FUN!

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Fun Flight Lesson  29 March 2018

“How does tomorrow look for my next gyroplane lesson Vance?”  I checked the weather and it was predicted to be warmer and less windy than his last flight.  "Looks good to me Jeff, see you tomorrow at 8:00."

Jeff is a busy caterer so he doesn’t get to plan very far in advance.  He is coming from about 300 miles away.  He had done very well on our flight up to San Luis Obispo and he was landing and taking off by the end of the day.  It had been a very non structured flight in cold windy conditions and had been a long day but Jeff had shown remarkable stamina. 

There are things that need to get done and we agreed to stay focused.

Winds were calm when we arrived at the Santa Maria Airport (SMX) and it was hard to not just go flying.  One of the things I try to teach is to never hurry aviation so we spent two and a half hours on preflight, weather and mission planning. 

Jeff asks good questions and one was; "Why are we calling Flight Service and talking to a briefer when we are required to get the weather from the ATIS (automatic terminal information service)?"  As is often the case this question answered itself.  There was a fire TFR (temporary flight restriction) over one of the Channel Islands that was not reported on ATIS for SMX.  If we had been flying to Santa Barbara (SBA) we would probably have violated the TFR had we not checked with Flight Service.

The mission was to do the ground reference maneuvers of turns around a point and 'S-turns' over a road to practical test standards.  Plus or minus 100 feet of altitude and plus or minus ten knots of indicated air speed.

It was a good thing that we briefed extensively because Jeff was having trouble hearing me.  I like to do the training on the ground and demonstrate air work rather than try to give instruction in the air.

Jeff never broke the standards and at one point he was so steady he felt his altimeter was stuck. 

We then did recognition and recovery from low airspeed and high rate of descent.  Jeff wanted to get a feel for it and part of our mission was to keep his eyes outside, so he slowed to 15kts and waited till he could “feel” the descent.  We were getting close to 900 feet per minute descent when he lowered the nose and picked up air speed.  We still recovered in 300 feet. 

If this had been Jeff’s practical test he would have easily passed.  At that time he had three hours of dual in his log book.

The approach was perfect and the landing was as nice as could be with very little coaching.  It was a one hour flight lesson and we had lots to debrief on so we headed off to lunch at Pepper Garcia’s.

I was gleeful with Jeff’s performance and had trouble with spontaneous bursts of laughter. 

Jeff admitted that he felt completely lost on takeoff as it had been almost a month since we had flown.  He had quickly recovered from his bewilderment and felt at home in the sky.

After a nice lunch it was time for some pattern work. 

We did ten takeoffs and landings in .9 hours and I only touched the controls once.

As we were getting gas Jeff noticed that one of his ear cushions was missing so we went back to the hangar and retrieved my back up helmet. This solved the communication challenge nicely and made it all the more amazing that Jeff did as well as he did only understanding half of what I said.  Or maybe it just means I talk too much.

Jeff felt he had worked hard enough and it was time for some fun.  I showed him how the Santa Maria River is just outside of the SMX.  There is not much traffic out there so he can maneuver however he wants with me looking out for traffic.

I didn’t realize the challenge this presented to me till Jeff made an aggressive 180 degree turn and lowered the nose.  We very rapidly went from 50kts indicated air speed to over 75kts and lost over 300 feet of altitude.  As a flight instructor it is my job to figure out if something is wrong with the aircraft and I can usually tell when the aircraft is not responding correctly because I know what we are trying to do.  In this case I didn’t know lowering the nose in the turn was intentional so I was trying to diagnose the problem and about to take the control when he finally responded to my pleas of “NOSE UP! APPLY BACK STICK!” 

Jeff wanted to see how altitude expanded our view so he climbed to 3,300 feet and we could see over the first line of hills to the second and third line. We could see the fog over the ocean eighteen miles away. 

We flew over some oil fields and descended down a little valley to stay out of the approach path for runway 30 at SMX.

I asked Jeff if he knew where the airport was and he had to admit he did not.  We could see the antennas on top of the hill that we use for managing our downwind for runway 30 so we knew it was just on the other side of the ridge.  We could have followed California Highway 101 to the airport but we would have been directly in the path of the faster aircraft inbound to SMX so we headed west along a lovely valley toward Vandenberg’s restricted air space and then up California Highway One toward Orcutt.

Finding an airport is not as easy as most would think particularly if your too high to read the signs and too low to see over obstacles. 

Because we were over the city and following ATC’s (Air Traffic Control) instruction Jeff had to imagine the fixed wing traffic pattern base leg and then turn to final a mile from the field.

Jeff made a perfect landing once again calling into question the value of my practice, practice, practice.  He had learned things on our “flight just for fun” that helped his final landing be the best of the day.

We finally finished up at the hangar at 7:00 and Jeff asked another of his good questions;  "How many more hours do think it will take before I am not a hazard?"  I had only touched the stick once during the 3.1 hours of dual instruction and that was just an effort to save wear and tear on The Predator.  We determined what was still needed was better radio communication, better lost procedures and being more familiar with the aviation environment.  I don’t know what challenges we will run into and it is not likely we will fly more often than every three weeks.  We may still make the minimums (15 hours of dual and five hours of solo) for his Sport Pilot, Rotorcraft-Gyroplane practical test. 

Next time Jeff is going to try to stay for two days.

I look forward to it and find great joy in his progress.​​
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SLO Flight to EAA Meeting (Part-1)  18 March 2018

Because of intermittent showers I had not flown it two weeks.  Many of my clients are coming from out of the area so if there is a good chance of rain we reschedule.  I don’t fly when it rains and Saturday’s flight to Santa Ynez was canceled for rain.

Sunday was looking good and there was an EAA meeting with a representative from Cal Fire giving a presentation at San Luis Obispo (SBP).

As is often the case there was some winds trailing behind the storm but I had the fever and wanted to fly.  It was 43 degrees F when I left the house with the top down so I was bundled up.  The temperature had risen to 45 degrees by the time I reached the airport.

Because I had not flown for a while I was extra diligent with check lists and procedures.

As I taxied to the run up area the wind changed directions so many times it wrapped my yaw string around the mount.  Each of the wind socks was blowing in a different direction and indicating a different wind velocity.

I asked for a right turn out to the north.  Air Traffic Control (ATC) came back with the words that start each flying adventure; “Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf, Runway three zero clear for takeoff; right turn out approved.” 
Takeoff and climb out was lively in the cool air and I pulled the camera out as I reached 1,000 feet.  

There were lots of people out barbequing in Santa Maria and a few of them waved as I skirted the edge of the city at 1,000 feet above the ground.

As I crossed the dry Santa Maria River the air tasted clean and I could see all the way to Avila Bay.  The hills were starting to turn a lush green from the recent rains.  I marvel at how quickly that happens.

The turbulence made holding my altitude take constant adjustment of the throttle.

I meandered along California 101 past the five cities and started to work my way toward the Edna Valley. 

SBP ATC greeted me and asked me to make a straight in and report four miles.  At five miles I was cleared to land runway two niner but it had to be amended several times as I made my way across the Edna Valley and toward SBP at 45kts of ground speed.

I asked for a long landing and taxied to the hangar where the EAA meeting was.  I was warmly received and needed about ten minutes to bask in the afterglow before I secured The Predator and joined the meeting. 

It was a great presentation with lots of interesting information.  I found myself reliving my recent flight and longing to be flying again.  I feel more at home in the sky than on the ground.

Flight Back Home from SBP (San Luis Obispo) to SMX (Santa Maria) (Part-2):

As I listened to the speaker at the EAA meeting I felt distracted by the call of the sky.  I was very interested in Cal Fire but a part of me was planning the flight back to Santa Maria (SMX).

San Luis Obispo (SBP) is nestled in the Edna Valley with two thousand foot hills to the east.  I am often haunted by the childhood question of what is on the other side of the hill.

After a careful preflight and checking the weather I asked SBP ATC (air traffic control) for a right down wind departure to the east.  “Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf, runway two niner clear for takeoff; right downwind approved.”

