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Feature Article 1


FEATURE ARTICLE

Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC tdebber@alum.mit.edu

 

Columbia: A Great Flying Destination

 

Last fall, my family of four was once again looking for a fun flying adventure.  While we enjoy overnight trips, the other things we had going on called for nothing longer than a day trip.  We hadn’t been to Columbia (O22) in a while, so we planned a flight and headed to Gold Country.

 

Columbia is a non-towered airport about an hour flight from San Carlos and Palo Alto.  It sits in the Sierra Foothills at 2120 feet elevation, requiring at least a Low Mountain Checkout to fly a WVFC plane there.  The airport can be somewhat hard to spot, being surrounded by trees and amid rising terrain.  Following the magenta line on the GPS and using Google Maps or other mapping software to visualize the layout before the flight both make it easier to find.

 

The airport has two runways.  The paved runway is 4673 feet long; the turf runway is 2607 feet long.  Of course, unless you’re with an instructor, you have to take the paved runway.  The airport hosts firefighting operations, so during fire season you may be sharing the airport with firefighting aircraft.

 

On the airport is a small terminal with bathrooms and a refrigerator case with ice cream bars for purchase.  Between the two runways is a fly-in campground including flush toilets, hot showers, and fire rings.

 

A main reason to visit the Columbia airport is the Columbia State Park.  The park-town is less than a mile walk from the terminal building. Part of that walk is along a fairly busy road, but it’s not too bad.  The state park preserves the Gold Rush town of Columbia.  Many of the buildings remain from the 1850s.  The town’s businesses and exhibits retain the feel of the Gold Rush era.  If you did not choose ice cream from the airport’s case, there’s an ice cream parlor upon entry to the town.  There’s a place to pan for gold, a stagecoach ride, a blacksmith shop, candle making, a candy store, bookshop, and several curio shops.  There are a few restaurants and saloons in town and just outside the state park.  (Of these, El Jardin Mexican is by far my favorite.)  There are also hotels if you want to make it an overnight but don’t care to rough it in the airport campground.

 

The town has special events throughout the year.  There’s an Easter egg hunt, a Gold Rush Tent City recreation, lantern-lit tours during the winter, several events at Halloween, and a Fly-In on Father’s Day Weekend.  Google “Columbia State Park Events” for links to the festivities.

 

To sum it up, Columbia is a great flying destination.  It’s far enough to count as a cross-country trip.  The terrain near the airport is interesting and different from the Bay Area, without the challenge of crossing the Sierra.  Once there, the town offers everything from a $100 hamburger to an overnight trip taking in a show at the theatre.  The town’s events and the changing seasons offer a reason to come back.

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