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December 2012 Newsletter

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

New Chief Pilot

We are very excited to introduce our new Chief Pilot to the membership.  Jesse Gamueda comes to us from Denver, CO where, up until recently, he has been a professional pilot for several part 135 business jet operators.  Jesse has a wide variety of experience from GA, to corporate, and even several hundred hours of acro!  Jesse will be working part-time (20 hours per week) and will additionally be doing a fair number of phase checks.  His main office will be in Palo Alto, though he plans to spend each Tuesday at San Carlos for the membership there to meet and work with him.  He will generally be working afternoon hours should you want to stop by and chat or to set up a meeting. 

As most of you know, I have been the acting Chief Pilot for the past 12 months while the Chief Pilot search was conducted.  I have interacted with many of you on different levels in that role and have thoroughly enjoyed working with members on numerous scenarios, ideas, and issues.   Now I would request that future discussions and requests concerning Chief Pilot matters be directed to Jesse.  Examples include checkout questions, exceptions, exemptions, overrides, extended rental agreements, non-AFD airport permissions, safety, and process discussions. 

Jesse can be reached via email at .  Please stop by and introduce yourself when you get a chance.  Jesse has a lot of cool stories.

Lloyd Stephens, Aircraft Owner WVFC  

Holiday Lights

I learned how to fly at Dee Thurmond Flight Service at SJC back in 1975.  Dee was a somewhat crusty woman in her mid 50’s back in those days, but a superb pilot with a ton of experience.  I always liked to look at the photo she had up on the wall, of her looking back down the aisle from the left seat of a DC-3.  Her “Flight Service” was a pretty minimal operation oriented principally toward instruction.  She had three Cessna 150s, a 172, a Beech Sundowner, and a Beech TravelAir (the forerunner to the Baron)--for multi engine instruction--that she shared with her friend Betty Hicks, a well known aviator and golf pro, who was also the coordinator for the aviation department at Foothill College. 

Besides herself, Dee had two or three other instructors who did the basic training.  She also had a couple of dogs (Aileron and Chandelle) who hung out around the office, and they also got to fly from time to time, though usually not with students.  She was an FAA designated examiner, so she did all of the phase checks and the check rides.  I learned in the C-150s, all of which had non-standard panels, so you had to look to see where the instruments were on the one you were flying.  For the most part, I flew with Dee’s other instructors and just saw Dee around the office.  Not too long before the Holiday season, I was ready for the check ride for my Private license.  Dee, of course, was the examiner.  She put me through my paces, and must have liked what she saw because she signed me off for my license.  I continued to fly and take instruction there for several months afterwards.

About mid-December Dee asked me if I’d been up to see the Christmas lights from the air.  I hadn’t, but I was just getting checked out in her 172 at the time, so she said we’d go up at night to see them.  On the night we planned to go up it was pretty hazy with only 3 miles reported visibility.  I was a little hesitant to go because I was worried that, as the temperature dropped, so would the visibility, and the field would become IFR.  Not to worry, said Dee, we’ll just stay in the pattern and then we can land even if the visibility drops.  I said I didn’t think that we could see much in the way of lights from the pattern, but Dee said we’d see plenty.  So my girlfriend and Dee and I piled into the 172 and took off into the night.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that Dee had called the tower and told them that we wanted to tour the valley and see the lights. 

On takeoff from Runway 29 the tower told us to fly a “wide downwind.”  I started to turn what I thought was a pretty wide downwind, but Dee insisted that it wasn’t nearly wide enough.  We ended up out by the Pruneyard, and at that time the tower told us to make a “wide 360” for spacing, although there wasn’t much in the way of traffic that night, and, on Dee’s insistence that I make it really wide, that took us all the way out to Los Gatos.  Back near the Pruneyard we were then told to extend our downwind, so we went well out past downtown San Jose before we came back to the airport.  After a couple of other trips around a somewhat extended pattern, I was night current in the 172 and, as promised, we had seen a lot of Christmas lights from the air.  Of course, I had caught on to what was happening about the time we headed out to Los Gatos, so Dee had to confess that she had arranged the whole thing with the tower but didn’t want to let me in on it right away.  For me, it was quite a memorable flight, and I got quite a kick out of Dee arranging it.

Pilots tend to get a little blasé about flying, but for folks who don’t fly, night flying over the valley at this time of year is absolutely magical.  For those of you who aren’t night current, this is a great time of the year to go up and do a few night take offs and landings.  And when you are current, grab your spouse, significant other, or a couple of friends and go up to see the lights.  You’ll enjoy it.  You might want to pick a nice clear, calm night, though, because that’s the best for passengers---and because the tower controller might not be as cooperative as the one at SJC that night. 

