Flight to Maker Faire

It’s always nice when you confirm another fact from your POH. This weekend I confirmed that you can safely fly an Archer with people in all four seats. It helps a great deal if one is a kid and you don’t take a lot of gas or luggage. We were at about gross weight and I could tell, but overall 32169 performed like a champ. The pilot seemed to do OK, too, but I’ll admit a strong desire to just jerk the little bugger off that 2600 foot runway at San Carlos (SQL).

The occasion was the Make magazine-sponsored Maker Faire in San Mateo. Aaron Falk talked me into taking him and his daughter up (fly to the Bay Area? not a hard sell), and when she saw the program Brenda was interested, too.

We got a good early start out of SMO (well, as early as the weekend curfew allows – 8:00 AM) and stopped in San Luis Obispo (SBP) for gas. There was a solid undercast most of the trip, but we spent most of the trip on top at 8000. It was cold enough for ice, but no clouds. We got to shoot an approach into SPB, but broke out at the FAF, so not so exciting. I did get an automated altitude check alert from the tower, but wasn’t ever below a charted altitude. I think it was one of those trend-based alarms that didn’t like my steep decent to each step down. At any rate a nice flight.

From there IFR to SQL. Another fun, mostly on-top flight. Only really in IMC while getting vectored for the approach. The controller pretty much put me into the clouds just in time to get busy, vector me around, and then I popped out at the FAF again. SQL is in a busy corner of the woods.

Coming out of SQL on Sunday, I got a fairly complex VFR/IFR departure clearance but the rest of the flight was pretty straightforward. Aaron would make a fine flight instructor with the number of questions he asks during departure, but that was actually good practice dealing with the distraction. And he was happy to take “I’ll tell you in a minute” as an answer. I actually got some IMC this flight as the cloud deck slowly rose up to meet us outside SBP (another gas stop). Overall a pretty smooth flight.

The last leg was equally pleasant. Departing full from a 5300′ runway is much easier on the nerves than a 2600 footer. We flew through one cloud on departure and descended through a layer over the LA basin and were in at SMO. Between there we cruised above layers and Brenda taught Aaron’s daughter to knit.

We did get to see a one of a kind phenomenon. Up above the clouds in an airplane you often get a circular rainbow centered around the shadow of the plane, called a glory. As we turned east from San Marcos, we were flying right out of the sun, and as it set it arranged itself directly behind us both laterally and vertically. Everything was perfectly aligned so that as we entered a cloud bank on descent we met a very clear glory-haloed silhouette of the Archer perfectly nose to nose. It was a 120 knot collision with the fantastic that you can only see from the front seat, and well worth the trip.
The faire deserves a post to itself, and it’ll get one.

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