San Diego For Beginners: Teaching a FIRC at the Women in Aviation Conference

Poster advertising this event at Women in Aviation

Captain of CRJ


Nice to see a captain with a little gray hair. He passes the test of "do you love life?" Nice ride into Philadelphia....clear everywhere but Ithaca and Elmira!














New Mexico??Looking at these rocks made me glad I did not attempt to fly this (at least this time around) There is an awful lot of nothing out there...just not very scenic!













Rockie Mountains


This is the actual continental divide in southern states. I am not really sure where this was...I did not have a window seat...but a very helpful guy by the window!












Los Angeles

The sybaritic city in the valley! No water and lots of people drinking (and watering their golf courses and yards!) This was a pretty clear day from what I's usually quite smoggy. I got out of dodge on the 405 south to San Diego. Quite an amazing transition to a rental car going 80 mph in seven lanes of moving traffic (and you thought flying was dangerous?)












Hotel Room

My home at the Kings Inn. Two very comfortable beds with the exercise equipment visible (over weight on US Air!) Still coughing like a madman but mostly over the cold/flu. Each day here I felt progressively better, but curtailed the sightseeing.












The Pool

I did not yet try the pool but it looks inviting. There is also a hot tub over in the corner that needs exploration. I have been running every morning up the hill to Presidio...high point with a good view of the surrounding terrain.












Grey EagleThis is a very good place to fly. The owner, Mel Holmes was a Navy Top Gun instructor so they are well-organized and have a good solid set of rules. I checked out to fly their Duchess solo with Kam Shelhoup.










Dave and Kam

This is Kam, a very affable and talented flight instructor. We got along well, mostly because I think I made myself work pretty hard. I wanted to get a good review. We flew over "Valley Central" talking first to So Cal Approach and then a unicom, 122.75, where everyone self-announces. A pretty nice Duchess to fly. Kam was an excellent tour guide and I didn't scare him too badly so he signed me off!









Vista CAThis is Vista, CA, voted many times as the most beautiful place in the country to live(!) Give me Upstate NY instead please....but today it was gorgeous. The image quality suffers through the plexiglas. That is La Jolla visible on the horizon, just north of San Diego.












JoAnn Hill and Lonnie

JoAnn Hill from NAFI and Lonnie Hilkemeier at the Brittany Room location. 14 NAFI Master Instructors taught 16 sessions over 2 days. Participants rated the overall performance 4.8 on a scale of 5 with numerous compliments as to the quality of the experience. This was the first for NAFI so Greg French from the FAA AFS-800 (Mr. FIRC) was in attendance.











NAFI MastersHere are the NAFI Masters "on break" after teaching the FIRC. Quite a talented bunch with lots of various experience and styles. It is great to hang out with such talented people, I swapped cards with most and learned a bit from each of them. I have one extra course to teach because one of the presenters had a death in the family.

John Teipen, on the far right, is this year's FAAST Safety Counselor of the Year, and our chief instructor for this FIRC.










David at Roundtable SessionsThe "roundtable session" also called "speed dating" is an opportunity to visit any of 15 NAFI experts for a 15 minute Q&A session to clear up misconceptions that may have been bothering pilots and aspiring pilots regarding their training. Lots of good discussion. The woman on my right had endured 23 different CFIs on the way to her certificate! She had 170 hours when she tested (failed the first time for various reasons, but the fact that her plane was un airworthy and her solo endorsement had expired didn't help!). Once again I am alarmed at all the "CFI horror stories" I heard again this year. I am advising everyone to look for a NAFI CFI as a help in assuring a quality CFI. For absolute assurance, try to find a Master CFI (anyone can join the organization, but a Master theoretically has to produce something of quality).











WAI EntranceThe conference center is huge...several happening at once but the WAI is the largest (and longest duration). The grounds are immaculate and the service is high quality throughout. The prices are also "high quality" like parking for $14 a day (even for speakers). Lots of airlines recruiting (Comair, Colgin, Alpha, Cape Air...) It is definitely a hot market for new pilots to get jobs.













ConventionThe exhibit hall is immense with a continual buzz of people talking and gathering resources about learning to fly or networking toward better employment. There is quite a focus from employers (all the airlines) and many flight academies.












Masters at NAFI Booth"Happy NAFI Booth" at the convention hall...obviously a group that knows how to have fun! (I wonder what Sandy is drinking?) Trish worked hard (as usual) selling CFIs on the benefits of NAFI.













NAFI Dinner

A great meal...compliments of NAFI and lots of good stories. Adrian Eichorn revealed how he worked for the government and was the keeper of the nuclear codes (carried the "football") for 8 years! Recently retired as a Lt Colonel, he is flying for Jet Blue ("living the dream"). His FIRC presentation included many self-deprecating references to "discount pilots" of which he is now one.

Across from me at the table is Max Trescott (G-1000 fame). Max is the National CFI of the Year 2008! Third from the left was National several years ago (John Teipen) and he is this year's FAAST Representative of the Year. Quite a professional crowd.







Carla and TerryTwo very nice people: Carla Borden and Terry Brandt. Carla is a FAAST team Leader in California and Terry teaches and examines for Groen Brothers in Buckeye, AZ. Terry is rated in just about everything and the "go-to guy" for gyro training.

Carla helped with some of the FIRC and was very complimentary of our efforts. Greg French, the FAA AFS-800 overseer of our project gave us a three hour debrief on Friday morning. He said it was one of the best he had ever attended and hoped we would continue it. The technical aspects of the TSO are that it is owned by ASA and taught by NAFI Master Instructors. The trick is to make it portable and retain the quality and purity of the TSO. Obviously ASA (who owns the TSO) would be liable if we diluted the content in some regional presentation.