From all the owners:  Best Wishes for the Holidays and a Very Happy New Year!!


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Decision Making: FlyQ Review

AOPA recently launched the FlyQ Pocket application for mobile devices (iPhone and Android). It is a comprehensive flight companion using your current location to provide relevant information for airports, weather, and flight planning. Having all this useful information on my mobile device (iPhone) is super handy plus I can make better pre-flight and in-flight decisions based on current information. Of course, I would not have my phone on during-the-flight…J Let’s take a closer look at FlyQ.

The Airport screen displays airports sorted by distance, identifier, name, or recently viewed. If you click on KPAO for example, a new page shows detailed airport information including elevation, TPA, runway number/length, lighting, fuel, aerial picture, frequencies, and nearby navaids. If you click the weather tab, you get current METAR and TAF (KSJC is the closest TAF). Two additional tabs, services and nearby airports, provides a list of KPAO services (FBOs, car rental, taxis, restaurants, attractions, FAA info) and links to nearby airports. I really like the airport look-up by identifier or name (or city).

The Weather screen shows local, regional, and national weather products. There is a weather Gallery tab (US or Canada) which lists Airmets/sigmets, freezing levels, icing, radar, prog charts, and satellite.

Flight planning is fun and reasonably easy. After entering my DUAT (DTC) information (FlyQ only works with DTC DUAT) and selecting my aircraft, I entered… From: KSQL and To: KGEG (Spokane) using Victor Airways. I selected optimize-for-best-winds, then clicked “Create” flight plan. Wow, I quickly received a flight plan (auto routing) with eleven VOR/Intersection waypoints. I can edit my route by adding or removing waypoints. It is only 673 nm, 7 hours, and 63.4 gallons to Spokane in a C172…L Looks like I will need to stop several times for fuel and breaks.

The Good and the Bad – TFRs are clearly labeled “Temporary Flight Restrictions”, but unfortunately they are buried (FDC text) way-down in the weather briefing section.

Checkout FlyQ on the AOPA website…good and free...)


Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor

The Best Laid Plans

We all know that when you’re flying IFR, there are three flight plans involved: the one you plan and file, the one you’re cleared for, and the one you actually fly.  Only a fool would believe they’d be same.  Mostly we think of the differences as being caused by ATC, but that isn’t always the case, and as you may have guessed at this point, I have a story.

A little background:  I got a call from a man in the process of buying a Pilatus PC-12.  Good deal – it was a 2001 model, Series 10, which had spent the past 11 years with a single corporate owner, professionally flown, and maintained according to factory recommendations, just completed an Annual Inspection, all of which had been verified by a very experienced broker.  The gentlemen wanted me to help him fly it from Hanscom Field (just outside Boston) back to California (since he hadn’t been to Pilatus school yet, a condition of his coverage).  Of course I could do that, so we laid out our plans.  Since he had “taken delivery” of the plane in Denmark and had a US N number already assigned, along with a current, permanent US registration, he had it ferried to Boston, where we’d pick it up and fly it back to California.

My job(s) were to plan the flights from Hanscom to Reno (which meant at least one stop, and with bad weather, perhaps two), from Reno to Phoenix, and from Phoenix to San Jose.  In addition to planning the flights, I would get the owner some practical experience in the plane, and begin training him on the planning process, and the procedures and discipline necessary to fly a plane like that.  Pretty straight-forward stuff, I thought.

Plan A – Arrive at the plane late Sunday after the commercial flight and a rental car ride.  Meet the ferry pilot, and get the keys and documents.  Have a leisurely dinner, spend the night, and fly out early the next morning to stop at Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on to Reno for the night, then on to Phoenix the next morning and back to San Jose.  Clearly a bit more flesh needed to put on those bones, but it was a place to start.

Flying (commercial) out to Boston, we discovered by way of the ferry pilot, that the flaps wouldn’t extend on the Goose Bay – Bangor leg, so the ferry pilot brought it into Hanscom without flaps.  Not good, and not the way either the new owner or I wanted to fly the plane.   And, oh by the way, the GPS database was the current Atlantic DB, great for flying to Iceland, Greenland, and Goose Bay.  But if we wanted to fly anywhere in the US we needed a US database.

Plan B – Fly to Manchester, NH Monday morning, where there is a Pilatus service center to get the flaps fixed and get the US database installed.  But to get there IFR, we needed to use a combination of raw data (VORs) and user-defined waypoints to do the departure procedure and to fly direct to the en route and approach waypoints.  And that probably meant we wouldn’t spend Monday night in Reno.

