A Low-Carb, High-Altitude Lunch

The difference between me right now and me one hour ago is significant: I’m no longer hungry, and I’m current to carry passengers.

I didn’t plan to fly today, but the weather got the best of me. It’s midweek, so of course an airplane was available. Plus, my currency had lapsed and I need to take up passengers this weekend, so I knew I had to get to the airport some time before then.

Lunch today was the perfect time. I had a long morning of work, and a good, solid break was definitely indicated. I logged into the flight scheduler and booked the airplane. I checked DUATs, just to make sure the perfect weather wasn’t just a tease for some regulatory flight no-no like a TFR (temporary flight restriction). I grabbed a food bar, my (mini) flight bag, and off I went.

I’m lucky to work near my airport, so drive time was about 5 minutes. I checked out the airplane, did my pre-flight, got my clearance and took off. I fly out of Oakland International (KOAK), which can often be a real busy, no-nonsense airport, so it was refreshing how light the pattern traffic was at this time of the day.

I did full-flap, half-flap, quarter-flap and no-flap landings, and I threw in a short approach, just because I love them so much. (And I’m fond of the term.) I did some soft-field take-offs, with nose-high climb outs, just because so they’re so much fun too. (Fear not, I had lots of airspeed!)

All of my landings were “greased” but one, and I’m absolutely certain all eyes at Oakland were looking the other way for that one.

About 40 minutes later, I taxied back to my tie down and shut down the airplane.

  • Total flight time: 40 minutes
  • Total flight cost: $48
  • Back to work before anyone noticed I was ever gone: Priceless.

For us pilots, the flight pattern is the fun stuff. Fortunately, it’s also the most affordable place to fly. If you ever think you don’t have time to fly, rethink what’s for lunch. Most of us could do well by trading in carbohydrates for carb heat anyway.


About David

David Diamond is a writer and 3D illustrator focused on aviation, who lives in Northern California. Visit his blog and portfolio at

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  1. Jeanne
    Posted March 29, 2009 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m jealous!!! I live 45 minutes from St. Cloud Regional where I take lessons. I think my husband is tired of me looking up at the sky and saying today would be a perfect day for flying. I can’t wait until I get my certificate this summer. There are a few airports closer to home that rent planes that will give me more options to fly at the drop of a hat. Only four more years until I can look for my own plane. (2 daughters in college until then)

    I love your reference to low carbs. My husband and I have both been trying to lose some weight by reducing carbs. Its a challenge because most days we don’t get a lunch break. We are co-owners of a family business. The customers that say they will be there before lunch are usually late and the ones that are coming right after lunch usually come early so their times overlap our lunch time-so no lunch-usually junk food.

    Last summer our receptionist at my flight school commented on the fact that I had lost some weight and I told her the more weight I lose the more fuel I carry, 6lbs=1 gallon of fuel, at this point in time I can take 2 more gallons than 6 months ago. More fuel=more time in the air!!! Jeanne

  2. David Diamond
    Posted March 29, 2009 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Jeanne, I have to admit: I’m becoming addicted to the idea of impromptu flights! I realize that part of the reason I fly less than I could comes from feeling obligated to plan flights well in advance. I sometimes visit the flight scheduler several times per day, just to see if anyone else is flying. Then, when I do see someone snatch up a reservation, I think, “I should have grabbed it while I could!”

    A trip to OAK is always a better option for me than a trip to KFC, I figure.

  3. Jeanne
    Posted March 29, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    David, Since I started lessons in June I find myself checking the schedule often thinking if only I could take a little more time off to go flying. This winter I manage to get to the airport once every other week. We are bracing for a snow storm tomorrow afternoon through Tuesday evening. I’m supposed to fly Wednesday morning, I hope the weather clears so I can fly. They have forecast 12-14 inches of snow for us.

    I’m addicted to flying and find myself rushing to the window at home or work to see who’s flying overhead. We have a military base about 30 miles from here so sometimes we had large military planes that fly low over our home. It must be a rush to fly one of those.

