Civic Helicopters in Carlsbad California.. .Have a look at <a href="http://www.civichelicopters.com" target="_blank">www.civichelicopters.com</a>. .I did most of my training there, great place and good machines.
Some of you will know I recently spent three weeks in the US, hour building towards the total I need to go on the UK/JAA CPL(H) modular course. Some of you may have an interest in knowing what I did and how I found things. This is for you. For those who've done more / been further, maybe the "I learnt this" bit at the end might prove useful. Most of the sight-seeing bits around the flying have been omitted in the interests of reducing boredom.
Monday 4th Feb. Go to Long Beach FSDO. Get told I can't get a new FAA licence based on my UK PPL(H) as I already have one from my last trip to the US. I need to ask the FAA to send a confirmatory fax - did that, go back tomorrow. Did 2.5 groundschool and the went and did 1.2 with Eduardo getting checked out solo - standard stuff like general flying, autos, emergencies, and the like.
Tuesday 5th. Go back to the FSDO, with all the paperwork, and the gent says "I don't think you can do that" when I ask to add my UK PPL(H) onto the existing US licence. Turns out I can, as I've not taken a US checkride. Panic over, go flying to French Valley for lunch, back via Fallbrook, overhead Oceanside, then the coast to Long Beach. All on my own, and I don't think I pissed many people off.
Wednesday 6th. Accompanied by Stuart, roomie of instructor at Rainbow. He's a qualified PPL(H), but sits changing freqs, map folding, and ( most important ) passing on much-needed nuggets of advice about the way flying happens round here. Go to Banning, Thermal ( as it's below sea level ), then Palm Springs for lunch. Back to LGB via the 10 ( into Ontario's airspace ) then the 605 - navigation has never been so simple !
Thursday 7th. Off to Rialto for fuel ( with Stuart on board, total to keep in CoG and MAUW is 14 USG ). Then via the Cajon Pass to Apple Valley - stop for late lunch. go to Victorville, get fuel after a long wait, then blat back to LGB just before official sunset. Take off sunnies to discover that it's not quite as dark as it seems with them on !
Friday 8th. Weathered off in the morning. Go to Camarillo via Downtown LA, Burbank and Van Nuys airspace. Return to Long Beach via Point Mugu, and follow the shoreline transition along the coast via LAX airspace at 150' or below !
Sunday 10th. Santa Ana winds blowing, so off to Torrance via Palos Verdes. Light turbulence, occasionally moderate. Quickstops at Torrance, then back to LGB to give up for the day as the wind is making it TOO sporty.
Monday 11th. Taking 139RJ away for the week. Have to go to Thermal ( stopping at Banning to scoff a banana while still running at 75% as I've got the blahs ) to pick up my credit card - only the one with the GBP10,000 credit limit - which I left there last week. Then via Yucca Valley to Hi Desert, ask a nice gent about best routes to Apple Valley and Bakersfield. Get to Bakersfield about 5pm. Long day.
Tuesday 12th. Weather to the north of Merced isn't looking to hot at the moment, so launch for Merced. Manage to track on height, on speed AND on heading ( mostly ), get to Merced and fuel up. Ask a nice US Cavalry pilot about negotiating San Francisco airspace. Then off to Cameron Air Park, which I don't hit first time - go a few miles past and on the left. Get there, meet Gary - a pilot working at the field - get chatting, and have lunch together. Then off to Nut Tree ( Vacaville ) and then San Jose via Buchanan and Livermore airspace. Approach to the Victor helipad is interesting - straight over the 3 runways, visual with a 737 on finals and the bizjet just taxiing clear of the helipad. Another long day.
Wednesday 13th. Slept crap. One and a half hours sleep, in a $100-a-night room next to some plant which switches on and off every five minutes. End up with toilet paper ear plugs, and my headset on, in an attempt to block the noise. Didn't fly - would have been criminal, plus wx is crap anyway.
