Editor’s introduction: Steve Olsen learned to fly at San Carlos Airport (SQL) in 1966 and was a certified flight instructor at West Bay Aviation at SQL for over four years (Aug. 15, 1967 to Dec. 31, 1971), accumulating 3959 hours before moving on to a career in the airlines. We are pleased to present Steve’s memories of his time at San Carlos and congratulate him on his accomplishments that began as a private pilot student and ended up in the left seat of a Boeing 767 flying for American Airlines.  His story shows how San Carlos Airport and its flight schools can change the course of a young person’s life and help them realize their dreams of a career in commercial aviation.

I’m not sure when I thought I might actually be a pilot but of course as a small kid I thought it was cool and built the normal wooden models, like the DC3 and F86. In the 1940’s these models were solid carved wood which you sanded, glued together, painted and applied decals.

In the 1950’s I remember riding up Bayshore, now Highway 101, and seeing the big billboard at San Carlos Airport advertising “Learn To Fly $99 Flight Safety” (this price might have been from the 1960’s).  I always thought about that, for a few minutes, but I really was deathly afraid of heights.

During that time I also listened to Don Sherwood on KSFO with Hap Harper doing traffic reports and talking about aviation.  I found it interesting, but not enough to go flying. Much later I heard that when the fog was in Hap would often do his report sitting at his desk.  Not sure that is true, but considering the individuals seems plausible.

I was attending Cal State Hayward in the 1960’s and my roommate, Ron Ross, knew I was interested in flying and thinking of going to Fremont to try a flight in a glider. He had just won a ticket for an “Intro to Flight” at Fremont Airport and offer it to me. He had grown up around aviation so it wasn’t a big thing to him.  He gave me the ticket and I was off to see my reactions to flying and heights. It was not at all what I expected! From the minute the wheels left the ground I had the biggest grin on my face. I immediately thought I would like to try this.  This was sometime in early 1966.

In May I interviewed the Chief Pilot at Fight Safety to see if this place seemed to fit me.  Since I had been a failure in college perhaps this change would work out. Of course I didn’t have any money but he told me that they had an agreement with Wells Fargo Bank down town to finance the training if you signed up for a full course.

I was off to the bank and got my Dad to cosign on the $3,200 loan. I started training on June 2. 1966 but had a slow start until I quit my job at the end of the year at Mayfair Market and began training full time. I got my Private on 1-11-67, Commercial on 3-29-67 and Instrument Rating on 4-28-67.

By this time I realized no one was going to hire a brand new pilot and went back to working at a grocery store to plan my next move.  My first passenger was my sister Joan who I flew in the Cessna shown on the right.

While at Flight Safety I had taken all of my phase checks and check rides with Dal Masterson. I believe he flew the Hump in China during WWII. A chore a lot of pilots did not return from. Dal was a great guy and would go on to give me additional check rides.  He occasionally rented a Bellanca from West Bay Aviation for quick trips. He moved to Alaska at some point and I never heard of him again. He always wore cowboy boots but I don’t know the background to that.

After about a month of working at the grocery store I decided I would have to get my instructor certificate. I refinanced my loan for another $500 and was on my way again completing my check ride on 6-22-67. During this time I also took all the tests required for classroom instructing and had my Advanced and Instrument Ground Instructors license.  I was now 26 years old and ready to start on a new career. I had flown the Cessna 150 and the mighty Cessna 172!

I went around with my brand new resume covering all the flight schools at Hayward, San Jose, Palo Alto and or course San Carlos. No one seemed interested in my newly minted credentials. Finally I was talking to my old instructor at Flight Safety, George Cohen, and he said he would hand carry my resume to one of the schools and recommend me. I did not have a lot of hope as I had already contacted them.

Several years later George and I were to work together at IASCO’s Japan Airline Training center when it opened in Napa. He and I were instructors in the second class and began working there in January of 1972. I was also to meet my future wife there, Susan Boone.  She originally was the receptionist at the hotel that housed the students and later a secretary after the operation moved to a new facility at Napa Airport.  The photo on the right shows a JAL class at Napa in 1972.  George Cohen is second from right by the TV.  I’m front left in the blue jacket. 

In recognition of George taking my resume to West Bay Aviation I received a message to come and talk to Bob Lane, the owner. This was almost two months after I got my instructors’ license. Bob said he would hire me if I was willing to teach the ground schools. YES!!!!!!

