G'day!

G'day

G'day! and welcome to my blog's new home. I'd like to say a big 'cheers mate' to Clay for building me such a fabulous new house.

Here you will find my articles and blogs from the sky documenting my aerial adventure across Australia, and sometimes - when I'm very lucky - around the world!

Lots of airyplanes, plenty of new shoes and hopefully many undiscovered places.


Blue skies,
Kree

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

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Home

I have long held a theory that people have a country to which they instinctively belong. For many unfortunates, that’s not necessarily the country they’re born in, or even the one in which they end up residing. Rather like those who feel they were born in the wrong gender, I have always felt I was born in the wrong country (not to mention the wrong time period!) Growing up, I felt little affinity with Wales, and spent my entire youth with a sense of not belonging (although, what youth doesn’t?!)

When I was sixteen, my ‘very serious’ boyfriend emigrated to the United States, and his father kindly bought me a ticket to visit, to ease our poor, pining souls. The moment I landed in Philly, I knew I was home. Despite living in many locations, I’ve spent my life trying to get back to America. I lived for a year in Missoula, Montana; spent a whole summer working in Wildwood, New Jersey; enjoyed my 29th birthday in New York; house-swapped in San Francisco and flew across Michigan upon acquiring my pilots licence. Yet circumstances have always forbidden me to live here. Try as I might, it never happens. So, I have to content myself with holidays over here every few years. This year, I have the ultimate excuse: the EAA’s AirVenture, the greatest air show on earth!

I love so much about America – the hospitality, the lovely warm people, the natural optimistic can-do attitude, the food – but most of all, I love the American attitude towards general aviation. It’s the exact opposite to our ‘service with a snarl, VFR pilots are a nuisance, user pays – sometimes even for touch and goes! – ridiculously priced, tall poppy’ industry.

The last time I visited, I was smitten by the FBOs. The idea that every airport has a facility dedicated to aiding pilots, with fuel, with drinks, with booking a car, was unfathomable to me, coming from Australia. I’ve landed at so many airports where there is nary a soul to be seen, where I’ve tied down my aircraft next to those with grass growing over the wheels, and returned days later to no change or movement in anything. Don’t get me wrong, we in Australia have a fabulous community of pilots, and when I flew solo across Oz on my Biggus Trippus, I met some incredible people. However, I’ve dedicated many words in detailing what’s wrong with Australia’s aviation industry here, on the blog; in the mag I have a strong ‘anti-whingeing policy’ which I stand by; we ALL know we’re lacking in the service industry and whining about it does not change things. That doesn’t mean, though, that I can’t celebrate what’s so damn wonderful about flying in America.

Having had a fabulous flight over with Air New Zealand (I flew their new, modernized premium economy, which was tip-top) I spent a few days in LA. Someone, somewhere, had mentioned there’s a special VFR lane through LA, which takes you right over the top of LAX. After a little research, I found a flying club in Long Beach who were happy to hire me and aircraft and instructor for the trip.

Long Beach Flying Club is a charming club/flying school located at the fab regional airport, half an hour south of LA (or $110 in a cab, damn that traffic!) They have a massive fleet of training aircraft, Warriors and Cessnas, etc. Having turned up early, as is my curse, I explored the aerodrome, and found a café overlooking the rwy. Heaven!

Ready to Fly, LA Style

 When I arrived at the club, and was introduced to my instructor, Brian, I was informed that the weather was too rubbish to let us out. Used to being thwarted by the evil weather gods, I wasn’t entirely surprised and repaired to the ‘washroom’ to commence the Dance of the CAVOK. An hour later, the clouds lifted, and we were off, with me flying, and Brian doing all of the radio work.

Instructor Brian, who was calm, patient and fabulous


Long Beach, normally a thriving airport of both RPT and GA, was quiet due to the cloud, but I’m still thankful Brian covered the radio; the calls seemed so long and complicated. Otherwise, all was familiar inside the little Cherokee as we took off on the giant runway and pointed north for LA. The VFR Special Rules requires no submitting of a flight plan, and although the radio work seemed heavy during the LAX portion, for the latter part of the flight, the radio was eerily quiet, with only one other pilot flying the route. The route is reminiscent of our Vic One, with a harbour scenic (apart from the scenic requires a flight plan). The scattered cloud allowed us to climb to 4500ft and we tracked directly over the top of LAX, which was incredible, before heading up the coast to Santa Monica. Overhead Malibu, where the celebs live, we descended to 1800ft and tracked Hollywood and then downtown LA.


overhead LAX


It’s only from the air that I had any sense of the enormity of LA. It truly is a gigantic, sprawling city, and denser than any I’ve ever seen from a light aircraft. In the case of an engine failure, we may as well have been over mountains, or water.

Downtown LA



As we headed back towards LGB, the weather gods decided to play one of their amusing tricks and cause the cloud to gather right over the airport. Luckily for me, all instructors in the USA are instrument rated and despite the crudity of our aircraft (no GPS!) Long Beach is equipped with an ILS. To my complete awe (there are very few ILS approaches near us, and as a consequence, I’ve never experienced an ILS) we popped out from the cloud with the rwy right in front of us, with Brian using only the CDI! At 800ft, he handed the controls back to me, and I landed on the numbers on the giant runway. It was such an exhilarating experience, and once again I wished I had an instrument rating, and vowed to make the time to go and see Lyn in Cowra upon my return.

Them there pesky clouds


And then, upon learning instructors at LBFC earn over $50ph hour, I couldn’t help but think, maybe I CAN find a way to live here. To come on home….




1 comment:

  1. Great yarn Kree. You write in such a relaxed style, much like Bill Bryson. I look forwards to your continuing adventures.

    ReplyDelete