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2015 Q2 Newsletter

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

Sharing Airplane Resources

Most of us have probably noticed a significant increase in flight activity in the past few months.  A combination of great weather, a strong economy, and a healthy flying club tends to create this effect.  It’s generally a good thing until you find you can’t reserve the type of airplane you want because they are completely booked for your date and time. 

Here we ask the membership to look out for each other.  We request that members be as considerate as possible when it comes to choosing the amount of time you book a plane.  I often look at the scheduling system and see examples of planes that were reserved for 4 or 5 hours and come back with a total of 1.2 or 1.3 hours of recorded flight time.  I think this is a perfect example where had the reservation been made for 2 or 2.5 hours, it may have opened the plane up enough for another flight. 

When we get another flight in, it’s a win-win-win for all involved.  The owner of the plane gets higher revenue from the plane, the club has increased revenue (which helps us keep our efficiency up) and another member gets to fly, which is what this is all about in the first place.  And remember, that “other” member might be you someday and you’ll hopefully be appreciative of your fellow members trying to make the use of the plane as efficient as possible.  So the next time you hit the “reserve” button, please think twice about whether you really need the plane for all of the time you have it booked. 

Now having said all of this, please don’t ever compromise safety trying to be a good citizen.  The reverse of the above scenario is that you book the plane for 2 hours for a 1.8 hour flight and find yourself rushing back.  Rushing and aviation are never a good combination and is often the first link in a possible accident chain, which we don’t want to have happen.  So please use your best judgment when making plane reservations.

And now for some shameless marketing.  Another solution to the crush on booking planes is to get more planes!   The club really needs more Cessna 172SPs, Cessna 172Ns, and Piper Warriors.  Some of these high flyers generate significant cash flow for the owner so if you have ever been interested in pursuing the possibility of plane ownership, then please contact me ( so we can chat about the possibilities.

Safe Flying.


Michael May, Standards Officer WVFC

What is a Safety Culture?

The term “Safety Culture” is used a lot in today’s world. Virtually every worker in America whose job description involves a safety sensitive function has heard this term, and there is probably no industry that uses it more than aviation. But what does it really mean and how is it created? If a major airline wanted to create a safety culture would they go about it the same way a flying club would?

A safety culture is the way safety is perceived, valued, and prioritized in an organization, according to one definition. It cannot be bought; it must be created through an organization’s combined efforts in every area of operation to put safety first. In other words, it can be described as how an organization acts when nobody is watching.

In any organization, creating a safety culture is driven from the top. CEO’s, managers, and training departments must empower and encourage their employees to promote safety in every decision they make. WVFC is no exception and our culture begins with our elected Board of Directors and General Manager. The Safety Office is tasked with maintaining our flight standards and addressing safety concerns, but in order to do this effectively we must have the proper resources and tools to do so. Checkout minimums, ground review forms, and phase checks are all used to maintain standards. WVFC has 15 employees and over 35 CFI’s that all work together to address various safety concerns when they arise, and members can use our flight feedback form to bring safety concerns to our attention.

Having a culture of safety requires more than this however. In any organization, there is a natural conflict that exists between safety and other interests. WVFC is no exception, and in order to create a positive safety culture there must be established guidelines and boundaries that protect safety-sensitive decisions. There must also be a level of trust that others will not view making a safety decision negatively within the organization. An example of this is when a member does a preflight and finds a grounding item.  They will not expect or perceive any negative response to squawking the item and grounding the airplane.

Creating this environment is much easier said than done, and it requires everyone involved making a commitment to put safety first. One interesting element to WVFC is that our members are our biggest assets when it comes to promoting a safety culture. Decisions that you make every time you fly either contribute to, or detract from, our culture of safety. Things like squawking items that should be squawked, reporting safety concerns, and making safe decisions about your flights all contribute to the overall safety culture here. If the Safety Office, CFI’s, and staff have done our jobs properly, you should not feel any pressure to make a bad safety decision because of us. Need to buy $7/gallon fuel to have enough to return home with a comfortable reserve? You should not be wondering if you will “get into trouble” for that. Find a grounding squawk after your flight even though there are three more flights that day? You should not feel any pressure from us to ignore it. Hopefully you will know that we will fully support you, and expect you to make the proper decision in these scenarios.

