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2015 Q4 Newsletter

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

2015 – Looking Back on the Past Year

Shameless advertisement first!  Plan on attending our annual holiday party, Saturday December 5th, 7PM at the Domenico Winery in San Carlos.  We look forward to seeing many of you there.

Each year the club sets high-level goals, and then expends a lot of effort rallying the staff, CFIs, owners, and members, around those goals.  We discuss and adjust the goals based on feedback from the previous year member survey, input from the Board of Directors, and a multitude of hallway conversations that happen throughout the year.  I would like to discuss one that I think went particularly well this year, and one that was a “failure to launch” which we hope to get to in 2016.

In the “Good” column:

The number 1 goal for 2015 was to focus on some specific membership programs.  We wanted to reduce the total number of member terminations by 20% from the previous year and we are on track to hit about a 15-20% reduction, so that is a good start. 

We rolled out ACH payments (direct debit from a bank account), allowing members and the club to save money.  There is an additional $5 per month member dues credit when using ACH in months where 2 or more hours are flown.   It’s now possible for a member to get their monthly dues down to $35 per month by taking advantage of prepaid dues in January, Safety Incentive, and the ACH credit.

Assessment Rebate: For those that suffered through the low spot of 2010/11, and paid the $250 assessment to keep the club afloat, we are eternally grateful for the faith that you put in the club and the staff efforts to turn the operation around.  We emerged on the other side a much healthier club, and are now in a position to return the assessment to those that paid it.  To incentivize further participation, we are returning the assessment after members fly 10 hours between October 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016 (15 months).

In the “Not so good” column

One of the four club goals for 2015 was to place more focus on our newest/student pilot population.  Feedback, and our own research for that matter, shows that there is still a very high dropout rate between a brand new student pilot starting training and getting to solo, yet alone private pilot.  It’s a national problem, not just a WVFC problem.  However, we feel we have the experience and the resources to focus on the challenges of this group and do a lot better than the national average.  We had identified a staff member to focus on the task at hand, but unfortunately we had to use that resource elsewhere in the organization for most of 2015 so really didn’t get started on this project.  We still believe it’s a critical assignment both for the long-term health of the club and for General Aviation.  We will be revisiting this goal in 2016 and again making this a top priority.

Safe Flying and Happy Holidays.


Michael May, Standards Officer WVFC

Year End Maintenance Update

At the start of 2015 WVFC tasked the Safety Office with overseeing the maintenance department. As the fleet had steadily grown over the past several years it had become apparent that additional support and resources were needed in maintenance to keep up with the growing demand. Member surveys also had clearly indicated that we needed to improve the cosmetic condition of some of our airplanes. Over the past year we’ve made tremendous gains, and while some of them are (hopefully) obvious to our members, most of them have been done outside of the public eye. This newsletter article is dedicated to informing you, our members, of the changes that we’ve made and how they ultimately affect your experience.

Over the past year, we’ve established processes for just about everything that maintenance does, from performing 100 hour inspections to outsourcing avionics work. We’ve secured discounts with our primary parts suppliers, established relationships with outside maintenance facilities that do specialized work for us - avionics work in particular, and identified long-term projects that will either enhance the member experience, reduce costs to the owners, or both. One example is that we’ve strategically added some specific parts/avionics to our inventory to minimize the time an airplane is grounded when these parts are needed.

On addition, improving the cosmetic condition of our fleet became a top priority. We’ve worked with the airplane owners to repair or upgrade paint, interiors, and avionics on many of our planes. These are major enhancements that take a significant amount of time and money to complete, and our efforts in this area continue. Some of this work has already been completed, and much more is scheduled to be completed over the next several months. We’ve also become more selective when looking at airplanes to add to our fleet to ensure that our quality and appearance standards are met.

In the past, maintenance inspections were rarely planned more than a week ahead of time and had a tendency to “sneak up” on us, resulting in last minute cancellations and schedule changes. Now these are scheduled far enough in advance that they very rarely affect the flight schedule, and when a scheduled inspection does create a conflict we work closely with the Member Services Team to adjust the maintenance schedule when possible. Every morning when our maintenance team arrives, we review the maintenance status board to look for upcoming inspections and review new squawks. We predict 50 hour, 100 hour, and annual inspections up to a month in advance, schedule them accordingly, and adjust Schedule Master. When maintenance work has been completed we perform a final paperwork review to ensure that all logbook entries have been completed, Schedule Master is updated, and the key book is cleared of old squawks and observations. Only after this is done can an airplane be returned to service.

