High Flying Fun
One of the cool things about living here in the Crescenta Valley – at least for an adrenaline-addict like me – is our close proximity to many private airports. Growing up here, my siblings and I were some of the very lucky few of our friends and schoolmates who had the regular privilege of seeing our hometown from the perspective of a thousand feet above. That’s because while some kids’ dads had a hot rod parked in the garage or a ski boat docked on a trailer in their driveway, mine was a part-owner of a sleek white, black and yellow “v-tail” Beechcraft Bonanza airplane. Boo-yah.
I would always look forward to the weeks when it was Dad’s “turn in the bucket” as he would call his every-three-weeks turn to fly the fast, low-wing, single-engine plane – with which he shared ownership with two other pilot friends. Driving out La Tuna Canyon Road and over to the private terminal at the Hollywood-Burbank airport early on Saturday mornings became a much anticipated ritual of my youth.
It has been nearly 40 years since I last flew in that plane with my dad, who would often take it up to cruising altitude far away from the crowded airspace over the Los Angeles basin, then swing the control yoke over to the passenger side where one of us kids was sitting, take his hands off the wheel and matter-of-factly announce, “You’ve got control. Watch for other aircraft and don’t crash.” Gulp. Each of the two front seats had a set of control pedals, so whoever had the wheel was flying the plane. We always knew he would quickly take the wheel back if there was trouble, but it could be a nerve-wracking experience nonetheless in any turbulence or stormy conditions.
If I close my eyes and listen to the memories, I can still hear him talking to the radio as clearly as if it were yesterday, “Burbank tower, this is Bonanza six-two-one-victor requesting clearance for takeoff on runway eight-two-six.” What I wouldn’t give to hear that again.
Sadly, Dad gave up flying many years prior to his eventual passing. And although getting my fixed wing pilot’s license has been on my bucket list over the years, most of the flying I’ve done since then has been in commercial jets. Now I realize there are many for whom flying in even a huge airliner is a nerve-rattling experience. But trust me when I say compared to flying in a small, single-engine plane, it’s like the difference between doing Angeles Crest in a school bus vs. a Lamborghini Murcielago. There’s simply nothing like the thrill of a small plane.
At least that’s what I thought until this past weekend. Turns out there’s something even better.
On Friday, Steve Goldsworthy, vice-president of the CV Town Council and husband of CV Weekly Publisher/Editor Robin Goldsworthy sent me a Facebook message saying he had the keys to a gleaming metallic blue, Robinson R44 helicopter in his back pocket and would I like to ride shotgun on a weekend flight? I couldn’t say “Yes!” fast enough and woke at the butt crack of dawn last Sunday to meet him out at Whiteman Airport near Hansen Dam.
We flew low and slow, as only a helicopter can do, above the San Fernando Valley, the Santa Monica mountains, pier and coastline, then circled back to skim the rooftops of the mansions and hillside hideaways of Malibu and Topanga Canyons. The morning did more than bring back happy memories from my youth. It also reignited my passion for flying. Sure, I’ve enjoyed the typical overly choreographed helicopter tours of the Hawaiian islands before. But flying over the Southland in the small, agile bird piloted by Steve Goldsworthy was an experience unlike any other.
I can’t thank “Goldy” enough for the high-flying fun last weekend. And I may just have to revisit that bucket list of mine.
I’ll see you ’round town.