Creating this environment where you, the members, are unhindered from making safety decisions is what we are striving to maintain. If we have done this successfully it is then up to each member to choose to make safety their top priority. This is what I consider having a positive safety culture, and its success is demonstrated every time a member makes the safe choice, even when nobody is watching.


Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor



I stand in front of the room that consists of a couple dozen uncomfortable folding chairs, half of them with people in them.  In the back of the room is a pot of bad coffee (which for me is a redundant concept) and inedible donuts.

Heart pounding, I open my mouth, “I’m Dave.”

“Hi, Dave,” they respond.

“And I’m an addict. “  It’s part of the formula; anything else would have been a surprise.

They nod and I continue, “Until two days ago I hadn’t had a fix in four years, seven months, and 6 days, but I’m an addict.  I got a fix yesterday and the day before, and I feel better than I have in years!”

The admission that I’ve yielded to my addiction brings frowns from some and understanding from others that have done the same thing – kind of.

My eyes glaze momentarily as I remember the feeling.  “The rush!  The feeling of being on the very edge of being able to control things as they happen so fast!  Oh, the feeling of near omnipotence as your perspective changes and you see things in a way few people ever get to see.  The jaw-dropping, tummy-tightening, breath-taking, heart pumping power and speed.”

I’m breathing a bit faster now, and they nod in understanding.  They think they’ve been there before and think they understand – but they haven’t been there and they don’t understand.  None of them really does.  I’m not even sure I do.  But I love it and have to feel it again.  That’s what an addiction is.

“I’m completely addicted to the feeling of power, the feeling of speed, and the feeling of stability even when I lose an engine …”

Puzzled, the moderator interrupts, “What are you talking about?”

“The Citation M2; I just flew a jet for the first time in years, and I’m in lust again!  I even got my type rating in it yesterday.”  With a deep sigh I admit, “I’m a jet junkie.  And I feel GREAT!”

And I do.

Stepping back into history, I’d had the good fortune to fly a couple of jets over a three-year period, a Citation VII (a two-pilot rocket ship) and a Citation Mustang (a plane almost as docile and forgiving as a 172 – you CAN get into trouble in one, but it takes a certain amount of talent).  Then a couple of weeks ago, after a LONG hiatus, I got a 0600 call from a friend (my Mustang instructor pilot) saying that he’d received a call from an M2 owner/pilot looking for an instructor/pro pilot to fly with, and asked if I would be interested.  I resisted the temptation to say, “Duh!”  I also (barely) resisted the temptation to place my arm behind my back up to my shoulder blades and say, “Twist my arm.”  But I did say, “Yes.”

The M2, confusingly, is NOT a Mustang 2; worse, this particular one has a painting of a horse on the tail.  I’m not sure what (if anything) marketing was thinking on this one, but the engineering guys got it right.  To be more accurate, a better name would be the CJ-1++.  It’s a CJ-1+ with a Gamin 3000 flight deck, which means a CE-525 type rating is required to fly the plane.

It takes a bit to get back into jet flying – they don’t behave the same as propeller planes.  They don’t even behave the same as turboprops.  In all the club aircraft, and even in the Pilatuses I fly, when you pull the throttle the three to six-foot Cuisinart on the front of the plane becomes a three to six-foot anchor and you either ease or slam into the shoulder harness.  In a jet, pull the power and very little happens, especially if you’re descending.  If you think “slow down, go down” is difficult in a plane with a propeller, try it in a jet.  In fact, with the normal 2000 foot-per-minute descents that ATC expects of jets, just keeping the speed from INCREASING during a descent can be a challenge.  Of course, the M2 has speed brakes that can be used for that purpose, but they’re kinda binary – they’re either all the way down or all the way extended.  It makes finesse as difficult as using a sledge hammer in place of a tack hammer for your craft or hobby projects.

