Kern Valley Fly-In – Gliders Everywhere

A great time flying to Kern Valley to meet wonderful pilots and eat some delicious food….
Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
17 May 2024

Departing Fullerton

Sometimes you just need a reason to go fly. That is assuming flying isn’t reason enough in and of itself. Filling that void is “The Fly-In.”

There is a group based out of Redlands (KREI) that has monthly fly-ins to airports all over Southern California headed up by Walt, Sherry, and their dog Peanut. If you want to know about their events all you need to do is ask Walt to add you to the email list.

I did just that back in November of 2022 and have seen the monthly emails with details of the next event, as well as a follow-up email recapping the event with a writeup and photos. Thankfully he won’t drop you from the list if you are a no show because I would have been dropped long ago considering it is now May 2024 and I am finally attending my first event. Each month it seemed I was already flying somewhere, or had some commitment preventing me from flying that weekend.

Kathy was busy so I asked my friend Kevin if he wanted to come with me. We needed to be at Kern Valley at 11am. I did the math backwards and decided that if we left my house at 9am, we would be to the airport about 9:25am, and could be in the air by 10m for the one hour flight.

I filed an IFR plan just in case we needed it to pop-up through the marine layer which had been present almost every day since the beginning of May. At 9am when we left my house it was still overcast.

When it starts to burn off it often does so quickly. By the time I finished pre-flight and pulled the plane out of the hangar it was starting to break up with the sun poking through. We taxied down to the run-up area and as I finished run-up and the pre-takeoff checklist there were only a few small clouds hanging around.

Instead of picking up my IFR clearance I decided to just get flight following and proceed VFR, even if I had to go a few miles east where it was completely clear. It would still be faster than going IFR. 

To get to Kern Valley (L05) you fly through a low level military training route and it is always a good idea to be talking to Joshua Control for traffic advisories. I asked Fullerton Ground for flight following and he mentioned my IFR plan on file and if I wanted to cancel that and proceed VFR. Confirming that I did want to proceed VFR he gave me instructions and a squawk code, twice repeating that I would be VFR.

He didn’t want there to be any confusion in my mind about what flight rules I was operating under as when he later cleared me to takeoff he again repeated that I was VFR. Almost immediately after lifting off were handed off to SoCal Departure who instructed to “resume own nav” and “remain outside the Bravo.” Usually I end up on a heading of 120° for a bit, but the “resume own nav” came so quickly that we turned back north, climbing just a few miles east of the airport.

I checked in with the next letting them know we were climbing to 3,500′ so he would know we were staying below the 4,000′ Bravo shelf. He asked me my final requested cruising altitude.

“8,000” I replied.

“I’ll have higher for you once you are past the LA ILS approach, for now remain outside the Bravo,” he said.

A climb would have taken us up through the path of the planes on approach into LAX. Sure enough, as we passed that extended centerline for LAX the controller cleared us through the Bravo airspace to 8,500′.

Mt. Wilson and Poppies

Leveling off at 8,500′ we were soon flying past the Mt. Wilson Observatory, over the San Gabriel Mountains, and into the Antelope Valley. I glanced off my left wing to see if the Poppy Preserve would be worth flying over on the way back but there was no golden color on the hills, the heat had already finished off the bloom.

Around 20 miles from Kern Valley I advised Joshua Approach that I wanted to begin a VFR descent. Usually at that point they kick you loose to squawk VFR and change frequencies because once you are below the mountains they lose radio contact. However, he just advised to let him know when I had Lake Isabella in sight.

Up at the higher elevations there were still patches of golden poppies on the south slopes with some small patches of snow in the shadows on the north facing slopes. Rounding Bald Eagle Peak and Ball Mountain the lake came into view. I tried in vain to call up Joshua Approach to advise we had the lake in sight. As anticipated he couldn’t hear my transmission so I switched over to the CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency) for Kern Valley and began making position calls as we approached the dam, eight miles from the airport.


