Posts about the missions we fly and their underlying motivations
A large group had gathered for dinner at a favorite restaurant to honor our friend Bob, one of the earliest members of our flying club, who had recently sold his share after more than 40 years of membership. The room was packed. Large quantities of pizza, salad, and wine were consumed, and the hangar talk flowed. As physical appetites were sated, the time was ripe for some more formal storytelling—well, as formal as we get. Anders, our club president, assumed the role of master of ceremonies, laying out the rough plan for the after-dinner activities. He then yielded the floor to our Bonanza's crew chief Hal, who introduced one of the club's epic stories and the pilot, Paul, who in the early 1990's was at the center of it.
I lay in bed one evening thinking about a flight I'd made several days earlier with my wife Janet as we returned to the San Francisco Bay Area from a trip to visit my parents on the North coast of California. It was mid-Summer and fire season was in full swing. There was a major blaze raging in the rugged terrain South of the Anderson Valley accompanied by the usual temporary flight restriction squarely along our usual route. We skirted the TFR to the West along the coast, which put us upwind of the worst of the smoke, allowing a clear view of the fire area. The warm weather was accompanied by a classic temperature inversion, with the top clearly visible from 6,500 feet as a blanket of smoky muck below us as far as the eye could see.
"You mean this doesn't shoot the guns?" the young man asked in mock shock and disappointment. The kids knew my Cessna 172 was no warbird, but some part of them still harbored the hope that the push-to-talk switch fired the cannons.
"I don't like how we're lined up here. I'm going to circle around and come at it again," I told my passengers Tim, his wife Janine, and my wife Janet. We were approaching Columbia airport in the foothills of California's Sierra Nevada range. Nestled behind a hill, the airport is hard to see when approaching from the West, so by the time I saw it, I realized our approach would put us farther along the downwind leg than I was comfortable with. I generally like to be as consistent as possible in my flying because it makes for fewer surprises, especially when flying a slick ship like our club's A36 Bonanza.