I took a check ride with him and had my first two students that afternoon, Aug 15, 1967.  It had taken about 14 months to finally be paid for flying, although not much. In a few days I was instructing in the Beech Musketeer and then the Piper 180. When it came time to fly the Bellanca 300 I got a full check out by Joe Eke. This was my first retractable gear, constant speed aircraft.

I soon met Steve Bell and Doug Bergwall who are mentioned in the Mark Feldman blog article. I never flew with either of them and believe they left shortly after my arrival. Steve had graduated from Stanford at 19 and went on to become an instructor at a college in Ojai, CA. After teaching at Ojai, Steve returned to aviation and flew for Swift Air out of San Luis Obispo flying the Nord 262, then went on to fly float planes in the Caribbean and finally a full career flying for UPS.  When I met Mark and we talked I found out his uncle was Matt Frankel who was on the Board of Directors for West Bay. Matt and I would go on to become great friends that lasted many year.  

During my 4+ years at West Bay I instructed all of the ground school classes. Monday and Wednesday we had a combined Private and Commercial class and Tuesday and Thursday was the Instrument classes, that is, when there were enough students to make a class profitable or at least break even. These were evening classes so I wasn’t expected to instructing in the early morning, which was great with me.

The aircraft that were on the line at West Bay Aviation from Aug. 1967 to Dec. 1971 are shown in the table at the end of this article.  Most of the aircraft operated by West Bay Aviation were lease backs or privately owned.  A Bellanca Champ 7ACA is shown below on the left, a Bellanca in the middle and our Stearman N1852M on the right.

This variety of aircraft is what made West Bay Aviation different from most flight schools.  As instructors we may fly two or three different aircraft in one day. We instructed from private, commercial, instrument and basic aerobatics with some multi-engine mixed in. The serious aerobatics were Bob Lane’s forte.  He loved teaching private and aerobatics and his favorite aircraft were the Stearman and Bellancas.  He also favored VO and water and smoked both cigarettes and cigars.  During these years West Bay was in the Terminal Building.  Previously it had been on the West side in a trailer.  His wife Gladys was usually at the front desk controlling all of us and counting the money, if there was any.  

I think Jay Gude was the Chief Pilot when I started as I see his name early in my log book, along with Bob and Joe checking me out in various aircraft. My recollection is that Jay had been a military pilot in WWII and flown the C46 over the Hump in China, also.  Frank Sylvester was another instructor at West Bay when it was in the trailer.  I knew of Frank and believe I met him but didn’t know him well.

Other instructors that checked me out in my early days at West Bay were Carl Turner, and Ken Kidd. Ken was a TWA Flight Engineer who loved to hang out at the airport. He had a high squeaking voice but was the best guy you could meet. Bob seemed to attract a lot of the pilots that hung out at the airport.

Some views from an instructor’s perspective in 1967 are shown below.  On the left is short final to 30 in a Cessna 150.  On the right we see what looks like a high approach that’s actually a normal power-off glide in the Stearman.

Our line boy was Jim Orton. He also worked at Air West on the ramp at SFO.  I think Jim got more free time in friends’ airplanes than anyone else I knew. He also went into partnership on a B24 they based at Half Moon Bay. I don’t remember if it was flyable but Jim loved old aircraft. When he moved to Las Vegas he was involved in the Confederate Air Force and was a pilot on the B17, I was told. I don’t know if he got most of his ratings at West Bay but he went on the be a pilot for Hughes Air West and made the move to Las Vegas. He was lost in a Citabria when a friend and him went out to do aerobatics.  Apparently during one of the maneuvers each thought the other was flying until it was too late to recover. That was the only conclusion the investigation board could come up with.

The photos below show the surroundings of the Airport in 1967.  If you double click on the image on the left, it will zoom up and you will see the open area off the end of the runway that is today’s Redwood Shores, as seen from the Stearman.  Zooming up the image on the right will provide a 1967 view of Coyote Point and some vacant land in Foster City.

Bob Lane apparently had owned or operated an airport somewhere to the northwest of San Carlos, maybe in the 30’s. He once showed me a pictures of it. It appeared to be a dirt field with biplanes line up beside the runway and one small building. He had gotten his first license in 1928 and went on to instruct for the Army Air Corp as a civilian instructor during WWII at Santa Maria. This is when he grew to love the Stearman biplane, I suspect.  Instructing with him at Santa Maria was Ted Simmon. Ted went on to spend almost his whole life flying crop dusters. Due to a medical condition other flying jobs were not possible. At one point during his crop dusting the chemicals caused a sever reaction and changed his personality and he spent thousands of dollars before the problem was identified and treated.

