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March 2013 Newsletter

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC


Before I spend my time talking about kids, I would like to spend a little time to talk about women in aviation.  Nationally, women and girls make up only about 6% of the student and pilot population.  So it is with great pleasure to say a huge thank you to WVFC member, Ana Ruiz, for organizing the San Carlos section of the recent Women of Aviation event.  West Valley owners donated their planes, WVFC CFIs and staff donated their time, and the club also contributed money to support the event.  We are hugely grateful to the many people who supported the event which turned into a huge success in terms of numbers of girls and women attending, the number of intro flights given, and the great women speakers at the event.  I am so proud that it was WVFC that was at the center of much of this event and we were all able and willing to give so much.  Thank you.

There’s little doubt in my mind that the future of GA lies in the hands of our kids.  And these kids already have a lot of distractions beyond airplanes and flying.  So, as a club, we’ve decided to up our efforts to make the club more inviting and interesting for kids.

There are some little things and larger projects underway.  If you come into the lobby of the club, you’ll find coloring and activity books, specifically designed by us, for the younger kids.  It’s fun, educational, and plants an early seed in their minds that aviation, planes, and flying are both fun and interesting.  While they’re coloring, they also get to pet one of the coolest aviation cats in the business – Fizzdo - who provides endless hours of entertainment for these kids.

We currently have several young kids learning to fly at the club.  They range in age from as young as 11 all the way through high school.  Just a couple of weeks ago we had a kid solo on his 16th birthday.

Now we’re embarking on another new program: a summer camp for high school kids.  The camp is a week long, with about 6 hours of activities each day.  Each kid will get to spend about 10 hours in a plane, of which 5 hours will be at the controls.  There will be planned trips to places of interest like ATC facilities, aviation museums and more.  There is a minimum of 2 kids required per week and the program will run various weeks between early June and late August.  The cost is $995 per person for the week and includes everything except lunch money.  A deposit of $495 is required to reserve a spot.

Please contact Ashley Porath, if you are interested in the summer camp program.

We are planning other initiatives specifically for kids and as details emerge you will be the first to know.  In the meantime, bring your kids down to the club and show them around.  Fizzdo will be there to greet them.

Jesse Gamueda, Chief Pilot WVFC

Tower Closure!

So, you may or may not have heard about the possible tower closure at the San Carlos airport.

Because of the sequestration order in effect in Washington about 200 airport towers may be closed to facilitate mandatory budget cuts.  Let me repeat that; Airport towers, not airports!

This is a very real concern of ours here at West Valley Flying Club.  Forgive me for my lack of depth in trying to explain in detail what’s happening. 

The Facts;

Congress has mandated budget cuts across all levels of federal government.  This includes but is not limited to, federal law enforcement, VA hospitals, Federal Aviation Administration and so on.

If an airport with an operating control tower has less than 150,000 operations annually and it was federally contracted, then it is currently being considered for tower closure.

San Carlos airport (KSQL) is one of the airports that meet all 3 requirements. 

1.)   Airport with a control tower

2.)   Federally contracted

3.)   Less than 150,000 operations annually

It’s as simple as that! 

After speaking with the airport manager at San Carlos – Gretchen Kelly, on several occasions, she has indicated that she received a letter from the FAA that said SQL has made the short list of the 200 airports being considered.  She has stated that she will know an answer “for sure” on the 18th or 20th of March.

Moving forward – Should our tower be closed, then there will be discussion put in place from our organization along with others about what best safety practices will be implemented.  Non towered airport operations are very different than towered, to be discussed in another article.

However, the real reason for this letter is to inform you that West Valley Flying Club will continue to operate out of the San Carlos airport without the use of a control tower.  Again, Best safety practices will be considered and implemented. 

We will plan on working with the other flight schools, clubs, airport authority, FAA and so on to make sure that we bring you the safest, easiest transition possible without trying to hinder your love of flying. I will repeat.  WEST VALLEY FLYING CLUB will continue operations as usual, taking the necessary steps to facilitate airport operations without a control tower.  Should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me or anyone of our very capable instructors regarding any changes. Regardless, I appreciate and thank you for your time!

Since going to press, we have learned that the tower at SQL will remain open.

Lloyd Stephens, Aircraft Owner WVFC  

Mountain Winds

Photo left: Lenticular clouds indicative of a mountain wave near Bishop, CA. The mountains in the photo are about 10,000 feet, and the cloud bases are about 13,000 feet.