Flying The Predator solo is a somewhat different experience and she sort of leapt into the air and was climbing out at eleven hundred feet per minute as the Edna Valley opened up before me on down wind.

I pulled the power back a bit and caught some lift as we came closer to the hills.  The clouds ahead had some vertical development and dark bottoms suggesting turbulence ahead.  Once over the ridgeline I pulled the power well back and just sort of floated along, marveling at the view and our capabilities.

The ridge line ends abruptly with a 1,300 foot drop off to the surface of Lake Lopez.  I pulled the engine to idle and began my descent to the swishing sound of the rotor blades.  It doesn’t matter how many time I do it, it still feels like magic to me.  Once on the lee side of the ridge the sink increased and I added power to enter the Huasna Valley above the wires from the Diablo Nuclear Power Plant that march across the hills.

I like flying around the Huasna Valley on a windy day because there is very little air traffic and there is beauty in every direction.  I could smell the wet earth and feel the clean cool air on my face.

I followed the winding river to Twitchell Reservoir, banking left and right in a wonderful expression of the freedom of flight.

I checked the weather over Twitchell Reservoir and called SMX ATC inbound to land.  “Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf; make right down wind for runway three zero; report downwind abeam.”

As I got closer traffic picked up and ATC restricted a Piper’s altitude to stay above me and a landing jet.  As I was about to call downwind abeam I heard; “Gyroplane Two Mike Golf make short approach, no delay on runway.”  I pulled the power and turned right around the tower making one steady descending bank and touching down as nice as could be at taxiway Alpha 4 and scooted off the runway.

“Gyroplane Two Mike Golf, taxi to parking via Alpha; monitor ground.  Thank you for your help Vance”.

What a lovely way to end a lovely day of flying.

It took me about a half hour of siting in the afterglow before I was ready to climb down and push The Predator into the hangar.

I down loaded the pictures from my little camera and relived the flight.

Now I get to fly a third time as I share this with my friends.

I love being a flight instructor because I get to open the door to this magical world for others.

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Sibling Rivalry  7 March 2018

I had flown with Jeff’s brother Jim; who had done very well, so being the trouble maker I am I encouraged sibling rivalry.  My time with Jim was cut short for his work commitments.  I had Jeff for all day for $450 so we could take a more casual approach.

Jeff said he would rather have some fun and go somewhere so we headed up the coast to San Luis Obispo (SBP) for lunch.

We were expecting some strong winds and San Luis Obispo is in a valley so the winds tend to swirl around and can change direction and strength rapidly. Jeff was up for the challenge.

Jeff received a text from Jim saying he wanted us to fly over Pirate’s cove so we modified our flight plan to accommodate him.

Jeff had seen my post about Russ and how much being prepared helped, so he was very well prepared and it showed in his performance.

I gave Jeff the controls at eight hundred feet (540 feet above the ground) and immediately felt comfortable with his piloting skills.  The first picture of Jeff flying is with less than two minutes at the controls making a straight out departure from the Santa Maria airport (SMX).  I don’t take pictures when I am afraid.

Once we were outside SMX airspace I briefly took the controls and demonstrated some maneuvers and then gave Jeff the controls again.

He was handling airspeed and altitude very well with a good ground track and very smooth entries and exits to turns.  He seemed to have a good feel for the machine.

Flying up the shore line from the Guadalupe Dunes toward Pismo Beach is not as easy as it looks.  If you look close you can see considerable crab (the nose is pointed out to sea) because of the onshore wind.  It changes as the hills began to block the wind and create turbulence.  Other than some reminders about altitude (we were flying 600 feet above the ground and we are not supposed to get closer than 500 feet over people and property); Jeff was on his own.

There are very few emergency landing spots near Pirate’s Cove (a clothing optional beach) so I took the controls and climbed to 1,500 feet to give us more options.  Neither of us saw Jim waving as we made our way close to the mountains.  It was stunningly beautiful but I was busy dealing with the turbulence and the close proximity of the mountains to take pictures.

Air Traffic Control (ATC) at SBP was having challenges with two long winded pilots and starting to get backed up with six aircraft in the pattern.  They were still able to accommodate us.  Downwind mid field we were number two for runway two niner behind a Cessna and ahead of a reginal jet on a three mile final.

After a nice lunch and a conversation with four flying members of the Coast Guard, we did a preflight and checked the weather.  Winds had come up to 27kts and there was an AIRMET for moderate turbulence so we canceled our plans to fly in the Huasna Valley for some maneuvering exploration and decided to fly direct to SMX.

I gave Jeff the controls as soon as we climbed out of the Edna Valley and he did a great job of managing the gusting winds.  He later admitted to a little fear of getting blown out of the sky.  He did a great job despite his trepidation.

Jeff entered the pattern well and I was very impressed with his increased situational awareness; so I asked if he was ready to land and he felt he was up for the second hardest part of flying a gyroplane after less than two hours of dual instruction. 

I took over the rudders and throttle and he did a nice job of managing his airspeed.  I could tell my rudder use was confusing so I pointed The Predator’s nose down the runway at five hundred feet above the ground and helped him find the centerline.  As we were about to touch down an emergency was developing (a Cessna was not developing full power and needed to return to the airport) so I took the controls and went around side stepping to give him a clear runway.  The Cessna pilot was cleared to land on all runways and taxiways.  Things seemed to be working out so ATC told us to make left traffic and report midfield down wind.

ATC extended our downwind incase the Cessna stalled on the runway.

We had a nice stabilized approach and a nice landing so I felt it was time for Jeff to take off; arguably the hardest part of flying a gyroplane.

It was windy enough to where we were off before Jeff could get into trouble. I was pleased and Jeff wanted to give it another try.  It was getting a little windy and turbulent so we called it quits after a nice landing and I asked ATC if we could visit because Jeff had expressed a desire to learn about what goes on in the control tower.  It was approved as requested and after climbing a lot of stairs we had a very nice visit with the controller and he demonstrated many of the tools he had to work with and shared his philosophy of air traffic control.

When we climbed down the wind had died down so we decided to do a few more takeoffs and landings even though it was getting late.

As we were taxiing out the wind direction and airspeed were changing enough to where the tower gave us several wind checks and asked me if I wanted runway two.  I decided to stay with 30 because the direct cross wind 020 degrees at 7kts seemed like less trouble than the changed sight picture of the 75 foot wind cross wind runway compared to the 150 foot wide runway 30.

As we were on our take off roll the wind sock became straight out (15kts) and I decided to change to runway 02.

Jeff had a little trouble with the narrower runway and I could not let him go quite as far, so on our last landing I had him fly down the runway at about 15 feet and he said it helped a lot.  The last landing was a nice as could be.  Every takeoff and landing had been to practical test standards with a little coaching.

It was a little after 6:00 and we had started at 8:00.  The debrief and filling out his log book lasted till a little after 7:00.  He had flown for two and a half hours and had been learning every minute of the 11 hour day.  Jeff is tough!

He is planning on moving forward on his gyroplane adventure and I am looking forward to it.

As I read what I wrote to find some of my spelling and grammatical errors; I realized I was not able to communicate how much fun I have as a flight instructor as I open the door to the world of aviation I love.  I feel learning to fly a gyroplane is a life altering experience.  It was for me. 

I am grateful that my friends let me join in the fun of their aviation adventure.
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Lazy Hazy Days Flight   5 February 2018

Lazy hazy days of summer in February in California.  I checked the weather Sunday and there was a high pressure dominating with stable air. Smooth air makes for a haze that adds romance to the view.

The first Sunday of the month is open hangar day at the Santa Paula Airport.  SZP is a magical place with lots of aviation luminaries and lots of interesting aircraft.

A flight to Santa Paula involves traversing six weather systems and they are often not favorable.  I have to fly through the busy Santa Barbara class C airspace.  The favorable weather made the Santa Barbara airspace very busy.

I had not been down that way since the Thomas fire so I wanted to see what it had done to my hills.

I never hurry aviation so I got a late start.

I took my time wandering over the hills and valleys climbing to 3,500 feet over the San Marcos Pass where the ground drops away to see level in less than a mile.