That aside, there is a lot I was familiar with.  The M2 has the Garmin 3000 flight deck, which is pretty much a three panel G1000 (a PFD for each pilot and an MFD in the middle) driven by a pair of Garmin 750s with enhanced functionality.   So most of my getting back into “jet mode” consisted of getting reacquainted with the speeds involved.  With this one, it’s easy to exceed the max speed under Bravo (200 KIAS) during a CLIMB, and to exceed (easily) the max speed below 10,000 feet (250 KIAS)

And if the takeoff acceleration doesn’t slam you back into your seat like the Citation VII (and it doesn’t), it makes the start of any prop plane’s takeoff roll remind you of the speed with which a doctor backs the Mercedes out of the garage.  In other words, you can get WAY behind the airplane on a Standard Instrument Departure procedure, and bust an altitude or airspeed, or miss a waypoint without even trying.  

Having said that, like most airplanes, if you are mentally ahead of the plane, it will naturally and comfortably follow what you’ve planned for it.  The M2 has a very nice feel to it, and despite the fact that the yoke is mounted to the floor as it is in most Citations, it has largely the same feel as a 182 or 206 in terms of control pressures and feel.  The needle’s just a lot higher on the airspeed gauge at the time.  Steep turns, for example are done at about 72% power (250 Kts) at 10,000 feet.

Conserving the owner’s finances, my instructor had me do each of the required maneuvers once in the Bay Area, then the next morning we flew down to Victorville (just east of Palmdale, but without the ambience) for the check ride.  All type-rating check rides are to ATP standards, which mean ¼ scale deflection on the NAV and Glide Slope needles, and the flight portion is a glorified instrument check ride.  (The ground portion is heavily into the systems of the plane involved, plus the memory items, aircraft limitations – with a POH that’s more easily measured in pounds or reams than in pages, this can add up - and the normal Part 61 and Part 91 questions.) And so what if we practiced at Salinas and Half Moon Bay, and the check ride will have approaches at Victorville?  A runway is a runway, right?  All airports have them.  And an approach is an approach.  Are we to ignore that the altitudes are different?  That the missed approaches are different?  That the frequencies are different?  Minor details until you’re romping straight from one approach to the next, and barely have time to enter the next approach into the GPS, to say nothing of having time to analyze and brief an approach you’ve never seen before that morning.  Checklist?  What checklist?  Even for a jet-junkie, that amount of adrenalin is a bit extreme.

You’d think that with 18 prior check rides (not counting the ones for charter privileges) under my belt, that this would be old stuff, but it still makes the pucker-factor go pretty high on the scale.  Every time I go for a rating I can think of at least three ways in which I could mess up the flight part.

However, the real adrenalin came after the flight when another type rating appeared on my pilot certificate.  Not because of the new rating (which IS nice), but because I will be getting a jet-junkie fix a few times monthly.

I probably won’t even go back to the meeting – I’m a hopeless case, and cold turkey or gradual withdrawal, I’d far rather feed my addiction.

I’m a jet-junkie.


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Pilot Decisions - The Right Stuff or Not?

Pilot decision-making is often casually associated with the “right stuff” and discussed in various articles such as “never again”.  Pilot decision-making is serious business and the FAA estimates that 80% of all aviation accidents are related to human factors. In addition, many researchers believe that traditional Analytical models for decision-making are not always optimum for pilots where stress and/or time-critical decisions must be made. So, what is the best decision-making model?  Let’s explore several different decision-making models to answer that question.

Decision-making models range from simple to complex. Several examples include the simple OODA, Automatic/Naturalistic, and the more complex Analytical decision process models.

The OODA loop (Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action) by John Boyd, USAF retired, is a simple process, easy for pilots to remember, and can be quickly used to determine the necessary actions.

The Automatic/Naturalistic model is of medium complexity, and is believed by many researchers to be the most natural human decision model. This model uses the DECIDE six step process; Detect, Estimate, Choose a course of action, Identify solutions, Do the necessary actions, and Evaluate the effects of the action. The Automatic/Naturalistic model leverages both pilot training and experience during the Identify solutions step.

The Analytical model is more complex. It uses the same DECIDE six step process, BUT the Analytical model requires the consideration of several alternative solutions to determine the best course of action. Research has shown that it is unlikely that people can Evaluate and apply Analytical strategies in less than a minute. Therefore, while the Analytical model could be effective during preflight planning for example, it may not be effective during in-flight situations where stress and/or time constrains are present.

