Two word Briefing to Santa Paula!


Gyroplane CFI
Staff member
Oct 30, 2003
Santa Maria, California
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2600+ in rotorcraft
The winds were calm at our house so we hurried down to SMX for our flight to Santa Paula for open hanger day.

The last attempt to fly to Santa Paula hadn’t worked out because of weather.

The winds were ferocious to the south on Saturday and we had no reason to suspect that they wouldn’t be Sunday.

After finishing up the preflight I called Lockheed Martin and when I asked for a standard VFR briefing from SMX to SZP by way of IZA leaving at 16:00, flying 1,000 AGL and 2.1 hours in route she paused briefly and said; “I can summarize it in two words, Go Fly!”

I had her continue with the briefing but she was correct. I was familiar with all of the NOTAMs, the biggest winds were 9kts and even the TAFs only had winds at 14 kts in the afternoon.

Ed Bundled up as I pushed The Predator outside and went off for my personal preflight.

I saw Kim and Scott and told them we would be flying slowly and we would meet them and Joe and Denise at Santa Paula.

We taxied slowly almost a mile to runway 30 and the oil temperature needle had still not budged. I warmed her up for another 5 minutes before she was ready for a magneto check.

There is something particularly magical about a bigger than usual adventure. Flying to Santa Paula even though it is less 200 nautical miles involves mountains, multiple weather systems, complex airspace and a very busy uncontrolled airport with a very narrow pattern. The outcome was not at all certain.

I called the tower holding short of runway 30 requesting a right down wind departure to the east. He came back in a flash, “Experimental 142 Mike Golf, right down wind departure approved, runway 30 clear for take off!”

We were off and climbed out quickly pulling back the power before we turned crosswind. I kept trying to find a way to see better. I suspected my face shield was fogging up. There was a mist in the air that the sun, low on the horizon, reflected off and made it a little hard to see.

We turned downwind and headed toward Santa Ynez.

At 1,500 feet over the hills I heard “experimental 2 Mike Golf traffic at your 12 o’clock, 8 miles descending through 2,200 feet, an MD80!” We searched the glare, negative contact. I asked if we were a factor and ATC replied, “Not as long as you stay north of the centerline.”

I had been flying heading 130 degrees since we turned downwind and I was a mile and a half north of the centerline. The MD80 still looked huge as it passed a mile to the south of us at close to our altitude.

Frequency change was approved and I called Santa Ynez area traffic from 10 miles to the North West over the 101 at 1,500 feet. I called again at 5 miles to the west over the quarry, turning left 45, down wind base and final. There was no one else in the pattern.

Ed hopped out to pump the gas and I headed for the office. I was greeted by the Sunday morning coffee club and when I told them we were headed for Santa Paula they all had Santa Paula stories to tell. They asked about the toy run and I felt like the envied us our adventure. It was warm in the pilots lounge and it felt good.

I called Santa Barbara ATIS on the phone because we are on the other side of an iron mountain and I can’t pick it up. ATIS has the frequency in use for approach so it is much nicer to be prepared as we enter the busy airspace over Lake Cachuma.

I called Santa Barbara from 7 miles to the North West at 3,500 feet and given a squawk code and told to ident. It became very cold over Lake Cachuma and I was glad I was not taking pictures so I could wear my gloves.

Approach had another aircraft squawking VFR nearby and it was Kim and her flight of 3. She dodges the airspace and doesn’t check in. I would rather have them watching my back.

Eventually radar contact was established and altitude was verified. We gave up a 10kt tail wind for a 7kt head wind after we crossed the ridgeline and slowly descended to 1,500 feet. It was briefly bumpy and unstable and then the headwind became smooth and cold.

At 17 miles east of SBA radar services were terminate and I was to squawk 1200 and resume own navigation.

They had trouble hearing my acknowledgement and I had to repeat it twice.

Another ten miles and we were 20 miles from Santa Paula and I tuned in the CTAF and runway 4 was in use. Runway 22 is the usual runway and people get confused with a right traffic for runway 4.

I turned north at Lake Casitas and flew over Ojai and came in from the North East entering a right downwind for runway 4 to land.

I reported a few extra times to nearby traffic but we found a break in the flow. As we turned final there were two aircraft over the city that couldn’t find each other and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

We were quickly off the active and hunting for a parking place. There were none so we parked were Rowena had put us in the past at the end of transient parking.

I heard a weak voice from the back, “I am not sure I can get out, I can’t feel my feet.” When Ed did climb down I sent her off the restaurant to get some hot chocolate and filled out my log book, put the condom on the rotor and got to use Stan’s gust lock for the first time in earnest.

We settled down for a nice breakfast. Ed’s water inside of her flight suit had developed slush. When we were nearly finished Joe came by and said they were off to lunch in the other room at the restaurant.

