Ma and I had been traveling further afield in our Piper Warrior, with Ma pushing for a trip to Long Beach, CA to visit grandson #1, Alexander, and our son David and daughter-in-law Katie. In the summer of 2010, we decided to go for it.
Flight Day #1, Leg #1 – Renton, WA (KRNT) to Grants Pass, OR (3S8)
After loading up our Warrior with clothes and presents, we took off from Renton into a gorgeous summer morning sky with unlimited visibility. From Renton we headed to Lake Tapps, Thun Field (KPLU), and flew a long leg direct to Scappoose, OR (KSPB), climbing to a comfortable 7,500 ft cruise altitude. We had great views of Mt Rainier, Mt St Helens, Mt Adams and Mt Hood. We continued west of Portland direct to Salem (KSLE) with more mountain views of Mt Jefferson, the Three Sisters, Mt Bailey and Mt Thielsen en route to Eugene (KEUG) and Roseburg (KRBG) into Grants Pass (3S8). I flew a standard left traffic pattern into Grants Pass, hugging the local hills as we descended into the pattern. We used the convenient self-service gas, and enjoyed a picnic lunch in the shade of the local FBO’s front bench. 2.9 hours for the leg.
Flight Day #1, Leg #2 – Grants Pass, OR (3S8) to Santa Rosa, CA (KSTS)
We climbed out from Grants Pass in the 90-degree heat and headed southwest toward the coast. I decided to cruise just inside the coastline for better scenery, instead of heading inland along the I-5 corridor. We again climbed to 7500 ft and cruised through the mountains to Illinois Valley (3S4) to Ward (0O9) to Klamath Glen (S51) to Arcata (KACV) to Shelter Cove (0Q5) to Little River (KLLR) to Geter intersection to Santa Rosa/Sonoma County (KSTS). The marine layer was hugging the Oregon and California coast throughout this leg, keeping airports like Shelter Cove in the fog. The weather was gorgeous as we descended for a straight-in to runway 14 at Santa Rosa/Sonoma County. Another 2.9 hours for the leg. We received top-notch service from the folks at Kaiser Air Jet Center, including a shuttle to the Hilton Garden Inn for our overnight stay.
Flight Day #2, Leg #3 – Santa Rosa, CA (KSTS) to San Luis Obispo (KSBP)
After great service at Kaiser Air, we packed, just as a number of large business jets began arriving for the 'Bohemian', a yearly gathering of politicians and leaders just west of Santa Rosa. The marine layer had cleared early, and we took off at 9:15 and quickly contacted NORCAL approach for flight following through San Francisco's Class Bravo airspace. NORCAL was extremely accommodating, asking that we just stay west of the San Francisco International airport (KSFO) and the Woodside VOR, and we had a painless transit of the SF Class Bravo. The Golden Gate Bridge was still in the clutches of the marine fog, providing an impressive sight sticking out of the clouds, while the main San Francisco bay and city area were mostly clear and sunny. Our route continued just east of Monterey Bay, which was in the clouds, to Salinas (KSNS), Mesa Del Ray (KKIC), Paso Robles (KPRB) and into San Luis Obispo (KSBP). Tower cleared us for a right downwind entry, and we taxied to the self-service pumps for a quick turn. 2.6 hours for the leg.
Flight Day #2, Leg #4 – San Luis Obispo to Long Beach (KLGB)
We had planned on lunch at the San Luis Obispo airport, but taxiway construction had blocked all the normal transient parking for the terminal restaurant. We decided to snack in-flight and get to Long Beach early. We followed a Regional Jet and back-taxied onto the runway, then launched and began our final leg south. We overflew Santa Maria (KSMX), then turned southeast near Santa Barbara (KSBA) to Camarillo (KCMA) to Santa Monica (KSMO). From Santa Monica, we smoothly crossed right over LAX at 3500 ft using the Special Flight Rules corridor. Long Beach tower cleared us to Signal Hill for a left downwind to runway 25L. The Long Beach Flying Club graciously provided transient parking, and Katie and Alexander welcomed us to southern California. 1.8 hours for this last leg, 10.2 hours since takeoff at Renton. Super weather and great flights made for an awesome trip.
In Long Beach, we enjoyed visiting Alexander, Katie and David, as we toured the Warbirds collection at the Planes Of Fame Air Museum at Chino, sampled brews at the San Diego Stone Sour Fest, enjoyed swimming daily with Alexander, and cruised on the Catalina Express to Avalon on Catalina Island, and enjoyed the Long Beach Quilt Festival. It was an awesome week!
