Falcos Descend on the California Wine Country


Dave McMurray polishes his Falco while Kate Chipps looks on.


By afternoon it was getting quite hot, so we looked for activities that would keep us out of the sun. The ladies went to lunch at a winery and then did a little shopping in the quaint town of Healdsburg. Meanwhile, the guys gathered at my hangar for a close inspection of my Falco. I appreciated the opportunity to pick up a few pointers from these guys who have so much Falco building and flying experience, and I will definitely put their advice to good use. Friday ended with dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Santa Rosa, followed by a few of the usual suspects gathering for some late night drinks and storytelling at the hotel.

A fly-out breakfast is the traditional event for Saturday morning, and this year the destination was Half Moon Bay, which is on the coast just a little south of San Francisco. We try to take as many people as we can, and often there is a larger aircraft in the pack, which provides several seats. In the past Pierre Wildman has generously provided the "limo" in the form of a Piper Seneca or a Cessna 421. But Pierre sold the 421 and is down to owning only his Vampire jet (and many Falco parts). The Vampire is down for major maintenance, but, not being someone who likes to travel on the ground, Pierre borrowed a friend's twin Commanche (we'll just call it a double Falco, since it has four seats and two IO-320-B1A engines). So, Pierre and his wife Robin Owen had two extra seats, and Karen Rives, Lena Burholm, Pat Harns, and Ann Black graciously offered their seats to others wishing to fly out to breakfast in a Falco. After eager volunteers filled all the available seats, several people were still left on the ground, so another group drove to Bodega Bay and had their own breakfast outing to the coast.


Alyson Dorr gets a ride in Dave McMurray's Falco


A little briefing was conducted before departure to ensure that the nine aircraft would fly beneath the San Francisco Class B airspace enroute to Half Moon Bay without breaking any laws and without hurting anybody. Pierre led the pack in the double Falco, and the eight Falcos taxied out behind him. Unfortunately Cecil Rives had a radio malfunction, and he elected to turn back. Cecil spent the rest of the fly-in trying to track down the frustrating problem with the help of former avionics technician and long-time Falco groupie Ken Christensen. Ken and Cecil kept a good attitude and worked tirelessly, but the problem was not solved until Cecil got the aircraft back to Houston (flying as Bill Russell's wingman). It turned out that there was a short in each of his two COM antennas.

Meanwhile the rest of the Falcos launched and headed to the coast. I rode with Bill Russell, and he kindly offered me the left seat and the controls. It's always a thrill to be at the controls of a Falco, and it was great practice for my upcoming first flight. We flew in extended trail formation down the coast, past the opening to San Francisco Bay spanned by the Golden Gate Bridge, and descended into Half Moon Bay. The scenery was spectacular, and the seven Falcos provided a dramatic sight as they arrived in sequence at the uncontrolled field! As you might guess, the landing sight-picture is different for a Falco than it is for a 737 (my usual ride). So when I landed Bill's beautiful red Falco, I thought I did a very nice job, but finished about two feet in the air. Fortunately we dropped in without any damage to the aircraft, and Bill didn't seem overly concerned.


Per Burholm and Dan Dorr


After breakfast we took to the skies for the return flight. The fellow manning the Half Moon Bay Unicom frequency recognized the graceful Falcos, and remarked over the radio that he appreciated us stopping by for the morning. The route for the return was a little different. Again in extended trail formation, we cut into San Francisco Bay, flying over the Golden Gate Bridge, around Alcatraz Island, up the bay and through Sonoma Valley. This time John Harns was in the lead, and as we approached Sonoma County airport, the tower controller requested John to enter left downwind. The next two aircraft received the same instructions, and then the fourth and subsequent aircraft were told to enter right downwind behind the other Falcos also on right downwind. Shortly after that John turned left base, and the tower scolded him for not flying right traffic. Showing his experience, John wisely kept his cool and said nothing back. The other two Falcos flying left traffic were similarly reprimanded. I don't know if the controller ever realized his mistake, but I'm sure the Falco reputation in the tower deteriorated further (just can't wait to call them up when I taxi out for my first flight).


Bill Russell explains a thing or two to Per Burholm and Gayle Boddy

"Well boys, you see red makes it go faster... I picked up 10 knots with
that one, and I'm bettin' I'll get another 10 when I paint the other
one. By the time I get the left side done I'll be cruising at 200 knots!"




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