Thursday 14th. Needed to get out of San Jose. Flew to San Carlos, reasonable weather in the Bay, did some circuits and landed to get an update. Off then to Monterey, following the 101. Cloudbase lowish - 800' to 900' AGL, so wires a concern. Navigating by roads ( and at one point, got low enough to read a confirmatory road sign ). Miss the next road junction, so end up coming at Monterey from the opposite direction, but as I was speaking to the Monterey controller, no real harm done. Discover I've left my wife's camera somewhere over the last few days. Not good.
Friday 15th. Off down the Salinas Valley. manage to get advice from a Marine King air pilot with 3000 hours in helis while at Monterey - plan to go, and have options if it gets nasty out there. Weather at Paso Robles unobtainable, and forecast to be crap so stop at Mesa Del Rey ( King City ) for fuel. Lowest c/base 800' - 900' AGL, but vis was ok. Some kind soul at the airport deigns to speak to me, tells me he's just come from Paso Robles and it's fine, so launch again. Cloud bases raise, then disappear, so straight through to Santa Barbara. Cleared to land on 15L from 5 miles out. Transitioning to the hover just over the numbers, controller says "I thought I cleared you to land on 15L." My plaintive and confused response - "I think that's where I am." Quick lunch, fill with fuel, then off with a decent tailwind via Point Mugu, shoreline transition ( AGAIN. This is getting commonplace ! ). End up back at LGB, glad to get out of the aircraft.
Sunday 17th. Down the coast to Palomar. Lunch. Pop into Civic Helicopters - closed, more or less. Launch back to LGB, wx over the coast crap, so circuits at Palomar. Wx seems to improve, so then off to the north. Over San Onofre restricted area ( up to 2000' ) finishing uip at the north end at 2100'. Phew. Off towards John Wayne airspace, speaking to SoCal approach, end up at 500' with rain and vis down to 3/4 mile. Quick 180 lefdt ( to avoid the land ), back to 900' and 3 miles. Waste 10 minutes by stooging up and down the coast, looks better, so north again. 500' but 3 miles - I'm ok with that, especially since we're over water. End up back at LGB after 2.7 hours for the day.
Monday 18th. Wx in LA basin not nice, if you're looking to go over the Cajon Pass. Discuss with Dave Parsons, decide to have a look and if it's crap, turn round and stop at Rialto. End up crossing the Cajon pass at the top end with 500' terrain clearance, and spotting the opposite direction Bell 222 well in time. Apple Valley ( haven't I been here before ? ) then Las Vegas. Bumpy, uncomfortable, but nav is easy - just follow the 15. Over the top of Mccarran International at 3500' ( about 1300 AGL ) then to North Las Vegas. Overnight at the MGM Grand, and pass a pleasant few ohurs with Bert Sousa talking about flying and drugs - the two are unconnected !!
Tuesday 19th. Off to Death Valley today. 1.5 hours later, there it is, spot on the nose. Land, and the guy from the gas station asks "Where in England are you from ?" I tell him and he says "It's nice there isn't it ?" Turns out he was ex-USAF, stationed at Fairford. Damn, what a small world. Postcards sent to prove my visit, then off again south out of the valley, pick up the 15, and back to Vegas. Get asked if I want to go 3500' or 500' AGL - microsecond's decision, then follow the 15 at 500' AGL past the strip !! Lunch at North Las Vegas, then off to Bullhead City.
Wednesday 20th. Flies swarming me while pre-flighting are told to **** off, but take no notice, which means the checks take longer. Off following the Colorado River southbound, stop at Blythe for fuel. Fueller doesn't seem to want me to ground the aircraft - I'm a tad unhappy with that. Then off towards Thermal, where vis goes from almost unlimited down to 6 or 7 miles. Fuel at Million Air then off to Palm Springs for lunch. Just climbing away from the transition ( i.e. busy ) having been cleared for a left downwind departure and controller asks if I can accept a right downwind departure. "I can, if you're ok with me crossing over the runway centrelines." That's ok with him and still ok with me, so off towards LGB. Ontario controller must recognise me - "Are you going to Long Beach" is asked unprompted ! End up at LGB, don't want to get back in a helicopter, missing home, say "That's it".
