Category Archives: Stories

Flying into LAX by myself

A Youtube video by Niko’s Wings of a night approach and landing at Chicago’s O’Hare reminded me that I had done a similar stunt a bit further west at LAX.

If you have no first-hand experience with the navigation of the airways you will not know that landing at one of those big airports like O’Hare is virtually impossible for a private pilot with one fan in front.

You sometimes get routed through a Bravo airspace (the highly protected space around major airports) but have to get explicit permission to enter in the form of a clearance like “Piper Warrior N8300L cleared to enter Bravo airspace.” But landing at the airport that this Bravo airspace protects You don’t’ even think about it  – – –  normally.

But maybe I am not normal. So, in the 90s, I was playing in the airspace west of Burbank – my home airport,  one late night, probably after 1 am. The radio was quiet most of the time and suddenly the idea hit me – why not shoot a practice approach into LAX, just 20-30 miles to the South-East.

So I tuned into LAX approach (now SoCal approach) – “LAX approach, PA28 N8300L, request!” I might have woken up the controller but he came back shortly “N8300L, LAX approach, go ahead.”

I gathered all my courage and asked for a practice-approach into LAX. Unfortunately, the answer was that no practice approaches are permitted at LAX. But – – – you can have a full stop landing. Wow – that was even better! For all you non-flying peeps, a practice-approach is the pretense to land at an airport as if there were clouds so that you have to land only using your instruments. Then, when you are close enough to ensure a safe landing, you give full power and get out of there – often turning around, flying another approach – that’s why it’s called ‘practice’ approach.

Now, really landing at LAX with my Piper Warrior – that would be something to tell the grandchildren about, many, many years later.

So, yes, Sir – I’ll take that approach and landing into LAX!

I got my clearance into the Bravo airspace and radar vectors to the ILS Runway 24R. (ILS stands for Instrument Landing System – a radio signal coming from the beginning of the runway that guides us down to the landing zone vertically and horizontally.)

And then I flew like a young god – holding my assigned altitude within 50 feet and pegged my directional gyro exactly where the controller had told me. I intercepted the ILS and slid down towards 24R.

Then it was time to switch from approach control to tower. Just saying “Los Angeles tower, Cherokee 8300L with you for 24R” grew some serious hair on my chest.

But I did not get to complete my landing at LAX after all. Tower told me that I should finish my approach and then fly a missed approach. That was the friendly way of giving me my practice approach without violating their rule that there are no practice approaches at LAX. It might have been a bit of a loss for me but, on the other hand, I might have owed LAX a landing fee.

I was handed over the approach control again which guided me out of the Bravo airspace and shortly I landed at my home base Burbank, tied down and went home a hero.

A not quite International Airport

(This is a little story that I wrote in my blog before their were blogs.)

I loved the little air strip of Jerry and Lucy up there in the High Sierra. And I was afraid of it. It’s one of the places that possibly pushed me over the edge to make the decision to learn to fly. The romantic feeling of flying a bi-plane, wind in your hair, into a strip out there in the wilderness. Here is a strip like that. I call if Jerry’s paradise. Because it is. Last time I was up there, Jerry told me they are there for thirty-seven years now with no intention to leave.

Nearly every airodrome looks small when seen from the distance. However most of them get bigger when you come closer. But Jerry’s airstrip, even when you are close enough

ng_12

to make a decision to land, still looks really small.

During primary training, my instructor always complained if I did not land exactly on the center line. I never really understood it, because on a runway like Burbank’s 8 there was so much space on both sided, so who cares about the couple of feet to the left or right. On Jerry’s air strip you just don’t have a couple of feet to the left or right. There is only the center line.

After touchdown on Jerry’s air strip I always try to get trusty 08L stopped before reaching the middle of the strip. There is a mown area to the right of the actual runway to tie down a couple of planes. Never managed to do so though. Always had a bit to much speed still and had to run all the way to the end of the strip, turn around in Jerry’s yard and taxi back to the tie down. One of these days I will manage – I promise!

Takeoff in contrast is rather easy for me. This one time my friend Ron, with whom I stayed for the weekend up there in his mountain hotel, dropped me of at 08L’s parking space and took a nice series of shots of my take-off. I thought I share these ….

ng_to1

Going through the pre engine start checklist

ng_to2CLEAR PROP !!

ng_to3Increase power to start rolling – and it takes quite a bit of power to start rolling on the grass surface.

ng_to4Taxi Back towards Jerry’s Yard

ng_to5I really had to figure out how to turn in Jerry’s Yard. It’s a bit too narrow to turn directly, so I use the technique I learned in driving school for turns in narrow streets: All the way to the right, then a sharp left turn toward the curb, followed by backing up with a right turn – –  only 08L does not have reverse! Fortunately, the yard slopes up, so my left turn goes up a slope and gravity helps me to go backward – – then another left turn and the 180 degree turn is done.

ng_to6Aligned with the runway with Jerry’s yard behind me, Checklist, Ready for Take-Off! No need here to announce my departure on unicom frequency – first, there is no unicom frequency, and second, Jerry would have told me had somebody else announced his arrival.

ng_to7Gaining Speed – 30 Knots

ng_to8Rushing by Ron at 40 Knots

ng_to9Reaching Rotation Speed at 60 Knots

ng_to10Staying in Ground Effect to Gain Some More Speed

ng_to11Leaving the Earth Below!