Once over the pass I caught some lift along the ridge all the way to No Name pass, so I pulled the power back and just sort of rumbled along at 2,000 feet, immersed in the beauty of the California coastline.  I love the way the ocean air feels on my face.

No name pass opens up to the Lake Casitas and the feel of the air changes.

Once I reached the remnants of the Thomas fire I found turbulence and lift from the sun heating the black hills before coasting down to the Santa Paula airport.

I was greeted as the prodigal son and had a wonderful time hangar flying with old friends and meeting a few new ones.

The setting sun reflected off the mist on the way home so no pictures.  It makes the familiar territory look unfamiliar and mysterious.

I pushed a ten to fifteen knot head all the way home.

I sat in the afterglow for a long time before I was ready to step down.

I have made this flight many times and each time is a unique Magical Mystical Adventure.
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Low and Slow, Lompoc Flight  29 January 2018

I have been busy with training and Sunday seemed a lovely day to fly.

The Predator needed some attention and it was past 15:00 before I was ready to go.

I called flight service to check the weather and there was an AIRMET for moderate turbulence below fourteen thousand feet and lots of pilot reports of severe turbulence.

I don’t like to fly at night so a short flight to Lompoc seemed like a good plan.

We have had a little rain so the hills are beginning to turn green.

I heard the magic words; “Gyroplane 142 clear for takeoff, left downwind approved.”  The Predator leaped into the air and climbed out at 1,100 feet per minute.  I wanted to make the flight last so I trimmed her for 50kts and just sort of rumbled across the sky, slowly climbing to the two thousand feet mean sea level (MSL) that I like to have over the hill to Lompoc.

I caught some lift as I neared Harris Grade and pulled the power back further.

As I crested the ridge the Lompoc Valley opened up and I made a five mile radio call.  The skydive plane announced he was about to depart and there was no one in the pattern so I announced “Lompoc Area Traffic; White Gyroplane Two Mike Golf, three miles to the north at 1,200 feet, will make a right base entry for runway two five to land”.

I picked up my speed a little to better manage the timing because the jump zone is over my right down wind for runway two five and I suspect the jumpers find my rotor disquieting.

I talked myself through the landing process just for practice and called “Lompoc area traffic, White Gyroplane Two Mike Golf, clear of runway two five, Lompoc.”

I had a nice time visiting with some pilots and had to answer some questions about YouTube gyroplane crashes.

The last skydiver was down as was the jump plane.

I checked the Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) and prepared to depart.

I called Santa Maria Air Traffic Control (ATC) from nine miles to the south descending through 1,700 feet with information Tango and was to report the Orcutt Y.  ATC asked me to make a slow left 360 for clearance from a Citation.  It was a pleasure because I was not ready for the joy of the flight to end.

Back at the hangar I sat in the afterglow for over half an hour replaying the magic moments of the flight.
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Fixed-Wing Flight Instructor Leaning to Fly a Gyroplane  1 Janurary 2018

Russ retired from the USMC nine years ago and was an EA-6B Prowler Naval Flight Officer.  As a military flight instructor, he would take new pilots to the carrier for their first day and night arrested landings in a EA-6B Prowler.  He is now an engineer at Vandenberg and a Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) flying out of Lompoc, CA.  He is a high-time flight instructor and has more time as a flight instructor than I have as pilot in command of a gyroplane.

I met Russ when I was a freshly minted gyroplane CFI at a “Toys for Tots” event at the Lompoc Airport (LPC).  I felt like I was standing with giants, as there were several other aviation luminaries there.  Russ expressed an interest in getting a gyroplane rating and I jumped at the chance to fly in my gyroplane (The Predator) with Russ and try out my instructor skills with the sort of flight instructor I would like to be.

Russ is very focused on briefing, debriefing, procedures and check lists so we were aligned in our thinking about flight instruction. 

He did very well on managing airspeed and altitude and had fun with low altitude open cockpit aviation. I snuck in some performance maneuvers.

We looked up the requirements for adding Rotorcraft-Gyroplane to his Commercial Pilot privileges.  He felt the time required (money) for Private Pilot, Rotorcraft-Gyroplane was outside of his budget for fun ratings (he has several).  Several of my clients have added Sport Pilot, Rotorcraft-Gyroplane privileges to their Private Pilot Certificate and I need to train them to proficiency and then have another CFI give them a proficiency check ride and endorse Russ for Sport Pilot, Rotorcraft-Gyroplane privileges.  Proficiency is very specific with practical test standards. Typical was a little over ten hours of dual instruction with an equal amount of ground.

I had seen Russ a couple of times at FAST meetings over the years and talked briefly but it had not occurred to me to share what I had learned because I did not think he was interested in Sport Pilot.  I was always impressed by his focused demeanor.

I received a call from Russ and he had read up on the regulations and felt it would be fun to add a Sport-Pilot, Rotorcraft-Gyroplane privileges to his fixed wing certificate.  I shared my experience, successes and specific challenges in teaching a fixed wing pilot to fly a gyroplane with Russ at length and he decided to make it happen.  

Russ takes success seriously and had me email him my pilots operating handbook, all the check lists and written instructions I had.  He is not the first to request this but he is the first to print them out for his kneeboard and asked for clarification on nearly everything.  I re-did two of my check lists and the pilot’s operating handbook based on his review.  I loved the opportunity to up my game.

He also carefully studied the chapters about gyroplanes in The Rotorcraft Flying Handbook and was familiar with all the ground reference maneuvers and common errors.

The morning of his first lesson finally came and as I expected Russ was about 15 minutes early.  I checked his log book and was very impressed with his experience.  We took a half hour for orientation, an hour to preflight The Predator (a gyroplane has very different critical systems), and another half hour familiarizing Russ with the cockpit instrument, switches, controls and procedures.  He had really done his homework studying the picture of the instrument panel I had sent him, asked good questions and paid attention to the answers on an unusually high level.

I usually start people in the back seat to avoid task saturation.  I felt Russ was ready for the responsibilities of the front seat and I felt I was going to need to run to keep up with him.  He has to manage the radio frequencies, transponder, monitor the engine instruments, pre-rotate and operate the rotor brake. He also has the brakes for steering.

My method of teaching is to brief on the ground, demonstrate in the air and then give the controls to the client and talk him through the maneuvers; typically two or three per flight.  I have learned not to hold students back because many exceed my expectations (they do much better than I did as a primary student pilot).

The takeoff is probably the most challenging maneuver in a gyroplane both procedurally and how it feels compared to a fixed wing aircraft.  Because of the proximity to the ground I have less time to identify and fix mistakes, so if a student is doing well I might have him take off near the end of the second hour; after talking him through several of my takeoffs and landings while he is still in the back seat.

Russ felt he was prepared to take off and I did not disagree.  I figured on talking him through the takeoff procedure and expected to take the controls at some point.  We briefed extensively.

It wasn’t a great takeoff because we were a little slow when she lifted off with a little over-control that Russ quickly addressed.  It was right down the centerline and we were soon at our target lift off speed making a nice climb out with the control inputs becoming progressively smoother.  Every little hint I gave him made a positive change.  The takeoff and climb out met practical test standards.

I directed Russ toward the practice area and he was flying so well that I just told him to make a clearing turn and enter a turn around a point first left and then right without demonstrating the maneuver.  He made a proper entry and it was all to practical test standards.

Next were "S-Turns" over a road and again, with only the slightest instruction, he flew to practical test standards.  Russ then performed slow flight maneuvers, recognition and recovery from slow airspeed and high rate of descent and a power off vertical descent and recovery.

This would typically been at least two separated hour long missions.  At .9 hours of dual (54 minutes) and two hours of ground Russ made his first landing with only the slightest warning that we were a little slow a little high.  I could barely feel her touch down after responding perfectly to my input.

I never once was on the controls and gave very little instruction throughout the mission.

It was both a pleasure and a challenge to fly with someone with so much aviation experience and such an intellectual focus on exactly what we were doing.

We are going to fly again in a couple of weeks and if he keeps going the way he did I expect to sign him off for his proficiency check ride.  We will be working on precise landings, engine at idle landings (emergency landings), engine out on takeoff and steep turns.

