Runway 30 clear for takeoff!


Gyroplane CFI
Staff member
Oct 30, 2003
Santa Maria, California
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2600+ in rotorcraft
Monday and Tuesday were ground under the wheels of work. Wednesday was spent driving the 450 miles round trip to Hollister and working with Mike and Vince on Mariah Gale.

Thursday was dedicated to getting ready for a meeting with my CPA to do a little “tax planning.” By the end of the day my head was filled with tax law and numbers. It made my head hurt.

Friday was a brisk December day. It was 48 degrees on the Nipomo Mesa at 10:30 am when I headed down to the airport in the Santa Maria Valley.

Thermals and wool socks were a part of preparing to fly.

Wind was calm and a mist caressed the hills on the other side of the valley as we made our way through the fields toward the airport.

I flashed my wallet in front of the gadget and the airport gate noisily slid open with its usually screeches and moans.

I felt like I was entering a special world where only a privileged few get to play.

I pulled up in front of 3031 Juliet and left the engine running as I unlocked and slid open the heavy doors. The M Roadster fits nicely between the gantry crane and The Predator.

I rolled her out in the sunlight and climbed up and down the ladder and used the step stool extensively. I worked slowly though my preflight because I felt Sunday's flight put a strain on things.

I have been buying my 100 LL at Oceano lately but I felt it was cutting it too close after the hour and 50 minute flight from Santa Paula so I called for fuel. It is a dollar per gallon less expensive at the self serve in Oceano so I just had him add 10 gallons. The self serve at Santa Maria has not worked for almost a year.

I called Lockheed Martin for a standard VFR briefing from SMX to SBP leaving at 19:00 Z, flying 1,000 feet above the ground, .6 hours in route and returning at 22:00Z. They had nothing bad to say and nothing bad to predict. Winds were calm and 9kts was predicted for the return.

The density altitude was exactly zero.

It felt good to put on my flight suit after four days of abstinence.

I checked ATIS and called ground with Alpha to taxi to 30.

“Welcome back Vance, Experimental 142 Mike Golf, runway 30 taxi via Alpha.”

She was warm enough when I got to the runway and the magneto check went well.

There were four landing aircraft with an MD80 sort of screwing things up with a straight in from 8 miles.

I was waiting behind the hold short line with a Cessna 172 that was a straight out with a slight left.

I heard the magic words that launch me into the magic world of aviation; “Experimental 142 Mike Golf, straight out with a slight right approved, runway 30 clear for takeoff.”

Take off roll was a little longer without the help of the wind but once the rotors caught they came up quickly. We were soon climbing out at over 1,200 feet per minute. I pulled the power back as we neared 800 feet, 500 feet AGL and made our slight right to make room for the departing Cessna. Even though he had seen us take off and knew where we should be he couldn’t find us so the tower helped him with our position.

We headed along the edge of Santa Maria and across the patchwork valley at 70kts climbing slowly in very smooth air. It was fun to see the GPS agree with the indicated airspeed. We usually have at least a 10kt head wind.

I checked the San Luis Obispo ATIS and called ATC from 13 miles to the South East at 1,300 feet with Delta for inbound through the Avilla Pass. I was to ident and radar contact was established and altitude was verified. I was to report inbound on the left 45 for runway 29. They warned me of the Cessna at my ten o’clock at 1,500 feet. I had the traffic in sight as we turned toward the shoreline.

We began our descent to 500 feet as soon as we were passed the town of Grover Beach. The area is called the five cities because over time five separate cities have grown together to become one. The mist added a sense of mystery and distance to Avilla bay. It was smooth and a little cool as we turned north along the shoreline and I could smell the ocean and occasionally someone’s fireplace. The air felt fresh and clean with little hint of all the people below.

It is nice having San Luis Obispo ATC looking out for me as we pass near the Oceano airport. Except for the Cessna there was very little going on. ATC can’t see the parachutes over Pismo Beach so I need to be particularly alert as we near their landing zone just south of the Pismo Pier.

I loved the way the cerulean waters outlined the white sands and rugged cliffs near Shell beach. The tide was on its way out so the water made several shades of gray brown in the sand. We climbed to 700 feet as our landing options dwindled over the cliffs.

A friend of mine that lives on the northern edge of Shell Beach was in his back yard and waved. I unsuccessfully tried to get his picture before I returned the wave. He is down there somewhere next to that green space.

California highway 1 winds up through the Avilla Pass and leads to the Edna Valley and my reporting point. The hills are beginning to turn their winter green and I could feel the temperature rise as we entered the pass and left the seashore behind.

I called inbound on the 45 as the Edna Valley opened up. I was to report established on a left down wind. Before I could report I was number two behind a Barron on a right down wind. I never did see him and I reported negative contact over the golf course when he was over the numbers. I ran her up to 90 kts to make way for the inbound MD80 on a 10 mile straight in. We were off quickly and taxied to restaurant parking on tower frequency. There was a Cirrus just pulling out and I took his place in the first row.

I wish I had Ed along. Her long lens and artists eye captures things that I cannot share. The detail and environment are what adds to the magic of this simple 35 mile flight. To me it is ever changing and always alluring.

Thank you for riding along, Vance


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Glad to have you along!

Glad to have you along!

Thank you Heath, It is my pleasure.

It is hard to know when to post.

I never tire of the subtle differences in each flight.

For me the camera doesn’t capture the feel of the flying in the same way I experience them.

I cannot find the way to communicate the variety of feelings or the level of joy I find even on a flight I have done so many times before.

It is unusually cold here; Saturday there was not a cloud in the sky but I got so cold I couldn’t feel the clicks of my transponder; the tower had to tell me to turn it on when I flew into SMX from IZA.

Sunday it at least looked cold in the pictures.

It is raining now.

I realize that much of the country has unsuitable open gyroplane flying weather and feel fortunate to fly.

On a motorcycle I found that the cold seems to make the memories more vivid and I find the same with flying an open gyroplane.

It also makes me sniffle.

Thank you, Vance


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Hello Vance.

Glad you are havin a great time.

They way you always explain in detail, its feels like flying together.
Must thank you for sharing and taking us along.

San Lois Obispo 1985. Thats all I remember of the place.

Best wishes.
Gland to have you along Rehan!

Gland to have you along Rehan!

It is nice to hear from you.

I do have a great time most days even when I don't fly.

It rained most of Monday so I worked some more on my taxes.

It looks like I might fly today.

San Luis Obispo has not changed much since I purchased Harley Davidson of Santa Maria on April fool’s day of 1987.

I love the universal understanding of the magic of flight.

Borders, language and culture seem to become extraneous in the presence of the passion for flight.

Thank you, Vance