Our maintenance department is positioned to begin 2016 with a solid foundation to build upon. We’ve already begun to work on some of our long-term projects and we continue to focus on updating the cosmetic condition of some of our aircraft. Most of what happens in maintenance is done behind the scenes and may not be obvious to our members, but there is no question that it can affect your experience. After safety, our top priority will continue to be enhancing the experience of our members and aircraft owners. You can expect to hear more about our specific goals for 2016 in the near future, and in the meantime please feel free to email us at with your thoughts and suggestions.

Lloyd Stephens, Aircraft Owner and Board Member WVFC

A Review of “The Knot You Need To Know”

Winter is coming, and with it come storms that generate significant winds.  As an airplane owner I worry about the security of my plane in a storm as, I’m sure, the other owners do too.  Airplanes are expensive, and not easily replaced.  Airplanes are also made to fly, and in high winds they can take off on their own.  That’s why we tie them down.  If a storm with high winds is forecast, I will frequently come to the airport to ensure that my plane is securely tied down, but I can’t do that all of the time.  The club tries to check on planes, as well, but the bottom line is that we rely on you, the members flying the planes, to make sure that the plane is securely tied down after you fly it.  You should know that, if you don’t tie the plane down securely and it is damaged or causes damage to another plane, you may be held responsible, at least for the not-in-motion deductible on the insurance policy.

The reason why I’m writing this is that I have frequently seen failures to adequately tie the planes down.  Throwing the rope over a couple of times is not sufficient, neither are non-locking slip knots that you can push three feet up to the tie down ring.  We want you to tie a knot that prevents the plane from moving.

Although the club does not require you to tie a specific knot, as long as the aircraft is tied down securely, the best knot to use is the WVFC “club” knot.  (If you are an instructor, you need to be teaching this knot!!)

Because many members of the club are not familiar with knots, some of the instructors at the club developed a “club” knot which is the recommended way to tie down a WVFC airplane.  This knot is similar to a bowline.  I have found this knot to be easy to tie and to release and it offers excellent security.  The way you tie it is as follows:

1.  Take the loose end of tie-down rope and put it through the tie-down ring from left to right.  (If you are left-handed or want to do it right to left, see the video link below.)

2. Take the part of the rope attached to the tie-down and Twist it upwards (clockwise) to make a small loop about 8-10 inches from the tie-down ring.  Take the loose end of the rope and put it down through this loop, then pull the loose end until the rope is tight.

3. Take the loose end to the left, over the top of the rope, and around to the back of the knot you are tying. Then put the end through the large loop formed between the tie-down ring and the knot, and then down under the part that you previously ran over the top of the rope. The loose end should now be parallel to the part of the rope attached to the tie-down.

4.  Pull the loose end until the knot is tight.  Then tie the loose end off with an overhand knot.  It’s that simple.  And it’s secure.

Here’s a link to a video by John Felleman showing how to tie the “club” knot.  John is left handed (I’m right handed), so the video shows him tying the knot the reverse way—starting by pulling the loose end through the tie down ring from right to left--but it’s really just the same knot.   

If you can’t figure out how to tie it from the video or from my description, talk to an instructor, or contact me ( and I’ll be happy to come to the airport and show you how to do it. 

Remember: as the pilot in command, YOU are responsible for making sure the plane is tied down securely after you fly it.  Just do it--all the time, regardless of what season it is.  It’s not that hard.  The airplane, the club, and the owners, will appreciate it.


Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor

Something Completely Different

Although it kind of fits, that wasn’t intended to be a Monty Python quote.  Sometimes different is good; sometimes not, as we’ll get to shortly.

