Category Archives: Flying

CMA’s Neighbors To The South

The CAF Southern California Wing’s hangars are at Camarillo Airport (CMA) and we have a neighboring airport just a few miles to our south, the Naval Air Station Point Mugu. It’s a great place for an airshow every couple of years (if we can ever get this COVID-19 bullshit behind us) and they fly some out of there, but there’s not a ton of air traffic in and out of there. It’s not like living next to MCAS Miramar or NAS Oceana where you can see a pretty steady stream of fighters, cargo aircraft, and reconnaissance missions.

But as I was leaving yesterday, this big guy was lumbering in from the north, hanging there exactly the same way that bricks don’t.

He was a ways off, turning to final approach, but I’m pretty sure that’s a C-5 Galaxy. Usually the cargo planes going into Point Mugu are the smaller C-130 Hercules (back when I was flying I had a couple of them on long finals that I gave a wide berth, because the wake turbulence can be a bitch and a half if you’re in a tiny Cessna!) but today we had something large being moved.

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Filed under CAF, Flying, Photography

The Scenic Tour Of LA Airspace

We live under the flight path for Burbank Airport, about fifteen miles out on the straight-in approach to Runway 8. In normal times, that means a few dozen 737’s a day coming from west to east at about 5,000′. Especially as a pilot, I know what’s normal.

Tonight I went out to look at the Christmas lights and get some air and there was a Southwest 737 going overhead from north to south. That’s odd. It could be that the winds had shifted and they were landing on Runway 33, but the winds weren’t blowing. Odd.

So I pulled out my phone, called up the FlightRadar24 app, and checked to see who it was above me. Southwest Airlines flight 605, from Phoenix to Burbank.

You can see where Burbank airport is (the pin just below and to the left of the “210” interstate icon, where the dashed black line going from the aircraft ends) and that green line shows the plane’s flight path.

This is not normal.

I called up the ATC Live app (Air Traffic Control) and started listening to the conversations between the plane and the Burbank tower. They were asking “how much fuel and how many souls onboard,” which is critical information in an emergency situation. It was obvious pretty quickly that they were having trouble with the flaps on the plane, couldn’t get them fully deployed, and weren’t going to be able to land at Burbank. With no flaps they would be landing fast and it would take a long time to slow down, so they needed a long runway. They headed off to LAX.

I followed the conversations through LAX Approach ATC and then LAX Tower. They cleared out some other traffic going into LAX, took a couple of opportunities to circle around a bit to buy time to slow down, and finally got down safely at LAX. There were some conversations about whether or not they might need to stay on the runway for an inspection (I’m sure their tires and brakes were really hot trying to slow down from a very fast landing) and whether or not they might have shed any debris (like from a broken flap or a burst tire) onto the runway, which would interfere with any planes landing behind them, but in the end it all turned out pretty well, all things considered.

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Random Old Photos – October 14th

About ten an a half years ago. Apparently we were out on a “drag.” (We never walked, I always got dragged.) It took a minute to recognize the location, off on a side street near the old house.

And there was a B-17 flying around.

The camera was my old digital Olympus “adventure” model – waterproof, rugged, supposedly would float if I dropped it. Great little camera, but the pictures weren’t nearly the quality or detail of today’s DSLRs, or even today’s phones. So I can’t be sure which B-17 it is, but my guess would be that it was the one owned by the Collings Foundation’s, Nine-O-Nine.

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Filed under Dogs, Flying, Photography


If you’ve never taken a flight in an open cockpit plane, I highly recommend you try it!

This is our PT-19 trainer out at the CAF Southern California Wing in Camarillo.

Boarding is a little bit different than on Southwest or United – just climb up onto the wing, stay on the black strip, flip a leg over, and settle in.

In the back seat you’ll have that stick moving around and the rudder pedals moving back and forth as the pilot flies the plane. Try not to hit those unless you’re flying the plane. Those other knobs and levers are for fuel and throttle and flaps – don’t touch any of them, either. Just enjoy the view!

It’s not super fast – top speed is barely 100 mph. It’s still a joy to fly in.

If you want to fly and you’re in SoCal, get in touch with us once the COVID thing is over. (We’re all grounded right now.) We can make that happen!


Filed under CAF, Flying, Photography


We hear helicopters pass by all the time – LA’s a busy place. Between police, fire, television, traffic, military, and just business aircraft, helicopters are not uncommon.

But most are just passing by. When you hear that heavy beat from a big one and you hear it for five, ten, fifteen minutes, then something’s going on. If it’s circling, that’s always a police helicopter. If it’s hovering, and REALLY making a racket and rattling the windows, then it’s probably a fire department chopper. Which in turn means one of two things: a brush fire (not uncommon right now) or a rescue.

Today it was another rescue, the second in about three weeks.

You’ve seen plenty of pictures of Castle Peak that’s directly off to our west, with the baseball and soccer fields at their base. You’ve seen it on fire, you’ve seen it under a comet, and one of these days you may see the view looking back this way. It’s in a wilderness park and folks climb it all the time. Folks also underestimate the difficulty level of the climb all the time. And if they fall and break a leg, or collapse due to heat exhaustion, they need to get rescued, often by helicopter.

