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We’re Going Places 2 - San Francisco Tour 2005


by Bruce Dwyer

In June of 2003 I wrote a story for COPA about my first trip to California with the Ottawa Flying Club and this year I have just completed my 3rd trip.

I promised the OFC staff and the COPA staff that I would write another summary of our adventure, so here it is.

 

At the planning meeting two weeks earlier, we were told “Friday April 1, 2005 be at Ottawa Flying Club at 7:00 AM and be prepared for a long day.”

This is no April Fools joke kids, today 17 pilots will start an adventure of a lifetime. One of learning, excitement and friendship.

The 17 participants in this years Cali trip were:

Bill Gadzos                            OFC Instructor

Paul Merritt                           OFC Instructor

Bruce Dwyer                         OFC Member

Terry Otsuji                           OFC Member

Julie Marion                          OFC Member

Bryce Hanna                         PPL Student

Andrew Ganong                 PPP Student

Mark Rogulski                    PPP Student

David Alexander                OFC Member

Doug Magee                         OFC Member

Rod Cross                             OFC Member

Jean-Francois Gallant          OFC Member

Marc Desjardins                 OFC Member

Rand Heaslip                        OFC Member

Laurent Brunet                   OFC Member

Mike Stott                             OFC Member

Maria Topping                   OFC Member

 

Bill Gadzos would be our “Trip Guide” once again as he has done these sorts of trips many times. Bill is a part time instructor at the flying club so any students on the trip would actually be able to log some real left seat time with not just any instructor, but with the DFTE (flight test examiner) that would likely be conducting their Private and Commercial flight tests.

Bill’s full time job is with NAV CANADA, he is a tower supervisor at CYOW. This allows all of us to learn a great deal about managing the controllers at the other end of our radios.

His perspective about what they want to hear and what they need to know makes working the radio in very busy airspace seem so much easier.

Our group included another club Instructor, Paul Merritt. Paul is a bit of a local celebrity as he is on the 6:00 News every Monday night on the New RO teaching one of our local TV personalities how to fly. You can see these clips on the OFC website at: www.ofc.ca

Talk about a wide range of demographics, the youngest pilot was an 18 year old Professional Pilot Student at one end of the scale and at the other end was a 67 year old student who has gone solo, but has not yet finished his PPL. We call these guys “The Kids.”

We had booked four Club Airplanes for our trip, C-GJFE A Beech Duchess twin engine, C-GBOF a C172RG and two fixed gear C172’s C-GCVO and C-GPMR. We also had two Private owners aircraft Rod Cross in his Turbo C-182RG C-GFNI and Terry and I in our Beech Sierra C-GMTT.

We will depart from Ottawa CYOW with a final target destination of San Francisco, California. Round trip should be over 5,500 nautical miles. In previous years we held this trip in mid February but this year we decided to start later than usual and try a more northerly route with the hope that we could see Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Salt Lake City, Yosemite, and then San Francisco.

On the return, if all works out, we could go south via LA to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Farmington, NM and back home. Weather being the deciding factor and limited to flying only in VFR conditions (not everyone was IFR rated) we were hoping for the best and would see how far we can get.

Ooops, small problem with the C182RG. Rod’s prop was out for overhaul and was not back in time. So Rod and Doug (both of whom had completed this trip in FNI last year) along with our Mechanic Vinny decided they would wait for a few days get the prop installed and then catch up to us.

That left us with 15 people on the initial departure. Sorry guys we gotta go....see ya!

 

DAY ONE

Departed YOW but due to a weather system to the Northwest we had to pass on Sault Ste Marie take the southerly route via Toronto to Windsor, landing in Detroit to clear customs.

After a short stop at customs it was over to the FBO for some fuel and food before we filed for the next leg. Food was at the Olive Garden and although the FBO provided two crew cars the restaurant was eight miles away and we had to make two trips, so dinner took a lot longer than expected.

But with bellies and tanks topped off we were ready for a peaceful evening ride to South Bend. We were doing well on time and now ahead of any weather moving in from the Northwest, so we decided to spend the night in South Bend, ID. The facilities here are outstanding and the hotel was great. It was a good choice and one we will keep in mind for future trips.