Ted Simmon, Matt Frankel and Bob were to be some of the founding members of the Sequel Monterey Bay QB (Quiet Birdmen) Hangar. Somewhere in there Bob operated heavy equipment but missed aviation and returned to it at San Carlos. I think he may have been a partner at Peninsula Aviation at the southwest end of the airport but moved on. Originally West Bay was operated out of a trailer toward the north west end of the field before moving into the Terminal building where it was when I joined.  I just did a search for early airports in the area and came up with nothing that seemed to match the pictures Bob showed me.  Bob was to help many of the pilots at San Carlos join the SMB QB Hanger.  I was one of them.

Sometime not long after going to work at West Bay I met Butch Pfeifer. He was a United Captain on the B727 or had already upgraded to the B747. While on the B727 he had worked all three seats, Flight Engineer, First Officer and finally Captain. He also had a fantastic C140 that he used primarily to fly to Columbia to visit his father Joe. Joe had built WWI replica aircraft that Butch got to fly at airshows as a young man, till he got tired of it. Butch also went on to fly B17 fire bombers out of valley airports. Butch is a fantastic pilot and mechanic. I remember when Ray Stern was having trouble getting his Pitts to run before an airshow and Butch grabbed the mag wire to see if it was powered.  YES it was!  The image on the right shows Butch in his hangar at SQL.

Butch built three Christian Eagles that I can remember. He did such wonderful workmanship that people wanted to buy them for a price Butch couldn’t pass up. Finally on the last one he said “I’m keeping this one.”  The last time I saw Butch we were both retired and he was spending a lot of his time with the Sheriff’s Squadron at SQL. He also holds court in the coffee shop, usually in the late morning through lunch. Long time friends, as well as new friends find him at the coffee shop to chat. If you can get him telling you stories from the days before his airlines days he can fill multiple books. Better yet, get him to show you some of his 5 x 7 glossy photos from the days before the airlines.

One of the FAA authorized doctors in the area was Doc Minor. I took all my medicals from him as did many others from the airport. I also worked with him on his instrument rating. I am not sure if he completed the rating but he was a wonderful person and sometimes spent time at the airport.

John McGuinness showed up at our school one day. Seems his father knew Bob and wanted his son to get instruction with us. I think his father was a pilot in Africa. John got his CFI with us and went on to instruct. We had some good times together and some nights I would go out with him and his wife, Kathy. He was to have a successful career as a corporate pilot and moved to Santa Cruz, where he probably still lives. My wife and I went to his house for his 50th birthday. That is the last time I saw him.

Somewhere in here I decided it was time to get my multi-engine rating. It was not the big thing it is today. At the time the only trainer we had was the Piper Apache with two 150 hp engines. If you lost an engine it would almost maintain altitude at sea level. If you were lucky it might slightly climb. Also, if you lost the left engine, which had the hydraulic pump on it you had to extend a handle between the seat and pump 20 something times to get the gear up. This was while you were trying to maintain a 3 mph window for flying speed.  Of course during training you almost always lost the left engine. Finally I had scared my instructor enough that he recommended me for the check ride, with Dal Masterson, of course.  On June 13, 1968 I was a newly minted multi-engine pilot and had 4.1 hours. I was not to fly the Apache again until July 8th and of course that was to give a new student instruction. Very interesting.

Roger Yader (also saw spelling Yeater?) was a United Captain who seemed to love to work on aircraft. He bought a couple of Aero Commanders and did extensive work on them in his spare time. I don’t remember if he had a mechanics rating or had someone else sign off his work but I believe he was very competent. He gave me my familiarization flight in his Commander and Glenn Simmons finished it.

