So goes the famous line from “Field of Dreams.” What does that have to do with a Mooney fly-in? Allow me to explain…
About a year ago we had a fly-in at Harris Ranch. It was my first fly-in and it was a lot of fun. This was followed by an unsuccessful attempt to put together another fly-in later in the year that didn’t go anywhere. In February I started another thread over on the Mooneyspace forums in to see if there was some interest for a fly-in and what ideas people had for a location. There were ideas posted for a few different locations and then Phil Corman of The Mooney Flyer magazine offered to host the event at his hangar in Paso Robles (thinking that we would get the usual 6-8 planes). Everyone agreed that setting would lend itself much better for visiting.
With a location decided upon we needed a date. Another thread was started with a poll to choose the date that worked best and whichever would get the most people would be the date. The poll went back and forth but eventually April 14th was set as the date and it looked like we would get maybe 10-12 planes.
Phil was an amazing host and has been described as having the infectious spirit of a 6 year old. He was so excited that there were over 50 planes registered that he said he woke up at 3am and couldn’t go back to sleep, it was like Christmas as a kid.
Into the picture stepped Michael Rodgers who just got his new to him Mooney a few months ago and he has every bit as much an infectious spirit as Phil. Seeing that there was no Mooney Club here on the west coast Mike started one. It was originally a California club, but Mooneys are for travelling so it was changed to the West Coast Mooney Club. As Mike worked with Phil on the details he secured sponsors and the event grew, and grew, and grew… They even arranged for Richard Simile from Mooney to fly in a brand new Acclaim Ultra for everyone to drool over, and I think everyone did. By the week of the fly-in there were over 50 planes registered and nearly 100 guests. So, “If you build it (or pick a date) they will come….”
The weather the day of the fly-in was perfect. The winds were light and the skies were clear. I brought my wife and son along with a friend of his who had never been in a small plane before. We stayed low at 4,500′ (there’s more to see down low) which was just high enough to slip over the hills north of Santa Barbara. My wife had been wanting to fly over the hills while they were still green from the spring rains before the summer heat turned them brown and we were not disappointed. The hills were beautiful and we even flew past some with golden fields of poppies.
As we began our descent into Paso Robles I started monitoring the CTAF and could hear other Mooneys on the frequency. We entered the pattern on a left downwind to 19 behind two other Mooneys and were soon taxiing to parking .
Phil greeted us at the plane as I shut down the engine and someone else came by with a welcome bag of stuff. It was perfect. There was a huge ramp area for everyone to park at right in front of a beautiful hangar that they had decorated and set up tables and chairs in.
I grabbed a radio that a friend had given me and went out to help direct arrivals while my wife joined Linda in the kitchen to help out.
The planes kept coming, and coming, and coming… Paso Robles is a non-towered field and everyone made great radio calls so that even with all the planes coming in and the regular traffic it was as smooth as any of the busy Saturdays I spent training at a towered field.
Oakland Center controls the airspace in that area and I think it was John who said as he was coming in they mentioned to him that there were a lot of Mooneys heading to Paso Robles and asked if there was something going on. He told them we were having a fly-in and that there was going to be about 50 planes coming. The Controllers response was “I think I’ve already landed 100.” He followed that up with a request to not have everyone leave at the same time.
Eventually all of the space on the ramp was taken and the last few planes were squeezed in at the ends. Kelly had brought a drone and had clearance to fly it over the ramp to get video of all the planes. There were awards given out to the nicest of the different models (difficult with so many beautiful planes there) as well as one to Brice for flying the farthest (he came in from Phoenix). Technically Richard came from a little further in the Ultra, but sponsors don’t win awards do they?
There were presentations by Richard Simile from Mooney on the state of the company and Greg Baker from LASAR. The Acclaim Ultra, the fastest production single engine piston in the world, was a beautiful plane. If someone has an extra $800,000 laying around and doesn’t know what to do with it then they can go ahead and buy me that plane. The food was excellent (there was plenty of it) and the visiting and camaraderie was wonderful.
Eventually it was time for things to wind down and one by one people started pre-flighting their planes, starting up, and taxiing out. The final count was 53 planes (mostly Mooneys) and 125 people. Thank you to Phil and Mike for making the Inaugural Fly In of the West Coast Mooney Club a huge success. I am looking forward to many more in the years to come!