As most of us know, March and April are usually good months for kite flying because the days are frequently windy.  Here in the Bay Area we don’t think too much about wind.  Oh, there are those days when the wind isn’t right down the runway, so you might need some crosswind skills, or is strong enough that it can cause some pretty good turbulence, but generally not too many days when the wind makes flying a small plane almost impossible, unless you literally want to risk your life to do so.

For the last 15 years I have lived part time in the Eastern Sierra, between Mammoth Lakes and Bishop, and have flown extensively out of both airports, and I want to tell you that wind is a considerably different factor when you add in some mountains.  Winds in the Eastern Sierra frequently are strong enough to blow over trees, overturn semi trucks and trailers, and blow portions of the roofs off of buildings.  These are not winds that you want to fly in, particularly in a small plane.

I was once asked by a club member to tell him about the route that I use going to Bishop (essentially along V 230 and over Mammoth Pass, just south of Mammoth Mountain).  He was planning on going to Las Vegas that afternoon.  When I told him that I wouldn’t advise that because the forecast was for wind gusts to 65 mph over the mountain ridges, he said that wouldn’t bother him because he would be flying at 13,500 feet and would be considerably above the ridges.  I don’t think he quite got the concept of how strong the winds can be and how high they can reach.

I was thinking about this the other day when I was reading an article about a recent fatal crash in New Mexico where a Mooney M20E pilot from Texas took off from the Angel Fire airport in winds gusting to 55 mph with a crosswind that exceeded the published limit of the aircraft, after being warned by the airport manager about the winds.  Now the Angel Fire airport is located just to the east of Taos in a mountain valley between peaks that rise to more than 10,000 feet.  The airport elevation is 8380 feet.  There were four people in the plane headed back from a ski trip, so it probably didn’t have a lot of excess power at that altitude.  I don’t think this pilot got the concept of how dangerous this was either.  An article about this can be found at:

Although the article focuses on the fact that the crosswind exceeded the capability of the aircraft, it didn’t appear to be a takeoff problem.  It appeared to me that the pilot just wasn’t able to handle the wind conditions once he got into the air.

So....a little discussion about mountain winds:  Winds generally flow west to east.  This is called zonal flow.  Most of the mountain ranges in California are oriented generally north-south.  That means that the airflow generally is perpendicular to the mountains.  Air flows like water.  It is smooth on the upwind side of an obstacle, and becomes considerably turbulent on the downwind side.  As the air flows upward over a ridge, some of the air continues on up (a mountain wave condition), and some drops sharply downward, forming rotors below the level of the ridge and significant downdrafts on the lee side.  In the Sierra, this flow pattern is enhanced by the fact that the western side rises gradually, while the eastern side drops off sharply.  The air also accelerates when forced between two obstacles, like mountain peaks, and through mountain passes, causing gusty wind conditions.  Even when the winds are light the turbulence can be moderate on the eastern side of the mountains, which is where the Mammoth airport is located.  In these conditions don’t plan to descend just after passing over the ridgeline. Maintain altitude until you are a distance away from the mountains. 

High or low pressure centers can change that flow.  The winds tend to rotate counterclockwise around a low center and clockwise around a high.  The air also tends to be pulled inward toward a low and away from a high.  So winds are not always zonal.  They tend toward southwest before a front passes and then may go east to northeast if the low pressure area drops southward and the winds wrap around the low back toward the west.  And as the low then moves further east, the flow becomes northwest.  Flow that parallels the mountain ridges can cause turbulence, but the turbulence is generally not as significant as that caused by a strong zonal flow on the eastern side of the mountains.  If the wind is form the east or northeast, though, turbulence and downdrafts can be expected on the western side of the mountains.

So far we’ve pretty much been talking about the winds over the ridges.  If you check the winds aloft forecast it can tell you a lot.  Look at both the force of the winds and the direction (generally given in true--not magnetic--direction).  I generally don’t want to fly over the Sierra if the winds aloft at 12,000 feet are in excess of 40 knots, and I like them to be under 30.  Look also at the winds at 18,000, though.  If there is a large discrepancy between the two--winds, for instance, at 30 knots at 12,000, but 65 knots at 18,000--don’t assume it will be fine at 12,000.  That would tend to show a pretty good mountain wave development.  Also, be aware that flight service (now located solely in Prescott) may not be aware of local conditions.  One of the pages that I frequently visit is the NWS page at:  For trips to or over the Mammoth area, or to Tahoe, read the Reno area forecast discussion (AFD) and the appropriate zone forecast (Zone) for a better discussion than you will get from flight service.