I loved flying with Russ and learned a great deal.
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Fixed Wing Pilot Transition to Gyroplane Pilot  12 December 2017
I got a call from Peter who is from Los Angles, asking about gyroplane training.  He has a strong Bulgarian accent that is a cross between the Terminator and Boris Badenov and is a little hard to understand when he gets excited.  He has an airplane single engine land certificate with an instrument rating.  I suggested we spend a day together so I could access his skills and so he could find out if flying a gyroplane is what he wants to do for $450.  He was going to borrow an airplane and fly up from Santa Monica (SMO) to Santa Maria (SMX). He is a United States Marine.

After having things not work out with the plane three times, Peter called me up and said: “If I drive up and stay for three days will you sign me off for the proficiency check ride for Sport Pilot, Rotorcraft-Gyroplane?”  My reply:
“It is not likely Peter; my typical minimum for a sign off is ten hours of dual flight instruction.  I don’t like to have a student fly much more than two hours a day broken down into four missions and the rest of the day will be spent learning on the ground.  If you are willing to work very hard, we can try.  A week would be better.  We will basically do a practical test for Sport Pilot, Rotorcraft-Gyroplane and correct what is not up to the practical test standards (PTS).”

Two weeks later, November 28 at 7:40 Peter was at the gate at the Santa Maria Public Airport and we were ready to start.  It took from 8:00 to 11:30 to preflight, review gyroplane aerodynamics, check the weather and brief for the first mission explaining the standards and reasons for each maneuver.  We would be working through the various maneuvers in a practical test and working on them if he was not up to the PTS.  I put Peter in the back seat because there was less responsibility there and it is easier to fix something that is not working out if I am in the front seat.

I would demonstrate a maneuver that we had briefed on and then Peter would take the controls and fly the maneuver.  He had listened well and studied the Rotorcraft Flying Handbook.  Peter had a good grasp of how to control a gyroplane and because all of his maneuvers were to PTS, we headed back to the airport.  Peter managed the airspeed and altitude well and followed the somewhat confusing directions from the practice area to the right downwind for runway three zero well.  I let him set up for landing intending to take the controls and finish the landing before round out; his approach to land looked so good I talked him through the round out and flare for a perfect landing.

We gassed up and debriefed and then briefed for the next mission, refining his landings and introducing takeoffs.  We had some of the usual excitement and missteps but overall things went very well.  Lunch was spent charting progress and developing our syllabus.

The winds came up in the afternoon and except for the typical over control inputs things went pretty well.  We could cross crosswind takeoffs and landings off the list.  In the debrief we decided to put him to the front seat tomorrow where he has to manage the steering on the ground with differential braking, make the frequency changes on the radio and is responsible for the engine instruments.  We also realized that I sometimes didn’t understand his perspective and he laughed and said with a dismissive wave; my wife would say; “it is a cultural thing!”

We decided together it was time for Peter to start making radio calls.  We worked hard from eight to five and flew three missions for a little over two hours.  It was a great start.  I warned Peter that progress is seldom steady and at some point he would probably back slide.

Peter did great on the preflight and getting the weather from flight services.  I carefully briefed him on his responsibilities in the front seat, where everything was and how it worked.  The radio call to ground went well, as did the run up with some minor specific items that weren’t up to PTS; but they were easy habits to correct.  Peter was very good about reading the check lists aloud.  Because I can’t see the switches, instruments and mixture control, I insist on this from the beginning.  In my opinion it is proper pilot procedure and I read the lists aloud even when flying solo.

Someone new to The Predator (My training gyroplane) tends to grip the cyclic too tight and high and it is easy to press the push to talk button accidently.  This is commonly referred to as “a stuck mic”.  It prioritizes the front microphone so I can’t be heard on the intercom and blocks radio communication at the airport.  We had briefed on this extensively but task saturation got the better of Peter taking a while for the pounding on his back to get through and abort the takeoff despite our prearranged signals.  The tower scolded us and made certain we understood the gravity of a stuck mic as we made our way back to the run-up area for runway three zero.  I asked Peter if the error required some recovery time and he said he was unaffected with a dismissive wave of his hand.  I figured it was a cultural thing.  This mission was not entirely successful either and at lunch I prepared Peter for our “three day to gyroplane pilot plan” failing.

After lunch Peter redeemed himself and we flew until sunset.  We both agreed to study the practical test standards that evening and make certain we had covered everything that he would be tested on.

The morning of the third day we spent some ground time trying to find holes in Peters knowledge and he did remarkably well identifying hazards on the chart, lost procedures and diverting to an alternate airport.  Being one of my first clients to recognize a low level military operations area in the way of a diversion to Santa Ynez scenario.  His airspace identification and procedures were flawless.

After a preflight with Peter’s explanations of why each item is important and a weather briefing we headed off to do steep turns (considered an advanced maneuver) with success.  After a debrief we briefed on how to improve takeoffs and landings.  Every takeoff and landing was to practical test standards and we explored short field and soft field operations.

After lunch we headed out for some slow flight and the tower asked us to do a go-around, two more items checked off the list as we taxied back to the hanger to begin paperwork.  I called Don Bradly who will be doing the Proficiency Check Ride and he was kind enough to look over our paperwork (8710-11).  We are hoping to make it happen in a couple of weeks.  Peter has a little over seven hours of dual gyroplane instruction in his logbook.

Throughout the training I taught Peter how to fly all gyroplanes and transition him into Don’s Magni.  I took a picture of Peter with The Predator and, after I downloaded the picture, I asked him why he wasn’t smiling after such a successful three days?  “That is my smile; it is a cultural thing.”  He said with a dismissive wave.

Please understand I still expect a transition from fixed wing to Rotorcraft-Gyroplane to take ten to fifteen hours of dual with probably twice that in ground.  Peter is a remarkable pilot and it was also “a cultural thing”.  

It has been a couple of weeks and I just received a message from Don saying that Peter flew well and he now has a Sport Pilot, Rotorcraft-Gyroplane endorsement on his single engine land private pilot certificate.
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Santa Paula - Nope!  11 November 2017

This story is a week late due to training a new student for the whole of last week.  Between lesson plans and training I couldn't find the time to write.  I always try to make my students and The Predator (my aircraft) my number one priority.  As a result of these two vital things I did not find any time to share with you my love of flying and a worthwhile reminder that the destination is not the point.

Sunday morning around 9:00am I called flight service for a weather briefing and it sounded like great winter day to fly from Santa Maria (SMX) to Santa Paula (SCP).  It is a lovely 100 mile flight with many magnificent Vistas!

I checked with flight service and AIRMET Sierra was rapidly improving for low ceilings and Mountain obscuration.  AIRMET Zulu for moderate Icing at 9,000 feet didn't give me much to worry about.  Typically, I fly 500 feet to a 1,000 feet above the ground and the highest ground is about 2,500 feet over the San Marcos Pass.  AIRMET Tango for light to moderate turbulence was in effect along the entire route. I have flown in moderate turbulence a lot along this route. 

The air had a nice bite to it for a more intense experience and the Predator’s performance was lively!  About 25 miles east of the San Marcos VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Range Navigation System) I began to climb from 3,500 feet to 5,500 feet to maintain the required 1,000 feet above the clouds and fly an appropriate VFR altitude for my easterly flight.  I called Santa Barbara approach and they gave me a squawk code and altitude was verified.  I found my fingers were cold enough to make operating and knobs on my transponder difficult and my cold lips were not working well for Radio Calls.  I let approach know I was climbing through 6,100 feet for VFR (visual flight rules) cloud clearance and saw what appeared to be a high wall cloud somewhere around Carpentaria.  My next VFR altitude would be 7,500 and I figured it would be a lot colder up there so I called approach and told them I was heading west to San Luis Obispo (SBP);  Radar Services were terminated and I was to squawk VFR (1,200).