Reaching 4500 feet, 500 above the strip, I turn around, fly over the field once more and rock the wings to say good bye. Then it’s climbing nearly all the way to Bakersfield to get up to 9500 to get enough altitude between me and the Grapevine. Crossing Gorman VOR I start letting down slowly until I’m at 5000 over Magic Mountain

ng_mmwhich looks so insignificant from up here. Still, I don’t think anybody would ever get me into Colossus, Ninja or Viper.

And then, just a little bit later:

“Burbank Approach, Cherokee 8308L, over the Magic Mountain, five thousand, landing Burbank with Information Alpha.”

The Internet is Humming with Dr. Who

The-Doctor-and-ClaraToday the wait was over – the second half of season 7 of Dr. Who has started.

I bet that most views of the show happened on the official channels like BBC America here in the US of A, but, as we are out in the boons, with the cable left behind, we depended on the good old pirate bay to get our fix of Dr. Who (obviously this is a lie, as we would never download any tv show illegally.) Had we actually looked at the torrents we would have been surprised by all the buzz on the interconnected pipes that make up the internet. Way over 2000 seeders is rather rare, and still, download speed would have been – had we done that – still rather slow, so there would have been many, many people as excited to find out about the Doctor’s new adventures and all with a new companion.

Had we been able to watch the show after downloading it illegally we would have been able to actually watch it on the west coast before it officially aired. As I write this, it’s only a bit after the show ended and we would have finished it hours ago – way ahead of all the people waiting for the BBC to start it – Man – are time zones cool, or what?

I’m really curious if the Doctor will get lucky with this companion, but I’m not really holding my breath as one of the big tensions in the series is that that never happens. Strange things can happen if time travel is involved, like Amy turning out to be the Doctor’s mother in law – who comes up with those things?

Thanks, Steven Moffat!

Patrolling Space In the Spaceship Orion

I have mentioned the spaceship Orion previously in my post about Living Under Water. The German science fiction TV series Space Patrol (Raumpatrouille) follows the crew of the space ship Orion on their adventures through the galaxy.

Orion landed on a desert planetI remember waiting very excitedly for the première of the series and then every next week’s show. It came out at about the same time in 1966 as the original Star Trek, but it was much later that I finally watched my first Star Trek episode and it confirmed the German arrogance that we (the Germans) are better at creating things but it also confirmed the other stereotype that America is much better in marketing. Orion lasted seven episodes with a remastered movie version in the early 2000s, while Star Trek is still going strong after nearly half a century. Sets and special effects were so much more creative than the original Star Trek even though some people dared to make fun of some of the props, like the electric iron used to do some mysterious tuning task on the navigation console. In my mind then, those people just didn’t get it.

I do have the whole series on DVD and it is about time to watch it again, but today I enjoyed running into another fan of the series who took his admiration for the show a bit further than just buying the DVDs – he created stunning illustrations of the adventures of the star cruiser Orion.

I discovered Crossvalley Smith through a post on Facebook that featured one of his illustrations from the Perry Rhodan universe, another sweet memory of mine, a science fiction series published as weekly pulp novellas.

A scene from a landing of the Orion on a desert planet has for now replaced an anime illustration as my computer wall paper – go check out Crossvalley’s site, maybe you find something you enjoy.

A Hollywood Experience

st_schoeneOne of my early Hollywood-experiences occurred in the late 80s – the place was the Irish pub ‘The Cat & Fiddle‘ on Sunset Blvd.

My buddy and I hung out there pretty regularly, had learned that just a single extra dollar in tips was well worth the investment for much faster and friendlier service and were, that fine summer evening, out in the patio, slurping our Guinness.

The table next to us was occupied by two guys, one of the a very tall, and cool, guy that looked so familiar but I could  not place him. I heard somewhat of a German accent, but that did not help much at that time.

If was a few days later that my buddy dragged me to the gig of a German guy he had met a few days earlier. As yours truly is from that area of the planet as well and ethnic support is a given I was glad to comply.