Absent a storm condition, the surface winds are pretty predictable in the Eastern Sierra.  It is generally calm in the morning, but as the day heats up the surface winds start to pick up and become gusty in the late morning or early afternoon, reaching a peak about 4:00 pm before tapering off in the evening.  The best flying over there is in the morning as you avoid both the winds and the considerable thermal turbulence that develops on warm days.

I was once on a hike in the Little Rock Creek canyon on a pretty windy day and was able to observe a rare phenomenon.  The temperature was just right so that when the wind swirled around with the gusts that were hitting us, little tornado-like clouds, about 4 to 5 feet long were continually developing and disintegrating.  It was quite amazing, and a little scary, to be able to see exactly what the wind was doing.  I have never seen that before or since.

When flying, it is always a good idea to know from which direction the winds are coming and to visualize what is happening to the air, even if there are no clouds to make it visible.  Being able to do this when you are flying in the mountains is especially important.  This article doesn’t tell you all you need to know to fly safely in the mountains.  You are responsible for learning that.  It’s just something to make you think about winds in the mountains.  Your training and experience is what counts.  Check the forecasts, look carefully at the wind conditions, and evaluate whether you, and the plane, can handle those conditions, before you go.  Fly smart, and make good decisions.  This is a very appropriate quote from the airport manager at the Angel Fire airport after the accident there: “We assume that these pilots are smart enough to realize that they're not God. They can't do everything; the plane's only designed to do so much.”


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Decision Making – Fuel Challenges and Best Practices

Fuel management is important and lack of attention to details can lead to bad results. Let’s look at a couple of fuel related accidents at PAO.

6/23/2011 – A Cessna 172SP entered the traffic pattern at PAO. While turning base leg to final in the pattern, the pilot noticed the aircraft was slightly low and the pilot advanced the throttle forward but the engine did not respond. The NTSB accident report discusses the pilot’s attempt to troubleshoot the problem and unsuccessful attempts to restart the engine. The pilot landed short of the runway in the marsh area to the south of the PAO airport. There was the smell of fuel at the accident site. During the accident investigation, the engine was started and appeared to run normally. The NTSB reason for the loss of engine power was not determined.

What could have gone wrong? Several possibilities are:

1)  Fuel selector not in the Both position resulting in temporary fuel starvation during the turn to final

2)  Fuel selector turned to an empty tank.

3)  Fuel selector in the off or in-between position

4)  Vapor lock in the fuel lines (less likely).

Possibilities 1, 2, and 3 would have been observed, (position of fuel selector) during the investigation and would be pilot attention-to-details related. What is your guess?

8/23/2011 – A Beech 24 had completed about an hour of touch-and-go landings at PAO when the student pilot (instructor in right seat) switched the fuel selector from the right to left fuel tank. Ten minutes later on takeoff and 300 feet above the ground, the engine quit and they landed on a dirt road just north of the PAO airport.  During the aircraft salvage operation, 12 gallons of fuel was removed from the right tank, and 2 “cups” from the left tank. Hmmm…

Below are some Fuel Best Practices - Fuel Awareness

1)     Know how much fuel you have.

a.     Think of fuel not in gallons or pounds, but in hours and minutes.

b.     Add one or two gallons per hour to your computed fuel consumption estimate.

c.     Know for certain how much usable fuel is on board.

2)     Know your aircraft’s fuel system.

3)     Know what’s in your fuel tanks (i.e. grade, contamination free)

4)     Update your fuel status regularly (account for winds and possible weather deviations).

5)     Always land with adequate reserve fuel (1 hour minimum).


Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor

Carnegie Hall

Though ascribed to a variety of piano and violin virtuosos (virtuosi?), the joke remains the same.

As the maestro hurried down the New York sidewalk on the way to work, a stranger, seeing the violin, stopped him to ask, “Excuse me, sir, can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”

The artist nodded and replied, “Practice, practice, practice.”

Regardless of the truth in that joke, it begs the question of what to practice, or, the less elegant one of, “Why bother to practice, I don’t want to go to Carnegie Hall anyway”. OK, so I occasionally over-think things.