As my altitude increases it feels like I am crawling across the sky barely moving.  I had built up a lot of energy (altitude) and had 60 Miles to bleed it off.  I pulled the power back and delighted in the feeling of just floating along.  I planned my course to catch some updraft along the hills and it feels like the hand of God Is Lifting me up... climbing when I should be descending.  A few times I slowed to 40kts indicated air speed;  slightly below my minimum power required speed of 46kts just to bask in the feeling.  As I turned west I flew all along the Nipomo Bluffs to catch some.  It took me almost all the way to the shoreline. Despite the cold, there were quite a few people on the beach and it was interesting to see the White Caps start as I made my way north along the shoreline.

I called SBP Tower over Shell Beach and was to make left traffic for Runway 29 and report downwind abeam.  The wind was picking up and when I called downwind abeam air traffic control (ATC) gave me a gratuitous wind check and cautioned for wake turbulence from the departing regional jet.  There was enough wind to where I was nearly stopped over the runway and gently lowered her down.

I feel this is a good reminder to turn around when things aren’t going well.

I love to fly and I'm not sorry I didn't make it to Santa Paula.  I flew just as long and loved every minute of the flight!

Kind Regards to All!
Vance
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Bob's Flight  25 October 2017

Bob, who recently retired, called me up to satisfy his curiosity about gyroplanes and we decided to make a day of it on Tuesday.  Bob is a 3,000+ hour single engine, instrument rated private pilot so he already knows much of what I teach and just wanted to find out if gyroplanes were as much fun as they looked.  He flew his RV10 in from Fresno that he built over three years.

We still had the remnants of the Santa Ana winds so we had record heat reaching 108 degrees F in San Luis Obispo with occasional whirlwinds that made for some interesting touchdowns.


He had done his homework and read the gyroplane portion of the rotorcraft flying handbook: 
http://www.faa.gov/…/handb…/aircraft/media/faa-h-8083-21.pdf

So most of what we did was review and familiarization with the specific aircraft (The Preditor).

We flew straight out and I gave Bob the controls about 100 feet above the ground.  Bob climbed to 800 feet and managed airspeed and altitude to better than practical test standards (PTS).  I did my little demonstration of steep turns, slow flight and a power off vertical descent and gave Bob back the aircraft controls as we headed toward the shoreline.  Bob did a great job of following the shoreline and continued to exceed the PTS.  The ocean was beautiful and seemed a richer, darker blue. 


One of my fuel level gages was acting badly so we stopped at Oceano (L52) and dipped the tanks.  There was plenty of fuel for the mission but as long as we were stopped in front of self-serve Bob filled her up.  Oceano’s runway 29 is fifty feet wide by 2,325 feet long with a 25 foot bush at the end.  At maximum gross takeoff weight on a hot day in no wind conditions, I was pleased when we lifted off at about 800 feet and climbed out nicely.  We found a whirlwind about half way down the runway and it just moved us around a little, slightly delaying our climb out.


Coming into San Luis Obispo we were number two behind a Cessna for runway 29; report in sight and Bob saw him before I did.  His lead in to turns was great and he had a little trouble adjusting to how fast a gyroplane can turn 90 degrees.  I took the controls just before touch down and set her down nicely.  Before we had taxied more than ten feet we hit a very strong whirlwind and I was glad I had the aircraft controls.  
We debriefed in the air-conditioned Spirit of San Luis Restaurant over a nice lunch.

During preflight a couple of fellows came wearing shirts from a flying club in the valley and added to the fun.  I feel any hangar flying is good hangar flying. 


I asked for a left down wind departure to the east but inbound traffic and a departing Bonanza had Air Traffic Control (ATC) asking us to make a right, down wind with an early right cross wind for the faster Bonanza.  Our right down wind departure was a little challenging because we needed to remain north of the centerline for inbound traffic against the lee side of the mountains, so I kept the controls until ATC cleared us to cross the centerline.  The heat had my oil temperature in the yellow and wondering what to do if it reaches the red.  Fortunately it did not, although we discussed landing at Oceano. 


We landed back at Santa Maria and I briefed Bob for his first landing.  We took off and I demonstrated a landing and gave him the controls.  The first day with each student has a memorable magic moment (MMM) and my MMM with Bob was when a let him know he had flared a little high and I felt the stick move slightly forward to regain air speed.  I feel it is completely counterintuitive to put the nose down to pick up airspeed when the ground is rushing up to meet you and that is why I spend a lot of time on that subject.  To transfer an intellectual concept into muscle movements is not a simple process in an unfamiliar environment.  Bob greased his first landing after 1.9 hours of dual.


Bob is flying back to Santa Maria next Tuesday suggesting to me that it is as fun to fly gyroplanes as it looks.  I suspect I will be able to sign him off for his proficiency check ride in ten hours of dual.

I love being a gyroplane CFI!
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Michael's Adventure  23 October 2017
Michael called me up to satisfy his desire to learn more about gyroplanes.  He lives about three hours away so we decided to make a day of it on Sunday.  He had never flown small aircraft so I wanted a nice gentle experience for him.  On Saturday the winds were pretty strong at Santa Maria (SMX), often exceeding my gust spread limit of ten knots, but it was supposed to be nice Sunday so I sent him an email to come on ahead. 

We spent a couple of hours getting familiar with the aircraft and checked the Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) for the latest weather and the winds were reported at 020 degrees at 7kts.  I checked the weather on flight service for San Luis Obispo (SBP) and they were reporting a strong wind shear at 1,000 feet and moderate turbulence.  SBP is in a valley with mountains all around so the wind can swirl around like the water in a toilet bowl.  I suggested we change our destination to Lompoc to stay out of the wind shear but Michael had heard how well gyroplanes handle winds and wanted to find out.  He also wanted to fly up the beach because he had seen my pictures. 


There was an incident on the main runway at SMX (30), so runway 2 was in use.  The wind had shifted to 290 degrees at 13 knots gusting to 23 knots.  Take off was better than I expected and after having Michael wag the tail I gave him all the controls.  We worked on his technique a little and headed out toward the beach.  I briefly took the controls to demonstrate steep turns and a 'power off vertical descent' and gave them back to Michael and instructed him to fly straight to the beach, descend to 500 feet and heading up the shoreline.  Usually the winds along the shoreline are more stable than inland but not today.  Michael did a great job of managing airspeed, altitude and direction of flight and I didn’t touch the controls till we were on final for runway 7 at SBP.  The tower let us know of several pilot reports of wind shear and moderate turbulence and offered us the shorter, narrower runway 7.  I had full right rudder over the numbers and I was about to go around when the wind simply stopped (middle of the swirl) so I dropped her in a little fast.  Before we exited on taxiway Kilo I was on the left brake because I encountered the other side of the bowl.  We had a nice lunch and debrief with a few of the usual interruptions asking “what it is like to fly that thing in this wind?”

 
A Black Hawk pilot and a Chinook pilot who were transitioning to fixed wing in a Piper Archer stopped by during our preflight and told of their wild ride into the airport. They recommended we stay away from the mountains because of turbulence.  I wanted to get away from traffic so Michael could explore the freedom associated with flying so we headed for the mountains anyway.  On takeoff from runway 11 it was a direct cross wind, sometimes changing to a tail wind and except for being a little long, take off was nice.  We were on the left side of the mountains and The Predator didn’t want to climb above 1,500 feet because of the turbulence (we would get stuck in a rotor).  At one point when we should have been climbing at 500 feet per minute I saw 400 feet per minute of descent so I gave Michael the controls and we headed for SMX.  We were pointed about thirty degrees left of our flight path and Michael handled it beautifully.  I needed a year of experience before I handled turbulence as well.  

Michael was able to find the airport from twelve miles out (very unusual) and entered the downwind for runway 2 correctly.  I took the controls on down wind and talked Michael through the landing.  Just as I was explaining I was going to aggressively plant her because of the turbulence but we caught a lot of lift from a gust and ballooned up.  We floated along knowing that on the other side of lift is sink and lucked out on the timing and set her down as nice as could be.  We headed back to the hanger to debrief and plan Michael’s path to becoming a gyroplane pilot. 

