Tuesday, December 28, 2010

RHV to TVL and Back

Two days after Christmas we (my pilot husband, daughter and I) flew to South Lake Tahoe Airport for a quick bite to eat. The typical "hundred dollar hamburger" flight. This is probably one of the most common uses of non commercial general aviation, traveling to beautiful places because just because you can then grabbing a bite to eat. A friend of mine says I have an amazing life. When I have days like this... I believe he is right. I really am fortunate to be able to fly to Tahoe, to be able to learn how to fly myself. So many things I'm grateful for this year.

Anyway.... it was a great trip. I was prepared to spend the day pouting because I wasn't flying (not soloing limits your flying to when the weather gods and you CFI and your schedule all agree, which isn't that often in the winter). Jeff suggested we go to Lake Tahoe, he checked the weather there and it looked clear and cool without any winds. And our friend 88HQ was available for rent!

Clear is good because Jeff isn't instrument rated, limiting us to VFR conditions, not to mention, clear air in the mountains is just beautiful. Cool is good because that means density altitude is actually lower than field elevation which helps with performance in the mountains. No winds is good because that means a smoother ride and less hazardous conditions for the trip (mountain flying is typically turbulent with plenty of opportunities for problems). The 182 being available was also good. More power, more performance and that's the plane he got his mountain flying training in... not to mention, it had been a while since Jeff flew her so, it was good to get back in practice with this type of plane.

There was a broken to overcast cloud layer in our valley and in the Sacramento valley but the sierras were 100% clear. All we had to worry about was getting out of our home airport while maintaining minimums. We had a 50/50 chance of clear air on the return, good enough... if we couldn't land at our home airport we'd find somewhere else to go for a night.

Here is one picture of the mountains on the way in to Tahoe.

Of course, no flight in 88HQ is completely without problems. Jeff did the pre-flight, the club mechanic asked us to keep an eye on the GPS unit in the plane because they just replaced it to troubleshoot an intermittent problem of the GPS loosing signal (like a ground based GPS does sometimes when you go under a lot of trees). We had our own GPS so we weren't worried about what the on board one would do so we said we'd watch it. Taxi, run up, everything looks good, oil pressure and temp up, etc. Take off...

I smell oil... the smell sticks in the back of my throat. It doesn't go away. "I smell oil." I tell Jeff. He starts checking gauges and sees something hitting the front windscreen. Oil. He knows exactly what happened. Its easy on this particular plane to not close the oil cap all the way when checking the oil. It happens all the time. A quick call to the tower and we're cleared for landing back at home for a quick stop to fix the oil cap. We learned that transient parking isn't where we thought it was... then called the tower on the ground frequency... oh well. The rest of the trip there was a whiff of oil in the cabin but it wasn't horrible. Just in case you were wondering... the problem with the GPS seems to be in the wiring or antenna.

It was a beautiful trip... we ate at a restaurant right at the South Lake Tahoe airport. Tahoe reflected the mountains all around. The food was good, the football game on TV was fun to watch too. My daughter just loved it there. I did too. Maybe I can retire there in 20 or 30 years :) While we were there we got to watch a helicopter go through its checklist and then "taxi" down the taxiway to a helicopter parking garage. It was fun watching a helicopter fly about 10 ft off the ground along a taxiway carved out of 4 ft of snow. We took off close to sunset, it was a great time to fly. The air over the South Bay was clear when we returned. We could see the bay and the lights around it from 30 miles away it seemed.

This shot is of the sunset on the return trip. We are high above the sierras headed west back to the Bay Area.

This shot looks north of our position headed west. There are cool low clouds forming in the mountain valleys.

Many more pictures here. Including pictures of Dandy Lion.. my niece's little stuffed animal that is on a voyage around the country.

In the end, rambling and pictures aside... this trip was a perfect demonstration of the adventure and amazing things you get to see and do as a GA pilot (or family / friend of said pilot). It is worth the effort to get that license... absolutely worth it.

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