By the time the flap and database issues were sorted out and we got the plane refueled, it was already 1600 local, which would put us into Reno somewhere after midnight.  Recognizing that as a dumb idea, we came to:

Plan C – Fly to Pierre, SD for the night.  With full fuel, we can go that far and still have a 500 pound reserve (which is about as low as I like to take a PC-12).  The forecast showed we wouldn’t need to put the plane into a hangar, as there wouldn’t be any icing overnight, allowing an early start without the cost of a hangar.

The en route winds were stronger than forecast at flight level 240, which I’d planned as a nice compromise between flight time and fuel burn.  That made it a bit iffy about arriving with a fuel reserve that would make me feel warm and fuzzy.  Especially if ATC chased us around as they often do.

Plan D – Ask for and get FL280.  Climb as rapidly as possible, and then maintain the altitude as long as possible before descending.  Even though the winds were stronger at altitude, and even though we could have made it into Pierre as much as 20 minutes earlier by flying lower, this way we landed with the “required” reserve, taxiing in with 36 pounds more than my personal minimum. 

After an early morning preflight, we started the engine and even before pulling out of the parking space, the Environmental Control System (ECS – a fancy way of saying the heating and pressurization system) turned off without anyone touching it.  It died repeatedly during the taxi and we took off un-pressurized.

Plan E – Our maximum altitude is now 12,000, which is too low for the MEAs (Minimum En route Altitudes) required for instrument flight, and it’s really IFR out there.  Fortunately, we have oxygen aboard so we could (for limited times) romp up to altitudes in the 20,000 range or higher as required.  But it meant landing with less fuel than I’d planned, but still above the required 500 pounds.  And it meant refilling the Oxygen tanks in Reno.

After picking up our passengers in Reno and heading to Phoenix, everything worked exactly as planned.  However, between Phoenix and San Jose while at Flight Level 260, the ECS quit again, not to restart. 

Plan F – Call ATC, explain that we have a pressurization problem and ask for 14,000 immediately and 12,000 as a final.  ATC asked if we were declaring an emergency.  The cabin was bleeding down slowly, not an explosive depressurization, so we had time to get below 14,000 feet before the cabin altitude climbed to over 14,000.  Fortunately, all the MEAs from there into San Jose were below 12,000, so we had no problems with oxygen.

Plans A through F were just the ones that changed due to circumstances and our reactions to them.  Of course, there were any number of other routing changes initiated by ATC.

The bottom line is that some changes occur in time to update your plans before the flight; some cause you to make changes during the flight.

Fortunately, most flights require fewer plan changes and smaller ones than this one.  Still, it was a great flight.


David Vital, Director of Maintenance


Happy Holidays West Valley Flying Club!! The maintenance department would like to wish you a wonderful and happy holiday! The maintenance department would like to remind you that there will be no MX Q&A pizza party in the month of December!! Our next MX Pizza Party will be held in the hanger on Jan 25th @ 12:00 p.m.  January is a new year and we will start out fresh with new information in our monthly newsletter. If you have any questionsor topics you would like this article to address, please feel free to email me at Please have a happy and safe holiday!!

Student and New Pilot Group

Bucket List!

The Student and New Pilot group met at the San Carlos WVFC Club House for a holiday celebration marking the beginning of the second year for this group. These meetings have been attracting various pilots from the Bay Area that meet to share information.  In addition to enjoying some holiday festivities and food the group reviewed a list of over 50 new pilot bucket list items. On the bucket list were flights specifically targeted at new nearby destinations, flights oriented around food, flights designed to stretch a new pilot’s skills and flights just for fun. The entire list is available on the Student and New Pilots Support group website. Just for fun, the group took all the items and came up with the top four, which are:

  1. Land at all the bay area airports including: Oakland, San Jose, Reid-Hillview, Palo Alto, San Carlos, Hayward, Buchannan, and Half Moon Bay
  2. Do a ‘Bravo surface transition’ with SFO Tower (120.5); Bay Area Tour with a friend who is new to flying
  3. Have lunch at Harris Ranch (the tri-tip is great, but the service can sometimes be slow!)
  4. Have breakfast / lunch at Petaluma (closed Mondays)

A key benefit to this group is the opportunity to share information and meet other pilots. We invite any interested pilot to our next meeting which will be on January 7th at 7:00 PM at WVFC San Carlos. The topics for discussion at the next meeting will be:

Weather Forecasts and Briefing – Lloyd Stephens, a seasoned pilot, will share his approach to checking WX including which sites to check.

Destination Boonville (D83) – Herb Patten will provide a trip report from a recent flight to D83

Everyone is welcome and in addition to getting some free food you will have a great chance to meet your fellow pilots in an informal setting.