I love being a gyroplane CFI and I look forward to sharing Michael’s gyroplane adventure!
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Ken Brock Freedom Fly-In  14 September 2017 (Part 1)
I am working on The Predator to prepare her for the 500 mile adventure to El Mirage Dry Lake and the Ken Brock Freedom Fly In; September twenty first through the twenty forth put on by Popular Rotorcraft Association, Chapter 1.

This has been going on for more than 50 years and there are a lot of very special people there.


I will have my rucksack in the back seat and will not be giving flight instruction at the Lake.

It can be a weather challenge with Fog in the morning departing Santa Maria and winds in the afternoon in the high desert.

Anything that flies or rolls is invited.

Bring a hat, sun screen and cloths that will manage 90 degree heat and 40 degree cold.

Hope to see you there.

Ken Brock Freedom Fly-In  26 September 2017 (Part 2)
It was a perfect day to fly and I was delayed by the minutia of life. The plan was to fly to Santa Paula for lunch and then on to Fox Field in Lancaster to meet a client (Mary) for a first gyroplane flight lesson. I figured after the flight I would head off to The Ken Brock Freedom Fly In. I was going to camp in John Steven’s camper on the lakebed.
I did a careful preflight and loaded up my rucksack. I called up flight service and they were predicting good weather along the entire route of flight throughout the day. I was wheels up at 10:30 heading for Santa Paula with wind 290 degrees at 6kts.

The sun was just right over Lake Cachuma making a silvery shimmer that is only partially represented by the picture. I didn’t have much chance to enjoy the view before approach warned me of an opposite direction Piper at my altitude 12:00 3miles. I began frantically searching the skies and climbing figuring he was probably descending to land at Santa Inez. Relived when I finally had the traffic in sight and I was about 700 feet above him. Approach said they had lost radar contact and expect radar contact over the San Marcos Pass. Approach said the Piper was at my six o’clock at 3,800 feet same direction; “I am not talking to him!” I dropped down to 3,000 but never saw him. I needed 3,500 feet for the San Marcos pass so I began to climb when I felt enough time had passed.  
I was disappointed it was not clear on the other side of the hills.

Santa Barbara Approach had me make some altitude adjustments for traffic avoidance.  It was a little bumpy over the hills coming into Santa Paula but they weren’t very busy. I fueled up and had lunch at the Highway 26 Cafe.  I checked the weather and everything was still good to go.


Abeam Magic mountain things got pretty bumpy as I crossed the Newhall Pass so I began a climb to 6,500 feet so I could go straight over the ridges toward Fox field. It was bumpy over the first ridgeline with Bouquet reservoir was tucked against the second ridge and I could see the high desert and barely make out Fox field in the distance. I checked the ATIS and called Fox tower nine miles to the southwest descending through 6,000 feet inbound to land with Victor. I had to repeat type aircraft twice. I was to make left traffic for runway 25 and report established on the downwind. I asked for a long landing and it was approved as requested.


Mary is an exceptionally bright inquisitive woman fixed wing pilot and had lots of questions. She understood my desire to teach on the ground and demonstrate in the air. She did not rush any of my explanations and asked a lot of good questions. It was getting a little late and I don’t like to fly at night over the desert so we decided to fly the next morning to the event so I stayed in Mary’s guest cottage in Palmdale. We rolled The Predator into the historic Barns Aviation Hangar and headed off to dinner with some wonderful friends of Mary’s who live in the Rosamond Skypark; an airport community that attracts some aviation luminaries. I love how the love of aviation allows complete strangers to carry on exciting conversations so quickly. We had great fun till 10:00.


A little after 8:00 AM we rolled The Predator outside and worked through our preflight and checked the weather. I reviewed much of yesterday’s ground instruction and Mary had retained everything and had more questions.
Mary did extremely well managing airs, altitude and heading to practical test standards. I suspect she will be landing and taking off by the end of our next hour. I love introducing someone to the joys of flying a gyroplane flying 500 to a thousand feet above the ground. I demonstrated steep turns, rudder turns, slow flight and a power off vertical descent and gave Mary back the controls. We saw some of the circles left by central pivot irrigation and I demonstrated turns around a point. We had about a 15kts wind so it was a great way to lean about flying in a crab. Mary flattened her first one and the second one was perfect again managing airspeed and altitude to practical test standards. As we came within sight of El Mirage I took the controls and Mary became an amazing spotter. She had everything in the air or on the ground reported well and I had just told her that we would be higher than everybody when she spotted Britta at 12:00 at our altitude. Britta descended to land to the west so after a lap around to see which way the wind was blowing I landed to the west touching down a little fast and becoming airborne again.


We were warmly greeted when we reached the flight line and had a hard time getting away to debrief. It turned the 15 minute debrief into over an hour for the hour flight. Weather permitting she will be taking off and landing by the end of her next hour. She did everything well and what she muffed the first time she did well the second time.


We had lunch and walked the flight line so I could show Mary all the different gyroplanes and explain the effect of the differences. We headed off to Sothern California Logistics for gas and my fuel pressure light came on even though we had an hour of fuel on board when we sticked the tanks at El Mirage. I took the controls and made a precautionary landing. I sticked the tanks again and we had 6 gallons. I could not diagnose the problems under those conditions so we parked The Predator at Tim’s house in Adelanto and John Stevens came and picked us up. He went 100 miles out his way to help his friends. We all had dinner in Lancaster and John headed for home and Mary dropped me off at her guest cottage and headed off to a meeting.


Ed (my wife) hooked up the trailer and picked me up in Palmdale Sunday and then on to Tim’s house. It is over 500 miles round trip.  Loading an eight hundred pound gyroplane on a trailer is not a quick job and it took us about three hours in the dark. A neighbor of Tim’s came by who had a crane on his truck and kindly lifted The Predator on to the trailer. We arrived home at 3:00 after dropping off The Predator in the hangar.

I didn’t get to spend much time with my friends at the Ken Brock Freedom Fly In and that is part of why I don’t give instruction at events. I want to enjoy the event and I can do a much better job of instructing at my home airport.

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Wings Over Camarillo Air Show  22 August 2017  ​(Part 1)
I had hoped to fly in the Wings Over Camarillo Air Show as I had before and it just didn’t work out.  Displaying is the second best way to have fun at an airshow.  

I had a lovely adventure going to Camarillo that was enhanced by Steven; a friend/client that has a strong desire to learn to fly gyroplanes.  He is a Marin businessman that is only slightly younger than I am and has never flown anything before.  He has a regular Saturday appointment and when he called me Friday to confirm I told him about my plans to attend the Wings Over Camarillo Air Show Sunday flying down to Santa Paula after his lesson on Saturday and he asked if he could join me.  I explained at length the somewhat long walk from the Santa Paula Airport to the Ocean Gateway Inn, our inability to have a change of clothes, the somewhat hostile weather environment, our inability to leave Camarillo before 5:00 and the likely hood we would not make it back Sunday evening because of weather.  Steven had appointments Monday in Marin and it is about a six hour drive from Santa Maria.  Steven was undeterred so it was time for a new plan.  We would meet at the airport at the Santa Maria Public Airport (SMX) at 8:00am and get The Predator ready for the flight and leave for Camarillo (CMA) as soon as SMX became VMC. 

I was in the middle of replacing the fuel lines and servicing the fuel system and Steven came by Friday evening to help.  I made a maintenance flight a little after 8:00pm and everything seemed to be working well.  I love turning on all those lights at night with the touch of a button in the aircraft and I was now night current incase Sunday went long.


I arrived early Saturday and checked my work in the light and then Steven helped me give The Predator a bath as we searched the sky for a patch of blue.  The temporary flight restriction at Camarillo started at 11:30 so we needed to leave Santa Maria no later than 10:00.  The sky did not cooperate and it was almost 11:00 before the aerodrome became visual meteorological conditions (VMC) and the temperature/dew point spread was still less than my minimum of four degrees so we went back to the original timetable and figured we would leave for Santa Paula after his flight lesson. 


