A MEMORABLE PRIVATE FLYING EXPERIENCE!   Leave a comment

We took off from Victoria (YYJ) airport in fairly good weather conditions.

CF-KXA 2

After a stop at Port Townsend’s Jefferson County Airport to clear US customs we headed South over Washington, then Oregon.

Flying weather began to change as we flew South. Thick clouds became steadily more concerning.  After refueling at Salem Oregon we ducked under a steadily lowering sky to gratefully land among the multiple sharp hills surrounding Roseburg Oregon. 

Staying overnight in a local Motel all four of us needed a rest after being airborne for a little more than five hours in our so-called, ‘flying milk-stool’.  The Piper PA-28 Tri-Pacer is so nicknamed owing to its somewhat eclectic stool-like tricycle landing gear.

Averaging just over one hundred miles per hour airspeed, the newly re-covered fabric Tri-Pacer’s reliable (135 h.p. Lycoming) engine never missed a beat while burning less than five gallons of fuel per hour.

Weather was only slightly better the next morning as we continued our journey to California, opting for a Coastal flight plan. 

Landing for fuel and refreshment at a windy and cold Arcata California airport for fuel, the weather was finally beginning to clear, it was CAVU from there on (ceiling and visibility unlimited), a true delight. 

Soon we were flying over picturesque San Francisco bay, with a great view of the famed Golden Gate bridge, always an awesome sight. 

Next we landed at Oceano airport, (Pizmo Beach), exactly half-way between San Fran and Los Angeles, just a short walk from beautiful sandy Pacific Ocean beaches.  (check their website out here: Oceano California airport.)

We spent the night at an eclectic older beach motel.  It was so nice by the beach in California’s March sunshine my two young daughters would probably have been quite happy to stay right there for awhile.

But we resumed our coastal trip South the next day, and after dodging restricted military airspaces we landing at our final destination, namely Lindbergh Field, San Diego California.

While only there for a day we enjoyed warm sun; the famous SD zoo, and the aviation museum. However our return flight home would again be marred by stormy weather conditions as we flew North. 

CF-KXA

Staying right on the coast for easy navigation, heavy black clouds again began to cause some serious concern.  By the time we reached Oregon heavy rain greatly reduced forward visibility, not to mention turbulence from strong winds. My wife firmly indicated her wishes by pumping her finger downward; she wanted to land to land a.s.a.p., it was not optional.

I had to agree. And as it happened there was a little used former military airfield, Cape Blanco State, now coming into view below. It turned out to be a blessed port in a storm.

With rain pounding on our venerable ‘buttercup’, I circled the airport trying to determine if there was anyone in attendance.  I thought I detected someone but wasn’t sure.  Regardless of that it was still the wisest course to land.

I could have landed KXA several times on the long 5100 foot concrete runway, no problem.  It was good to be safely on the ground, but we felt isolated as we sat there with engine shut down and only the sound of relentless rain. 

Then I caught sight of a man under an open covered storage shed along one side of the runway.Bracing myself against wind and rain I left family in the plane and jogged over to him.

Turns out he was the caretaker of the entire airport, and very friendly to Pilots. After describing our flight plan, he unhesitatingly handed me a large ring full of keys, explaining that one of them was for a cabin a short distance from the airport we were welcome to stay in overnight!

He also suggested we take a huge parked 1960’s vintage Oldsmobile in order to locate a restaurant in the town of ‘Sixes’ about four miles South on adjacent coastal highway 101 then return to the cabin.  And that is exactly what we did!

After dinner we soon warmed up the cabin with its wood-burning stove.  Bunk beds had clean sheets and blankets, there was even a food-stocked refrigerator for breakfasting. 

A visitors log contained many gracious entries from appreciative travellers, and there was a container for maintenance donations. Needless to say I added our names to the log.

Heavy rain continued during the night. By morning the sky was gradually clearing off so we continued on the final leg of our journey uneventfully returning home to Victoria, B.C., a family with some fond memories.

To this day I never had a more agreeable flying experience, all because of making a prudent precautionary landing in stormy weather. 

There is a message in this experience for private pilots.

And perhaps for some others a different one here…?

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