 

DAY TWO

Departing South Bend we would head across the central states today with a stop in Omaha for dinner and then onward to Denver. Central USA is mostly flat and landing in Denver at night is beautiful, but when you wake up the next day and look outside “Holy Smoke! Where did all those big rocks come from?” 

Well the weather to the North had kept us more south of our original track and we did not make it to South Dakota but we chose Denver as it was a good location from which we could go either way - North to Salt Lake City or South to Farmington depending on weather.

 

DAY THREE

Washington is getting snow today and the low pressure system is looking like it will pass right along the edge of Salt Lake City. We could try it, but might get stuck there for a few days. The other option was to fly towards the Big ‘H’ on the GFA in Arizona and do the Canyon first with the possibility of seeing Salt Lake City and all the northerly stuff on the way back.

As with all of these trips the weather is reviewed with everyone in the group and then we make a “Group Decision” on what course of action to take. This sometimes takes a little longer, but it makes for a great learning experience for all. Decision taken, let’s head for the Canyon.

An early start is required here today as we want to get there before dark so we could all see the south part of the Canyon and land at the Grand Canyon Airport. That means no time to waste and we would be looking for a quick turn around in Farmington.

Soon we were all wheels up and on our way. For me, this was a challenging leg in my Beech Sierra C-GMTT.  The retractable and twin aircraft are faster than the fixed gear C-172’s and have a bit more range. The Duchess and the Sierra chose to climb over a 9,500 foot ridge and take a more direct route to Farmington while the others went south around the mountains. They had to make a pit stop in Sante Fe for fuel but were able to get going again quickly. 

Winds were fairly strong and right on our nose as we approached the mountain ridge. Can you say “Mountain Wave?”

There were times I was climbing at Vx (71 Knots) and indicating only 50 Knots ground speed on the GNS 480. At one point we were being bounced around pretty good and caught a downdraft which sent us downward at 1,000 feet per minute. We lost almost 2,000 feet in less than two minutes. This really opens your eyes to the hazards of mountain flying as this is not something you can see coming. 

I climbed to 12,500 feet just to be sure I had lots of room under me going over the ridge and then dropped back down below 10,000 for the rest of the leg.

We arrived ahead of the others at Farmington and were pleasantly surprised by the hospitality of the new AMO/FBO operator on the field. Not only did the guys at Bisti Aviation give us a discount on the fuel, they were also having their Sunday BBQ that day.

When they heard we were coming in with 15 hungry pilots they ran out and got extra meat, buns, etc. This was no fancy FBO with Leather sofa’s and Big Screen TV’s. No, it was way better than that! Hanging around the ramp in front of their hanger flipping burgers and talking airplanes with the owner and the staff on a beautiful sunny day in 23C (cool by their standards) is hard to beat.

Real friendly folks, refused to take any money for the food that we packed away so I hid some $$ in the cash tin in the refrigerator. I am sure they will do very well here and I hope to get back to see them again next time we are passing through.

This impromptu BBQ really helped us get the C-172’s turned around fast and off to one of the best GA playgrounds in the world, Monument Valley! 

Monument Valley is a spectacular place to fly, over desert, Mesa’s and around amazing rock formations like Ship Rock and the Four Fingers.

From here it is short hop over to Lake Powel which is in itself a spectacular ride up to the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. Lot’s of restrictions in the canyon so pay close attention to the maps.

We arrived on schedule just at dusk and the control tower was closed for the day. Five clicks of the mic button (on Comm 1 right??) and on come the Runway lights.

Grand Canyon Airport’s elevation is 6,600 feet, so landing at 70 Kts indicated is so much faster that back home where the elevation is only 374 feet.

 

DAY FOUR

Sick of flying by now? Not a chance, but let’s take a day off to hike the Canyon.

In 2004 we hiked down the Kaibob trail so this year we tried the Bright Angel trail. Leaving at around 11:00 AM we headed down the twisting trail along the cliffs all the way out to Plateau Point.

Lunch On the Point and then back to the top. (9 hr hike that we completed in 5.5 hrs) Well most of us went back to the top, remember the 67 yr old kid? Well, Bryce it seems wanted to take a picture of the river so he went (unbeknownst to us at the time) all the way to the bottom and back. (Crazy kid, but that’s another story all in itself)

 

DAY FIVE

Legs are very sore now and it is very difficult to lift them into the plane, let alone work the rudders. Well the forecast looks good all the way up the coast to San Francisco and seems like it will be holding for at least the next 36 hrs, so its off to San Fran today.  Initial leg is Southwest to Daggett, CA to get around some high terrain and then direct Oakland/Livermore.