Flight Day #3, Leg #5 – Long Beach to Salinas (KSNS)
The week in Long Beach went too fast, but the morning marine layer cleared out fairly quickly, so we packed up the Warrior again, said our goodbyes, and launched from Long Beach at 10:00 AM. Skies were a bit hazy over LAX and Santa Monica, but cleared as we headed north near Santa Barbara and Santa Maria. The marine layer was thick all along the coast, however, as we proceeded north. We decided to avoid all the airport construction at San Luis Obispo, so we overflew it and continued on past Paso Robles, stopping for refueling at Salinas (KSNS). 2.8 hours for this leg. We received great service and fuel prices from Jet West, and had a great lunch at the Landing Zone Restaurant, now called the Flying Artichoke.
Flight Day #3, Leg #6 – Salinas to Santa Rosa
After our great evening stopover in Santa Rosa/Sonoma County on the way south, we decided it was too good to pass up heading north. From Salinas, we continued north paralleling the coast, which was still covered in a thin marine layer that was hugging the shoreline. Again, NORCAL approach was very easy to work with, only requesting that we again stay west of the San Francisco airport as we cruised through the Class Bravo airspace. The Golden Gate Bridge was completely in the clouds, but the area north of San Francisco was quite clear. Our radios started blinking and transmitting weakly as we descended into Santa Rosa, which had a number of aircraft in the pattern. We sequenced in for a left pattern to runway 14, and had to go around due to an aircraft at the end of the runway that was late in crossing. A quick right pattern put us on the ground for a 1.5 hour leg, the shortest of the trip. The Kaiser Air Jet Center ramp was full of business jets in for the Bohemian, but we again had great service and enjoyed a night in the Hilton Garden Inn.
Flight Day #4, Leg #7 – Santa Rosa to Eugene, OR
The forecast marine layer kept the temperatures down, and burned off right on schedule, allowing a takeoff at 10:30 AM. We planned this to be our longest leg, and climbed to 8500 feet in the clearing skies. The clouds along the coast were still thick, but inland was clear as we passed over Little River, east of Shelter Cove, then overhead Arcata, Klamath Glen and Ward. Into Oregon, we flew to the west of Grants Pass and over Roseburg as we descended for a straight-in into Eugene's runway 34R. 3.5 hours for the leg, our longest yet in the Warrior! I refueled in the 90+ degree breeze, and jumped in to start for our last leg home, but no luck! Try as we might, even with support from the local FBO at Flightcraft, our starter would not engage. Since it was Sunday afternoon, we decided to work with a mechanic on Monday morning. Flightcraft scraped up the last room at the Marriott, and we enjoyed dinner at the nearby Hop Valley Brewery. Being flexible!
Flight Day #5, Leg #8 – Eugene to Puyallup, WA (KPLU)
Arriving back at the airport after our overnight, we found the Flightcraft mechanic at work removing our cowl. I helped, and we lubricated the starter, which cranked right away during a quick test. We loaded up and were airborne for our last leg at 9:55 AM. It was a glorious day again with super visibility, and it was great viewing all our 'local' volcanic peaks as we headed north. We cruised smoothly over Salem, but started getting more radio and electrical problems as we flew near Portland. Seattle Center, which we were using for flight following, noted that our transponder was intermittent, as everything electrical in the cockpit started to act up. I cancelled flight following, and started our descent, now committed to a landing at Crest Airpark in Kent, since we wouldn't have radios for Renton. We later found out that our alternator had basically given up, so our battery had been discharging as it fed our electrical needs. I had turned off most electrical items awhile back, but as the battery became low enough to cause our fuel gauge to start misreading, it was time to land! We were perfectly positioned to descend into the pattern at Thun Field/Pierce County (KPLU) airport in Puyallup, rock our wings for no radios, and land. 1.8 hours for the final leg, 19.9 hours total for the round trip. As we taxied to a welcoming parking slot, Mary noted "Well, that was an adventure"... and it was! Our neighbor Rose picked us up that afternoon, bringing us safely home after a fun trip!
Our alternator was the problem, so after a replacement was acquired and installed, I flew our Warrior back from Puyallup to Renton to complete the trip a few days later! Ready to fly again!