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santa clara valley 99s

Hangar Flying

What's the best way for a pilot to celebrate? Why, go flying, of course!

Anniversary of Flight
by Candice Nance

Candice is strapped in and ready to go for a test drive in Tony Banta's classic P-51 mustang

On this day, July 11th, of last year, I soared high and officially earned my wings to learn - my private pilot certificate. In celebration of surviving my first year, I had to celebrate! (I can find any little excuse to celebrate, but this one meant quite a bit to me). Today I sandwhiched my daily work activities at Amelia Reid Aviation @ RHV with two fantastic flights to liven up this festive holiday.

Early this morning, around 9am, I found myself at Livermore airport. Armed with my headset and camara in hand, I was ready for action. I met up with my newest pilot friend, Mr. Tony Banta, and went up for the airplane ride of a lifetime. With a stroke of luck earlier this spring, I was fortunate enough to bid high enough on a dual ride in a Mustang... no, not a fancy FORD race car, for all of you non-pilot friends out there... but a true GORGEOUS P-51 Mustang airplane. My jaw dropped in the shadow of its beauty. Meticulously cared for by Mr. Banta, this P-51 was shiny enough to have been resting in a museum. After a brief introduction to the aircraft and Tony's background, we were off to climbing up one of the front main gears to get to the cockpit.

And thus begun a 45 minute trip to airplane heaven that I will never forget. We took off towards the west and did a 270 departure in order to come back around and fly over Tony's hangar in order to get some great pics of us taken from the ground. Next, we headed towards Mt. Diablo and navigated our way through its curves, so close that I felt like I could almost touch the decadent mountain. After circling back towards the east, we climbed to an altitude of 7,000 feet and performed some simple and smooth aerobatics. First a few barrel rolls, then gliding through a couple of wing overs. Somehow the world appears so much more beautiful gazing through the clear canopy of a P-51.

Candice poses on the P-51 Mustang

After having fun twisting through the valley air, we flew back towards Livermore airport to set up for a low approach on the left runway. How slow can a Mustang go? Not that slow, at 200 mph, compared to the putting of a piper cub at least. ; ) It's challenging to push 110 knots out of a citabria, let alone dream of 'cruising' at 200 mph. After a seemingly dramatic turn upwind through downwind, Tony set the plane up for landing. "CLUNK" goes the landing gear. Any non-pilot would have thought that the insides of the airplane just flew out beneath them. We touched down on the runway with a few bumps and jumps beneath us - something that would have encouraged a Citabria to perform a go-around simply made the Mustang calm and settle down to the ground.

Even with such a thrilling ride as this mighty mustang, nothing is more thrilling than going for a flight as PIC. (just ask my previous passengers!) ;) After work at RHV, a fellow pilot friend of mine and I took off in Citabria 1806G and cruised on over to Napa for a meal fit for a queen. To our advantage we had called ahead and made a reservation. Although we were late for our arrival (fashionably late, as some would say) Jonesy's was so kind as to have reserved us a table right next to the window with a clear view of the runways. With full stomachs and smiling faces, we waddled our way back to our awaiting citabria.

Life couldn't get much better than this! The only worry that I have now is how to top my anniversary next year!

Hope your flying is going well! And if you're not flying yet, hope you get started soon! ; )


Published with permission from the author.

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