Category Archives: Flying

Maintenance Saturday 

Lots and lots of aircraft undergoing maintenance, routine and/or otherwise, at the CAF SoCal hangar today.

The P-51 is getting closer to flying again, we just need that big spinny thing on the nose!

The Spitfire is getting some touch up paint.

The Hellcat was having some hydraulic issues in the landing gear so it was being elevated a bit and working some gear swings.

The Navion was having some engine work.

We had three rides scheduled today for the T-6, but a pre-flight mag check showed and issue. Safety first! All of our riding customers were patient and chilled while we worked the issue. In about two hours, they had found it, fixed it, and were giving customers their money’s worth!

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Bomber Flight Video

​​​Videos from yesterday’s flight in our PBJ bomber. One of the striking things to me was the differences in the sound of the engines in various places.

From the waist gunner’s seat on the starboard side, just aft of the wing. ​​

From just aft of the round (and open!) hole on the starboard side. Listen to the sound of those pistons popping!!

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From the tail gunner’s position, looking out the back.

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Bomber Flight

If you’ve been here any time at all, you’ve seen our PBJ, including its first flight after 23 years of restoration.

If you’re new, it looks like a B-25 bomber, but it’s not quite the same. And by “our” I mean the Commemorative Air Force Southern California Wing (CAF SoCal), where I am on staff (my volunteer second job) as Finance Officer.

Every good WWII bomber needs a tail-gunner position, as well as a machine gun on either side. From this view you can see the starboard side machine gun just aft of the wing, the tail gunner’s position between the tails, and a big, round, open hole just aft of the starboard machine gun. Keep those in mind.

Today we had a flight with a handful of paying customers (FYI, for a very reasonable price I can get you hooked up as well…) and at the last minute (literally) a seat opened up. We hate to have empty seats if there are CAF members around who want a ride, so one of the PBJ crew stuck their head in the office to see who was there. Since I hadn’t flown in the PBJ yet, I was told to take a seat.

The view here is aft. That starboard machine gun is in my face on the left and we’re looking back toward the tail gunner’s position, all buckled in for takeoff.

Once in the air we could move around a bit, very carefully. Here’s the view out of that port side machine gun bay, about 4,500′ above Ojai.

Back there is where the tail gunner’s position is. Good thing we’re not in an incredibly LOUD aircraft that’s bouncing around a bit. Wait… (It was actually a gorgeous day for flying, very calm up there.)

I got my turn to go back to the tail gunner’s position. It’s freakin’ incredible, a view that you have never seen before to have the ground slipping past from underneath you.

From the Ojai Valley we crossed over Simi Valley. Here we’re still looking straight back toward Ventura and the ocean way off in the distance, with the 118/23 transition on the left.

The view forward from the tail gunner’s position. It’s not terribly claustrophobic at all, but there’s not a ton of maneuvering room either.

Moving up from the tail gunner’s spot, that big open port is on my right. Everyone who thinks of aircraft as being sealed aluminum and titanium tubes with no openings to the outside air – you should fly this!

Back in my aft-facing seat, we were on final approach when the tower asked us to slow down because of a Cessna in front of us. We were already as slow as we could get without doing that whole “no-speed-equals-no-lift-falling-out-of-the-sky” thing, so instead we did a couple of big 360° steep turns. Definitely an “E” Ticket!!

Someone was having a good time.

Back on the ground, we “announced our presence with authority” to the wedding reception and quinceañera going on at our hangars. (We make a big chunk of our operating income by these rentals – if you need a big venue in Ventura County we’re the biggest and I know people who know people. Hell, I AM a people!)

“Semper Fi” is the one and only true PBJ still flying. There are a couple dozen airworthy B-25s and one or two are advertised as PBJs, but they’re not. I look forward to flying “Semper Fi” again and again in the future.

Hard to stop grinning.

For the rest of the day, people will walk up to you in the hangar and immediately say, “You went flying this afternoon, didn’t you!”

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Blue Sky, Pink Clouds, White Moon

The moon was two days shy of being full tonight, which has it rising above the house into a twilight blue sky.

Above was a layer of clouds turning pink in the sunset.

Behind me, out of the west, I could hear a big jet on the way into Burbank, swinging way around to the west over Ventura County before heading straight in to Runway 8.

As the clouds began to fade to grey, the UPS Cargo 757 lined up and vanished into the east.

In minutes, the pink and blue faded, leaving only the cold, white reflected light from the lunar surface.

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Well, DUH!!

Our P-51 has been down with an engine rebuild for months now.

As you can see, it’s missing “that big spinny thing at the front.” (That’s a secret aeronautical engineering term.)

Moving in closer, I see that someone has put a warning sign on the plane. The wind blew it over – what does it say?

Safety first! Boy, I’m glad someone reminded me, I was afraid one of our pilots would hop in and take her for a spin before we were ready!

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AOPA Weekend At CMA

This last weekend at Camarillo Airport (CMA) there were some big crowds as the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA) had one of their regional “fly-ins” at our site. (There’s a nice mention of the CAF presence there in the fifth paragraph – but you read this site so you already knew about that, didn’t you?)

The AOPA and all of its volunteers (many of whom are also CAF members and volunteers) did a great job of marshaling hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of planes into an airport that normally holds a hundred or so. The heavy winds on Friday and Saturday probably did a job on keeping the number of aircraft down – it seemed there were a fair number of pilots who chose to drive out from the LA environs and Southern California rather than risk the 15-20 knot crosswinds.

Nonetheless, when it was all over, the volunteers got to marshal all of those planes back out. If you think it’s crowded getting out of the parking lot at Dodger Stadium after a big game, or onto the train outside Busch Stadium after a Cardinals game, try putting hundreds of planes into the Los Angeles airspace in just a couple of hours!

On a nice weekend day CMA often will have five or six aircraft lined up to take their turns at take off. This weekend…

Click on this to see it full sized and start counting the planes. I see at least ten here and there were a couple more over to the left.

The other things to note are: a) the aforementioned volunteers out there marshaling traffic – you’ll NEVER see anyone out there on a normal day, at least not without the cops chasing them; b) look at the US flag and how those winds have it straight out. Fortunately, by this time it had shifted around to be blowing straight down the runway. The problem was that about 50 feet up it was apparently blowing in a much different direction (it happens) which meant that transitioning into or out of the ground winds was “exciting.”

Everyone was safe, a good time was had by all, and everyone made it home. All in all, an excellent job by AOPA and the CMA staff!

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Fifi’s Final Day In SoCal

At least for this year.

We had a sendoff dinner for the crew.

Tomorrow morning she’s off to Bullhead City and parts beyond!

Thanks, big girl! It was great seeing you again. Until next time!

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