Bill Stafford was a business man with an office in one of the buildings on the west side and also owned a Stearman. I once went up in it with Jim Orton and he did an excellent routine. Bill paid for me to get my Real Estate License so I could fly people up to some property he was going to develop and try to make a sale. I kept my end of the deal but when I saw the property he was considering I thought “No way”. As it turned out he never bought any property that I was aware of.  Bill was to come to me with a better offer. He would pay for my trip to Mexico if I would come along as a second pilot. I got the time off from West Bay and we were off in a Cherokee 6 with two other. We went to Rancho Buena Vista on the east side of Baha a little south of La Paz. The plan was to go fishing and catch marlin. Bill had each of us take a seat in turn and pull in a nice size marlin. At last it was his turn but the marlin rejected his bate and he only got a dolphin fish. We did have great shredded marlin appetizers with our margaritas each night. We were gone from July 19th till the 24th, 1968.

The first record I have of Glenn Simmons is when I checked him out in the Bellanca 260 and Citabria 115 on 9-25-68. He became the Chief Pilot. He had flown for a small airline, I think flying Beech 18s out of SFO but had left aviation for a business career before Bob convinced him to come to work for him. Glenn was a fairly short guy, with part of one of his fingers missing from a stint in a bread factory. He had also driven Logging Trucks in the North West and told me some harrowing stories of that adventure. He had also been married a couple of times but was currently a bachelor. We became great friends and spent many evenings talking over drinks at a bar.

Glenn was to have a serious emergency in the traffic pattern with a student in a C150.  They were on downwind when he heard a bang from the tail area and the pitch control immediately became exceedingly stiff.  He got the plane a little under control and looked back at the tail to see that one end of the elevators was flapping up and down. He had two positions he could use, one up and one down. I do not know to what degree the up and down was disabled but it was not a good position to be in. Glenn was able to control the aircraft enough with the two positions, power and the trim tab, although he was reluctant to move the elevator very much for fear it would break further or he would lose complete control. Eventually he made it safely to the ground and on further inspection found that the small bolt at the outboard end of the elevator had sheared off and fallen out.

Originally Bob didn’t want to deal with the FAA and we were an unapproved flight school.  As the veterans started coming home for Vietnam and using there GI benefits for flight training things were about to change. In order to sign them up you had to be an FAA Approved Flight School. Glenn and Bob jumped though all the hoops to get us approved and eventually did. I was the only one with the required ratings and time instructing instruments so I became the Official Instrument Chief Pilot. Glenn continued to do all the paper work and I just had an honorary title.

One of the companies that chartered the Aero Commander 500 was Boise Cascade. They were building huge developments in the Sierra and Coast Range Mountains. Since the Aero Commander had a total of 7 seats they could hire a pilot, me, and put a salesman and five potential customers in for a ride to these developments. I don’t remember the names of the different developments but it was interesting and great flying.

On a lighter note, Bob asked me if I wanted to go to Van Nuys Airport to pick up the Cessna 210. (Oh yeah, C210 time!) Seems one of our renters thought that was a very good aircraft to pick a load of contraband up in Mexico and bring it back across the border. Seems he was intercepted and in his maneuvering in an attempt to get away he had overstressed the wings. The FAA had done an inspection of the aircraft and issued a ONE WAY Ferry Permit from Van Nuys to San Carlos, IN SMOOTH AIR! OH YEAH, SURE! Now you can see immediately that I may not have been the brightest kid on the block. Oh, but it gets better.

We decided I should take a parachute just to be extra safe. Now the only ones we had were the ones we used for aerobatics and they were the old heavy seat versions that strapped around your chest and over your shoulders.  I do not remember if PSA flew into Van Nuys, or I may have gone to Burbank and gotten a cab. NOW THE INTERESTING THING HERE IS THAT THERE IS THIS GUY GETTING ON A COMMERCIAL AIRLINE FLIGHT WITH A PARACHUTE! I guess this was before DB Cooper but I was allowed on and don’t remember too many strange looks.  My return flight was forecast smooth all the way and I never had to use the parachute.  Good thing, I would have had a heart attack. Remember, I have a deathly fear of heights!

Dave Luddy was our Line Boy at some point and I was his instructor for at least some of his training. He could sit on the couch and tell you what kind of airplane was passing outside by the sound of the engine.  He loved aviation but had poor eye sight. I guess because of his eyes he could nor plan a future in aviation so he changed fields and became a mortician in the Daly City area.

