During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, I took advantage of the downtime to study and gain flight proficiency in the maneuvers required to add-on another Flight Instructor rating, specifically to teach grandsons Alex and Nathaniel for their private pilot rating. Since I already had my CFI ratings in Multi-Engine aircraft, Instruments and Gliders, the requirements for a Single-Engine add-on were a subset of the full requirement list. I was able to reserve an FAA DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner), allowing me to take and pass my CFI-SE add-on in February 2021 with DPE Rick Luke out of Bellingham.
As COVID restrictions eased in early 2022, it was time to fly to California to start some flight training for Alex and Nathaniel. Ma and I planned to head south from Renton in early April, choosing our departure around the excessively rainy early Spring weather. With an open weather window, we departed south, starting VFR but with backup IFR options if conditions worsened. The first day’s weather was glorious, giving us great views of the Cascades as we cruised to Scappoose for their cheap gas, then continued on to Grants Pass for lunch at the sunny 70º picnic area outside the FBO office. 3DC was purring, and climbing very well, even with the two of us, full gas, a mini-piano, guitar and other goodies for the So Cal family. Ma and I spent the night in Santa Rosa, after taking the coastal route over Crescent City and Arcata/Eureka, then over Ukiah for a straight-in to Santa Rosa.
The next day also provided sunny, but breezy weather out of Santa Rosa, with Nor Cal approach providing a smooth Class Bravo transition along the coastal route just west of San Francisco, for great views of the Golden Gate and Bay Area. The heat started to increase as we descended for lunch into a breezy San Luis Obispo, then rose to 93º as we crossed over LAX for a smooth entry into the Long Beach runway 26L pattern, as David, Katie, Alex and Nathaniel waved from their yard as we passed overhead on downwind.
Long Beach creeped up to an unseasonable 100º for the next two days, then mellowed to the glorious mid-70s for Alex’s first left seat ‘dual-received’ loggable flight in 3DC. Ross Aviation, the local FBO, provided great service and VIP treatment as we arrived, then for our training day. Alex, Nathaniel and I conducted a thorough pre-flight, under David’s watchful eye. Our first training flight was focused on turns and coordination, with Alex conducting all the checklists for start, taxi and takeoff. The four of us took off from a breezy runway 26L, then Alex cruised to the south for air work over the busy skies south of the Long Beach harbor, with everyone using their eyes and ADS-B to search for traffic. This was Alex’s first flight where he could comfortably reach the rudder pedals, and he worked well on coordination for all of his many turns, while looking outside very well. We cruised over the Queen Mary, and got an overhead view of the Long Beach Grand Prix race car lineup. Alex was very smooth, and cruised us back to a 45º entry into the Long Beach runway 26L pattern, where I took over on short final to demonstrate a crosswind landing. Nathaniel didn’t get a front seat flight this trip, but was very helpful with traffic spotting from the backseat with his Dad.
THE BOYS ARE BACK - in the air!
Our return from Long Beach to Renton started the real ‘adventurous’ part of our excursion. A large low pressure area had been stalled over the north California and Oregon border, extending cool, and even snowy weather all along the Siskiyous and Cascades. We delayed our departure a day due to forecast gale force winds, and departed Long Beach into 25-knot winds, conveniently right down the larger runway 30. Although the skies were generally clear, we encountered light to moderate turbulence from Santa Monica, over Camarillo and past Santa Barbara, getting a break in the gusts as we cruised down final to runway 29 into San Luis Obispo for fuel.
The turbulence continued past Paso Robles, then subsided as we climbed to smooth air at 8500 feet. We again took the coastal route west of San Francisco, and were able to cruise right over our daughter Theresa at work in San Rafael, while descending in to Santa Rosa. The ground crew there told us we made a good choice to delay a day, since they had their hands full the day before with 45 knot winds on the field.
The next morning, Flight Service discouraged any route past Redding into the Siskiyous, due to rain, snow and high winds. We tried cruising low to the recommended coastal route, but got boxed in north of Ukiah due to low clouds. We climbed in a blue gap to 8500’, cruised VFR on top to Arcata, and found a good gap to descend for landing and fuel in light rain. We continued low right along the coast, past Crescent City and along the beautiful rocky Oregon coast, where the weather finally cleared to sunny VFR into Tillamook for a final fuel top off.
Once past Astoria, the rotating low all around the approaches to the Puget Sound set up a curtain of clouds, blocking any further northward progress. We heard an arriving Citation make an approach into Chehelis, which had gone from solid IFR to marginal VFR. We diverted into Chehalis, and waited on the ramp for the low to continue its rotation, hopefully clearing a path back home. We launched northbound an hour later, first trying a low route, but the clouds hugged the rising terrain. Looking at our ADS-B weather, it depicted a gap if we cruised NW to Shelton, so we climbed high and considered an IFR route into the Puget Sound, but the ice in the clouds and 17º outside air temperature made us reconsider and return to Chehalis, where Ma spied a nearby hotel just as we turned final. After a relaxing evening, we cruised low the next morning in clearing skies back home to Renton, for a smooth conclusion to what Ma considers 'another adventure'.