Even this big Hollywood is a small place and so I was only mildly surprised that this tall guy I had seen at the Cat and Fiddle was there as well. The gig was great and I still have a video document of this band, Bigger than Blue, even though this is not of the gig, which was much wilder and much more hard rock.

Already at that time I perceived the vibes between this tall German guy and the cute, absolutely petite, singer of Bigger Than Blue, Francesca Capasso.

To make a long story short, the tall German guy turned out to be a very well-known German actor, Reiner Schoene (Schöne), whom I had seen in television shows when I was a lot younger. He and Francesca started dating and we (my buddy and I) had a few parties at our house with the whole Bigger than Blue and so Reiner was there, obviously.

Francesca and Reiner did get married and had a little farm in or around Agua Dulce but, despite efforts to do so, we never managed to visit and the contact went away eventually, especially after Reiner moved back to Germany and he and Francesca separated, unfortunately.

So, why would I write all this after more than twenty years? Simple, when going through my old music collection, I found demo tapes of Reiner as well as Francesca and the most amazing piece on that was a song, written and performed by Reiner, telling the beginning of the story…

      Wild Wild Rose of Texas - Rainer Schoene

 

Boys Staring at Goats

One fine winter up in the mountains…
(isn’t it amazing that there are, in that densely populated Southern California, still places where boys can go out by themselves and explore – and make friends with goats – and stare at them?)

(Click on an image to start a slide show.)

The Hobby Kitchen – A Pre-Blog

thai-recipesThis is history as we made it!

It was in the early days of the internet, a time when Google did not exist yet, when we used Alta Vista to find things on that interweb. When Netscape was strong and the driving force for new developments on this world wide web. When there were pages at Netscape where you could tell the world about new sites or pages – and the world came.

It was 1995!

This is when we stared something that would later be called a blog. Sure, there was no php and certainly no WordPress, so the blog-entries had to be crafted by hand, usually in a simple text editor and the blogger had to know html. Not that there was much to be known – the leading edge of html tags were background images and music.

This was the year ‘My Hobby Kitchen’ was born. The plan was to publish one Thai recipe every few day, or how often we managed. If we would have kept it up, by now we would have – at one recipe per day – close to one thousand recipes. That number shows that it was just not possible as nobody knows 1000 recipes. We did – maybe – foresee that and invented the ‘guest-blogger.’ But only one came on board, shortly before the project died.

The amazing part of the story is that these pages survived. After a multitude of ISPs, and moving between different domains, these pages are still there and they are finding a new home no on this (real) blog.

I kept the pages as they were, just made some adjustments to fit into the framework of this blog, removed any pointers to web sites that don’t exist any more and anonymized it to protect the guilty. But I left all the tacky background music and images intact so that those young people can see how it all started. It was written from the perspective of my significant other who is Thai and knew what she was doing – your’s truly was just the webmaster.

Without any further ado, here is

My Hobby Kitchen.

The Last Roll of Kodachrome

KodachromeI got myself some nice Canon T4i but I can’t figure out where to put that film in, of which I still have a few rolls and which I don’t want to let go to waste.

I think I like Nikon better because on the old 6006, I still have, there was not problem with that – I just opened the back – and there is the space where the film fit in. I got the back of my new T4i open but there is still no place for that roll of film, only all that electronic stuff, chips and wires and such – hmmm.

But, jokes aside, I know there is no more film produces any more – at least not in form of a mass production – and that I would have a hard time to find a lab these days that could still develop film. This roll on the right is probably about 15 years old and expired so solidly that there would be hardly anything on it any more, even if there was a process to develop it with.

But I got to think about that when I ran into a video of photographer Steve McCurry, securing the last role of Kodachrome produced in 2009 and going on a world tour to shoot that last roll ever to leave the factory.

Reminded me of the beginning of my photography career back in Germany. Obviously, with the German arrogance, I did not use Kodachrome – the colors were just too American to satisfy a German eye – we used Agfachrome which displayed a softer gradient of colors and saturation. Back then I always shot slide film and I don’t really remember what my reason was to suddenly get into film for color prints when I got a much better camera – the Nikon 6006 – after coming to the US of A. It might have been because there was an affordable service to give me, with the prints, a scan of the images I could download from the lab’s web site. Another reason probably was, that I was not a purist any more and did break down and took memory photos – back in my early days that would never had happened – the shutter was pressed only when art came out.

This very selective pressing of the shutter was paramount for Steve McCurry when he shot the very last role of Kodachrome. Here is his report…

This documentary got me very interested in Mr. McCurry and I found this interview with him.

You can see the gallery of the 31 images from the last role of Kodachrome on Vanity Fair.

PS: Reminded me that, during my early days of photography (with Agfachrome), I considered it a good outcome when I got one good shot from a role of film.