We landed a few minutes after 11am and introduced ourselves to the folks that were already there before ordering lunch. We both had the Western Bacon Cheeseburger which comes with BBQ Sauce, bacon, and onion rings on the burger. If you’re there at lunch, get a burger. They are fresh, handmade patties, and delicious.

The folks from the Redlands group are great. We had a nice time visiting with them and looking at planes. There was even one guy that flew in from San Luis Obispo in a beautiful two seat, IFR rated Lockwood Aircam. If you’ve never seen an Aircam, it is a twin engine, open cockpit, low and slow airplane. The thought crossed my mind if you need a rain jacket when flying through the clouds.

Departing Kern - Gliders - Opposite Direction Traffic

After about an hour and a half of visiting we climbed back in to make the trip back. I began the climb up to 9,500′ and passing 8,000′ called up Joshua Approach to pick up flight following. There wasn’t any military aircraft to worry about, but I was glad to have traffic advisories for all the gliders that were out flying.

I think every glider in the Antelope Valley was enjoying the afternoon. Some we saw and some we never saw. At one point someone on frequency asked where the gliders were and he laughed.

Pilot: “Approach, 1Delta-Pappa, where is that glider traffic? Is it by William J Fox?”
Approach: (Laughing) “Umm… Everywhere west of Palmdale from Agua Dulce all the way up through north of Mohave.”
Pilot: (Also laughing) “Oh, man.. okay, thanks.”

On descent over the San Gabriel Mountains ATC called out a Cherokee opposite direction. We were looking, but although I knew about where he was from my tablet we couldn’t see him. The whole interaction took 32 seconds.

Approach: “November 15Echo, additional traffic twelve to one o’clock, two miles, opposite direction, a Cherokee at 8,600 advise you turn 20 degrees left for traffic.”
Me: “20 degrees left for traffic, 15Echo.”
Approach: “15Echo climb 500 feet if able.”
Me: “Climbing 15Echo.”
Approach: “15Echo climb immediately to at or above 9,000 traffic now 12 o’clock and half a mile.”
Me: “Traffic in sight off our right, 15Echo.”
Approach: “15Echo, roger, VFR altitude your discretion contact SoCal approach 125.5.”
Me: “125.5, 15Echo.”

I pushed the power back in and began a climbing left turn. As soon as I began the turn I saw the Cherokee off our right wing, maybe a half mile away and same altitude which is pretty close. I hadn’t been able to see him until turning because the view as blocked by my plane.

Descent and Landing at Un-Towered KFUL

I notified ATC that I had traffic in sight and he advised me to resume own nav and descent. We continued the descent but couldn’t get down fast enough to scoot under the 4,000′ shelf of the Bravo so turned east for a couple minutes before turning back direct to Fullerton.

The tower is short staffed right now so they are working limited hours and had closed ten minutes before we arrived. I headed directly to the north side of the field to enter a right downwind for runway 24 and made all the necessary radio calls. Everyone (almost) was playing nice, making good position calls, and we landed uneventfully.

I say “almost” because as we cleared the runway and taxied back to the hangar a helicopter came up on frequency calling “Fullerton Tower.” He had obviously not briefed the flight or he would have known the tower was closed. He has also had not listed to the weather because it is an hourly ATIS recording when the tower is open and a one-minute automated AWOS recording when the tower is closed.

Someone on frequency responded that the tower was closed and the helicopter, approaching from the south, announced a left base for runway 24 and proceeded to fly a short approach. Fortunately nobody was on a right base or final when this guy chose to fly the wrong pattern and there were no conflicts. It is a good reminder to always have your “head on a swivel” and be vigilant when flying into an un-towered field.

Kevin and I had a great time, met some great people, saw some great planes, and ate some great food. Now I need to make sure it doesn’t take another 17 months before I get to the next fly-in, although it won’t be next month as the plane is getting a new engine in June.

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Kern Valley Fly-In – Gliders Everywhere

A great time flying to Kern Valley to meet wonderful pilots and eat some delicious food....
Richard Brown

17 May 2024

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