So, what did I learn ? My personal limits are 500' AGL and 3 miles - anything less and it's a 180 to better or find a field. Increase the limits if terrain is hilly. Learnt it IS possible to fly a Robbie for more than 10 seconds in a straight line at the same speed and same height. Learnt that my decision making process is very conservative, but I'm happy with that. Learnt that flying in the US is a) cheap and b) is you ask nicely anything's possible. Leanr I need to slow down with my actions - fly the aircraft, and sneak a glance at the map, don';t pick it up and stare at it like it's the lasty naked woman you're ever going to see, because then the speed / height / heading goes out of the window. Don't rush and make big control movements, take your time and make small ones because they're more easily contained. Learn that 50 minute phone call to wife costs $100. EEEEEk. Learnt that Bert Sousa is a nice guy, and enjoyed a good yak and got some good advice off him. Learnt you can get $30 off the Island Express trip to Catalina in a Squirrel if you mention you're a helicopter pilot. Totalled 48.2 hours in 4 pages of log book and under 3 weeks, compared to 85 hours in the last 3 years.
Next stop, modular course !! Only problem, my shares have dived to 30% of their value before I left, so if anyone's got some spare money, it would be most welcome !!!
Postscript. Monday 25th Feb. My birthday. Wifey's not wrapped any presents, got to go back to work ( still jetlagged ), and I can't believe I was actually in the US just 4 days ago !
"Obviously had a fantastic time" doesn't even begin to cover it. Pity I was on my own - rather took a little bit of fun away.
R22 SFH costs - I went with a school which, for an upfront $1500, charged $142 wet. If you bought fuel while away, you were reimbursed at the school's fuel rate of just under $2 per gallon, and I got lots of practice in refuelling the little beastie. Other school's rates were in the same ball park. Other costs, assuming you have a valid UK medical and PPL(H), are minimal. Charts are about $8 apiece - I got two of most of the areas I went to. Have you ever tried to refold a paper map one-handed in a small cockpit ?
If you're in LA or somewhere else with poor public transport, figure on hiring a car - $160 for a week's hire from Avis.
Accomodation - check with the school. Rainbow has a deal with a local hotel, as do most of the others, and a clean and tidy room will set you back the grand total of $40 / day. While travelling, most places you stop can recommend hotels at the $50 - $80 mark. Most I paid was $149, and that was in San Jose, but I was knackered, bored, pissed off and in no mood to haggle.
As for getting a US PPL, if you've never gone to the US, then it's straighforward. Go to an FAA FSDO, give them your UK licence and medical and a completed application form, and while you wait they'll provide a temporary US Airman's certificate so you can fly solo. This is the same as a US PPL, and is valid as long as the UK licence is valid. If you already have such a licence, then you can add other UK or foreign ratings to the licence very simply.
As for Rainbow, Rotorbike, the machines worked fine - no mechanical problems at all since they're well looked after. More than can be said for their premises, hope they look after the new ones a bit better !
Glad to see you made it back. By the way, Im spending this week in Cameron Park, while a friend of mine is at his sales meeting in the Bahamas. (Dassault/Falcon Jet)
For those who might not understand, I need to clarify your statement on Flying and Drugs. It comes from my 27 Years in Law Enforcement. As ackowledged in "The Tin Man" by Dale Brown and "Death Dealers" by Yves Lavigne.. For sale at <a href="http://www.amazon.com" target="_blank">www.amazon.com</a>
If your flying through Vegas again, Beer is on me.
Nr Fairy. .Sorry my question was unclear. What I meant was ...
