“Santa Ana Winds,” Greg’s June, 2015 Flying Carpet column

The price of adventure


Let’s face it, not everyone is cut out to be a pilot. Flying is as much about adventure as it is about transportation. Jean and I could drive to Southern California for our annual seaside vacation, as others do. Yes, it’s a dull 8-hour trek, and requires negotiating miles of maddening traffic. But little planning and few decisions are required — just hop in the car, and go.

By Flying Carpet, the same journey takes just two hours and delivers us three miles from the beach. Along the way are spectacular views of mountains, desert, and the Colorado River. Sounds impressive to the uninitiated, but flying demands planning, research, and sometimes stress. We pilots see such challenges as the price of adventure — overcoming obstacles for the rewards of stunning sights and completing our “missions.” But for others less suited to piloting, such trials seem troublesome travel complications.

This would be our second flight into Oceanside Municipal Airport for our “beach fix” with friends Tim and Hedy Thomas. It’s a delightful rural airport, but not without challenges: a short obstructed runway, and noise-abatement procedures that demand preflight study. Those I’d mastered last visit.

This year’s travel was constrained because our hosts could accommodate us for only two specific days. Every pilot knows the challenges of trying to meet an inflexible schedule. Fortunately, this route normally features benign flying weather, so I wasn’t too worried about it.

GregBrownFT615_0513eSmw1200As the day approached, the Southwest enjoyed record winter temperatures: Flagstaff in the 60s and Oceanside in the 80s. The cause was a powerful weather system generating easterly “Santa Ana winds.” I knew the effects of the Santa Anas, but had never flown in them.

Yes, 25-knot tailwinds would speed us on our way. But Oceanside is just 30 miles downwind of California’s rugged coastal mountains, raising specters of mountain wave stretching out to sea, moderate to severe turbulence, and low-level wind shear at our destination…

READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, SANTA ANA WINDS.” (Allow a moment for the article to load.)

Top photo: California’s Oceanside Municipal Airport (lower left) lies just up the San Luis Rey River from its namesake town, beach, and pier (upper right). Lower photo: The reward: savoring sunset at Oceanside Beach, California. SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE!

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)


©2015 Gregory N.Brown