It was kind of a slow open hangar day. The winds had been rough all week so probably people figured it would be more of the same.

Ed went off to lie in the sun and I stopped by and visited with Kim, Scott, Joe and Denise. Joe said that Ed had looked very cold as we landed and they now referred to her as Edsicle.

I visited with lots of friends and 2:00 came too soon. I stopped by Al Balls hanger and he came out and visited with Ed and me until 2:30. It gets dark before 5:00 so we needed to get going in case there was a head wind.

The return!


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The return!

The return!

We filled her up and checked her over and were soon down in the warm up area watching a steady stream of aircraft. I found a break and we were off quickly. We had a smaller crowd than usual on departure but it is still fun to wave back.

As we neared the ocean we could feel the heat of the sun reflecting off the water as we continued to climb.

20 miles east I checked the ATIS and contacted SBA approach for a transition over the San Marco pass. After some initial confusion it was approved as requested and we didn’t hear from him until radar services were terminated over Lake Cachuma.

There was a 25kt headwind from the San Marcos pass onward. At 65kts of indicated airspeed the GPS was showing 40kts of ground speed. I kept an eye on the fuel and felt if we stopped in Santa Ynez we would not get home before dark.

We made it back with plenty of gas to spare and dodged two coyotes on the runway. ATC said that the rule was if I hit them I had to skin them. I demurred.

I put the top up on the M and turned the heater up to melt the Edsicle.

Thank you for riding along, Vance & Ed


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Last edited:
Brilliant again!

Brilliant again!

Your flight reports are spot on Vance!
I love the way you identify the places, process of flight with details of alt,radio calls,runways winds & other observations ...... it all brings to life for me all the components I'm trying to master in ground school and visualize my own XC flights - one day!

The photos are pure eye-candy!
If the price to pay in enjoying your excursions together is becoming an Edsicle - my hat's off to Ed! :yo:
( I loathe the cold - but there is a comfort factor price to pay for winter flight-fun ...... now I know why Jim was looking into heated biker's clothing!???) I'm hoping lots of woolies & insulated overalls that I wear around the farm will do the job for me as wearing stuff with electric wires in it just freaks me out! ( I refuse to have anything to do with electric blankets too!):eek:

Thanks again for taking us along on your adventure Vance & Ed.
Now I'll go fly your path on Google earth!:wave:
Hey Vince,

Great story..

I took a drive through the mountains to Lake Casitas last summer when I went to Carpinteria.

Sorry I didnt get a chance to meet up with you but I was pretty busy that week...
Glad to have youall along!

Glad to have youall along!

Thank you Chris,

We are glad to have you along and I feel that you will find more joy in your cross county flights than you are able to imagine.

For me it is a magical experience to see what is over the hill and manage an entirely new environment.

I find the planning and preparation expands the experience and enhances the joy in the feeling of accomplishment. As we reach each check point the excitement builds. The destination is almost anticlimactic. Fortunately Santa Paula open hangar day is a particularly delightful place.

Meeting new friends is a never ending joy for us.

Part of the joy I find in flights like the one to Santa Paula is the progress I have made in managing the details.

We have had a several difficult experiences with Santa Barbara ATC and class C airspace. Ed and I met with the tower manager and took a tour of the facility. In my opinion it helped a lot.

The cold snap we experienced Sunday is not the normal for what we refer to as the central coast. It is currently 65 degrees F at SMX and 69 degrees at San Luis Obispo. It is usually warmer in Santa Barbara but for some reason it is 60 degrees F today.

Ed claims to be a ‘tough chick’ and I concur. If I had been flying solo there would have been fewer pictures because I wouldn’t have wanted to take my gloves off and I have not been successful taking pictures with them on.

Before someone reminds me about the dangers of hypothermia I am a long time motorcyclist and am very familiar with the symptoms of the onset of hypothermia as well as the dangers. I was not wearing my thermals and wool socks so I was uncomfortable but not dangerously cold. I feel that hypothermia would reduce piloting skills to a dangerous level in short order and it should be avoided.

Thank you Jeff,

I am amazed at how reasonably priced those are.

We intend to be fully wired in Mariah Gale. I used to wear an electric vest and I loved it. I feel we can go further in the comfort of Mariah Gale. I do know that the rest of the countrie’s weather is not as mild as our neck of the woods.

That is an excellent suggestion Stan and I have considered it in the design.

Mariah Gale will be a traveling gyroplane and I don’t know where I would stash the two place canopy when we weren’t using it.

Hello Toby, I am sorry we didn’t get a chance to see Lake Casitas from above. I find the perspective from an open gyroplane amplifies the splendor of the lake.

Hopefully we will get another chance and in the mean time we are glad to have you along.

Thank you, Vance & Ed.