Eighteen members of the Santa Ynez EAA were in the SMX tower taking a tour as we did our pattern work so I said my little prayer; “please don’t let me screw up!”  Visibility was six miles in mist as we took off for Santa Paula (SZP) from SMX around 3:00 after lunch. This is Steven’s first real cross country and I had not prepared him for it properly.  I told him to climb to 3,500 feet and gave him ground reference points to manage the flight over the San Marcos Pass.  He flew to practical test standards most of the time with an occasional lapse.  My trepidation about going beyond Steven’s capabilities was waning. 


There was some thunderstorm activity about 35 miles to the North East so there was a fairly strong wind out of the south causing some down drafts on the lee side of the ridge line near Lake Cachuma.  I knew the controller working Santa Barbara Approach and he commented on our being at 3,600 feet when we hit a little updraft. As a VFR pilot I am expected to maintain plus or minus two hundred feet. He expects plus or minus 50 feet from me; aviation humor? 


Heading east over Lake Cachuma the San Marcos pass is a little hard to see.  
We sort of turn right to traverse the pass and it was harder to recognize the pass in the mist that made the mountains look more like shadows. 
I was able to talk Steven through the pass. He seemed uncomfortable being up against the mountains to catch the lift.  These were the strongest updrafts Steven had been in and he managed it well pulling the power well back.  We stayed high through No Name pass so our track was less critical.  The mist made the height of the mountains difficult to judge and I explained to Steven we only needed 2,500 feet to clear the mountains by 500 feet.


They were landing on runway 22 and even though we had discussed the pattern entry at SZP it had not sunk in so I talked him through it.  There were four aircraft in the pattern so I took the controls over the golf course incase things happened fast.  Our landing was uneventful and, after fueling, we prepared The Predator for her stay; chaining her down with her gust lock and rotor bag on and her cover in place to keep the moisture out of the cockpit.  We spent some time talking to one of the locals helping Steven to understand the bond of all pilots.  
We took our helmets and the GPS with us and made our way to the Ocean Gateway Inn having a lovely dinner at the restaurant next store to the inn.


To be continued...

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Wings Over Camarillo Air Show  22 August 2017  ​(Part 2)
This is the second part of our Wings Over Camarillo adventure.

Sunday morning I checked the weather at 6:00 AM and CMA was already VMC with a 1200 foot ceiling.  The buses didn’t run till 8:20 so we walked to SZP arriving around 8:00. 


During preflight I found a broken body mount and called my friend Sam.  He had people working in his hangar at SZP and told me to use whatever I could find. I love the fellowship of aviation and all the friends I have met through flying. 


After pulling off the front nose panel I found that the two front body mount brackets had broken. There was a truck with a utility body on it and I asked my new friend from New York if he had any of these particular brackets on his truck.  He had three so with the use of Sam and Rowena’s hangar we were able to pronounce The Predator airworthy by 9:30 and we were flying by 10:00 in plenty of time to arrive before the air show temporary flight restriction at 11:30 closed CMA to arriving traffic. 


CMA was busy but not chaotic. We were number two behind a King Air and I made a short, steep approach for runway 26 and set her down right at taxiway Bravo.  I contacted ground as instructed and they told me to taxi east on Foxtrot and contact the event ground once past Alpha.  I did and they asked; “parking or display?” I told him that gyroplanes are interesting and it would be nice if they made room for us in the display area. He concurred and we taxied to Golf two, shut her down and they helped park us on one of the helipads. 


I had not even finished securing The Predator when Tim showed up with his red Calidus and slipped in next to us.  He had brought chairs and a cooler in his back seat which he shared with us.


I do not have a camera that can capture the performers so I just took some pictures of the goings on.

Sammy Mason (the son of Rowena and Sam where we had repaired The Predator) was one of the first aerobatic performers in a Pitts and gets better each time I see him fly.

They had a D day parachute reenactment with original style chutes with very little directional control and a fast descent. All but one hit the target and all landed hard.  One parachutist landed in the crowd adding to the authenticity of the reenactment because many of the jumpers on D day missed their target by some considerable distance.

There were lots of world war two vintage aircraft flying with a nice aerobatic performance by John Collver in his AT6 Texan “War Dog”.


Vicky Benzing in her Extra 300S gave a spectacular performance that took my breath away.


There was a great deal more that I have left out for brevity. 

Steven wandered around the event and was amazed at the diversity of the displays.

We prepared The Predator for flight as lots of military aircraft flew. The TFR ended at 5:00 and I was hoping to beat the rush for departure.  We needed to push out away from the crowds before starting the engine so Steven’s mission was a little undefined and challenging.  We timed it just as airshow ground handed the control of our portion of the movement area and we were second to depart with Tim close behind. 


I had the controls because I was expecting the unexpected and turned them over to Steven as we crossed the first ridge near Lake Casitas.  This was the most turbulence Steven had flown in and he did well later telling me he felt comfortable.  There were scattered clouds over Carpentaria so I took the controls rather than trying to explain which way to go around the clouds while talking to Santa Barbara Approach.


The mist with the sun behind it restricted visibility and made it hard to judge distance so I made the decision to stop for gas at Santa Barbara in case the weather deteriorated.  I made a somewhat inelegant landing trying to stop before taxiway Hotel so that I didn’t cross runway 25 because there was someone doing pattern work on runway 25.  I contacted ground and taxied to self-serve.


This was Steven’s first landing at a class C airport and he felt it was “very orderly”.  We talked to another pilot who had just come down from the Gaviota Pass and he recommended Gaviota over the San Marcos Pass for turbulence from the convective activity. 


I asked clearance delivery for a straight out from runway and my read back was correct.  We climbed into the mist and saw some clouds ahead.  Visibility was reported at ten miles but the sun reflected off the mist and made it hard to see or judge distance.  The higher we climbed the harder it was to see the road so I took back the controls because I didn’t want to miss the turn over the Gaviota pass and fly into restricted area 2534A.  
Once we had made the turn I turned the controls back to Steven and his flying continued to improve. We followed California Highway 101 and turned left at Los Alamos to approach the airport from the South West to reduce the glare from the setting sun.

I have a new appreciation for how a cross country flight can help a student pilot’s skills even if he does not possess the skillset to complete the mission unassisted.  
After an extensive blow by blow debrief in the hangar Steven headed back north and called me this morning to tell me he had made it safely back to Marin and that he loved our adventure together.

Next Saturday is an Air Show in Paso Robles where Paul, a friend with a Magni is going to fly his first Air Show. 
Steven is doing proper planning for this cross country complete with waypoints and estimated time of arrival.

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Air Venture / PRA Convention  06 August 2017
I just returned from the Air Venture and the PRA convention experience.  It was two weeks of immersion in aviation and five days of driving 5,152 miles in an Avis Prius that averaged fifty miles to the gallon.

Air Venture is simply overwhelming.  I was able to hear Dick Rutan’s story of flying the Voyager around the world without stopping for gas.  He is a great story teller and it is a great story.

I heard a great talk by Jerimiah D Jackson about his record setting cross country flight in his RV. Jerimiah was the second client I signed off for his check ride in a gyroplane.

There were lots of things to see and do and old friends to see and new friends to make.  After walking a lot of miles I left for the PRA convention at their airport in Mentone, Indiana.


Michael Burton did a great job of a flight review for me at the Fulton County Airport.  I will be changing the way I teach S turns over a road making it less of a performance maneuver and more of a ground reference maneuver.  I love to learn.


At the PRA convention there was a lot of gyroplane flying going on and the hangar was full at night.

I saw Dick DeGraw’s new jump takeoff gyroplane and saw it jump and fly.  It is remarkably quiet and a beautifully crafted machine.

I saw Denis Shoemaker’s beautiful gyroplane, it is kinetic art and he is selling kits now under the name Gyro Technic. He is doing a great job addressing the lower end of the gyroplane market building very beautiful machines that appear to fly very well.

I was honored to be in charge of the judging and saw a lot of beautiful machines and met their owners. 

Jeff Tipton and David McCutchen helped and taught me a lot. 

I saw a lot of interesting gyroplanes and met many interesting people.

The fireworks Friday night after the banquet were spectacular. 

Interest in gyroplanes appears to me to be expanding.
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Oceano Detour  24 July 2017
I love the freedom of the skies and the people at the airports.  Sunday the blue skies called to me. I thought I would go visit with people at Oceano and walk to any number of nice restaurants for lunch.  