Daggett is an interesting stop, the old buildings from the military operation days are still standing and lots of military helicopters still on the field, but yet it is like going back in time to the 1960’s when you land there.

Very surreal and the guys at the tiny self serve fuel pump/FBO reminded us of the members of ZZ Top with their long beards and pony tails, very unique. This was the first FBO I have ever seen with outhouse toilets.

These trips always afford us the chance to meet some interesting characters. I ran into another Musketeer owner in Daggett who was fuelling his Super III. He flew it over from Switzerland last summer.

When I asked if he installed the extra fuel cell in the back seat he said “Yeah, but I never needed it.”

This bird had 1960’s avionics onboard and a faded paint job, but still he had no hesitation in taking off and flying to North America, half way around the world to California, amazing!

Next leg brought us into Livermore, CA just Southeast of San Francisco. The plan was to park here and rent a couple of vans to drive into the city. Trouble was we landed at 6:05 local time and all the car rental places closed at 6:00.

Livermore was a beautiful place with lush green hills and an easy approach. But, we can’t stay here so let’s just go to Oakland. We were told everything will be open there so off we go for the shortest leg of the trip (12 min? or there about). 

We set down in Oakland right at Dusk with the sun setting at the end of the runway. Made for a beautiful view of the Bay, but very tough to see the Airport.

We were trying to avoid the busy airspace around San Fran by landing in Livermore, well so much for that idea. Oh yes, and just to add to the excitement let’s all take off at once and converge on KOAK at exactly the same time to see what happens!

Well, the controller was very cool and sequenced us for each of the two parallel runways. Piece of cake guys, if you can see the field, so next time no hesitation just file for Oakland. 

There were car rentals available and the hotel was close by. Quick stop to unload baggage and we were off to get some seafood at Fisherman’s Warf. I think we surprised the staff at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company when we all showed up looking for a table for 15 people. Great meal though and we were well fed when we left. 

 

DAY SIX

Weather was going to deteriorate today but not until this evening. So we have the day to tour San Fran as long as we are wheels up by about 4:00PM. That way we can beat the weather and still enjoy the scenery en route to L.A.

So again we headed to Fisherman’s Warf via the BART train and spent the day. Some did boat tours, others rented bicycles and rode around San Fran and the Golden Gate. Alcatraz tours were sold out for the day so some of us just hung out and enjoyed the fresh Crab from the street side vendors. We even managed to stumble onto the set of a new TV pilot that was in the progress of being filmed that day. (Deviant Behavior) But the best part of our day was yet to come...

Back at the airport we checked with ATC and they advised that they would be able to accommodate “The Bay Tour” on departure. For me in MTT this meant 1,400 feet indicated up to the toll both of the Bay Bridge and then follow the North side of the bridge over to the Golden Gate.

WOW, spectacular, we got to see all of downtown from the air and flew directly over Alcatraz before passing over the Golden Gate. From there I followed the coast south towards L.A. and flew over Mission Bay and Big Sur.

At times we dropped down even lower to take a look and were amazed by the breathtaking scenery along the Pacific Coast Highway. 

“Hey kids, wave to the nice people in their cars!” We arrived at Van Nuys Airport that evening again at dusk and the hotel shuttle picked us up.

 

DAY SEVEN

Well next day we awake in Hollywood so I was off early to pick up a 15 passenger Van from the local Ford Dealer and then we all pilled in and went to see L.A. This was much like the day we had in San Fran where we were again going to spend the day touring the city and plan for one leg to the southeast to stay ahead of the weather.

We toured Hollywood Blvd and Sunset strip before heading to the world famous Venice Beach. Guys, check this out, even in April with a cold wind off the ocean there are California girls lying on the beach with, well very small bathing suits on...remember the kids we had along?

They were all over that wicked cool action man. From here we were off to a favourite stop at the Brazilian Restaurant to meet up with Bill Gadzos’ brother Mitch who lives in L.A. This restaurant is an all you can eat style where they serve you Meat from a skewer. It is amazing and the Brazilian beef is excellent.

