Slipstream February 2017
Departing Statia past “” on the island of in the . Photo from Kathy’s Caribbean tour. Watch her presentation during the upcoming SLO 99s meeting on Feb 1. Bring a guest.
By Anele Brooks
It was a dark and stormy night . . . and there were some rumblings about canceling the FAAST Safety Meeting in Santa Maria . . . but it was too cold to move and eventually more people came in and so did the speaker: Dennis Magdeleno the DPE based at Santa Paula Airport. Patty had asked us to download the new – but they weren't necessary!
A meeting explaining the new training standards didn't sound particularly appealing at first, but it was a nice refresher. New pilots don't just have to demonstrate proficiency in their flying skills, they also need to be able to demonstrate their ability to process information and use logic prior to taking flight. All aircraft sold built after 1979 have an Aircraft Flight Manual attached to them – it isn't just a Pilot's Operating Handbook, and it must be in the aircraft. If your aircraft is newer than 1979 check your POH to verify it is also an AFM. During your pre-flights take the time to make sure your placards are view-able and readable. It is human nature that after we have looked at something several times we no longer really “see” it anymore – and if you are ramp checked you want your aircraft to pass an FAA inspection.
Take a few extra minutes and really check airport information. Mr. Magdeleno told a sad story about the chief pilot at a charter company based at Van Nuys who was going out for his “check ride” and was planning to shoot some touch and goes at Fox Field – he did his pre-flight – headed out to Fox Field - and was planning to land, but alas, there were X's on the runway. He hadn't taken the time to check NOTAMS and didn't know the runway was closed. He lost his job because he hadn't taken the time to really find out ALL the information he needed about the destination airport!
For anyone who is interested I have the P.A.V.E. Handout (and the answer sheet) and will be happy to e-mail a copy to you! [you can also find a PDF copy below, the ed.] We were all encouraged to read the new as a review. They can be downloaded at .
The next Safety Meeting in March will be the Annual Tower Update. There are normally representatives from San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria and Vandenberg, it is a wonderful opportunity to meet the voices we hear in our radios and to ask questions regarding procedures at the airports and what is new in our local airspace and airports!
[In our upcoming SLO 99s meeting on FEB 1] Kathy Dannecker will give us a presentation on her flight to the Caribbean, bring a guest, she did some intense pre-flight preparation for the trip and sent back pictures when she could!
The Chapter Air and Space award Report is due by mid-April so please compile all the aviation related activities you participated in from January 1 through December 31 of last year so they can be included in our report! You can e-mail them or bring the list to our meetings in February and March!
Launching into the clouds between Grand Turk and Puerto Rico [read trip report below]
Kathy’s Caribbean Flying Adventure
By Kathy Dannecker
Three days, two instrument departures, one IFR approach, several hours of “actual,” and one nighttime landing after leaving San Luis Obispo, we arrived in , our jumping-off point for the Caribbean.
We decided to spend a day in Florida to “chill out,” take another good look at weather, file an ICAO flight plan, file our e-Apis, prepare General Declarations (Gen Decs), and be ready to launch for Grand Turk the following morning.
Our first stop would be a fuel stop in , since Grand Turk has no fuel.
A large part of our trip planning revolved around fuel availability, since it is somewhat limited throughout the islands.
At the Feb. 1 meeting, see more photos and hear more about the challenges and rewards of island-hopping in the Caribbean
At our altitude (8,000-9,000 ft.), communication ranged from good to non-existent. Several times we were warned that we would be losing radio contact and instructed to contact the next controlling agency at a particular intersection. Those communication “gaps” sometimes lasted for 100 miles. Relaying messages through other aircraft was fairly common, and we were on both the sending and receiving end of those relayed instructions several times.
Skirting clouds near
Radar coverage was also hit-and-miss. When we contacted Provo approach (which was also Provo tower), the controller requested regular position reports in order to provide separation… a little unnerving, since we were one of three aircraft converging on the airport through layers of clouds.
The first leg was typical of what we would find for the rest of the trip.
Leaving , there were more Gen Decs, more fees, and a trip to the tower to file the flight plan. The female controller was excited to encounter a female pilot and we had some fun, lively conversation before heading on our way.
From here on, weather became more of a factor. We arrived in , Puerto Rico, a few hours before afternoon thunderstorms drenched the area and we ended up spending an extra day there waiting for the ugly weather to pass. But that extra day gave us a reason to do some exploring around Rincon, even if it was a little soggy.
On approach to (formerly Ramey Air Force base)
With a nice break in the weather, we filled out more Gen Decs for the next leg of our journey, completed our departure e-Apis, and filed a flight plan for (Statia.)
Communication around Puerto Rico was good and controllers were very friendly and easy to understand. One even seemed to be giving us an aerial tour as we flew past Vieques and some other points of interest!
Arrival in Statia was hassle-free. The beautiful little airport is set in a wide valley. Their tower is for advisory purposes only, so while you contact them as you would normally contact a tower, they do not issue instructions or clearances. Customs was friendly and laid-back and, once out of the airport, we made ourselves at home for a few days of diving, exploring, and sunshine.
Fuel truck in (Statia)
While we were in Statia, we kept our eyes on weather to the south. Our ultimate goal had been , but they were experiencing non-stop rain. We considered diverting to a number of other islands to give the weather a chance to pass, when the forecast suddenly improved and we decided to make a break for it. More Gen Decs, another trip to the tower to file a flight plan, and we were on our way!
We arrived in St. Vincent to typical showery weather and gusty winds. The runway there runs from the water’s edge inland toward the hills, so it is one way in and one way out. They also had the most expensive fuel we encountered on the whole trip at $9.53/gallon!
We spent a day roaming , but had our sights set on some of the smaller islands. With low ceilings the following day and more rain in the forecast for days after that, we left the Mooney on the ground and hopped on a ferry to Bequia. I was happy to see that, while there were some changes, much of the island was the same as the last time I was there 20 years ago.
With worse weather moving in to the Grenadines, we decided it was best to start heading towards home. We spent another couple days in Puerto Rico, then took off from Aguadilla for Ft. Pierce, FL, with a fuel stop in Great Exuma, Bahamas. Most of the enroute portion was in the clouds and we arrived on the ILS in Ft. Pierce on a fittingly drizzly afternoon before clearing customs and officially arriving back in the U.S.
While the weather was a challenge on this trip, it was not a scary one. In fact, we actually enjoyed the practice in IMC and flying approaches. We also learned a lot about negotiating our way around Caribbean airports and found that, like so many new things, it’s not as intimidating as it seems. After almost four weeks on the road we came to two conclusions:
- Flexibility is essential.
- The rewards outweigh the challenges!