While I've spent a fair amount of time in airplanes recently, it's been quite a ways away from the controls. But today I had the chance to do a bit of flying with Mark, one of my co-workers.

Mark is a partner in a 1999 manufactured Maule (N4140P) that lives at the Palo Alto Airport. We've been talking off an on about trading rides (me getting a ride in his Maule and giving him a ride in a glider) for months now. So I met him at PAO on this cloudless morning so we could do a bit of flying.

Mark put me to work changing out the light on the left wing while he uncovered the plane and got it ready to fly. Before long, we were in the plane and I got a chance to check out the instrument panel. It's quite a bit more complicated that the Citabrias I'm used to flying, but the basics are the same anywhere.

We taxied out to the run-up area, performed the pre-takeoff checks, got a takeoff clearance, and were airborne. The plan was to fly up the peninsula, get permission to fly through San Francisco's Class B airspace, past the Golden Gate Bridge, and on to Petaluma.

I'm not accustomed to flying in the sort of crowded airspace we have in the Bay Area, so it was interesting to see how many frequency changes were necessary to accomplish this. I may have lost track, but it went something like this:

  • Palo Alto Ground
  • Palo Alto Tower
  • San Carlos
  • San Francisco
  • Norcal
  • Petaluma CTAF

Luckily, it's just a matter of doing what they tell you to do.

Basically, once we got airborne we headed toward San Carlos. They directed us to continue heading north but stay west of Highway 101. They eventually handed us off to San Francisco.

The folks at SFO cleared us to enter their airspace and we got to fly by the airport at a fairly close distance and get some nice views of the runway and the terminals.

Once we passed SFO, it was on toward the actual city of San Francisco (passing over South San Francisco, of course). We stayed well west of downtown and were instructed to fly to the west of the Golden Gate Bridge. The controller must have known that I had a camera and was in the right seat.

After we flew past the Sausalito VOR, Mark gave me the plane and said "get us to Petaluma." Given the onboard GPS, that wasn't terribly difficult, but it gave me a chance to feel how the Maule responds to various control inputs. I remembered being impressed on the ground at how smoothly the engine ran. The controls were similarly smooth. I especially liked the fine grained control provided by the elevator trim and the throttle.

I took us into the traffic pattern and Mark took the plane back on final to get us on the ground. We taxied off to the transient parking area and got out to stretch our legs, visit the facilities, and check out the other planes.

Small airports are always fun to visit, because you never know what you're gonna see when you get there. Sometimes it's an incredibly clean and polished RV-6. Other times it's an old war bird or a Piper Cub.

After a few minutes on the ground, we saddled up again and flew back down the east side of the bay and back across the Palo Alto. I got to do a fair amount of the flying on the return trip. The tower was so busy when we arrived that we eventually gave up waiting for them to transfer us to the ground controllers. Instead Mark just called up the ground controllers to ask them if it was okay.

I'm continually amazed at how much flying (lots of training) gets done at that little airport with its single runway.

Anyway, it was good to be back in the air with some time at the controls on a beautiful Saturday (it was clear all day and in the low 70s). I'm hoping to get back on with my own training in the coming week. I haven't had a chance to mention it, but I soloed a few weeks back!

What a blast. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at November 19, 2005 10:09 PM

Reader Comments
# Steve said:

What!? You soloed and no blog post? Congratulations, would love to hear about it in detail.

What amazes me about flying is the complex navigation grid that exists. Here in North Carolina, just to get from RDU to any one of the coastal GA airports could have you passing through one or more military or other types of restricted airspace. GPS really has advance navigation, however to get your pilotís certificate you still must understand old school navigation.

Glider question: Some of your flights are well above FL190, do you have to get special permission to fly in Class A airspace or does your glider have the necessary avionics to fly IFR?

Sounds like a fun trip and a damn fine way to spend a Saturday.

on November 20, 2005 04:54 AM
# Ray said:


on November 20, 2005 04:29 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Yes, best desktop tool I've found so far.

I just wish it had some Flickr integration. :-)

on November 20, 2005 04:33 PM
# Jeffrey McManus said:

Death to the walled garden, etc.

on November 20, 2005 05:25 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Steve, I've never been above terribly far above FL180.

But some of the places I fly have wave windows which the FAA can open, allowing us to go as high as FL260.

on November 20, 2005 05:32 PM
# Alley Kaye said:

Good morning! Nice post! Flying in those little planes are a blast. I had the pleasure of hearing you speak at PubCon in Vegas and am checking out your blog for the first time. I am a "newbie" blogger, and I do mean with a capital "N." I started when I got home from PubCon. This post caught my eye 'cause 1) I have family in Petaluma and 2) I used to work at a small airport over by Lake Powell and have flown in GA Aircraft (as a passenger) many a time. It's a fun place for VFR flying and easy to get to from Vegas - 5 hours drive/1.5-2 hours by plane. Anyway... it was great to hear you and today I give thanks to you for the creative/technological inspiration that I so desperately needed! Best wishes to you and yours.

on November 24, 2005 06:29 AM
# James Lee said:

I really like the pics you posted here; it looks like a gorgeous day, but some pics were a bit muted by the plane's window. Your post inspired me to publish an article I've been meaning to write about how "Auto Contrast" can really improve photos taken through windows.

Take a look at my example and consider running some of these through the filter; I think you'll have even nicer shots!

Photo tip: Auto Contrast can improve photos taken through a window

on November 25, 2005 02:13 PM
# Ivan said:

It is excellent! The head is turned, when look at such photos of the Golden Gate Bridge.

on September 18, 2006 03:48 AM
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