Mountain flying – Where’s Quincy?

September 25th, 2012

Gen Yeager and I flew to Quincy in the Diamond. I had asked about Quincy because I heard a restaurant there was almost worth the $100 hamburger :-)

I had heard high density altitude and ridges obscuring the runway when you are on downwind. And you have to take off in only one direction no matter the wind in order to gain altitude.

So I had wanted to go with Gen Yeager first and waited till he got home. The original plan was to fly formation but the Husky was on vacation with its owner.

As usual, I learned a lot.

First off, I did a weather briefing on the drive to the airport. I had forgotten what I had printed out about Quincy. Sigh. The weather briefer was very patient and gave me the code.

It took a little sorting out – there are two China MOAs according to the briefer. I had told him I was looking at the chart and there is one northeast of Sacramento. I asked if his was China Lake. The one we would be near was not active.

However, when I put the code in the airplane, it didn’t work. I put in K-2-O (as in Oscar) 1. It didn’t take. I tried a few times. Motor was running so we decided dead reckoning would be fine.

When we got to the run-up area, Gen Yeager asked me: What heading are you going to use?

Me: Without wind, it would be 4 degrees.

Gen Yeager: Allllll right.

So we headed north. The weather briefer had said the winds were out of the Northwest. But Gen Yeager (I was in left seat), kept making motions with his hand to indicate the wind was coming from the East and pushing us a bit.

I pointed out the lakes from the map. I should be a bit to the East of that lake and that lake too. Hmmm.

We had tracking on the GPS, so could see the MOA. Gen Yeager said: It hasn’t been active for years.

Oh. I had avoided it a lot on the other side – the other side is near the practice area.

We had trouble seeing Quincy. Gen Yeager: We can always to Lake Almanor (which was north of Quincy. Northeast.) That’s easy to see.

Me: OK.

We flew a little further. I showed Gen Yeager the map and where we were.

We flew a little further.

Gen Yeager: Well, there’s Lake Almanor.

Hmm. Oh! Hint Hint is what he was really saying.

Me: IT IS?


I flew a little East and looked over the ridge. Nestled in the mountains was a little town – didn’t look like the shape on the chart but close….ish….little ish…

Me: That looks like it…could be Quincy.

General Yeager looked – from his side he couldn’t see the runway I could see. He was questioning.

Me: Now if the FAA Chairman had just taken my suggestion and implemented it – how easy it would be if the Airport and location and frequency were painted on the airport for me to read.

Gen Yeager: (ever the pragmatist) Well, she didn’t.

Me: Close enough – I think that’s it. We’ll try it.

I called in – its official name was Gansner. Now if that isn’t a mouthful! Wonder who Mr. or Ms. Gansner was?

I turned a little stepper and showed Gen Yeager the runway. He felt better re my judgment when he saw there was a runway :-)

We had to lose 6500’ of altitude. So we circled down. While doing this, I cautioned Gen Yeager I needed a sterile cockpit while I was in the pattern.

Gen Yeager: I won’t say ANYTHING. :-)

Me: Well, no! (Yikes!) I WANT you to please jump in if there’s danger or potential danger and I do want your help.

I realized I was still freaked out about the P-51 incident and being distracted. I guess it was still distracting me.

I chose runway 6 and was too uncomfortable getting on downwind behind the ridge. So I was still 900’ high when I turned base too early – the mountains aren’t that close but I still can’t judge distance too well. And you hear of people losing lift and the ability to turn around when they fly up canyons – I still haven’t sorted out the edge of that envelope and I wasn’t even in that direction really.

I tried to slip the plane while on final. It appeared we weren’t going to land until at least, at least halfway down the runway (and I had already done the roll out for the high density altitude – we might have had 3-500’ to spare. Might have. I did a go-around.

Gen Yeager, I could tell, was itching to say something. :-) Heck I was itching to say something!

After I chose to go-around he made a suggestion. Instead of going all the way around, since there was no, (zip, none) traffic; set up for 2-4.

So I looped around.

I still couldn’t get myself down enough, so we did a 360 at slow flight getting lower and lower.

I realized I’m not comfortable these days at slow flight low to the ground. So I have rather zoomed to the final and then tried to slow down. Doesn’t work.

I still headed for the runway a little bit high but much lower and a little hot at the end. But we floated and landed fairly smoothly.

General Yeager breathed a huge sigh of relief. It wasn’t loud but I could feel it.

We walked in the 107 degree heat to the restaurant in town. After we had each had a fresh-squeezed lemonade, he said: You need to get lower on final.

Me: Yes.

AND: I saw you slowed it up to lose altitude but when you pitched up you gained 200’.

Me: Ah. O.K.

AND: You could have landed it but would have needed some serious braking – and would have stopped before the end.

Me: Oh, good. I THOUGHT so but I didn’t need to wear out the brakes, didn’t HAVE to land – that’s why I went around.

We ate a superb lunch – unusual sandwiches.

Then we walked back with a lot more energy :-)

As were walking back, Gen Yeager said: Take off to the west.

I looked at the terrain – he may be able to and get enough altitude but…how do I…disagree…, well it’s not disagreeing, it’s telling him I’m not as capable as he. Wait a minute, he’s testing me!

By the time we got to the airport, there was a light breeze suggesting we take off the other way. I mentioned this.

He grinned and said: O.K.


I asked the guy in the first hangar since the gals in the office – visitors’ center on the airport – didn’t know anything re the airport – about the code and the GPS.

I had forgotten something if I had ever known it.

No “K” for an airport without an IFR approach. So I should have just inputted 2-O-1 – not K2O1.

As we taxied out, Gen Yeager said: Now start at the very end of the runway, hold your brakes while you bring the power all the way up and when it’s up, let your brakes off.

I started toward the end and he said: The end!

I understood completely just as he said: Where the pavement touches the grass.

I straightened out, held the brakes, powered up, let go the brakes and we started our roll.

I think I would not have thought of that. We needed all the climb we could get to get over the ridge. This morning, I had checked the length we needed for the density altitude, temperature, etc. and knew the runway at Gansner Airport in Quincy (where we were) was long enough by 50-75%.

I’ll be remembering to start at the end and hold brakes while powering up from now on – I have Gen Yeager in my head.

We took off, slowly gaining altitude up the valley. After a short time, Gen Yeager asked: Where’s Grass Valley?

Testing. Hint. Hint.

I pointed to my right.

He told me to turn toward the ridge – I had enough time and distance to clear it.

I headed that way. Had I been alone I would have gained more altitude. So this was a GREAT learning experience.

I kept heading.

Gen Y: Where you going?

Me: Toward the saddle.

Gen Y: That one is closer.

I headed for it.

Gen Y: Climbing at 1000’/minute.

Hint. I was so pleased with myself – I had already noted that.

We’ll make it. But if I were alone….I could keep heading this way, not in trouble yet – still room to turn and then gain some altitude. Didn’t have to do my Plan B, of course – we cleared it with plenty of altitude to spare. Got it.

Headed home.

Got back to Grass Valley – and got on downwind. Slow flight, losing altitude slowly. Then base. Slowly. Final. On target, low and slow but still safe.

We landed beautifully. Still a little bit fast on short final. But just a little bit.

Gen Yeager really is happy when I show what I’ve learned from him so quickly.


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