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Thirty years ago, Bessy and The Mary decided to see The Big Time, and planned a quick trip to Disneyland. The thinking was we’d done Abbotsford and Oshkosh a couple of times, so a simple flight down the West Coast to the fabled Los of the Angels was no big deal.
‘Dave’ said it was easy. Just keep the beach on the left. Don’t go over a thousand feet. Lots of airports for food or gas… No prob. All right for him to say.
I bought a whole passel of charts. No need to figure headings when you’re following the beach. We’d gas-up every half tank.
Our new ‘portable’ radio was bungee corded under the front panel. Very slick after the old military ICA 67 and its 10 channels. No more sneaking in on 121.5 because a ‘crystal had dried out.’
After Bellingham customs, it was approx 1,000 nautical, about 7.5 hours at 135 knots, and 170 gals of gas, all being well. We planned 5 stops, with 3 overnights. But first off was overland via Eugene, Washington, to join the beach at Florence, Oregon. Simple.
From there on, just keep the coastline hard a’ port to Gold Beach whose runway is almost on the beach. A hellish crosswind gave me conniptions landing and made taxiing tough. But Bessie’s snarl alerted a truck-load of ex navy guys, who roared over to help us tie down. Those guys were ecstatic. “Just like the war!”
Next day by the Golden Gate, the coast was totally fogged, and the inland route blocked by San Francisco Terminal Airspace. I felt too tired to deal with that. So we slipped in to San Rafael, to see Dave’s friends, and got a bollocking for arriving over the mobile home site, and didn’t I know it was a private strip? Sigh.
Apparently there’d been argy-bargy with local warbird boys, who’d been asked to stay away. Suddenly, they saw Bessie’s peculiar registration letters. We were foreign! All was forgiven.
We now got a hearty welcome, loan of a car, told not to worry, and directed to a nice motel. So we stayed over a day and took in the sights in Sausalito and San Francisco.
From there was two and a half hours to Chino and its fabled warbird stuff.
Fog still blocked the coast, so we flew inland to Santa Barbara to find it still murky and getting late. So we went to Santa Paula for the night.
Again, everyone was so kind, and amazing airplane stuff to see. A Ryan PT-22 factory, Gipsy Moth, an old chap who held FAA Pilot Certificate number 2 and had an American Eagle in bits!
Across from Cliff Robertson’s fantastic Stampe and Tiger Moth collection, a Spartan Executive peeked from a hangar. A young guy roared down the runway in a Cub with no wings. Fascinating.
BIG RED LIGHT
Next day we plunged into the infamous Los Angeles smog and sped through LAX’s VFR corridor at about 4,000 feet over the beach. “Look at all the airliners!” Says I, “We’re not allowed to land there.” At which point, the engine quit!
One thinks a lot at such times, especially over blinkin great airports with big jets zipping about, and where one is forbidden to land. Left were the ocean, the beach, or El Segundo main street. Air force training clicked in. Maintain flight speed. Nose down, “Gas! Mixture! Switches!” Big red light! No fuel pressure! Switch tanks and pump like hell. Swish, swish, swish went the prop. Lost 500 feet already. Poppety, Popperty, Hurr-rrumpfh… Brup! Roar! And away we went.
“What was that?” asked the Mary. “Oh nothing Luv. Ran a tank dry.” As planned of course. The engine runs about a half hour after the low fuel light comes on. But you get used to the light.
We motored on through the smoggy fish-bowl. No horizon and you can only see straight down. At Manhattan Beach we turned in along the Artesia Freeway to Anaheim and Disneyland, then northeast to Chino.
The Tower directed us to the Aero Sport hangar, where we met Rick and Soup, two very friendly maintenance guys. Bessie’s brakes were fading, and the old military tires worn, so we arranged a brake and tire job. Meanwhile we explored The Planes of Fame, Air Race museum and other stuff right next door. We wandered their back lots, which were like an outdoor Aladdin’s Cave!
Soup lent us a truck, so we could poke about local airports. Compton had Dennis Buehn’s Warbirds West, Riverside was the home of historic EAA Chapter 1, the Skybolt Factory, and the legendary Art Scholl’s Flight Services.
Vancouver’s Big Jerry Janes had asked us to look at an A-26 at the Tallmantz Air Movie Museum at Orange County. Then we went to Glendale and toured Aero Engines excellent shop.
Back at Chino I was stunned to find Bessy taxiing about by a cheery young Bill Muszala to bed the brakes. Said it was tough starting as he thought it ‘direct cranked’ like a T-6. It sounded funny too with the long stack. Sigh!
So, we paid the money, and flew home inland via overnights at Livermore, Redding, Astoria and Victoria. What a fabulous 10 days. Spectacular along the coast! Try it sometime.
LAST CALL FOR COPA AWARDS
We shall soon close the book on the 2006 COPA Award nominations, so if you’re still dithering about, please think seriously about who deserves to be honoured via one of COPA’s prestigious Awards.
Different categories allow an appropriate ‘fit’ for most deserving actions that make our flying hobby safer or more enjoyable. There are Awards for Appreciation, Achievement, Merit, or for a Good Show, which can go to non-aviation persons who provide exceptional services for us at the airport.
Please send your nominations to COPA Awards Committee, 207-75 Albert St. Ottawa, ON K1P 5E7; Fax 613-236-8646 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank You.
And that’s all for now… Fly safe!
Tony Swain is a former COPA director and has been a COPA member for more than 25 years. He and his wife Mary continue to be active participants in personal aviation.