Victoria Yeager & Chuck Yeager-Flying Formation to Willows for lunch

February 6th, 2011
I had what I call three mini clunkers for landings.

We had to go to Oroville to drop something off. So I was going to fly up there & our friend to come pick it up at the airport. I was going to take our neighbor Bill because Gen Yeager wanted to get some work done on the property.

Gen Yeager: It’ll be a lot of extra weight.

Me: Why don’t you fly the taildragger – we can do some formation flying and you can take Bill’s cousin?

So we did. They were excited.

General Yeager got off first. The Diamond was being washed. I asked the guys to turn it around for us so one of them dragged it back and turned it around. To perfectly blast everyone in the hangar when I started it.

Bill and I got in.

Bill: Should I take off my coat.

Me: Yes. It will get hot. You’ll be nervous with me flying.

We laughed.

I sorted him out some more and then myself. As I was going thru the checklist after starting it, the wing was really bouncy and I thought – I don’t remember it being that windy. Hmm too windy?

I looked out – T, who had moved the plane, was trying to get my attention – to move on out since I was blasting everyone. Bill: I wondered why he didn’t point it on a diagonal.

We taxied on out. Gen Yeager was already in the sky.

I did my checklists out loud as usual. Bill is an ex-airline pilot and ex-General Aviation pilot. His wife hates flying but was a trooper when they owned a Mooney years ago.

Bill sure appreciated my talking out loud so he could know what was going on.

We took off and Gen Yeager’ jumped us.

Gen Yeager: Change freq

We changed.

Gen Yeager: Check in

Me: Rog!

He then took the lead for a while. I locked right in. He waggled us to the right. Woo hoo!

Then to the left. Fun!

Then he put me in the lead. Well. I forgot to find out the runway numbers so I called Gen Yeager’s backseat pilot to look in their black book.

Bill: Where is Oroville airport in relation to the lake.

Me: West. West of the city.

He was looking for it.

Me: I have the toughest time finding airports. Usually I find them when I’m just overhead or on a perfect downwind. Funny.

I pointed to what were probably hangars and said so.

Bill looked: Ah, yes.

I turned out to be right. We did have GPS but we had agreed to practice our dead reckoning – more fun esp. as we were flying VFR.

As we approached Oroville, I heard someone in the pattern to land on 30. I asked for the runway numbers from him. He told me.

I listened to the ASOS. Winds variable. So as I was on a downwind for 120, I chose….120.

Getting onto downwind, General Yeager was on my left so I flipped Gen Yeager to my right.

I realized I hadn’t landed at an airport other than Grass Valley in a while. Hmm. Wonder if I’ll have to do a go-around.

Bill and I discussed the water near the airport – usually lots of birds. Of course bird strikes were on every pilot’s mind since the Hudson River landing. Everything went right for Sully and he did everything right. Had there not been a river handy that was smooth…

Well I did the checklist and got down low-ish, had to power on a bit because…you guessed it – we were sinking faster than I was used to with the extra weight. True to form Gen Yeager had alerted me and I was now prepared. We leveled off and I kept it off but those last two inches clunked down on the numbers.

Bill was thrilled. I looked at him and said: I can do better.

He was stunned: THAT was great.

I think he would have kissed the ground if he could have.

Me: Aren’t you glad you took off your coat.

He laughed: Yes.

It was a beautiful, sunny, clear day. Warm – not too warm though.

I didn’t know if Gen Yeager had landed in formation but I doubted it – but needed to know so I could turn right – just then he called final. I turned right off the runway. The guy poised to get on the runway 30 – I called to him, Number 2 is landing, Number 1 is clearing, cleared the runway.

As we taxied back up, we were trying to figure out how to get to the buildings, when Bill said there’s a helicopter in there (the hangars to our right) taking off. He had seen it when we were landing. I aspire to be more observant but still concentrating on landing.

I stopped just at the helicopter was flying low out from between the hangars and would have hit me. They called then that they were going across the field and had traffic in sight. They flew just behind the other plane, lifted up a bit. Unnecessary closeness.