    I was reading about the Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters this week. They will have 6 of each at the National Guard support facility they just constructed at St. Cloud Regional Airport. They said in the article I read that for every one hour in flight they require 4 hours of maintenance. I sure am glad that isn’t the case with the Cessna 152 I fly. It wouldn’t allow much time to fly.

  4. David Diamond
    Posted March 29, 2009 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    The maintenance-to-flight time ratio for those helicopters is exactly the same as my poorhouse-to-flight time ratio! 😉

  5. Jeanne
    Posted April 4, 2009 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    It always starts the same way, as I call the tower to report my position mid-field downwind for the active runway, he starts positioning himself in his seat for my landing to the point where he looks like he’s bracing himself for a bad one.
    I can feel that his feet are touch the rudder/brake pedals.

    I soloed for the first time the first week of March and it felt so good to be in the plane by myself not thinking about what he was thinking. My landings were good, not all greasers, but good. I felt great because before I soloed I knew I could do it but instead of letting me work through my landings if they weren’t set up perfect he’d take over. When I soloed my first attempt at landing I knew where I needed to be and I wasn’t there so I called for a go-around and the next landing went fine and the ones after that.

    Now when I’m in the plane with my CFI I feel less confident than I did a month ago. I find myself second guessing what I’m doing. Yesterday when I went to my lesson I was handed a new syllabus for my training. They have switched to a new one since they have a new Chief CFI and now I’m not sure where I am in my training. If we follow what they gave me, it looks like I have about twice as many lessons to go as I thought I would but maybe I was underestimating in the first place.

    Did you ever reach a point like this in your training? I want so much to finish and be on my own but it seems farther off than ever.

  6. David Diamond
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Don’t worry, Jeanne! I still can’t fly with my original CFI without feeling intimated. Don’t even think of becoming “your own pilot” until way after you get your license. Until that time, you’ll always be flying to please someone–your CFI, a phase-check examiner, your FAA examiner.

    Take advantage of the solo time, because that’s when you can really concentrate on what you’re doing, without wondering what the guy in the right seat is thinking. Could he fly it better? Maybe. Would he have done that last landing with more finesse? Probably, because he’s been doing it a lot longer than you.

    But think of it this way: How often do you drive with others when you’re worried that they’re judging your driving skills? When you drive as a passenger with others, do you even pay much attention to the techniques they use? Do they parallel park the way you do? Do they pull to exactly the same spot at a stop light that you do? How about how much time they wait at a stop sign? Is is the same as it is when you drive?

    The answer is a big, whopping “who cares!” The point is to get from Point A to Point B without hitting anything. And, really, when you’re flying with your CFI, chances are will become increasingly less aware of the basics of your performance. Perhaps he’ll notice you’re 20 feet high–big deal. Or, perhaps he’ll notice you made a few unnecessary power adjustments on final. Who cares? You’ll do stuff like this forever, just like when you drive.

    Do you always pull into that parking spot perfectly each time?

    Don’t break any rules. Don’t break any airplanes. And don’t hit anything. When it comes right down to it, this is what your CFI is trying to get across to you. Sure, he’ll have all sorts of tidbits of info about how you can improve your skills, but chances are, you won’t “hear” any of it until you’re flying on your own.

  7. Jeanne
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    David, Thanks for the encouragement and perspective. The comments on driving are great since it was my job to teach my four children to drive. My husband absolutely hates to ride with our sons and is forever the backseat driver with our daughters. I know that my CFI is there to train and I want to get it right but sometimes I feel like I’m trying to hit a moving target. I know that there are days when flying when things click and days when nothing seems to.

    Hope you had a great weekend and maybe some time aloft. I ordered your book last week and am anxiously awaiting its arrival. I like your no nonsense approach to flying that I have read so far. My husband thinks we need to add another bookcase in the house for the number of aviation books piled next to my bed and livingroom chair. Jeanne

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