So which is the best decision-making model for pilots? The answer is… it depends on the situation.
Here are two examples of “what not to do” where pilots failed to effectively use both the Analytical model during preflight, and the OODA loop (Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action) during the flight. Source NTSB Safety Alert, SA-23 March 2013.

1)      A private pilot (not instrument rated) and his three passengers were killed after the pilot experienced spatial disorientation and lost control of a Cirrus SR20 in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). The pilot had attempted a descent toward an airport that was reporting IMC, but he could not find it and told the air traffic controller that he was flying “in and out” of clouds. After the controller learned that the pilot was not qualified for flight in IMC, another controller advised the pilot of several nearby airports that were reporting visual weather conditions. The pilot initially indicated that he would divert to one of those airports but then changed his mind, Shortly after the pilots last communication with controllers, the airplane entered a right turn that tightened abruptly before the airplane descended to the ground in a steep, nose-down attitude.

2)      A pilot and his three sons were killed when he lost control of his Mooney M20J airplane, which collided with mountainous terrain in a rapid descent. Before the flight, the pilot had obtained weather briefings that included advisories for mountain obscuration, turbulence, and icing. The pilot had previously canceled his plans to fly the trip (the purpose of which was to return home from vacation) due to adverse weather conditions, and he had made alternate arrangements for himself and his sons to travel home on a commercial airline. However, when the airline flight was canceled (for non-weather reasons), the pilot decided to depart on the accident flight. The pilot’s decision to depart into known adverse weather was a cause of the accident. The investigation identified several safety issues, including evidence that the pilot’s self-imposed time pressure adversely affected several safety aspects.


Bay Area Student and New Pilot Support Group – March, April and May Meeting Report

The Bay Area Student and New Pilot Support Group has had a very productive spring with a great series of meetings. Our group formed in December 2011 to provide a forum for student and new pilots to share their knowledge of aviation with other likeminded pilots. The group continues to attract new attendees in addition to a core group that have been around since the first meeting. For the latest news and announcements we encourage anyone interested in participating in this group to register as described at the end of this article. The group has also established a MeetUp group for those that want to stay informed of future meeting announcements. The MeetUp group is:

March Meeting – Emergency Procedures

In March we had a group discussion on emergency scenarios. One of the members, Ian, created a number of different scenarios to consider. Each scenario had a number of symptoms and the group started to discuss what those symptoms might indicate. We discussed what some of the possible issues were and how to respond to them. It was a great way to refresh your knowledge on emergency procedures. As an example, one of the scenarios was “If on final you drop flaps to the final notch and suddenly the plane veers to the left what might be happening?” How about if you are in the San Francisco Bravo when all of a sudden you lose your radio, what would you do? The group had a lengthy discussion about emergency descent procedures and in particular the guidance as documented in the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook compared to what some Airplane Flight Manuals specify. One of the attendees shared that the Cirrus procedure for this is very specific. The Cirrus procedure specifies Airspeed of VNE whereas the FAA AFM gives a more generic procedure. I know several of us took this opportunity to review the emergency procedures for the airplanes we typically fly.

April Meeting – Plane ownership

During the March meeting, Brad James, one of the attendees, happened to mention that he was in discussion about purchasing a club aircraft. As soon as

he mentioned this he got peppered with a number of questions from the group. We decided there was so much interest that we would have Brad present this topic in-depth at our April meeting. This would give him some time to prepare some general information. At the April meeting, Brad started the discussion with the three ways he had considered to acquire an aircraft. Those three were:

1.     Individually owned – no leaseback

2.     Shared ownership – no leaseback

3.     Individually owned and leaseback

He then shared his observations on advantages and disadvantages of each of these options.

Individually owned - no leaseback

·       Advantages - More availability of the airplane (fly when you want), no worries about others not treating the airplane to the same level of care that the owner would

·       Disadvantages – more responsibility for managing maintenance, no tax benefits

Shared ownership – no leaseback

·       Advantages – Likely still good availability of the airplane to fly when you want

·       Disadvantages – Challenge to find the right group to share ownership that have compatible ownership goals


·       Advantages - Tax benefits, maintenance handled by the club

·       Disadvantage – Higher cost for maintenance due to additional inspections/maintenance, not as much flexibility of being able to fly when you want, wear and tear on the aircraft from member usage

Brad decided that the lease back option was the right choice for him. The next decision was how he would own the airplane. He decided to form a Limited Liability Corporation, LLC, for a number of business reasons that he shared with the group.