When I finally paid attention to the fact that I had been “feeling” the beat of that heavy, hovering helicopter (I had on my noise cancelling headphones) and went out, it was just descending below the neighbor’s house, down onto the baseball fields. I could hear the engine wind down but not stop, holding there for about ten minutes as the patient was offloaded into an ambulance.

I was hoping he would come right overhead – if it were an LA County helicopter he would have, heading back to Van Nuys Airport to the east. The one a couple of weeks ago did, and he ended up making a couple of trips from the mountain to the baseball field, so there might have been several folks hurt.

Today we got one of the Ventura County helicopters. (They’re blue and yellow, LA County’s helicopters are orange and white.) Not sure what the distinction is that would cause them to call one or the other, although the county line does run right along the base of the mountain on this side. Maybe it depends on where exactly you get hurt?

When he was done he went straight back out to the west, toward Camarillo Airport. Their base is right next to our CAF hangars out there, so I’m familiar.

What if you get hurt on the Ventura County side, but roll down the mountain to the LA County side? Do they each take half?


Filed under Flying, Los Angeles, Photography


One of the advantages to working at home is that, when you take a break to stretch your legs and get some air in the back yard, if you see a red-tail hawk pinwheeling around the thermal rising above your hill, you can rush back into the house and grab your camera.

She was magnificent. (I don’t know for sure if it was a male or female, and what I find online is “females are generally bigger,” which is spectacularly useless when you only have one with nothing to compare it to.)

And then, in a heartbeat…

…she spotted something, wheeled around…

…tucked her wings…

…and dove. Incredibly fast.

I can’t help but think that tucked like that, her silhouette reminds me of nothing so much as an SR-70, which was designed to go Mach 3+.

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Filed under Critters, Flying, Photography

Big Planes In The Rain

Bombers and cargo planes.

AAF’s B-25 “Executive Sweet”

CAF SoCal’s C-46 “China Doll”

CAF SoCal’s PBJ “Semper Fi”

Clouds, drizzle, cold, and occasional downpours courtesy of a dark and suck-filled timeline.


Filed under CAF, Flying, Photography, Weather

A MIG Divided

A MIG-17 to be precise. It’s owned by one of the CAF SoCal staff members (@highalphaairshows) and is having a little maintenance done.

Who knew that they came apart like that? Not me!

The tail end is largely just a shell to keep it aerodynamic and provide structure for the tail and the horizontal stabilizer.

By the way, these no doubt would have been classified, top-secret photos, costing the lives of dozens of CIA agents and operatives about the time I was born.

Here’s the business end which that tail encloses and covers. That’s a LOT of jet engine!

As sleek, powerful, and FAST as the MIG-17 looks when ready to fly, like this it’s just odd. Sort of like seeing your grandmother naked odd.

It’s a wicked machine for turning gallon after gallon of Jet-A into noise, with a top speed of just under Mach 1 as a side effect.

Not something you see every day!


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Filed under CAF, Flying, Photography



Probably not, they tend to circle. This guy was hovering.

News or a TV station?

Maybe, but they always have a honkin’ huge camera (or two) hanging off the nose. This guy has something under the cabin, but it doesn’t look big enough to be that big high-def, gyro-stabilized, computer-controlled setup.

Best guess? This was Sunday afternoon and he was out over Castle Peak (that mountain to our west that you see in the pictures from when we were almost on fire about fifteen months ago) and I remember from the local FaceBook group that there were dozens of people getting together to climb it. That’s not that big of a deal – it’s part of a wilderness park and there are a couple of trails. But it would have been unusual to see a hundred or so people traipsing up and down the mountain.

Maybe that was it.


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What’s Up With ATC Tonight?

As I’ve mentioned, we live pretty much right under the extended centerline for Burbank runway 8, which leads us to have 737’s and the like overhead at about 4,000′ all day long. Since I’m an airplane nut, this is not a problem.

It also means that I’m pretty used to which direction planes are coming from 99.99% of the time. So when I’m busy on the computer but I hear one coming from an odd direction, it makes my ears prick up.

When a second one follows, I pull out FlightAware to see what their flight paths are.

(Image from FlightAware)

That first plane (a United flight) came in from the northwest (not so unusual), then did a big 360° turn over Hidden Hills (pretty unusual) before he got lined up and had just exited stage right toward final approach. (For reference and scale, from our house at the blue dot, the 405 Freeway and Van Nuys airport there are about half way to Burbank.)

The second guy (a Southwest flight), currently over Tampa Avenue, came in a bit more normally from the north over Simi Valley, looped a little wide, but was now on final.

Then the third plane (Alaska Airlines Flight 1150) followed the second plane and made an even bigger 360° out over the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu!

What’s up with Air Traffic Control (ATC) tonight?

Let’s step outside and look toward the southwest and Malibu, shall we?

Yep, there he is!

And, yep! There he goes!

A weather-related issue? Possibly. You can see a storm cell over Topanga State Park to our south. There’s a front moving in and some of the showers were supposed to get severe, but that wasn’t supposed to happen until tomorrow morning.

Spacing? ATC maintains minimum separation between aircraft and if there are a few coming in all at the same time, someone might get told to take the scenic route and linger for a few in order to not crowd anyone else.

Whatever. I got my own personal mini air show! The day got better!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Christmas Lights, Flying, Photography