The art and science of flying consists of an amazingly large number of skills.  And unlike a gymnast’s routine, they don’t always occur in the same order, one flowing smoothly (one hopes) into the next.  Regardless of how much I practiced gymnastics, it didn’t always work that way for me, though practice did result in higher average performance, fewer disasters, and less damage to various parts of my anatomy (and ego) except on those (entirely too frequent) occasions on which my enthusiasm and confidence exceeded my skill level.  It’s amazing how much you can learn about anatomy by looking at X-rays.  But I digress again …

Let’s start with the second question – why should I practice?  OK, so you don’t intend to be a professional pilot, and maybe aren’t even planning to get an instrument rating or fly in even semi-iffy weather.  What DO you want to do on a flight?  It may be to take a friend on a Bay Tour, or to fly to Seattle or Lake Tahoe for the weekend, or any of a hundred or so things we do on a flight.

However, there are a lot of assumed outcomes and details in any of those objectives.  If you were to be a bit more specific, the Bay Tour, for example might be stated more accurately as, “I want to take my friend on a Bay Tour and do it without violating any FARs.”  Perhaps not the highest bar one could set, but it’s a place to start. 

Getting even more specific, we might include completing the flight safely.  Or we could add our desire to fly so smoothly and comfortably that our passenger would come back and fly with us again.  In any case, when we lay out in detail what we want to do, we can compare it to what we’re doing now.  And if we make the assumption that you are honest and realistic in assessing your skills, you should see that some practice is in order.  It may also lead you toward the first question about, “what should I practice?”

However, even the best of professionals usually goes to another pro to sort out what needs to be practiced.  The top golfers and tennis players go to their favorite pros for skill assessment, and technique improvement.  Why should the process be any different for a private pilot with no intention to turn pro?  You still want to fly safely and smoothly enough that cost-sharing passengers will come back and do it again.

Since we’ve already established (if we’re honest with ourselves) that there is a need for practice, perhaps flying with a pro would point out other areas in which we could practice.

OK, so you fly with a pro once every two years for a flight review, and it’s often a stylized exercise in which you review recent FAR changes and demonstrate that you can fly the plane to the standards of the rating, often doing things you haven’t done in the previous two years.

Now, what if you called up your favorite instructor a few weeks ahead of the BFR instead of simply showing up, and asked him or her to do a skills assessment and (based on that assessment) to lay out a plan to make your goals more attainable?

On the (unfortunately rare) occasions that I am asked to do such an assessment, I like to break it into three pieces: an assessment of how the pilot does things on routine (whatever that means for the pilot involved) flights, how the pilot does things on less frequent flights, or perhaps ones that the pilot is considering, but hasn’t actually done all that often, and finally, how the pilot handles unexpected situations.

It should come as no surprise that such an assessment isn’t performed by doing a one-hour Flight Review any more than a golf pro assesses a golfer’s game by watching a single swing of a driver or iron.

But you WILL be a better pilot when the process is complete.


Electronic Logbooks and Trip Report to Santa Monica

The Student and New Pilot group met at the San Carlos WVFC Club House for a packed meeting. These meetings have been attracting various pilots from the Bay Area that meet to share information. The topic of the meeting included a presentation by Herb and discussion of a number of different electronic logbooks available.  Trip reports, given by our group’s members, continue to be a popular feature. Stoo gave us a report on his recent flight to Santa Monica airport, KSMO.

Herb provided the group with a thorough review including the pros and cons of the three electronic logbooks listed below. Although our group does not want to endorse a particular product, we have included some comments:

·       ZuluLog – Both EX (free) and Platinum (fee/month) versions

·       Pilot Pro - $39.99

·       MyFlightbook – free (good value for the money!)

A discussion as to whether an electronic logbook could be used for the purposes of a check-ride or how CFIs would sign-off flights and endorsements ensued.  The group is still looking into the check-ride question, but is seeking further guidance and will report back its findings next month. Members also offered their solutions including roll your own logbook using Excel, LogTen Pro, and Climb! One of the members shared that they scan their logbook pages on a regular basis to act as backup.

Once again the group was treated to a trip report which provides other pilots information about a specific airport including flight planning and observations about the destination airport. Stoo shared that Santa Monica airport is on the list of AOPA‘s “top 10 endangered” airports.  Noise abatement is very important at this airport therefore it is recommended that you do your homework prior to landing at KSMO.  Of course there is also the LA airspace to navigate as you approach KSMO.  Stoo mentioned that he was vectored a number of times prior to landing. He also shared a very useful tip on what is meant when the tower controller directs you to “angle left” after landing. It is important to note that the airport charges a landing fee by mail – approximately $5 and it will be charged to the owner of the aircraft usually a number of weeks after the trip has taken place.