There was a lengthy discussion about the costs involved in owning the plane including costs to form the LLC, insurance, maintenance, as well as factoring in money for an engine reserve and other miscellaneous expenses. 

It is hard to do justice to the content that was covered in a brief update like this but there was a great deal of information shared. In addition, one of the attendees, Eric has experience with owning a plane in a leaseback as well single ownership and was able to provide his comparison between the two models based on his own experience.

May Meeting – AOPA Fly-In & Local Reporting Points

Our May meeting was a review of the AOPA Salinas Fly-In procedure. Several of the attendees were planning to attend the event on May 16th and we used the opportunity to share information on the Fly-In procedure. As a group we reviewed the arrival procedure from the north including the details on the procedure for holding. We reviewed the visual landmarks that are part of the racetrack pattern to hold if in the event traffic volume requires holding.

In addition to the Pilot Information Packet that is available on the AOPA site, it was mentioned that a YouTube video had been created that summarizes some of the key procedure points. The group viewed the key information from the video. Several of us will be attending and likely will share our experience at the next meeting.

During the second half of our meeting we did a review of the common VFR reporting points at various local airports. The group started with the Palo Alto airport and came up with fourteen local landmarks or reporting points that are used. Some of us less familiar with Palo Alto found it educational to hear about some of these. The group also discussed reporting points and local landmarks for San Carlos, Oakland, Hayward and Livermore. It was a great discussion and everyone picked up some new local knowledge.

Coming Up

A key benefit to this group is the opportunity to share information and meet other pilots.  We invite any interested pilot to attend our next meeting.  We meet on the first Monday of the month at 7:00 p.m. The group meets in various locations at the San Carlos airport so please subscribe as detailed below so you will get the latest information.

We have a number of great topics lined up for the next three months. We will be expanding our topics to include areas on instrument flying. Look for the following topics and more in the coming months:

·       Trip report from Las Vegas

·       Trip report from Catalina Island

·       Product review: Flying with Stratus 2 ADS B Receiver

·       Aviation fuel – a discussion led by a local subject matter expert on aviation fuel and what alternatives for 100LL are on the horizon

·       New pilot bucket list

Everyone, whatever and wherever they fly is welcome. In addition to some tasty pizza and beverages, you will have a great chance to meet your fellow pilots in an informal setting.

To subscribe to this group, please email: The presentations from past sessions are posted on this group site.

Please contact Herb Patten at if you would like additional information.


Oceano – divert to SMX – divert to PRB

With good intentions of landing at Oceano, then having lunch near the ocean and walking along the beach, due to overcast we diverted to Santa Maria. The weather was better but we couldn't find a big enough hole in the sky to descend to the airport while avoiding the mountainous terrain.

So, on our air to air frequency the group agreed to divert to our final destination of Paso Robles. We caught a taxi into town and filled up a third of the French restaurant, Bistro Laurent. With five airplanes and 15 people, we had a very interesting flight and a great lunch with friends. Two other airplanes with 6 people chose a slightly closer to home destination for lunch.


Westover (KJAQ)

A little overcast this morning in the Bay Area, but we waited and were rewarded with a beautiful flyout to Westover Airport (KJAQ), Jackson - Amador County. The Hotel Sutter picked up the group in their shuttle van for a great lunch at their restaurant in Sutter Creek. Afterward we strolled around the little old mining town enjoying ice cream and espresso.

My two students who were flying their first cross country flight got to meet other pilots and see what flying is really about! Great day...


Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC


Go/No-Go Decisions

Aviation periodicals are filled with Accident Analyses and Never Again stories.  These are usually offered as learning experiences, often on the judgment of the pilots.  Several of the West Valley Flying Club Newsletter articles have been similar flavors.  For this issue, I thought I'd offer a few brief synopses that are a bit more boring: cases where I elected not to continue with Plan A, and what ended up happening.

