Today was a day of firsts…my first flight into Petaluma Airport and my first flight for business. I’ve flown to the Petaluma area previously but I’d always flown over it to land at Santa Rosa Airport (STS)…a much nicer airport. Today, I flew up to the area to visit my college roommate, Phil, to watch the World Cup Final and also discuss a little business. As owner of JE Consulting for over a year now, I’ve been managing a web development project for his company, KG Technologies, Inc. So we chatted a couple of weeks ago about killing a couple of birds with one stone, by having me visit for the game and a business meeting.
One strange bit of irony that I just realized was that he and I were traveling on our first Eurotrip together back in 2006 and were staying in Madrid the day of the World Cup Final. Today, Spain won the world cup…their first. So it truly was a day of firsts.
My last couple of flights had been in Warriors (since they’re a bit cheaper) but I decided to fly an Arhcer III up today…the same one I’d flown down to Oceano nearly three months ago (N9294Q). Unfortunately, the fog was being a little stubborn this morning and didn’t want to leave the SF Bay area in time for me to make it to Petaluma (O69) to see the first half of the game. So, as is the life of a general aviation pilot, I waited around the airport for nearly two hours, checking the weather on my iPhone and making a few personal calls to pass the time. At 11:15a, I made the decision that I would get airborne (since PAO and the nearby area were clear) and then see if I could get over to Oakland and fly direct or head out to the Livermore Valley and then head up. The timing would work out as well, since the flight is only about 30 minutes and that would give me time to fly, land, and tie-down during the first half of the game.
As was the case, I flew over the Livermore Valley cruising at 3500 ft and made it up to Petaluma in about 30 minutes. On my way up, I could see off my left side that the Bay was still pretty fogged in. I could have flown above the fog through the Bay, but I prefer to be able to see the ground below me while flying. It makes for better emergency manangement, should one unfortunately occur.
The approach in O69 was fairly uneventful, since the winds were calm and the traffic minimal.There seemed to be more traffic on the ground once I landed, as I passed a Stearman biplane and a Beechcraft Sundowner in the self-serve fuel line on my way off the ramp. I almost wonder if the fuel at O69 is cheaper than surrounding airports, because it seemed like quite a few people were flying in and fueling up. There’s also a restaurant on the field that was pretty packed for lunch time traffic (Two-Niner Diner…named after the landing runway 29 on the field).
I stayed in the area for about six hours, enjoying the game, visiting Phil and his friends, and also getting a tour of their new office facility. After a brief meeting with the team, I headed back to the airport and got ready to head out. The fog started to roll back in just as I was preflighting. And by the time I took off, the fog was at the northern edge of the airport. O69 doesn’t have any automated weather reporting and the nearest airport Gnoss (DVO) which is a few miles south was reporting clear. Hell, from where I was sitting on the departing end of the runway, it was also sky clear. So I decided to take off and ready myself for an immediate crosswind turn if things got too close. And they did…but soon after my right turn downwind, I was in clear skies for rest the trip back.
Just like my flight back from Napa a month ago, I reached the Bay and saw that it too was socked in. PAO was reporting sky clear but from my vantage point, I couldn’t tell how far south in the bay the fog had rolled in. So I decided to go back the way I came – through the Livermore Valley. Ironically, as I flew east of the bay, I could see that the fog hadn’t even rolled much past half way, so I could’ve requested an overflight and made it to PAO just fine. But I prefer to eer on the side of caution in these cases. As a result, I enjoyed a nice smooth, clear flight back past Mount Diablo, Livermore, and then through the Sunol Pass back to PAO.
My approach into PAO was a bit better. I hit my speeds much better than my approach into O69, but my landing was a bit harder than I would normally like. Strangely, today I didn’t care. I was just happy to fly, enjoy the skies, and land. It might’ve been different had I been flying passengers. However, flying by myself, I was just fine with the landings. As I tied down the plane, I saw the KingAir (12GJ) land. They had taken off right before me in the morning when I departed for O69. So after tie-down I walked over and chatted with the pilot for a few minutes. He even gave me a quick tour of the plane and offered to take me up sometime. Now that would be cool…we’ll see if he keeps his word.
A Prelude to the Future
Well today I can say that I’ve flown my first business flight and I think I can get used to this. Perhaps in a few more years, I’ll invest more in my business and expand my pilot skills. I do have a dream one day of having my own business with my own plane and flying myself around for meetings. Now that would be cool too….let’s see if I can keep my dream alive. Until next time…keep the dirty side down!