Category Archives: Flying

Smoky Sunset

As you might have heard, California is burning. On the other hand, California’s a pretty big place, so there’s nothing burning particularly close to us, at least not right at this second.

The closest fire here is the Holy Fire, down on the Orange County / Riverside County border, fifty or sixty miles away. But we still got a bunch of that smoke drifting over tonight and I was hoping it might at least make for a spectacular sunset.


I’m not saying that the view from the heat soaked front porch wasn’t nice, but it wasn’t a 10/10 sort of day, let alone “an eleven.”

I do love me some sunset silhouettes, though!

You can see the bands of smoke that had drifted to the west from the Holy Fire.

As the sun set you could see (click on the picture to blow it up to full size) little bright spots in the palm tree fronds as certain fronds caught the sunlight just right and reflected it in my direction.

Admittedly, a much better sunset than some of the completely cloudless, boring ones we’ve been having, but not an award winner.

There were some nice ripples in the cloud layer showing up as the sun got further over the horizon.

And that little dot out there just to the left of center (click to enlarge) is a 747 on its way into LAX from Singapore –> Hong Kong –> Anchorage. We see them out there like beads on a string, coming in from over the pole, down the coast until they’re off Malibu, then turning downwind over West LA, turning base over Dodger Stadium and Downtown LA, and then turning final into LAX.

This particular one was Singapore Airlines Flight #7972, at about 13,000 feet when I caught it, slowing down to 342 knots. How do I know?

There’s an app for that.

(Image from Flight Aware)

As I said, like beads on a string, another big jet off of Santa Monica about five minutes ahead of it, another just coming into Ventura County north of Santa Paula and Fillmore about five minutes behind it.

I hope the people on the starboard side of those flights had a nice view of the sunset!


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Filed under Flying, Photography, Weather

A Spooked Hawk

Yesterday when the Condors flew over, there was another creature in the skies nearby that wasn’t at all pleased with the company.

He was squawking pretty good!

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Filed under Critters, Flying, Photography


Yesterday the house was buzzed by a squadron of warbirds – the Condor Squadron out of Van Nuys Airport. Today I ran into one of their pilots at the CAF hangar and commented on how great it was to see them so close overhead. I was given the heads up that yesterday was a practice run for a memorial service near our house – tonight was the real thing. So I was ready.

In preparing this post, I’m struck by how much this view resembles the pictures of storks that I posted yesterday.

While three are painted in German markings, they’re all American AT-6 Texans – also known as SNJs when the Navy flew them, or Harvards when the British and Australians flew them.

They circled the hill I live on, giving a number of different views. They made three passes.

What struck me was the number of people on the street and in neighboring yards who seemed totally oblivious. I understand that no everyone’s going to be an “OOOHH, and AIRPLANE!!!” ga-ga sort of guy like me who’s going to grab a camera and run out into the yard, but for crying out loud! If you’re already out in the yard and you see these guys circling around just seven or eight hundred feet up, don’t you at least look up?

On the second pass, one plane popped smoke and went into the “missing man” formation over the memorial site a few blocks from us.

After that, it was time to form up, pass behind Castle Peak, and head off to the west toward Camarillo, where there was a retirement party tonight at our CAF hangars for one of the Condor pilots.

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Life Lessons From Flying

Many lessons learned while learning to be a pilot can translate well to “normal” every day life.¬†For example, fuel management.

It’s pretty important to not run out of fuel when flying. Ask the crew of the Gimli Glider if you don’t believe me.

Ditto with yourself in the slightly more metamorphic sense.

When flying, if something unexpected is happening and you’re about to run out of fuel, there are probably some warning signs. It might be natural to brush them off as a sensor error or some other minor flaw, but at some point you need to pay attention, possibly declare an emergency, and find a place to land **NOW**.

Ditto with yourself. Hopefully without the emergency part, but I guess there could be times when that comes into play.

Sometimes when flying you might foolishly know that you’re really pushing your luck on fuel capacity, but you really, really need to get there and get through, so you try to push it that teeny, tiny little bit more rather than landing for refueling… These pilots are generally known by the more common term, “statistics.”

Ditto with yourself. Again, perhaps not quite as drastic and life threatening, but a good life lesson nonetheless.

So tonight, when I had goals to reach and knew that I was tired and “running on fumes” but pushing it to get things done…

Let’s say that it’s a good night to recognize the signs, realize that none of those things is truly life and death, and to shut down **NOW**. Which is what I’m going to do.

Good night!

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, Flying

No Context For You – June 21st


How…industrial. With a touch of something biological down in that hinge, something that I’m just as glad that I didn’t touch.

As I was taught by Kevin MacNamara in high school, “Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.”