Markleeville Hiking

The most recent situation where this occurred was Tuesday May 12.  I had arranged for a day off work, had packed a pack, put my bike and hiking gear in the back of the car, and was ready to fly to Markleeville near Lake Tahoe for a day of bike riding and hiking.  I'd been looking forward to this trip for over a month.  I had been watching the weather throughout the week and noticed that a low pressure system would be moving into the area, bringing with it high winds.  The night before my departure, the winds at 9000 and 12000 feet during the time of my arrival into the area were forecast at 24 knots and 33 knots respectively.  Mountain flying guidance says to consider staying on the ground when winds are over 20 knots and do stay on the ground when they're over 30 knots over the ridges.  Still, the 33 knots was pretty close to 30 and I was hoping the forecast would be better the following day.

On Tuesday, I woke up to find that indeed the forecast and improved slightly and the 12000 foot winds were now at 27 knots.  After looking over the full briefing, I headed to the airport to preflight.  After unlocking the plane, I reconsidered the forecast and the trending conditions.  Things were unlikely to improve during the day.  The consequences of underestimating the winds were potentially severe.  I locked the plane back up and headed home, disappointed.  Of course at this point I'd already made the right decision, given the risk factors.  However, looking at the weather reports later in the day indicated the winds at 12000 feet were at 44 knots.

Yellowstone Return

Coming back from Yellowstone one summer, I stopped with my backpacking buddy in Elko, Nevada to get gas and check on weather before crossing the Sierras.  Looking at the forecast and the weather radar, it was clear that we wouldn't be departing in the next hour or so: isolated thunderstorms were predicted to pop up all afternoon and there were spots of red for a hundred miles in either direction from where we'd hope to cross.  Still, I hoped that the storms would die down as the afternoon wore on and we'd still get home that evening.  An hour or two later the storms were still popping up.  This decision was pretty clear: we called a nearby hotel and the shuttle van came to pick us up.  My friend and I had a great Basque meal and the shuttle driver pointed out the local brothel (we didn't visit).  The following morning we were up early to get a start before the thunderstorms starting popping up.  We passed well clear of one cell about forty miles outside of Elko and made it over the Sierras with clear skies.

Forest Fire

In 2013, the Rim Fire burned for eight weeks just outside Yosemite.  I had been contacted to do a Mountain Checkout. I asked my client to choose from a number of airports that met the criteria for a Mountain Checkout and plan the flight.  Either South Lake Tahoe or Alpine County was first on the list.  The area forecast mentioned smoke aloft at the altitude we'd be flying at.  As we approached the western side of the Sierras, visibility dropped slowly but steadily.  As the foothills grew taller, my client recognized that he was having a hard time seeing the ground and forward visibility had decreased to less than ten miles.  We briefly discussed options and elected to make a turn to the north.  As we got farther from the fire, visibility improved dramatically.  We proceeded to Blue Canyon and Truckee airports.  We were able to complete the checkout by executing a well-considered second option, rather than continuing into deteriorating conditions or simply returning home.

Western Flying Adventure

My family and I were flying from San Carlos via Elko (again) to Bozeman, Montana.  After spending a planned night in Elko, I obtained a weather briefing and noted that thunderstorms were a possibility along our planned route of flight.  In this situation, however, the weather was forecast to be developing west of our planned route, which was almost perfectly northeast.  Additionally, along our route of flight lower terrain consistently remained to the northeast, with many small airports along the way as escape routes.  Although the weather forecast was not what I hoped for, there were enough escape routes and options that we elected to depart for Bozeman.  Along the way, I got updates from Flight Watch about the developing weather.  With the exception of one rainstorm which was dramatically visible but far to the west, the predicted thunderstorms were actually developing later than expected.  My family and I were able to safely complete our flight, hours before the weather moved in.  In this case, we could of course have been conservative and remained in Elko, but the myriad options gave me the confidence to fly as planned and get an extra day in Bozeman.

These scenarios have mountain flying in common.  In general, flying in the mountains presents greater hazards and uncertainty than flying over the Central Valley.  However, even flights in the Bay Area can present questions about when the right time to depart is in the face of slow-to-burn-off fog or the strength of crosswinds in the winter.  Most of us have these tales of when we were happier to be on the ground wishing we were up than we would have been in the air wishing we were on the ground.  With general aviation, it's important to remember to constantly be evaluating the current situation and the plan, and to be open to changing the plan if the situation is worse than expected.