As soon as I was up about 300 feet above the ground leaving Santa Maria (SMX) I could see a line of fog along the shoreline and it was not a good day to fly up the beach.  I let the tower know I would be making a slight right instead of a slight left. 

Oceano was just on the edge of the fog but I didn’t want to get stuck there if the fog bank shifted, so I told San Luis Obispo Air Traffic Control (ATC) I would be coming in through the Avilla Pass.  As I approached the shoreline I could see the fog in the pass so I stayed at 1,200 feet and flew over the entrance to the pass and dropped down to 700 feet through the pass.  I love the freedom altitude gives me. 


On down wind I was number two behind a reginal jet; “caution wake turbulence”.  I watched their take off roll and they rotated well past taxiway Foxtrot so I was good to go.  I had set up to touch down early in case the jet lifted off early, so I flew down the runway at about 50 feet and set her down right at Foxtrot and scooted off the runway. As soon as the rotor stopped I slipped between a Mooney and a Cherokee Six. 


As I was working through my post flight list a uniformed attendant from ACI Jet stopped by and began by admiring my parking job and asked if he could help me with anything. I am too cheap for full service so I told him no thank you.


There were two young men in camo flights suits who waited till I put my post flight checklist away before approaching.  They were the mechanics for the two Ospreys out of New Mexico.  They have been flying around Nipomo lately.  I was very impressed with these two that give hope for the future of the USA.

After lunch a Cobra pilot was fascinated with The Predator and asked a lot of good questions.  I also met a fellow from South Africa, his wife and two friends who had flown out of San Carlos.  I love the people airports seem to collect. 

As I taxied for takeoff the two Cobras and two Ospreys were off to my left so I pulled out my camera.
I still wanted to visit Oceano so I thought I would get gas there.


ATC launched the two Cobras before me and I made a left crosswind departure and soon saw the Avilla Pass was filled with fog, so I turned left and climbed to 1,500 feet and made ATC aware of my altered flight path.  I love that freedom and reveled in it as I flew over the low hills on the edge of the Edna Valley and saw that Oceano wasn’t going to work out.  All of Arroyo Grande had disappeared beneath the fog and there I was with blue skies making my way back to Santa Maria.

I sat in the afterglow in front of the hangar for a half hour and was grateful for the freedom aviation provides for me.

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A client canceled his flight today so I decided to fly to San Luis Obispo (SBP).  Things were limited because of two firefighting temporary flight restrictions (TFR) for the Alamo fire just to the North East and the Whittier fire to the South East.  As I launched, I delighted in my three dimensional playground and the freedom of the skies.

When I arrived at SBP I was pleased to see a gaggle of Mooneys; some with familiar paint jobs.  Palmdale, Los Angles, San Jose, Fresno and Santa Maria were represented by Mooney enthusiasts. Mitch invited me over to the table on the patio of The Spirit of San Luis restaurant and we had some nice hangar flying with some remarkable aviators. 

My route back to Santa Maria was limited to the coast, so I asked for a left turn out to the east with a turn to the south along California Highway One through the Avilla Pass.  It was a little warm and humid at SBP so I loved the cool ocean air washing over me as I exited the Avilla over Shell Beach. That is part of the magic of flying an open aircraft low and slow. 

Pismo Beach looked like a popular place on Saturday with a steady line of RVs headed for the dunes.

I was set up for a left down wind but tanker traffic had ATC move me to a right down wind and I was to report midfield so I flew along the bluff of the Nipomo Mesa where we live.

I was about to report when I heard; “Gyroplane two Mike Golf; make short approach; runway 30 clear to land I have a tanker on a two mile straight in.”  I take this as a high compliment because if he wasn’t sure I could get off the runway quickly he would have simply told me to extend my downwind.  I dove for the taxiway Alpha Four running her up to 100kts (115 miles per hour) making a steep turn around the tower and setting her down as nice as could be at Alpha four and scooting across the hold short line.  ATC said; “Thanks for the help Vance, Gyroplane two Mike Golf taxi to parking via Alpha, Mike; monitor ground.  Some friends were watching the tanker operations and clapped as I went by.

It was a lovely end to a magical day of flying.
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I was flying with a fairly new to aviation client today and we were doing ground reference maneuvers at 500 feet above the ground in 13 knot gusting conditions.  He was moving the cyclic about three inches in brief thrusts and we were still getting as much as 300 feet off of our desired track. 

We exchanged control of the aircraft and asked him to follow along on the cyclic.  I was not moving the cyclic more
than a half inch and stayed within five feet of our desired ground track.

I decided to try flying that way and on my last solo flight I tried to put myself inside his head.  It is no wonder that it makes him uneasy because I can stab at the cyclic and get no response at all and it is easy to imagine things are not happening to redirect the aircraft.  The cyclic sends a message to the rotor and it responds at its own rate.

I believe he understands the concept of steady pressure on the cyclic to effect a change in the rotor disk angle and I feel his body is quarreling with his intellect.  It is not like driving a car where if you move the wheel you get an immediate response.


I used to have a 1949 Dodge panel truck that was like that. I would turn the wheel almost a quarter turn in either direction before anything happened. It was very exciting over the streetcar tracks and I found it disquieting. When I stepped on the brakes it would often lock up one of the wheels causing a further divergence from the desire

course.

He has been making great progress and I am would like to get him over this learning plateau.

If you are having trouble with over controlling try relaxing your grip on the cyclic and applying steady pressure in the direction you would like to turn. 


In my opinion the cyclic manages speed and direction, the throttle manages altitude and the rudder manages yaw and is not a directional control.  I feel you cannot sustain a climb with the cyclic, can’t speed up with the throttle and can’t steer with the rudder.
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Santa Paula Flight 2 July 2017

I planned to fly to Camarillo for lunch at the Way Point Café and then on to Santa Paula for open hangar day. A thick fog filled the Santa Maria Valley as I headed down to the Santa Maria Airport to search the sky for signs of blue beginning a little before eight.  As is so often the case, things didn’t work out as planned.

Santa Maria didn’t go VFR till a little before ten despite my straining to find patches of blue and the temperature/dew point spread didn’t reach four degrees till eleven.  There was a lot of blue in the sky and lots of scattered white clouds.  As I approached Lake Cachuma I could see the fog spilling over the ridge with a solid layer completely obscuring the ocean. Santa Barbara was visual meteorological conditions 1,800 foot ceilings and six miles visibility in mist but there was no visual way to get down through the clouds. There was a strong on shore breeze that pushed the fog hard up against the ridgeline with it spilling over a little in places. 


The San Marcos pass was completely blocked so I decided to climb up to 5,500 feet over the wilderness area. I love the freedom to climb over all the obstacles in my way. My world of rugged mountains expanded as I climbed higher.  With the head wind I was only making 50kts (58 miles per hour) of ground speed and it felt like we were stopped from that altitude. The terrain kept rising and I kept looking at my chart. It looked like 5,500 foot would manage the highest obstacle. With the mist blocking my distant vision it was hard to tell. Normally you can tell if you are high enough because the terrain behind the ridge gets taller as you get closer. The mist added mystery to everything.


The mist even dulled the normally jewel like Lake Casitas. Because of my late start I decided to go directly to Santa Paula and found a spot in the heavy traffic picking my ground speed up to ninety knots (104 miles per hour) to fit in with the faster planes in the narrow pattern (two RVs and a Twin Comanche. 


I had a delightful ham and eggs at the Flight 126 Café and had a nice visit with a helicopter flight instructor from Tehachapi who may get a gyroplane add on to his commercial helicopter certificate. He had been one of the RVs in the pattern. I stopped by Pat’s hanger and got all the latest on recent aviation mishaps. As usual Pat’s hangar was filled with aviation luminaries.  Several people asked me if I had seen the Red gyroplane and it tuned to be a different friend Pat in his red Calidus. 


Things didn’t work out like I had planned but they were wonderful never the less.

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Controling the Cyclic  25 July 2017
San Luis Obisbo Flight 18 July 2017