I asked them how to get to the buildings – they said follow them.

Bill pointed out flaps. Oops. I needed to stop and clean up the airplane. Flaps up, landing light off. Fuel pump off.

So we crossed the runway and followed them. Gen Yeager: Bob’s truck is at 1 o’clock.

I headed to 11am where I had been eyeing a truck. I have a dyslexic clock in my head. I explained to Bill this challenge but Gen Yeager is used to me by now.

Even Tony, a helicopter friend, after 2 days flying and fishing with us when I called out an eagle (really a bald eagle) 9 o’clock, looked immediately to 3 o’clock and he was right!

Actually this time I got it right though. Gen Yeager was heading down the taxiway, I was crossing the runway – so his 1 o’clock WAS my 11 o’clock.

Bob was waiting for us. He brought us coffee. We went into the office. We returned the item we had bought from Bob’s store and he gave Gen Yeager the money.

Gen Yeager: Hey, this doesn’t cover the airfreight!

Remember this is where Gen Yeager was stationed before the war and where he met and spent time with Glennis his first wife.

There were all sorts of photos of Gen Yeager and different airplanes. Also there was a photo signed to Jimmy Doolittle from Gen Yeager. VERY cool.

We decided we were hungry so planned to go to Willows, which used to be a great restaurant with great pies. One of the guys there sold me his old chart (less than a year and nothing had changed in the area) for a signed photo I still have to send (tomorrow).

Bob had to go back to work. I don’t drink coffee much (although it was a Mocha coffee and good) – neither do Bill or his cousin – so I asked the guys at the office. Wow! The fellow who gave me the chart was supposed to go get the office owner some coffee. Saved him a trip and wasting the coffee, a gift from Bob.

Gen Yeager: Which runway are you going to use?

Me: 30?

Gen Yeager: 12 and turn right.

Me: Got it.

Most efficient except I taxied to the very end of the runway so not as efficient as it could have been. Bill and I weren’t exactly sure how far down to taxi. Where we turned, the end of the runway had weeds growing out of the cement. As we were moving past the weeds before I powered up, I did my checklist – flaps, fuel pump.

Me: Ready to go?

Bill: Yes.

As we passed the threshold, I powered up and we were off.

I led the whole way to Willows. A formidable two-ship. A beautiful day.

Bill called out a plane ahead of us going across the nose (1 mile out). No factor.

We looked for the airport. I kept thinking we should see it sooner then we did – but then we were low for that.

Bill: Probably in that patch of green.

I couldn’t figure out…:Oh, you mean that triangle.

Bill: Yes.

Me: I think you’re right.

I was about to call overhead when we heard another plane call overhead at 2750’. I was at TPA – 1000’. So I called in. I couldn’t see the other plane.

I called downwind. The other plane asked altitude. I repeated 1000’. I called downwind, base.

A gal called in – Left or right traffic.

Me: Left traffic.

Gal: Are you white?

The other plane: Yellow.

I responded: Diamond 3 Delta Charlie. I am white. My #2 is yellow. I am on base turning final, #2 on downwind.

A collective: AH. Traffic in sight.

I saw them too – high. VERY high and still about midfield overhead – they had called somewhat early.

This runway was far shorter than Oroville, which as I said used to be an airbase. Would I have to do a go-around – never landed here myself – would be messy with all those enemies.

Me: O.K. Fly the airplane.

As I focused myself on the task at hand.

We got down on the numbers. That last two inches – we clunked down. Argh.

Me: I can do better!

Bill: Any landing you can walk away from…

We taxied to the other end where the restaurant is and then onto the parking area. We had to pull past some planes. One guy about had a heart attack. I had asked them if I could fit. They said yes. But two feet was too close. I was watching the shadows – we were fine.

We went in to eat.

Gen Yeager asked me why I hadn’t pointed out the bandit. Did I see it?

Me: Yes. Bill saw it. It wasn’t a factor.