If you already have a CAA PPL and would like to get a full FAA PPL (not just a Temporary Airman's Certificate dependent upon your CAA PPL being current), what do you have to do?. .What do you mean by "if you've never gone to the US, then it's straighforward.". .If you have been to the US before, and held a Temporary Airman's Certificate years ago, is the procedure different?
(Apologies for pursuing this point, but I was asked this by a PPL recently, and didn't know the answer.)
OK, Temp vs. Full... .This should be very simple. Based on FAR 61.75 you go into the FAA FSDO provide your current Foreign License either Fixed Wing or Helicopter or whatever, and are issued a US FAA License based on your Foreign License. The highest level will be a U.S. Private License. NO COST<<<< For anything other than that, ie. Commercial, ATP, you must comply with the FARs; meaning writtens, check rides etc. The private License will be a temporary as all the information goes to FAA Headquarters where a permanent License will follow to the address listed. Therin lies one problem. Our U.S. License is like a bus ticket, just a simple postcard. When mailed to a foreign address they sometimes get lost. IF your temp expires, contact FAA HQ and verify it was issued and mailed. You can apply for a new one if it was lost. Here are a couple of sites for you to check on U.S. license holders. <a href="http://www.landings.com" target="_blank">www.landings.com</a> scroll down to Search databases and go from there. <a href="http://www.avweb.com/toc/database.html" target="_blank">http://www.avweb.com/toc/database.html</a> also works for Licenses. Remember these are NOT necessarily current but are a good tool.. .So if one had a temp. license some time ago, there may be a permanent issued but lost. Most of these databases are current ONLY because the Airman Medical is current. Another difference here in the states. Our Licenses are issued forever. They are current based on the FARs and logged time. We also are only allowed to fly if the Airman Medical for the class used is current.......its all in the FARs....
As to the Robbie Warriors and Limitations its in the FARs as SFAR 73 to Part 61. Its a bunch of words and numbers which translates to, they must be scary little things. Basically states NO PIC unless you have 200 hours helicopters of which 50 are in the R-22 or R-44... . Good Luck
Nr,. .. .Great diary! I did some R22 flying from John Wayne while in the L.A. area on business. It wasn't nearly as extensive as your trip, but loads of fun, even though stomach was churning from bad lunch earlier in Phoenix airport. <img border="0" title="" alt="[Frown]" src="frown.gif" /> (Perhaps "bad lunch" and "airport" in the same sentence is redundant.) The best part was confined area work and zooming around down in the canyons nearby. Hadn't had that opportunity before, since the nearest canyons to my home are hundreads of miles away. Thanks for bringing back good memories. Glad you had a good time.. . . . <small>[ 03 March 2002, 05:24: Message edited by: rotorfan ]</small>
Well sounds like you had a good time. I did the SFAR 73 thing for the R-22 some years ago to see what they were all about. Like anything they have there good and bad points. Now as for Bert, well he is just a legend. Oh and dam good pilot too. . .. .Now as for me I'm looking at converting my FAA Certificates to UK/JAA. My guess it will not be easy or cheap.
George. .You're right.. .Nothing in aviation which includes any one or more of the following is either cheap or easy ..... . .UK . .CAA . .JAA . .JAR . . <img border="0" title="" alt="[Smile]" src="smile.gif" />
George, I was right, you are a rich Cranberry farmer from the Northeast. Why dont you buy a Helicopter and I will fly for you.....Providing its in the SW...... .If you go to the UK, dont do it to change your license, do it to drink Beer...besides who wants to fly a robbie anyway....You want a JAA, go to (www.heli.com) either way it will cost you good Beer money.
Hi,. .. .hope this is the right forum for this question: l'm a fixed wing commercial pilot but have always wanted to try some rotary flying. I'm spending 2 weeks in Florida in June and wondered if anyone could recommend somewhere to take 2 or 3 lessons, and also which helicopter might be best for the purpose?