.
I taxied to the EAA hangar, shut down and sat in the afterglow reliving the magic moments of the flight.
Because I didn’t have a client I debriefed myself on my flight preparation, radio work, takeoff and climb out, pilotage, altitude control, airspeed control, approach, landing and the taxi to the hangar. I followed protocol and remarked about the things I did well and was pleased when I got to the “what can I do better?” and had nothing to say. This is not typical of my flights as there is always room for improvement. The aircraft had performed flawlessly and I was giddy with excitement.
- Looking across the Santa Maria Valley from eight hundred feet.
- Flying North West across the Santa Maria Valley
- Crossing the Santa Maria River into San Luis Obispo county.
- Arroyo Grande
- A glance out toward Pismo Beach and the Avilla Bay.
- The Edna Valley just over the hill flying at at one thousand two hundred feet.
- Final for Runway Two Nine at the San Luis Obispo airport.
- The hangar we use for our EAA meetings.