Remember the classic swimming pool game  “jump or dive”?  For the uninitiated, in this game, a person (for purposes of this conversation, we’ll use the term “victim”) stands on the diving board, approaches, vaults, and begins a …   And therein lies the problem; the diver doesn’t know whether the other player will call “jump” or “dive”.   The call, of course, comes when the diver is in the air just before the top of the dive (or jump), and statistically, there is a 50/50 chance that the diver will guess correctly and execute either a nice dive or jump.  The other result (which seems to occur WAY more than 50% of the time) is a spectacular belly flop.  I know this from personal experience – from the diver’s perspective.

As you may suspect, there is an aviation analog to this game, and the pilot is the diver.  The caller is a variable, and can be either Murphy or ATC.  And just like in the Jump or Dive game, when you get something completely different from what you expect, it’s rare that good things happen.  In fact, almost every one of the stories in various flying magazines that show how a pilot got into (and sometimes back out of) trouble includes an event completely different from what the pilot expected and/or planned for.

If you’ve been flying for a while, you’ve probably met Murphy.  You’ve had brakes fail while taxiing, flaps that wouldn’t work when you move the lever, instruments that failed, and if you’re really unlucky, an engine failure.  Sometimes, (shock and surprise) the weather is different from the forecast.

The other variant is when Murphy in the form of ATC gives you something completely different from what you expected.  This happens approximately 100 percent of the time on IFR flight plans.

So, how to keep Murphy’s call from resulting in a belly flop?  There are two keys to this.

First, reduce the surprise.  There are no belly flops if you know what the call is going to be. It’s why pilots that don’t want red bellies get weather briefs and do TFR checks even for local flights.   It’s why they make the most important decisions before they get into the plane.   It’s why they look at PIREPs.  It’s why they do thorough preflights.

Second, they prepare themselves for what happens when the call occurs and it is something completely different.  This is why pilots that don’t want to do belly flops do takeoff briefs.  It’s why they read the POH once a year.  It’s why they KNOW the aircraft limitations and memory items.  It’s why they don’t just keep current according to Part 61, they keep their skills current and sharp. It’s why they are always learning.  It’s why they know and understand the FARs.  It’s why they always know their options and leave themselves an out.

BTW, I even found four ways not to do belly flops.  One, don’t play that insane game (that didn’t occur to me until many years later).  Two, be the caller rather than the diver.  I’ll admit to a certain sadistic pleasure in making the call that resulted in a red tummy.  Three, bribe the caller to play according to a script you know, so there are no surprises.  And four, understand your options, know the rules, and think outside the box – the application of those is that I began with the full intent of doing a dive (in this case a forward one and a half), and at the call either kept the tuck a bit longer to go in head first if it was “dive” or opened up early and enter feet first if the call is jump.

Some might call that approach cheating, but it’s within the rules, though clearly it’s less exciting for the observer than it is when people use a more standard approach.  My feelings regarding that is captured in the following exchange:  many years ago a person, upon learning that I was a flight instructor, said, “That must be exciting.”  My response was, “Not if I do it right.


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Decision Making –   Go-Around, “When and How”

During a recent online pilot discussion focused on go-arounds, several pilots posed questions including “When and How” to perform a go-around. The pilots generally agreed that a go-around should be performed anytime a safe (low risk) landing cannot be made. A pilot’s decision to go-around might be the result of a non-stabilized approach (fast, slow, high, low), wind, runway obstruction, or other aircraft on the runway. The online discussion quickly focused on “what-if” an aircraft taxis onto the runway as you are on final approach?

The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM, see note1) describes many situations “When” a go-around should be initiated, but the AIM provides few details on “How” to maneuver in the pattern during a VFR go-around. In addition, most aircraft POHs include an aircraft operational checklist for the go-round (power, pitch, airspeed, gear, flaps, etc), but again nothing regarding maneuvering in the pattern.

The Airplane Flying Handbook (see note2) specifically describes a go-around maneuver as a result of another aircraft on the runway conflict.  “… If the go-around was initiated due to conflicting traffic on the ground or aloft, the pilot should maneuver to the side, so as to keep the conflicting traffic in sight. This may involve a shallow bank turn to offset and then parallel the runway/landing area…” Reading between the lines, a side step to the right of the runway centerline will provide a left seat pilot a great view of the runway environment below and the conflicting aircraft.

