Flying down to Columbia California


Crossing the US border is not a simple thing to do. Preparation and having everything in order is very important if you want to avoid trouble and fines.

On Thursday afternoon I phone US Customs and Border Services as I had an entry in my passport stamped in Boston and valid until 4th July. This meant that I would be unable to get the I-94W card stapled into my passport and required when bringing a private vessel into the USA.
The agent told me that the stamp was now acceptable.
Be aware that ESTA is not accepted for this type of border crossing.

So assured, I went onto the eAPIS website and found that my passwords would no longer work... This was perhaps because these expire after a time...
So I had to go through the process of resetting my password, applying for this, waiting for the e-mail reply, and then logging in with the new password I had to create and applying the code typed in the e-mail reply.

Thankfully the crew details for me and for Ted were still on the system and so I could easily fill in the required information and submit the "Notice of Arrival".

Friday morning Ted picked me up and we drove to Langley to prepare the Decathlon for its trip.
I phoned CBSA at Bellingham and heard the familiar voice and said good morning Mr **. It's been a while since I have crossed the border, but we still know who each other is.
It's important that a minimum of one hour's notice is given to US CBSA.

CBSA at Bellingham usually has your eAPIS Notice of Arrival when you call and are already aware of your plan.

Everything done I phoned Kamloops FIC and filed my flight plan.
The flight service agent gave me a cross border transponder code 4356. When we cross this border either way we are supposed to have a code specifically for the purpose.


The weather was perfect, and it would stay perfect for the whole weekend.
We were airborne at 08:48 PDT for customs booked at 09:15. t's not easy to schedule an early arrival in the USA, you'd have to have everything ready the night before, and be certain the weather will allow an early departure.

I called Abbotsford to let them know that we were crossing under their airspace at 1,400 feet and they gave us traffic information about a Cherokee passing our path.
There were scattered clouds formed by the early morning onshore breeze that hid the Cherokee from us until he was fairly close and passing overhead.

The wheels touched the runway at Bellingham at 09:06 and we taxied over to the customs box. The controller warned us to move the aeroplane as soon as possible as he expected a busy day of arrivals from Canada.
A CBSA lady came out with her Geiger Counter and invited us back to the office.
It's becoming difficult to walk to the office as the airlines are occupying more and more of the apron with their ground equipment.
Bellingham is a hub for people to fly to places throughout the USA, especially Lost Wages.

I was finger printed, photographed, and the formalities were soon done.
Ted paid for the $25 Decal which will be sent by post. This decal is an entry permit for the vessel (aircraft).

We moved the aeroplane, and then after a quick visit to the FBO building we taxied to the self serve fuel pumps and added fuel.
Right on time three Mustangs did a flypast to commemorate D Day 70 years ago.


We were once again airborne at 10:13 climbing out enroute for Salem Oregon.
There was a 15 knot tailwind at 6,000 feet and so we decided to fly south at 4,500 feet and get flight following.
I called the stroppy controller at Whidbey, he was having a busy time and gave me a bit of grief.
I think I am quite terse making as short a call with as much information as necessary, but he told me to make it short!
From Whidbey we were transferred to Seattle Center, Portland Approach and Seattle Center again.
Frequencies from Whidbey (120.7) were: 120.4, 126.5, 124.2, Portland 124.35, 126.0. I write these frequencies down so I can anticipate them on the way back.

When departing a US airfield you can find the Departure frequency published with the airport information, and this is used for Flight Following. Often the initial call will be such that you are told to call another frequency and so it may not be what you expect.

I felt a break in the fork that holds one of the earphones on my Bose X headset. This is the second time this headset has broken.
I don't use the Bose very often as I prefer to use my Peltor headset which work very well and are comfortable for the extended periods I wear them. But I have put my Peltors in for overhaul after more than 12 years of excellent service.

Being ready for such an incident I did have another set of Peltors in my bag; these with ANR that doesn't seem to work! They're still better than no headset at all.
I swapped headsets and used these Peltors for the rest of the journey.
Back at base now I am using Airlite 71 headsets which are about 40 years old!