In mid 1969 Bob decided to check me out in his Stearman. He actually owned it with partner Keith Bedford. Keith was a great guy and had been a P51 pilot in WWII. I was able to get about ten hours in it and do a little instructing, all takeoff and landings. As often seemed to happen when Bob was scheduled to give flight instruction, his appointments were suddenly moved over to my schedule at the last moment. I was not a very effective instructor in the Stearman. This is my boss’ private plane and his favorite. I was not yet comfortable of my own flying in it. But here I am giving instruction, or at least that is the way it was logged. I gave my students very little leeway on landing, in fact you might say I was on the rudders all the time making sure it stayed straight. I was really fearful of a ground loop.  Bob and Keith had different ideas about the the operation of the Stearman and Keith bought Bob’s portion. That was the end of flying the Stearman.

In the early 2000’s while living in Grass Valley I was to see Keith one last time. There was another SQL pilot living in Grass Valley. That was Bob Updal. He had had a hanger at SQL adjacent to our flight line and in it he kept a Waco UPF7. He was a United mechanic and used his skills to do a full restoration of his aircraft. He was now living on Alta Sierra Airport, still with his Waco close by. He organized a luncheon with 6 of the old San Carlos guys living in the east valley and Nevada City and Grass Valley. We had a wonderful lunch and great reminiscing. Turned out Keith still had the Stearman though he was to sell it a few years before he passed on.  His funeral was in Lincoln and once again we were off to send a wonderful person on his last flight west.

In 1969 Bill Staford decided he needed to get that elusive marlin and ask again if I would be his second pilot and he would again pay all my expenses. This year we were to take two Cherokee 6’s. I don’t remember how many came along but this time we went to Cabo San Lucus. They had an airport very close to the hotel at the time and the approach took you right by the rock formations at the tip of the peninsula. I don’t remember much being there other than the hotel and it was where the marina is now, from what I remember. The sandy beach was deserted for over a mile from the hotel, with only a few people on the beach by the hotel. Since I am not really a fisherman I stayed ashore this time and just walked the beach, swam and laid in the sun while they went out fishing. Don’t remember if Bill got his marlin this time.

Before the tower opened at San Carlos in 1969 they had done a study on operations (takeoffs and landings) at the airport.   The study showed that there were 90 operations per hour. Sometime while I was instructing there I had figured there were 7 flight schools operating out of the single runway airport. The ones I can remember were Peninsula Aviation (I think Bob Lane had been a partner at one time but parted ways), Flight Safety, Flood Aviation, Flying Ten (a club), Blue Helicopter (also taught fixed wing aircraft courses) and West Bay Aviation. That put a lot of aircraft in the air at any one time and without a tower. It could get scary out there, especially on hazy days, while working in the traffic pattern. It was not unusual to be south of the Palo Alto’s Yacht Harbor and still going down wind looking for the aircraft ahead of you. It was easy on those hazy days to think you saw the traffic ahead and turn base only to see another aircraft flying straight in on final in front of you.  Interestingly, after the tower was in operation they mentioned “in hectic 1980 there was a take off and landing every minute.”  Let’s see, that is 60 operations per hour with a tower versus 90 without. Yes, certainly safer though.

Chuck Turturicci was one of the fixed wing instructors at Blue Helicopter. He and I got to know each other on the long hours when we didn’t have any students booked. I think he went on to fly corporate but then 10 years later when I came home from Saudi Arabia he was working at an airline and carried my resume into the Chief Pilot and recommend me for a positing at Air California. He was hired about 6 months previously in spring of 1978.  I started there on November 13, 1978. I was to start as a First Officer on the Lockheed L188. It is a four engine turbo prop aircraft that was on property to service Lake Tahoe.  The old autopilots were too expensive to maintain so Air California figured that’s why they hire pilots. Wonderful flying routes and aircraft but they were sold off after I was there about a year. I was on the last scheduled Electra flight out of Tahoe and it was said the last scheduled passenger flight in America with the Electra. Ours were sold outside the US and our crews flew them to Malaysia or someplace close.

I met Ken Hubbard, an instructor at the College of San Mateo (CSM), when he came to add an instrument rating to his ticket. I became his instructor and we had a great time together and many of his students came to West Bay for their licenses. He was a wonderful person and highly regarded at CSM. We were to lose our friend when he bought a Cessna 310 that needed some attention and he and his wife were flying to Montana or someplace to the north east.  One of the engines failed above an overcast and they were both lost when Ken lost control. I don’t know if he got instrument instruction when he bought the twin but he did not get it at West Bay. A loss of a great guy and his wife.  Mark Feldman recently told me that he worked with Ken Hubbard at CSM where they used surplus Army Link trainers.

