Two First Flights

One of the joys of flying is sharing that with others. Sharing it with someone who has never been in a small plane is extra special. That is assuming they enjoy it and don’t get sick, and so far, my track record on both those accounts is perfect. This month…
Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
25 Oct 2023

One of the joys of flying is sharing that with others. Sharing it with someone who has never been in a small plane is extra special. That is assuming they enjoy it and don’t get sick, and so far, my track record on both those accounts is perfect. This month I was able to take two people up in a small plane for the first time.

October 14, 2003 – Fullerton (FUL) to Cable (CCB)

Six years ago, we took my son and a friend out to see the plane. We didn’t have time to fly, but I did take them both along as I taxied to get fuel. This time I was able to take him and his grandpa along with my wife and I for a short flight to get some breakfast.

I picked them up in the morning and we went to the airport with my wife meeting us later. I spent some time, as I always do with first time fliers, going over some basics of what makes the plane fly, safety features, redundancy, along with the plan for the flight. I had completed a pre-flight the prior evening when there would be no distractions, and although it had been locked in the hangar I did it again explaining to them what I was checking and why.

My wife arrived about the time I was finishing up and we got underway. The destination was Maniac Mike’s Cafe at the Cable (CCB) Airport. Cable Airport is only a 14-15 minute flight from Fullerton (FUL), they have great food, and we would be able to fly over their house. People always love seeing their home from the air.

We had a little headwind, but the true airspeed was sitting between 150-160mph. Our friend’s son was translating to his grandpa who only speaks Spanish on the flight every time I shared something with them over the intercom.

As we walked from the plane to the restaurant, I was concerned for a minute that they might be closed. The doors that are usually rolled up on the patio so people can watch the planes were closed, and there wasn’t anyone waiting around outside to be seated. Maniac-Mike’s was open, we were just fortunate enough to arrive in between rushes and they sat us right away.

Breakfast was great as it always has been there, and we visited with our friend’s son playing interpreter. I’ve been practicing my Spanish, but it is a long way from useful.

After breakfast I walked back to the plane and taxied over right in front of the restaurant to save his grandpa from walking all the way back to where we were parked. We took a picture there in front of the plane and then everyone climbed inside and buckled up.

The flight back was just as smooth as the flight there and we made the slight detour to fly over their home before checking in with the Tower inbound. It was a fun morning for everyone, and as usual I’m not sure why it took us so long to give our friend’s son a ride in the plane.

October 21, 2003 – Fullerton (FUL) to Santa Paula (SZP)

Do you want your kids to get good grades? Are you looking for some way to motivate an extremely smart kid to not just skate through on minimal effort and get decent grades, but to put in a little more effort for excellent grades?

I have a good friend that is in that exact position, and his solution was to offer pilot lessons to his son if he was able to get straight A’s. We were talking one day when he explained his bribery plan to me. I offered my solution and services.

“I can take the two of you flying, I’ll put him in the right seat and let him fly. Let’s see if that sets the hook in him.”

That conversation was a few months ago, and due to his work travel schedule and my schedule we couldn’t line anything up right away. Fast forward to October and the stars finally aligned. They didn’t care where we went, so I proposed a flight to Santa Paula. It is a fun airport to land at with a short runway tucked into the Santa Clara River Valley. The restaurant is good (always a bonus) and on the way there we could fly a downtown Los Angeles tour and cruise to coast of Malibu and Pacific Palisades on the way back before flying right over Los Angeles International Airport via the Special Flight Rules corridor.

If the tour wasn’t enough, I planned to have his son in the right seat doing most of the flying.

Following my SOP, I arrived at the hangar early to pre-flight without any distractions. After they arrived, I spent some extra time going over the basics of flight, the different parts of the plane, and different parts of the charts and what they mean because his son is interested in getting his pilot’s license. We moved on from that to a pre-flight of the plane, explaining things as I went along. When I sumped the tanks I put a few drops of water from a water bottle into the jar with the fuel to show what we are looking for.

Life jackets for the return flight along the coast were grabbed off hooks in the hangar and placed in the baggage compartment for the flight there. Everyone climbed inside, run-up was completed, taxi and take off, and we were on our way northwest staying under the Bravo shelf.

Not long after we took off, I could see his son in my peripheral vision getting a little fidgety. Looking over at him I asked, “Are you ready to fly?”

With a big smile on his face he said, “Yes!”

Following the standard control hand-off that we discussed on the ground, I said, “Okay, you have the plane.”

He took hold of the yoke and said, “I have the plane.”

I let go and said, “You have the plane.”

Just like that, he was flying.

I pointed to the altimeter and told him to keep us at 1,800’ so we would have a little buffer between us and the 2,000’ shelf above us as we made our way towards LA. For the next thirty minutes he flew us around LA, over to Dodgers Stadium, past the Hollywood sign, and then up over the Santa Monica mountains on our way to Santa Paula.

He did a great job! I would point out a landmark in the distance to have him fly towards and give periodic reminders about his altitude, but for the first time in a small plane he was awesome. I didn’t take the plane back until we descended into the Santa Clara River Valley.

Breakfast was delicious, as it always is at the Flight 126 Cafe and they seated us almost immediately.

Back at the plane, we put on our life jackets, and I went over again the route we were planning to take for the return flight. The winds favored runway 22 as they often do, and we departed straight out to the southwest until we had enough altitude to turn southbound.

Again, I handed off the plane to him, coaching him along with the altitude and landmarks to fly towards. He flew us along the coast, past Point Dume, Malibu, and Pacific Palisades. We passed over Santa Monica before flying over LAX at 3,500’. He was the one flying the plane for about 25 minutes on the return flight before I took over to descend and land back at FUL.

The smiles on his face while he was flying were the reward for this trip. He did mention after we got back that he “had some work to do” to get those straight A’s. We’ll see if he is taking lessons here in the near future.

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