The Pilot/Controller Glossary (see note3) mentions the go-around and how to rejoin the traffic pattern. "GO AROUND- Instructions for a pilot to abandon his/her approach to landing. Additional instructions may follow. Unless otherwise advised by ATC, a VFR aircraft or an aircraft conducting a visual approach should overfly the runway while climbing to traffic pattern altitude and enter the traffic pattern via the crosswind leg…." Additional information on traffic patterns can be found in Advisory Circular AC 90-66A (see note4) titled Recommended Standard Traffic Patterns and Practices for non-towered airports.

Now that we have some of the go-around “When and Hows”, we can safely go fly and enjoy the great weather.

Note1 – Aeronautical Information Manual, page 5-4-21 Missed Approach

Note2 – Airplane Flying Handbook, FAA publication, page 18 first paragraph

Note3 – Pilot/Controller Glossary, FAA publication, see Go-Around section

Note4 - Advisory Circular (AC 90-66A) Recommended Standard Traffic Patterns and Practices...$FILE/AC90-66A.pdf

WOW – Women of West Valley Flying Club

Mariposa (KMPI) September 26th, 2015

We had a great flight out to Mariposa in a little under an hour.  15 of us showed up in several airplanes and had an enjoyable walk to the Airport Bar and Grill.  As the restaurant was not used to such a big crowd, with one server taking orders and cooking, she still managed to get our delicious lunch served to us.


Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC

Wildfire Season and Flying

The 2015 California wildfire season burned more acreage than any season in the past ten years.  This year was also the second time I've flown from the Bay Area to Portland during fire season.  These two flights, and others, showed me the necessity of developing contingency plans when flying within a hundred miles of a large wildfire.

A clear consideration when planning a flight during wildfire season is TFRs.  Wildfire TFRs can spring up overnight and change in size.  They keep firefighting aircraft separated from other aircraft.  These TFRs can be quite large, requiring a route around the wildfire and additional time and fuel.  For instance, a TFR over the Willamette Valley this summer required a significant deviation.  When getting your preflight briefing, pay attention not only to the existence of TFRs but also the reason for them, how long they've been in effect, and when they're predicted to expire.  These will all give clues as to the extent and severity of the fire within the TFR.  Note that while you may be able to fly legally on top of a wildfire TFR, it's not often a good choice.

The smoke from wildfires can extend for over 100 miles, causing reduced visibility up to at least fifteen thousand feet.  The first time I experienced this was during a mountain checkout in 2013, when the Rim Fire was burning near Yosemite.  The route my client and I had planned was to cross the Sierra along the path Route 50 takes from Placerville to South Lake Tahoe.  As we ascended over the foothills, reaching around 12,000 feet, flight visibility dropped dramatically.  While we were still legal with at least five miles of visibility, flying at that altitude in the Sierra with limited visibility is no fun and of questionable safety.  Also, it was unclear how much further the visibility would decline.  We made a left turn and crossed the mountains along Interstate 80 instead.  The extra distance from the fire made plenty of difference in visibility.

A few weeks later, as the Rim Fire was dying down and with different wind patterns, I flew across the Sierra along the originally planned route.  While visibility was reduced, it was ten miles or more.  The reduced visibility continued well into Nevada.

The most serious encounters I've had with reduced visibility around wildfires occurred this summer, en route from San Carlos to Troutdale airport near Portland.  I had already planned for the deviation from the most direct route around the TFRs.  Obtaining a weather briefing just before departing, I was pleasantly surprised.  The TAF for Troutdale and Portland called for no ceiling and good visibility.  In fact, it was probably the best forecast weather I'd ever seen going to Oregon.

The flight into Oregon from San Carlos was uneventful.  When we crossed the Oregon border, the plumes and clouds of smoke from the fires were visible.  However, it seemed as though remaining clear of the TFRs would be sufficient to also remain clear of the smoke.  As we passed Eugene, about 100 miles south-southwest of Troutdale, the ground became harder to see due to the smoke.  The in flight visibility at 7500 feet was still excellent.  On Flight Following, as we were passed to the next controller, there were several planes receiving IFR clearances into airports in the Willamette Valley.  In some cases, the pilots were executing missed approaches, meaning that the weather was bad enough that a landing was not possible even on instruments.  At this point, the ATIS at Troutdale was coming through.  The ceiling was 3000 feet but visibility was two miles.  This wasn't what I had been expecting, given the forecasted fantastic weather when we took off!