Another of the great guys I was to meet through Bob was Ted Smith.  He had been a Pan Am Captain and had flown the China Clippers in his early days at Pan Am. He was writing manuals for a new start up airline that was to operate out of SFO. One day while talking in the coffee shop I found out he lived in Los Altos, where I had lived though grade school and his son Tony and I had been classmates. Tony was not attracted to aviation and had chose another career. Although Ted had no desire to instruct anymore one of his airline buddies wanted his son to get the best training available and talked Ted into being his initial instructor. One day while doing takeoffs and landings somewhere in the east bay they spun in and were both killed. The investigation revealed no medial or mechanical issues and was inconclusive in the determination. Those of us who knew Ted from San Carlos along with a large continent from Pan Am and QB’s attended his funeral to send him West. I also had a brief, although not particularly happy chance to see my old friend Tony and his sister, who was a few years younger.

One of the young kids that came to us from the College of San Mateo was Brian Herrman. He became my student. My log book shows I recommended him for solo on 11-11-67 and his Private on 3-11-68. I did not find any other record or recommendation for him in my log. He was a great kid, somewhat difficult to settle down, being a teenager with a right to fly, but I enjoyed working with him. Years later I was to learn he was killed on short final to Hayward when he mismanaged the fuel system in a relatively new aircraft to him. That was really hard news for me. I never saw the accident investigation results.

I continued to wonder about Bob sometimes when he would say “Steve, you take this flight, I got something else to do” I think that meant he had to go to the coffee shop.  This day I was to give instruction in a Cessna 336. Now I had seen this twin engine push/pull aircraft on ramps at airports but I had never been closer then 50 feet to one. I was now to give multi engine instruction in it. Of course I had to put on the happy face for the client and said it had been awhile since I flew one. “While you preflight the plane let me review a few speed numbers from the Ops Manual.” He seemed a little hesitant but lent me the manual and I feverishly looked up the critical numbers.

We went over toward Livermore doing airwork and shutting down an engine. I made the mistake of shutting down the rear engine. Although not really a problem, we were having trouble with the restart and it would have been nice to see the prop rotating. Finally we got it restarted and went to Livermore to do a few touch and go’s.  After our first landing, we started to takeoff and I noticed that we had no power from one of the engines but the owner didn’t notice anything amiss. I pulled both throttles to idle and we taxied in to talk about this event. There was supposed to be a red light in the clear plastic throttle handle when the engine stopped but that didn’t work on this plane. We restarted the engine and flew back to San Carlos. Never saw the guy or his plane again, but then I thought that was a good thing!

Another time Bob suckered me in for an Aero Commander 560F flight. Bob said a pilot wanted the Commander brought to Butler Aviation at SFO that afternoon and he would fly the plane to Monterey and I would bring it home. I think I had had less than half an hour in the plane with the owner and made one landing, in the daylight.  I don’t think I had ever been to SFO and had no idea where Butler was, although I had heard of it! Not a big thing and I did my research and got the plane to Butler. When I walked into the lounge I find four guys that were pretty happy and obviously had been having a few drinks. This includes the guy that had rented the plane and was suppose to fly it south. He asks me if I am ready to go? “SURE!” I get them all strapped in and take the pilot seat and off we go. 

As we fly toward Monterey, it is starting to get dark and I realize I don’t have a clue how to turn the lights on in the instruments. This is completely different than the 500 model. My passengers are all asleep, or should I say passed out, and I am fumbling to figure out the lights. About this time I am approaching Santa Cruz and realize the fog had moved in earlier than forecast and I will have to make an instrument approach. Lights would sure be good about now.  I finally get enough working to see a little, find my approach plate and call for an approach.  It is close to minimums for the approach but I successfully found the runway and land (my third in this aircraft). I off load my passengers, see the weather to the departure end is marginal VFR and I get cleared for takeoff, shoot through a hole and head home. I wonder if the tower would write me up since on my departure my landing lights illuminated the clouds as I passed through them, but nothing ever came of it.

Bob Rice was my student and got his CFII though us and I think instructed for a while before deciding to become an Air Traffic Controller. He ended up being assigned to the tower at San Carlos. 

I did most, if not all, the multi-engine instruction at West Bay. At various times we had used the Piper Apache and Cessna 310 but were now using the Aero Commander 500, like the one shown on the right, as a trainer.  It is a high wing, 7 seat aircraft with a rather large profile.