It was an easy flight past Bremerton all the way to Salem.
A Cessna 172 was remarked upon by the controller, off to our left. It had departed Bellingham just after we did and had caught up.
We flew in parallel until the urge apparently became too much for the Cessna pilot who let the controller know about it and diverted into Carson Memorial for a loo break.

My loo break was shortly after arrival at Salem at 12:19.

We fueled the aeroplane, and went for lunch at the airport restaurant.
Arrivals were two T6s, and RV4, and an Mooney while we ate. I had their marmalade chicken breast which was one of the healthy choices.

Onwards to Redding

Departure from Salem was at 13:44 and we climbed to 4,500 feet once again for flight following from Seattle Center on 125.8, the Cascades Aprroach 119.6, Seattle Centre 121.4, Cascades Approach 124.3, Seattle Center 124.85, and finally Oakland Center 132.2. As you can see the sequence is not logical.

As we crossed the mountains from Cottage Grove onwards we climbed to 6,500 feet for a bit more comfort.
We passed east of Medford, past Ashland, Shasta, and Shasta Lakes before descending inbound to Redding.
Joined downwind left for 34 and gave way to a water bomber on a long left base.
Landing was at 16:18 PDT.

The Shasta Lakes were very low and it looks like California is in for a serious drought this year.
Forest and brush fires will be common and so the water bombers fro the "Air Attack" bases will be busy this year.

I spied a 146 on the ground at the Redding Air Attack Base but this did not have the external water tanks like the ones being fitted at Abbotsford.

On the ground at Redding Jet Center, Ted called Lindy and discoverd that she had a problem hiring a car at San Francisco.
This meant a change in plans, we would go to Sacramento rather than direct to Columbia. Ted would rent a car there, and I would carry on to Columbia on my own.
Ted would drive to SFO and pick Lindy up from there.

There were a lot of Chinese and Japanese students at the Redding Jet Center.
They were flying a fleet of Cessna 172s learning to fly in this hot place.
The temperature was about 110 degrees Fahrenheit - 40 Centigrade and very dry.
Traning aeroplanes had to fit in with the goings and comings of the Firecat water bombers.


Final legs

We left the baking hot Redding runway at 17:13 and headed southwards.
Oakland Center gave us flight following on 132.2 followed by NorCal Approach on 134.8, 125.4, and 125.25.
We were given vectors around Sacramento International before joining right base to land at Sacramento Executive at 18:33.
I heard C GQLU on the frequency, it's a call sign I have heard before, more than a few times!

This route takes you over a multitude of rice fields soaked in valuable water.
There is controversy over this use of a rare resource, water, but perhaps rice fields are better than desert.
You could have sandstorms as they do in northern China where poor farming practice has led to desertification.

The importance of leaning your engine for long distance
flying cannot be overstated

I fueled the Decathlon, had a pe, and checked that Ted had departed in his rental car, and then got going.
Takeoff was at 19:22 and landing was at 20:02 at Columbia, O22.
Once again I fitted in behind the arriving Firecat water bombers at the Clumbia Air Attack Base.

The route took me over the San Andreas Fault and so I throttled back a little to reduce the noise a bit and reduce the chance of setting it off.

I was aware of a lesson learned in 1978:
I was rounding Aix en Province in the Jodel 140 to follow the autoroute to Frejus.
What I had not realised was that being east and south meant nightfall was earlier and quicker.
So the car headlamps went on below... I turned on the navigation lights, climbed, left the road, and headed direct to Frejus.
It was dark but the sodium street lights reflected off the Mediteranian waves on the shoreline which contrasted with the dark patch which must be the airport.
I asked for the lumieres de piste but no runway lights were available.
I flew to the illuminated church tower on the hill east and above the field, turned, switched on the landing light and found the piano keys at the beginning of the runway.
I put the left wheel down a little and felt for the runway... It tapped down and so off came the power, right wheel down then tailwheel, and the landing light was no longer any use to me.
The most difficult bit was taxying to the parking.

I wouldn't have liked to have been much later arriving at Columbia though landing in the dark would have been easy enough with the runway lights.

On to part two

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