Kevin had a great deal of wisdom.


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Seen soaring above our house a couple days ago. Obviously a raptor or hawk of some sort, but doesn’t appear to be a red-tailed hawk. We get a ton of red-tails riding the thermals on the edge of the San Fernando Valley (i.e., the “hills” in “West Hills”) and they’re pretty distinctive. This guy had a different cry, different body shape, and a much different tail shape.

Poking around on the web I think it might be a Cooper’s hawk, but someone with more experience and knowledge than I will have to confirm that.

I did see that he ended up landing up near the top of one of the tall trees just down the hill from us, so with luck I’ll get more chances to see him, perhaps even getting some better pictures for ID later on.


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Filed under Castle Willett, Critters, Flying, Photography

Vapor In The Cabin

It’s been a long time since I’ve lived in the hot & humid South, but it hasn’t been that rare for me to be getting onto a plane in the hot & humid South. Yet I’ve never seen this before:

  1. It wasn’t black or grey smoke
  2. It didn’t smell like anything dangerous
  3. It was cold as hell
  4. No one else seemed to be paying it any attention…

…so I just ignored it and didn’t start screaming. (This, by the way, is the reason so many horror movies don’t end after five minutes of set up. No one wants to be embarrassed or exposed as the simpleton who sees anything odd about a guy in a hockey mask, carrying a machete, covered in blood. So we all just ignore it and “go along,” which is fine until teenagers start to get hacked to death at an isolated cabin.)

Given the weather, people’s reactions, and the fact that I saw it again on the connecting flight in Charlotte, I’m guessing it’s some new kind of super fast, super powerful cooling system which the planes hook up to while on the ground to keep them at a slightly bearable temperature inside. The white mist isn’t smoke, but water condensation of some sort. Very similar to the “fog” you see coming off of a horizontal fridge at Baskin-Robbins during the summer.

Just so long as they’re not putting me under a tombstone that says, “He saw the smoke but figured it was normal.”


Filed under Flying, Travel, Video

Titanium Tube, 500 Knots, West To East

Getting up before sunrise sucks.

As travel goes, I’ve had a lot worse. Being old and white means I get TSA Pre status a lot (let’s get real, it’s not because of either my charm or my good looks) which helps a lot in the early hours.

Climbing out of LAX into the June gloom (coastal marine layer) means it’s very pretty on top, watching that wave of clouds break upon the mountains inland.

Around the Colorado/Arizona line there are a couple of these long, dirty, brown clouds stretching out downwind from what appear to be coal-fired power plants that are still running, despite the fact that they’re probably costing more per kilowatt hour to run than a large solar farm. Thanks corrupt and evil government officials!

On the other hand, over Telluride there was still snow on the peaks.

We crossed the Mississippi just north of Quincy, IL.

We stopped in Philadelphia just long enough to get from the far end of Terminal A to the far end of Terminal F and grab a quick lunch along the way.

At Terminal F we got on a much smaller aircraft and scooted down the coast to Norfolk.

Let the family festivities begin!!

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Filed under Flying, Photography, Travel

Inbound To CMA

A thousand thanks to the fellow CAF SoCal Staff member who took me up for a bit of flying today!!! (I generally don’t ID people without their permission if they’re not public figures, so we’ll leave him unnamed for now out of respect for his privacy.)

It had been a while since I had been up in a small plane and the day was just about perfect for a trip around Ventura County.

In this brief clip we’re inbound to CMA (Camarillo Airport) runway 26, over Thousand Oaks and just coming over the Canejo Grade on the 101 Freeway (lower left). You can see the coast off in the distance, with a number of the Channel Islands offshore in the haze. Most of the bright patches out in the distance aren’t lakes or other bodies of water – they’re fields covered in plastic.

The wavering black band in the middle is the propeller. This is a common effect seen in cell phone videos and propeller aircraft, the “bending” effect of the prop coming from the image on the cell phone’s camera CCD being recorded as a series of horizontal scans while the propeller is moving at high speed, being in a slightly different position as each line is scanned.

The runway is there in the haze almost directly in the center of the picture, to the left of the freeway winding through Camarillo, just beyond that somewhat “L-shaped” silver patch of strawberry fields.

After a long, hard week (one of way too many) it was wonderful to get out of the office and up in the air!

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Filed under CAF, Flying, Video

Someplace Special – March 22nd

National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, OH


(Another one of those places that I got to spend four or five hours at, would love to spend four or five weeks at. There’s a growing list of those, not to mention the long, long list of places I’ve never gotten to at all. Meanwhile, things I don’t want to do ever again get done over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over every single day.

What’s wrong with this picture?0

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