To subscribe to this group, please email: The presentation from this session is posted on this group site.

Please contact or  if you would like additional information.

WOW – Women of West Valley Flying Club

Flyout to Watts-Woodland

On Saturday, December 8, the Women of West Valley (WOW) joined with the Santa Clara 99s and the Santa Clara Airmen's Association for a flyout to Watts-Woodland. Between 11:15 and 11:45, planes started rolling in and pilots, students and companions assembled on the tarmac - there weren't enough tie downs for all the planes!

After shivering in the cool breeze outside while more planes tried to squeeze in and many photos were snapped, the crowd headed inside for a lovely lunch specially set up for the group by the Yolo Flyers Country Club Restaurant. A whopping twenty-nine people sat down to order lunch, as we began a round of introductions. Old friends gathered at tables with new, swapping stories and news, as tasty plates of food arrived and disappeared. Then, hunger sated and group photos posed for, everyone headed back to the planes, ready to get back into the air and pursue the real passion of the day - flying!

PAO Tower Tour

Being a curious student pilot I jumped at the opportunity when asked if I would be interested in joining WOW, the 99s and others for a tour of PAO ATC on Monday 26th November. In exchange for some well deserved goodies, Stewart and his colleagues showed 10 very willing participants around the small-but-perfectly-formed viewing station in the tower.

After an initial security check we were escorted up several steps to the top where we watched the communication process between airplane, transponder, ground and tower. While Stewart explained the workings of the 11 mile radius radar system, one of his colleagues took the 125.00 ground radio by adding all tail numbers to his work station. Meanwhile, another colleague managed the 118.60 tower frequency guiding planes into and out of PAO airspace.

This visit was a wonderful chance for any pilot - be they a student or an experienced pilot - to see for themselves the human side to the ATC voice that greets them over the airwaves. Special thanks go out to PAO Air Traffic Control for taking the time to show us around and explain the process. Thank you!

Jayne Pearce

Feature Article

Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC

Lessons from the Actuary

As regular readers know, my wife and I had our first child in February.  So, in light of my flight instruction and general aviation pursuits, I went shopping for life insurance beginning in July.  I started with the company with which I have home and car insurance.  I'm in good health and got back a reasonable quote.  When I added that I was a pilot, the rate went up by about fifty percent.  When I said I was a flight instructor (never mind that it's only around ten flight hours a month), the rate went up four hundred percent.  In fact, the premium was more than I would earn from flight instructing in an average month.  Needless to say, I needed to find another solution.

I learned of a reputable insurer, Minnesota Life that seems to have hit upon an actuarial formula that makes sense.  Their premium adjustment for aviation activities, including flight instruction, was minimal as long as I was instrument rated and flew at least fifty hours a year but not more than two hundred.  From a life insurance perspective, that was a big win for me.  Their formula is also interesting when looking at managing the risk of flying generally.

First, let's look at the instrument rating requirement.  The instrument rating requires fifty hours of cross-country time and an additional forty hours of flight instruction.  Additionally, an instrument-rated pilot learns a good deal more about nasty weather and how to work with air traffic control.  An instrument-rated pilot will also be much less likely to scud run when a quick call to ATC will get the pilot into the system and guided home via a variety of navigation aids.  So, the actuaries have determined that this really does make a difference.  In the Bay Area, an instrument ticket also means that a low stratus layer becomes a slight inconvenience instead of delaying or canceling a flight.

The second half of the formula is flying time.  The insurance company says that if you want to fly, you need to fly fifty hours a year to keep the reduced rate.  Well, that makes sense: fifty hours a year is about four hours or two two-hour flights a month.  I usually tell people that I notice my skills deteriorate if I don't fly at least once every ten days.  The average West Valley pilot flies about 1.3 hours per month.  That's enough to remain current, but not necessarily proficient.  That average number is not particularly useful: seeing the distribution would be more illuminating.  Nevertheless, that's an awful lot of pilots who are not getting to fifty hours a year.  If you're one of these pilots, recall why you got your certificate in the first place and get out and fly!  Go to a new airport, take a friend on a Bay Tour, and take a trip to Vegas, Santa Barbara, Mendocino, Napa, or Reno.  Take your family to brunch in Petaluma, Hollister, Los Banos or even Half Moon Bay or Livermore.  The more you fly, the safer you'll be as a pilot.

For all of us, safety in aviation includes managing the various risks.  The safest thing to do is to stay home and not drive to the airport and fly: roads and cars are dangerous.  Since we've all decided to fly and find great joy in flying, it's great news that one of the best ways to be a safe pilot is to fly often.