The airport is only a short cab ride to the beach and is very close to Los Angeles and all the city has to offer.  Stoo recommends going for at least an overnight visit since there is so much to see and do. The Santa Monica trip report includes important and valuable information of interest if you make the flight. It can be found on the web site

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.  The group is going to start rotating meeting locations to accommodate the larger group so please be aware that our next meeting on April 1st at 7:00 PM will be held at the San Carlos Flight Center – upstairs from the West Valley Flying Club facilitates at the San Carlos Airport.

The topics of discussion will be:

·       Oxygen Systems and Usage for Aviation

§  Trip report from Las Vegas

Everyone, whatever and wherever you fly is welcome. In addition to some tasty pizza and soda, 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.


Willows for Lunch

At some point in your flight training comes the big day when it really is cleared for take-off, but in this case I'm not referring to that special solo moment or passing a phase check. I readily admit to being a tad daunted at the prospect of undertaking the whole cross-country cocktail of navigation, pilotage and comms coupled with the added bonus of pleasing a (charming!) backseat audience.

Undeniably, this month's Women of West Valley (WOW) Fly-Out to Willows Glen (KWLW) on Saturday 16th March was a defining flight for me. The low-lying clouds persisted as we all - Patti, Jennifer, Sue and myself - went over the planned route and waxed lyrical about the power of Foreflight. The flight to KWLW would be approximately 150 miles, and, with an allocated W&B fuel allowance of 35 gallons for the C172SP 972TA, we had to ensure we had just the right amount of fuel for the trip.

Once the clouds had dissipated and a backlog of planes had taken off from runway 31 at KPAO, we too were on our way North passed Concord as I checked off my nav log points along the way. Land managers around Willows Glen had chosen this day to burn their pasture for improved productivity but which made navigation and visibility interesting, to say the least.

We were met at KWLW by two of Sue’s students and relatively new pilots John and Bogdan in 669TW. We all eagerly headed to Nancy’s, the very popular airport restaurant that is famous for its pies and where many members of the Ninety-Nines and the Santa Clara Airman’s Assoc. were already tucking into some really tasty looking food. Needless to say, we also fully indulged ourselves and chatted with Patti's very delightful 91 year old mother-in-law Phyllis who had joined us for lunch.

After a brief photo shoot we rolled back into 972TA for a very pleasant journey back to KPAO with Patti at the wheel and a very memorable view of Mt Diablo to the East and the Golden Gate Bridge to the West. Gorgeous!  

Jayne Pearce


Women of Aviation Week....what a success!

In January I contacted the organizers of this international event learned more about this movement whose goal is to empower a new generation of women and girls to become pilots. I decided to join and became the organizer in the Bay Area basing the event in San Carlos Airport, for Women of Aviation International Week. For the last 4 years since all this stated, the idea was to grow this movement into a global scale. This year it was celebrated in the US and 36 other countries, with a final tally of more than 17,000 introductory flights for women  and give them an opportunity to understand why we love what we do and encourage them to become future pilots.

During the event we had the great opportunity to have some speakers presenting at Hiller Museum. Among them was Graciela Tiscareño-Sato, US Air Force Captain, trainer for the KC-135 refilling tanker. We were surprised with the  visit of  Aisha Bowen from NASA. NASA called me a few days before the event and we had the great fortune that another Engineer  was coming to talk to the kids and moms during Sunday's flights - Heater Arnerson - who really wanted to be part of the event. Both of them work in the platform to develop a better way to direct air traffic. Thanks for coming!

After long conversations with CFIs, West Valley, and the help of people at the club, we had the participation of 5 planes  and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the owners for giving these women a taste of flying.

Among the CFI's participating were  Mehdi Dalvand, George Kebbe, Gabe Somma, Steve Gauvin. Lorne Lawry (we miss you).  The private pilots were Francesca Fambrough , Daniel Ruiz , Jersey Orkiszewski , and me with just 2 flights (someone need to be at the desk, right)

On the ground I had the amazing support of  Oanh Tran and Lindsey Evans. We had  a new Commercial pilot helping us on Sunday on the ground- Kellison Park; who is joining West Valley this month. Last but not least, we had  the words of wisdom from  Jesse Gamueda, our Chief pilot, who gave us a few tips and safety briefings.

Everything worked like clockwork...just on Saturday alone, we flew 112 women and girls and our  event total was 211 women flying!!!!  I have been receiving countless emails of gratitude and happiness and many of them  want to part of this amazing adventure that is called flying!

I really do not have enough words to really express my gratitude for the time, dedication and love that all of the participants put to make this event happen. I am looking forward for next year....well maybe....

Ana Uribe Ruiz