One day Bob Rice came to me and asked that I not cut the left engine when doing a missed approach with students. Seems on a few occasions I had sent the tower crew heading for the stairs when they saw the Commander swing around with the side of the aircraft pointing at the tower. It was a rather impressive sight to see that thing coming toward you. This was after I had taken my students to Half Moon Bay and we had spent almost an hour doing just such maneuvers. I knew, since we were homeward bound they figured the training was over they did not expect to have any problems on approach.

As we got well along on final I would call a go around and as they initiated it I would cut one of the engines, just as we had been practicing. I knew they would be relaxed and not prepared and they never were. One day I saw Chief Pilot Glenn taxiing in with a student and so I cut the right engine and we made a low pass over the taxi way and Glenn as we made our missed approach.  I don’t think Bob and the tower operators liked me and in hindsight I don’t blame them.  Over drinks that night Glenn said he heard us coming and knew who it was.  I wouldn’t do that today, for sure!

I’m not sure what year the FAA decided to create the TSA at SFO (Terminal Control Area, now Class B Airspace). It was to be presented at a public hearing and to defend our airspace around our Airport Bob said we were going to make our presence felt and present our objections.  I don’t think our input had much effect.  The TCA definitely changed things when it became active.  Going across the bay we had very few options when choosing an altitude and were not even close to gliding distance from shore. We had always stayed out of the way of the airliners on approach to SFO but now we were squashed quite low all across the bay.  Of course Bob was looking at the bottom line for our operation but in the long run we probably weren’t affected much.  I’m sure it made the airline pilots much happier to know they had a cushion below them.

Talking about the FAA, when one of my CFI students failed the oral at Oakland with the FAA I asked for a debriefing from the student. His main comment was that during the oral he had had trouble with one of the FAA Regulations. He indicated that the FAA Examiner said “it is all right there in black and white.” Now I don’t know if that was a correct interpretation but I believed the inspector was directly out of the Oklahoma Training Center and just out of training himself.  Whether correct or not, I decided it was my place to indoctrinate him into the real world. I had been teaching ground school for quite some time and was very aware of many confusing regulations.

As a matter of fact you could go from one FAA division to another and have them interpreted differently, or at least that is what I thought at the time.  I looked up a couple of the more confusing regs and called to talk to the inspector. I told him who I was, that I was an Instructor and that I was having a little trouble understanding a regulation. He said “hold on a second while i get my book out.”  I presented the regulation to him, there was a very long pause on the line, then “hold on a minute, I’ll run it pass one off the other inspectors.”  Finally he came back and said he would call me back.  He did. I continued to do this about every week for some time with the same result each time.  I don’t remember how I finally ended our conversations but I hoped I had made my point.  Many of the Regulations are NOT Black or White!

Somewhere along the way I decided to try my hand at gliding. Fremont at the time had a drag strip and just a little to south was an airport and the Sky Sailing operated. After some initial instruction in the glider we started doing ridge soaring. This was so different that flying powered aircraft. With powered aircraft we tried to stay away from the ground. The trick to ridge soaring was to get your wing tip as close as you dared to the cliff. If you were beyond the wingspan from the cliff you lost most of the uplifting air that moved down the bay and up the cliff face just southeast of Fremont. I really enjoyed my hours there but didn’t get my gliders license at this time.

One of my students bought a Cessna 120 (N3102N) before asking any advice on his purchase. Anyone who had attempted to train him would have strongly advice that he NOT buy a tail wheel aircraft. They are much more critical on landing for the inexperienced pilot.  He was having a terrible time in a C150 and had not soloed yet. The good thing was he allowed me to fly it if I just kept the gas tank full. I had heard about the CALIFORNIA 1000 AIR RACE and asked my old college friend, Ron Ross, to come along. We flew down to Mojave Airport on 11-14-70 in 3.6 hours and watched the race the next day. It was fantastic to see all those aircraft flying around pylons. That afternoon we returned to SQL in the little C120 in 4.1 hours.  Check out this link for the race or just do your own search.

https://www.theloopnewspaper.com/story/2018/02/17/community/recollections-of-the-1970­california-1000-air-race-at-mojave/4243.html

The last time I was to see Glenn Simmons was when I took a charter with AirCal to Lincoln Nebraska. I had heard somehow that Glenn had moved there and so I called the phone operator, remember them, and got about 4 phone numbers for that name. On one of the calls I got Glenn and we had a great talk and planned to meet at my hotel. This was probably in the mid 80s as I was a Captain on the B737 for AirCal at that time.  Glenn bought his wife (3rd or 4th) along and we had a great visit, although I couldn’t have a drink with my old drinking buddy because of an early departure in the morning.  Glenn was no longer involved in flying but I don’t remember what he was doing. He was the Deacon at his church and very happy.