Back to the airport and check the charts and weather. Looks like we are sleeping in Tucson tonight! Departure from LA means flying The Banning Pass. This time we had some strong tail winds which were good for ground speed, but not so good on the turbulence when we came out the other side of the mountains over Palm Springs.

Moderate Turbulence my butt! Check out the guys flying BOF who whacked their heads on the top of the plane as they were bounced around. Then there was the small matter of the sand storm that sent sand up to 5,000 feet and caused reduced visibility for a few miles. Fortunately we were on top of most of it, but it sure is weird and certainly something we don’t see at home.

 

DAY EIGHT

Awww, heading home already? Duhhh, no! Let’s go play at the famous Pima Air Museum! They have 75 acres of old planes and five hangers full of displays. 

For the third day in a row now, we spent the majority of the day being tourists and then blast off late afternoon for our next destination.

The Air Museum was worthwhile and to add to the experience, it is just across the road from Davis Monthan Air Force Base. We saw fighters of all sorts (F-16’s, A-10’s, etc) departing and landing there all day.  “Woahhhh, look at that, hey, traffic at 10:00 low, very low.”

Very cool, and speaking of cool, let’s go to Roswell, NM for supper before we head to Okalahoma City for the night!

Roswell was a great little spot and no we did not see any aliens other than the 14 that were with me on the trip. Nice ride to Roswell that afternoon and once we were fed we made one more night leg over to Wiley Post Airport in Okalahoma City.

In 1931, Wiley Post flew his Vega around the world, so our little adventure with GPS and auto pilot seemed to pale in comparison. None the less, this was an adventure and one that we were having so much fun with.

 

DAY NINE

And then there’s Rod, Remember Rod? He’s the guy with the C182RG that forgot to overhaul his prop. Oh yes, he was supposed to catch up to us and today is the day. Day nine of a 10 day trip, very good Rod. Actually, we teased them a lot and given his delays in departure it was surprising they made it all the way to Okalahoma.

Trouble was they went to the wrong airport - Tulsa. Oh well, given their late departure our trip mechanic Vinny decided not to come along and so Rod and Doug decided to spend the night in Tulsa and catch up with us in Memphis.

So today we flew From Wiley Post to Memphis and again we landed at a different airport (we knew they were at Memphis International so we picked Millington, they are starting to get the hint now).

Just kidding. Millington was outside of the really busy class B airspace and hopefully easier to get a quick turn around. Also, fuel is often cheaper at these smaller airports. When we arrived in Cincinnati Rod and Doug were on the ramp waiting for us. This is great guys, last night of the trip and you have finally caught up, so let’s get some beer because tomorrow night we will be back at the OFC.

Well leave it to Rod to have us booked into the fanciest hotel in downtown Cincinnati, the Hilton! Well we actually got a wicked deal on the room rates and they had a shuttle to pick us up. We were able to walk over to the local Irish pub, O’Malley’s, for beer and wings. No one really wanted to go home since we were having such a great time.

 

DAY 10

Homeward Bound! From Cincinnati we were off to Rochester and then on to Ottawa to clear customs and drag all the dirty laundry back home.

All good things must come to an end. Clearing Customs was a simple phone call to CAN PASS and we were given our clearance without getting out of the plane. Next call was to let my wife know we were all back safe and sound.

Ten days and 5,633 nautical miles later here we were back home again.

The Ottawa Flying Club is one of only a very few professional training organizations or flying clubs that offer these kind of trips as part of their training. Student Pilots benefit greatly by flying in all kinds of conditions and airspace.

The OFC’s Professional Pilot Program is in high demand for this very reason. Not only do we do all the initial training right at the Ottawa International Airport in busy Class C airspace, but we have our students flying to so many very exciting places.

For the Private Pilot like me it gives an incredible boost to self-confidence and allows us to experience this with a group of other pilots under the watchful eye of our trip guide and flight instructors.

While it is not unusual for clubs to organize such trips or fly ins for private owners, it is highly unusual to find a club that will rent it’s only twin engine aircraft (and most of it’s training fleet) out for a week or 10 days at a time for this kind of training.

I can tell you now first hand after flying in and out of Oakland, Van Nuys, Tucson, Denver, etc. and dealing with some extremely busy airspace, that a trip now to Montreal or Toronto is a walk in the park.