Fortunately, I was both IFR current and proficient for the conditions.  We received an IFR clearance to Troutdale and made an uneventful approach.  However, the smoke made our descent from 6000 feet down to 2500 feet solid instrument conditions.  Had I not been current or instrument rated, we may have needed to land over 120 miles away. The weather in Portland over the next 24 hours was surreal.  Ground visibility remained no better than two miles.  The next day, whatever weather pattern was bringing and holding the smoke north of Eugene cleared up.  The next two days were beautiful.

Departing from Troutdale, the weather was gorgeous.  However, the larger-scale weather pattern was now holding the smoke trapped between Eugene and the Siskiyous and Cascades.  Passing south of Eugene, flight visibility began to decrease at 8500 feet.  We climbed until we reached 10500 feet.  Visibility was better at the higher altitudes, but not great and still decreasing.  At this point, we obtained an IFR clearance.  There were other aircraft on frequency describing themselves as being in IMC.  As soon as we passed Lake Shasta and were out of the mountains, the smoke dissipated.  We had a smooth flight back to San Carlos.

In addition to the wildfire TFRs and news reports, there are a few other clues as to what the smoke situation may be.  Area forecasts (FA) will sometimes contain forecasts of the top of smoke as well as its coverage.  Area forecasts will be discontinued in 2016, but hopefully their replacement will contain the same data.  Terminal area forecasts (TAFs) will note smoke with FU after the visibility.  Unfortunately, the absence of smoke in a forecast doesn't mean you won't find it, but if it's there you're almost certainly going to experience it.

Flying requires constantly assessing the current flight conditions and choosing when to execute a backup plan.  When flying during wildfire season, take the possibility of reduced flight visibilities and ceilings into account.  Consider what alternate routes you may be able to take to avoid the smoke during the en route portion of your flight.  In the most severe cases, be ready to execute an instrument approach or to continue flying to an alternate if your intended airport is enveloped in smoke.


Ralph Britton, President - PAAA (Palo Alto Airport Assoc)

Palo Alto Airport Association works to promote and support PAO

Airports need friends.  The local region has lost many airports due to urban expansion, developers coveting airport land for profitable development, and public lack of awareness of just how valuable a local airport is to the community.  Examples include Santa Cruz Sky Park, Tanforan, Fremont, and even an airport located in Mountain View at Middlefield Rd and San Antonio Rd.  Palo Alto Airport has had its detractors urging that it be closed and that the space used for variously a land fill, composting site and an expansion of the adjacent 2000 acre Baylands Park.

The Palo Alto Airport Association (PAAA) was formed to protect PAO and ensure that it continues to serve the community as the unique asset that it is. Our most important function is Airport Day, which serves to inform the local public about the valuable services the airport provides.  Airport Day is a family event to show services such as refueling of Stanford Hospital’s helicopters, providing access to Angel Flight’s charity medical flights and its critical role providing relief in an earthquake or other major incident.  We stress its educational role, offering flight training to many aspiring students.  This is in addition to its obvious purpose of providing transportation and supporting recreational flying.

In 2006, PAAA members together with some unaffiliated citizens were appointed by the Palo Alto City Council to form the Palo Alto Airport Working Group (PAAWG). The PAAWG report was instrumental in generating support for the City’s taking over the Airport from the County. That report demonstrated that a city-run airport would generate sufficient revenue to pay for its operation.  Further investigation by consultants hired by the City corroborated the findings of the PAAWG.  Had the City been unwilling to take over operation, it is questionable whether the airport could remain in operation.

The PAAA needs members for two important reasons.  Membership dues pay for outreach on behalf of the airport conducted by the PAAA and, equally important, a large membership lends legitimacy to PAAA as a responsible organization representing airport concerns to the City Council and the community. 

Please show your support for PAO by becoming a member of PAAA - sign-up at:


Save $60.00 a year on regular dues or on regular family dues.  Prepay your dues for 2016 by January 31st (first 125 members only!) 

- Regular $600

- Regular Family $240

Email to ensure your spot!

*6 Month Minimum Commitment.  Early termination will result in charge for the discounted difference.  Safety incentives still apply.