Flying to the Orchestra

Living in Southern California with extended family in Utah I don’t know how many times I have driven the lonely stretch of Interstate 15 through the desert from home to Las Vegas and on through more desert to St George, UT. The combination of lack of scenery, along with the…

Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
7 Nov 2023

Living in Southern California with extended family in Utah I don’t know how many times I have driven the lonely stretch of Interstate 15 through the desert from home to Las Vegas and on through more desert to St George, UT. The combination of lack of scenery, along with the inevitable traffic jams that crop up in the middle of nowhere to go along with the expected jams at the CA/NV state line are  enough that I dread anytime I have to make the trip.

Fortunately, since getting my pilot license and our Mooney I have made the trip numerous times cruising along thousands of feet above that lonely scenery and traffic jams.

My youngest son is a student at Utah Tech in St George, playing in the band, orchestra, and flute choir. The school live streams most of the concerts on YouTube which is a blessing to us, enabling us to listen and watch many of the concerts when schedules don’t allow us to be there in person, but there is no substitute for the sound quality and feeling of being there in person.

Unable to attend any in person concerts this semester, we were looking forward to his upcoming Saturday evening Orchestra concert. The weather looked good, and I had a rental car reserved for us at the airport. The plan was to take off about sunrise, land in St George, pick up the car, visit my wife’s dad and his wife, our son, go to the St George Temple open house, and relax before going to enjoy the concert in the evening.

That was the plan, right up until we woke up Saturday morning with my wife not feeling 100%… She reasoned that she could drive where there would be the option of stopping, but flying wasn’t exactly in the cards. She said she thought she would feel better after eating something and I reasoned that even if we waited a couple hours, we would still get there faster by flying.

Flying won out and we were on our way to the airport a little later in the morning. It was a beautiful flight, relatively smooth and we arrived to a busy traffic pattern. I always find it interesting to see the ebb and flow of traffic in the pattern at un-towered airports and how arrivals seem to stack up.

St. George currently has part of a taxiway under construction which requires the commercial flights to back taxi on the runway past the construction. Because of this, they have temporarily restricted touch and go’s and also starting the week after this trip require you to call ahead and get assigned a number corresponding to a time slot to arrive or depart.

That program wasn’t in place yet, and there were three planes arriving before us along with a commercial flight waiting for an inbound flight to cancel their IFR so they could depart, and two more general aviation planes waiting to depart. We were the tail end of the arrivals. After we landed, there  were no more planes arriving for the next fifteen minutes that we were tying down the plane, getting our bags, and getting the rental car. A busy traffic pattern that quickly went quiet.

We stopped by my wife’s dad’s home to visit before heading out to the St George Temple open house and then dinner with my son before his concert. The concert was excellent, they always are, and it was great to be there in person. The University often streams them live on YouTube, but the sound quality doesn’t compare to being in the performance hall.

The next morning, we headed back home, I had a flight to link up.

Last year when the plane was painted by Art Craft there were a few items that needed touch up work done. At the time, I needed the plane for a Thanksgiving trip so took delivery of the plane with a plan to bring it back for the work. They were such minor items that the plane still won Outstanding Contemporary Mooney at Oshkosh, but I still wanted them taken care of and Art Craft was more than happy to fix them.

My challenge was to find a ride back from Santa Maria so my wife wouldn’t have to make the drive to pick me up. Fortunately, my good friend Michael Rodgers, who is also the founder of the West Coast Mooney Club, was available. I checked with him to see what time was convenient and then timed the St George departure so that I could stop at Fullerton and then make the flight to Santa Maria, arriving in time.

Everything worked out beautifully. I landed and tied down the plane in front of the Art Craft hangar and was treated with two departing C-130’s, a treat because my dad flew them in the Air Force. Shortly after that Michael arrived and I had the great experience of flying with him in his beautiful M20F back to Van Nuys where my wife picked me up.

Van Nuys was busy, with the tower trying to run a squeeze play and get Michael and I in before launching a business jet that needed to meet an IFR clearance departure window. The tower said they might need to send us around, but Michael got us down and clear of the runway without the need for the go around.

It was a great weekend of flying!

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