During the past three years that I have been flying here, the Ottawa Flying Club has hosted dozens of trips with multiple club aircraft to: California, St. John’s NFLD, Calgary AB, Florida, Bahamas, and countless shorter trips. I have personally flown on these club trips out West to LA three times and down east to St. John’s twice.

This year my goal is to fly Coast to Coast in my own airplane. I am planning my next trip to St. John’s in August which will give me three trips from coast to coast in three years. Sorry honey, I think Bahamas is calling me next...

 

TESTIMONIALS

Here is what some of our students had to say about this year’s trip:

As for my experience on the trip as one of the “kids”...it was awesome!  I found that flying at the upper limits of the aircraft’s performance envelope really brought home the importance, reality and potential consequences of all the flight planning data and calculations. 

It’s a completely different world than flying locally at low density altitude, way below maximum gross weight and not even close to the range limits for the fuel on board. Flying at night over extended time periods was another highlight of the trip. 

Flying under the hood for a few minutes to prepare for the PPL is one thing, but, maintaining a scan of the panel for hours at a time (especially with the attitude indicator kaput) with near total blackness outside really peaks the concentration. 

I can’t thank Paul Merritt enough for right seating with me in PMR so I could have this unique and wonderful experience!  Thanks again Paul!

Another valuable learning experience was being able to observe the experienced pilots planning process on the ground and flying techniques in the air. This included using the GPS as an invaluable tool on VFR trips.  It’s not part of the PPL preparation, yet how useful in the practical sense.

For a trip of any duration, the GPS seems like the American Express card of the cockpit...don’t leave home without one.  Another biggie was being able to observe and learn from the crew interaction and decision making between the PIC and the right-seater.  This really drives home why and how two heads are better than one.

Bryce Hanna

Student Pilot at the tender age of 67!

 

CALI HIGH

With checklists for this and checklists for that

Procedures for adjusting the tilt of your hat

With rule upon rule and procedures galore

It could really turn into one heck of a bore

But then when I see how few men will see ever

The Canyon, The Bridge, The Mojave Desert

When I fight the night sandstorm in turbulent weather

Then I get where I'm going and land like a feather

When I'm at one with my plane with lights spread below

I experience a high only pilots can know

So in spite of the rules I can say with conviction

That's what keeps me hooked on my flying addiction

By Michael Stott

OFC Member

 

I joined the group at the last minute thanks to the encouragement of Bill Gadzos. All I knew is that we were heading to California in our planes that usually only trip to the practice area and back. 

I’m a student attending the Professional Pilot Program at OFC and I had a feeling this was going to be the one cross country that I will never forget. By the end of the first leg of the trip (Detroit), it was a reality. 

I had now spent the last 4.3 hrs in a Cessna 172, and the part of me that could tell you the real length was my bladder. Not to mention my morning Cappuccino’s. The next days were just incredible. Thanks to all my favourite dispatch girls across the USA! 

It wasn’t until Oakland where I really got lucky! Trust me, girls from California are just as you stereotype them to be. I witnessed so many awesome sights! You have Eight Mile, Omaha Turkeys, Denver F-18’s, Farmington Burgers, Grand Canyon Topless, Daggett FBO, Livermore Green Rolling Hills, Oakland/San Francisco Touring, Van Nuys Airside Hotel, Tucson Museum, Roswell Airplane Graveyard, Oklahoma ILS, Millington Subs, Cincinnati Night, Windsor Alternative, Ottawa home. 

All I say is that it’s impossible for someone to take in so much detail in 18 hour days when you’re new to everything. I was always excited working with a new crew each and every leg.  I got to witness everyone’s style and technique, which was one of the most interesting parts of the trip! 

By the end of our trip, I had never felt so proficient. I was doing the radios, flying the plane, and navigating across new territory all by myself. Thank you to everyone who made this trip such a success! I recommend such a trip to anyone that is as serious a pilot as I!  2006?!

Andrew Ganong

Student, Professional Pilot Program

Ottawa Flying Club

 

So what’s next….

Well, as they say, the Sky is the Limit! You can be sure that we will be out there and I expect to see trips to Florida, Newfoundland, New York City and the Bahamas all in the next few months.... at the Ottawa Flying Club we’re going places too!

Bruce Dwyer

For more information visit www.ofc.ca or call the Flying club at 613 523-2142 or email us at info@ofc.ca