A STORY ABOUT A NIGHT OUT WITH THE WEST BAY GANG!

Usually it was just a small group of us when we went out to dinner together. Bob Lane and his wife Gladys, Glen and me and maybe one other couple. (I do not mean to make is sound like Glenn I an were a couple!).  This night was one of a kind. I am not sure how may attended this particular night but I think 12 to 14. It was a VAN’s (since 1947).  I am sure Bob, Gladys, Matt and his wife Helen, Glenn and I attended. Apparently Bob and Gladys were regulars there as they were greeted and we were ushered into one of the semi-private rooms. It had one large table that was set for our group.  It was all first class with butter dishes and all the silverware and cloth napkins. We were all dressed up, the ladies in dresses and the men in sports jackets. I was seated next to Gladys, Bob and Matt were on the other side of the table.

As the drinks were poured and the night progressed Gladys leaned over to me and said to “hold this butter square!” What? OK. I followed directions and soon Gladys wanted to look at it. “Oh, just right!” She took the butter cube and put in on the end of a very sharp stake knife. Putting her thumb on the end and bending the blade she launched the butter to the ceiling, which was probably 10 or 12 feet high. Now I don’t know where this little LADY learned how to do this little trick but it passed though our group and I don’t want to think about how many butter pads were launched to the ceiling and stuck there. I was the official paddy warmer for Gladys. By the end of the evening Gladys was complaining about her bloody thumb.  Dinner was fantastic and nothing was ever said to us by the staff.  I don’t remember doing any launching myself but then I choose not to testify against myself.  It was a really fun night but I often wondered about who had to clean the ceiling and how long it took before someone noticed.

We were all off on Sunday so the sky was safe!

West Bay Aviation aircraft (1967 – 1971)

 

Manufacturer model N number model N number
Aeronca Sedan 15AC N1323H
Bellanca 7ACA Champ 260 N8549R
Viking 290 N7387V Viking 300 N6692V
Beechcraft Musketeer 150
Boeing Stearman PT-13 N1852M
Cessna 150 150 Aerobat N8387M
172 177 Cardinal
182 205 N8444Z
210 210 Turbo N376KV
Citabria (acrobatic) 115 N8389V 150 N6362N
Helton Lark (acrobatic) 95 N5014J 95 N5015J
Mooney Mark (M20C) N9266V
Piper 140 180
Arrow N7519J 6-260
6-300 Commanche 180 N5063P
Commanche PA24-250 N7637P
Twin Engine Aircraft
Aero Commander 500 N3845C 560F N301T
Cessna 310 N608G
Piper Apache PA23-150 N1260P Aztec PA23-250 N6181Y
Outside Instruction
Aeronca Chief CA-65 (1940)
Cessna 336 Skymaster N1797Z
Fairchild 22
Navion Rangemaster 285 N2441T 285 N2534T
Mooney Executive 21 (M20F)
Taylorcraft DCO-65

After San Carlos

After leaving San Carlos I went on the fly for several companies and quite a few different aircraft types. I flew the Beechcraft C45 and 18S (show in the two pictures below) for Eureka Aero Industries from 1973 to 1974 on an airmail route in Texas: VCT, IAH, DAL/DFW, IAH, VCT.

I flew the Piper Apache and Cessna 421 shown below on a TWA contract to Saudia Airlines from 1974 to 1976 while based at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

I also flew the King Air 100 for Saudia and transferred to the airline and flew the Boeing 737-200 shown below while in Saudi Arabia.

I flew the Lockheed L188 Electra and Boeing 737 for Air California from 1978 to 1987.

My last flight with Air Cal was in June, 1987 with the crew shown below on the left.  Air Cal had been purchased by American Airlines.  After that I started flying the B737 shown on the right for American and eventually flew the DC9-S80, B757, B767 before retiring on Oct. 26, 2000.