Bill’s cousin raised his eyebrows – he doesn’t fly much any more so he knows a lot. :-)

Gen Yeager (smiling): A quarter mile out.

Sometimes he exaggerates. :-) but I got his point.

Bill backed me up.

But I thought, I was looking down to sort out the mixture. I did look up sooner then would have been a problem but I have to practice that a bit – that triple focus thing. Gen Yeager was watching me – he saw I got his point. He’s having fun with his student.

I had told Bill that seeing airplanes and airports…still need some practice. And I had told him no free lunch – if he’s flying with me, he’s paying attention! He loved it.

After lunch, which wasn’t very good, General Yeager took off first. Then I did. I put on the power to catch up. Suddenly I was about to overtake him FAST.

Me: Whoa!

I slowed that baby up – with pitch after pulling back the power. And didn’t go past. But it was close. We were flying at 65 knots. Our attitude was quite high but we held flying Gen Yeager’s wing. It did take me quite a while to settle in.

Me: Whoops too fast, wow, can’t quite…hmm.

Me: Wait! I was looking at my mixture and checklist. Did he flip his wing or was it turbulence? (slight).

Bill: I think just turbulence.

I tried to do the mixture. I also tried to get myself to untense my legs on the rudders. When I focused elsewhere I backed off or up. Then I had to sort myself out again.

Gen Yeager flipped us to the left. Flying on his left is harder for me. Bill was very encouraging.

Me: He wants my wingtip to be inline with his propeller blade tip. I’m not ready for that.

Bill (perhaps nervously – just kidding): Just go as close as you are comfortable and practice till you get more comfortable.

Several minutes went by.

Me: Lots of concentration.

Bill: Yes.

Me: Bandit at 12:00!

As a plane went by high.

Gen Yeager: That’s a bogey.

Me to Bill: What’s the difference?

We still have to ask.

I realized I hadn’t called the plane’s office to let them know I had taken off. I had called each time – landing at Oroville, taking off from Oroville, landing at Willows. I was going to call right before hitting the ladies room but didn’t know how long before we took off so thought: Call now. Now is too early and what if you’all do something else first on the ground. Call now, you might forget. No you won’t forget, call after you come out on your way to the plane. …I came out of the ladies room, Bill was waiting outside the restaurant so we headed to the airplane,

And I forgot.

Bill: You want me to call now?

Me: I doubt you’ll be able to hear.


Me: Well you can try. But don’t worry. Fly the airplane.

As we got over the ridge, Gen Yeager flipped me to the left. Then he put me in trail and did some lazy s turns. I kept up. Boy, was that fun.

The whole time I was chattering:

Whoa – left side. Weeee. Oops. In trail. Whoops too fast – gotta swing out a bit. Whoops now swing to the left…Woo hoo!

Gen Yeager waggled me in and flipped me to the right. This time I tried not to power on full and zoom past him.

I was taking some time inching up so he waggled me in again.

Me: I’m coming. I’m coming.

I pointed out Grass Valley airport to Bill. He wasn’t familiar with the white line (that’s all it looked like at that point).

Gen Yeager had me take the lead. I turned crosswind with Gen Yeager to my right. I flipped him to the left and turned downwind.

On final, we had that lift over the reservoir. We still were low enough, I had to power on a bit. We…floated a bit and…the last two inches clunked down and settled in. I kept the plane from sinking on the nose gear. Each of the three landings, we heard the stall warning sound for….ever, it seemed.

We heard Gen Yeager on final.

Guess I should brake to turn here….

We got off the runway, cleaned up the airplane, and taxied on down.

As we were putting the airplane away, Bill’s cousin dropped off Gen Yeager.

Gen Yeager said: You like to do the best you can, don’t you?

Me (using Gen Yeager’s expression): Well sure! Might as well.

As we were driving home, Bill was telling us his wife was visiting a friend in Southern CA with a few girlfriends.

Me: Whatever she was doing this weekend, we won.

Bill laughed: That’s right. We won.

It was a beautiful day and another fun adventure.


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