Balboa Park

You could probably spend a year in Balboa Park and not see every sight. It contains everything from a Museum of Natural History to the famous San Diego Zoo. The grounds are immaculate and very well designed (though tromped down a bit by the influx of tourists! Currently most of the buildings are covered by scaffolding and being scraped and repainted.












The Big DipperA 1925 "woody" out and back coaster right on main street in downtown! This is a great ride diminished only by the totally low life yahoos riding it. Had a wonderful fish dinner right in the harbor then drove up the west side of Mission Bay.














Over the TopThis is going over the top of the first big climb...after that photos were impossible. When you find a coaster this good you have to ride it a few times (well...3 times actually!) Later I noticed the proximity to the beach from this photo and had a wade out in the Pacific. Very clean and fun (no glass or sharks).




Big Dipper


















Mission BeechThis was the beach viewed from above. Lots of dinners cooking and fires to keep warm as the sun set (over Hawaii). Had to go out and feel the surf...maybe a swim tomorrow?














Sign Into Brown

Thanks to Art Muka's suggestion, I had breakfast at EAA #14 on Brown Field Saturday, down on the Mexican border. Reminds me of Robert Duvall in "Tender Mercies"....lots of nothing down here!











EAA 14 HangarI like the way these guys decorate, with lots of airplanes hanging everywhere. An outstanding breakfast for $3 and a tour of the whole facility by Julius LaVern. Also met with the director "Big Jimmy" Kennedy. Very friendly group and lots of coffee (the first good stuff I have found in California). Meals are all cooked "one off" custom eggs no problem. Volume is not their game obviously.











Breakfast Line

Peter French should study this breakfast operation for a few tips on streamlining our breakfast "critical path analysis." They actually cook everything custom and you just poke your money in the box as you go by! (The old guy on the right was shaking so bad he couldn't crack the eggs...late night?) Everyone had out their winter gear for the "cold weather" (sub-60).












JuliusWorking on an annual inspection in the EAA hangar. The whole building is cleverly arranged around a central parts and tools bin so everyone shares the materials. This fellow was working on a balky fuel pump of his Yankee.


Dave at Brown Field









This is Julius' Starduster with a Lycoming ground power unit as an engine. He explained all the mods he had incorporated into the engine but most of it was lost on me...domed pistons and a pressure carb made sense. These guys are all a team and quite clever with their projects. Lots of encouragement and camaraderie.







Gillespie Field

Off flying again. A long shot payed off and I wrangled a flight at the California Flight Academy on short notice. 21 aircraft at this place, including three twins, but short on CFIs. I flew with a Chinese fellow named Tatsu. He was very quiet and mostly calm. We had to get a Class B clearance to get up the coast and fly across Mirimar. Torrey Pines Gliderport is really no more since it is directly in the departure of this large air base and encroached upon by development.











Sectional Chart

The plan was to leave Gillespie and fly directly over Montgomery at 3K to the coast with a short run north and south (Class B Clearance necessary here). This all worked but we had to get lower on return due to rain and negotiated a "D" transition with MYF. All the instrument approaches here necessitate high altitudes due to the mountains around the perimeter of this costal city. We actually used a TCA chart with greater detail and all the local landmarks clearly labeled.












Downtown Sunset

We ran through some showers outbound to the coast at 3,000MSL. The altitude kept us just above Mongomery Field Class D and we negotiated with SoCal to get clearance up the coast. Below is Route 8 through Mission Valley. The lower right here is Hotel Loop where the conference was held. The harbor and buildings of downtown appear upper right in the bright spot.











Mt SoledadWe had to circle here once waiting for the Class B clearance. That is Mt. Soledad with the cross and the road around it. Notice on the chart that the Class B goes to the surface as you go North up the coast. That is Route 5 up the coast just beyond where you see the monument.
















No action at Miramar (center on the horizon) as we head North up the coast. Descended down to 2,000 (MSL and AGL) over the water. Beautiful coastal houses and high cliffs of Torrey Pines.















Coastal Surf

I would assume that the tide is out here...surfing would be challenging just now. Usually lots of (naked) people here in the summer I am told. The cold (?) 55 temp kept most people inside this day.














Coastal CA by SDWe are now turned back to the south and Torrey Pines appears midway down this shot. No action here...some kind of preserved space but no flying happening.
















Torrey Pines

Lots of cars and people, no gliders?! This is apparently active with hang gliders in the summer months. A glider pilot said they had it open last summer for about five weeks of flying...Looks like it is deteriorating into golf? The hills and mountains out here appear to be made from dirt (no rock) so it is no surprise the houses they build all over them come loose and slide downhill in the winter and spring rainstorms.















Montgomery FieldWeird straight down shot of Montgomery with a lot of reflection. This was tight through here with the weather getting lower so we got a class D transition approved with tower. The SoCal controller commented how it looked like we were "threading the needle" on the airspace but suggested communication.
















Cowl's Mt

Heading back east past Mongomery at this point, this is Cowl's Mt on the way to Gillespie Field. Mission Valley below. Notice the development climbing inexoribly up the hills.















Gillespie in SightFinally out of the rain and the field in sight, information Kilo, "cleared to land 27 left (smaller) or right if you want it...nice tower. Tower is on 120.7 and ground on that gets interesting occasionally. They do teach the Paris Jet ratings out of the CFA school also. Looks like fun at $1500 an hour!















A true professional this fellow Tatsu. He has a lot to deal with given his very diverse clientele. He came in special to fly and I did tip him fairly generously. He has been flying for five years and has a seven year old daughter. He hopes to be an airline pilot but still needs to get his MEI. Life is everywhere the same in aviation...just out of reach!