Columbia Airport (o22)

Columbia, California


March 19, 2001

I eventually got to Columbia, last week.  Had some trouble with the seat in the 172 just prior to rotation while attempting to leave RHV (Reid-Hillview Airport).  As I started to rotate the nose, my seat started 'rotating' backwards; I aborted the takeoff, called the tower to let them know what I was doing.  Went back to the run-up area to see if there was anything I could readily take care of. I fiddled with an adjustment which seemed to take care of it, went for a second takeoff and on power-up the seat went back again.  Once again, I aborted the takeoff and told tower I would be taking it back to the FBO to have some mechanics look at the seat.  The amount of movement was small, but as is, I fly that plane with the seat ALL the way forwards.  At that point I am just within the limits of my comfort in reaching the rudder pedals properly, however with the backwards movement it took my feet away from the rudder pedals, a bit beyond where I could comfortably reach them.

The mechanics took a look at the seat and mentioned that they had recently replaced the seat rails on both seats, because there was a crack(s) in one of them.  Just pushing on the seat with your hand doesn't seem to get it moving, however, loaded with a pilot on acceleration it would go back further.  If I had longer legs J it probably wouldn’t have been much of an issue, 'cause I would have felt comfortable 'making up' for the loss of 'reach'.  Anyways, they are going to take a look at it, though neither of us could see any way of tightening it and eliminating the 'play'.  In the future I think I will use a back cushion in addition to my seat cushion, just so that I have more 'reach' to play with, per se.

Well, it was clear whatever had to be done wasn't going to get done that day, so I went about looking for my favorite 152 (all the 172's were out) to see if it was booked.  I saw that it was booked for a walk-in who was supposed to arrive at 11am - as it was, it was already 1:30PM and the walk-in looked like a no-show,,, so I thought that it'd be okay to book it.

At this point,,, my flight novel ensues:

Well, after the
preflight and run-up I was off to Columbia.  Except for the haze, the visibility was quite good.  I just passed Byron Airport (C83) and was on my way to flying abeam of Stockton airport, awaiting to intercept the first VOR radial according to my flight plan - when I noticed the low battery indicator on my GPS.  So, no problem, I had some extra batteries in my flight bag next to me and replaced the old ones in my GPS.  While all this was going on I was being a good pilot and maintaining regular scans for traffic.  Then I noticed I had failed to activate my route on the GPS and was fussing with that.  Even still, I was being good 'Joe Pilot' and maintaining my traffic scan.  The only thing that I didn't do was keep an eye on my heading, so after finishing with the GPS, I looked down at the ground and realized that I was having trouble matching what was on the ground with my sectional.  At some point I decided, that I was a little lost.  Yeah, I know that I could have 'peeked' over and taken a heading from the GPS, but I had decided long ago to only use the GPS as a back-up-confirmation of my other means of navigation (ex: pilotage/VOR/ etc.).  My solution to my minor dilemma was based on the fact that I knew the way back to C83, I decided the thing to do was head back to the last 'known' point, turn around again and make for the proper heading again.  Worked beautifully and only 'lost' 20 minutes or so, total.  I was flying at 5500 feet on the way to Columbia and soon intercepted the VOR radial.  Though I had a little bit of trouble identifying the 'Salt Springs Reservoir' that was a waypoint on the flight plan I had put together - I eventually matched a body of water that was a similar shape to the one on my sectional AND the GPS seemed to agree with my pilotage.

I noticed an airport, off to my left, in the distance, which looked very similar to air photos I had seen of Columbia Airport, the only thing was that (by my calculations AND the GPS) if THAT was O22 it was not in the right place.  A quick check of the sectional and the runway numbers confirmed that it was not O22 but Calaveras-Rasmussen Airport.  So I made the turn over a beautiful river and a chasm that it flowed through (apparently run-off from the big reservoir just above it), way below me and in a few minutes I had Columbia in sight.
Runway 17 was in use and
AWOS was up.  I have to tell you that setting up the landing for O22 took me several times.  Thankfully, no one else was in the pattern, so I had the air all to myself.  I started a 45 into the downwind and realized I better close my flight plan and SOON, since I would already be almost 30 minutes overdue.  Tried to reach Rancho Murietta to close my flight plan but I was too low.  So, I aborted my approach to the downwind leg and regained my original altitude.  At 5500ft I was able to close my flight plan (they told me that my timing was good 'cause they were just about to begin the 'calling' phase of a 'search' since I was a half-hour overdue). 

Columbia Airport

I flew back to join the downwind leg, announcing my position in the pattern.   I turned to base and began my turn to final and was getting lower and lower over the ROLLING HILLS, TREE-FILLED path to the runway :-) (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little but that's how it felt).  For comfort's sake I decided that I would rather make my approach higher, announced that I would be doing a go-round and set myself up again in the final approach.  Unfortunately I had made my turn to base too soon and was too high for a good approach.   So, another go-round and back into the pattern.  This time I gave myself a much longer final approach and kept it a purposely, a little high.  As I 'cleared' the trees I was a little high for a normal approach (which was where I wanted to be,,, 'cause I wanted no part of the hills, trees J) so I did a forward slip to get me down to where I wanted to be (I have always enjoyed doing forward slips ((in a 152 obviously)) for reasons I can't explain,,, they are just kind of 'fun') and landed quite nicely.

I got the plane fueled up and went off to spend the 40 minutes I now had left to visit Columbia (since I wanted to be sure of getting to RHV before sunset).


The enchanted path to Columbia, California

Everything I had read about Columbia was understated,,, it was more idyllic than I could have imagined.  A local merchant gave me a short ride to the center of 'town' though it was an easy walk from where the nature trail met the road.  Because of my limited time (from all the time-eating adventures of the day) I did a 'Reader's Digest' tour of the town; mainly, to make note of places that I would explore in depth on my next visit.  I took a couple of rolls of film, both on the way up and at Columbia.

The Pickle Barrel - The owner who gave me the ride is in front


After stopping for a scoop of chocolate ice cream (meeting the FAR's on meeting a pilot's 'physiological needs' -in this case, chocolate J)), I took a picture of me sitting on a bench with a chocolate grin, using the self-timer function on the camera.

    Took more pictures before and after and desperately wanted to stay there. J

Kid's bicycles... Must mean that there is a candy shop nearby… Yum!  Homemade fudge inside.

A bench to watch the day go by, hewn out of a log.

Looking down the main street. Are those two ghosts in the picture?

Johnson's Livery –  

"Horses bought sold & traded"

A couple panning for gold in the panning trough

A picnic bench in a peaceful spot





























Pilot is looking and wishing he didn't have to go yet... but it was getting late...


Columbia Motel

Time to head back to the airport. <sigh...>


Following the nature trail back to the airport

A view of the tie-down area from under the wing

  I filed my flight plan back, checked and sampled the fuel, did a run-up and took off in a little crosswind and headed back home (this time I made sure that the GPS was configured BEFORE I took off).  Intercepted the Linden VOR and began my trek back home.  Funny part about it is on the way back I could have easily just flown by sight without the map, 'cause I could see Mt Diablo way in the distance, but I stuck to my flight plan figuring that is how people find you if you accidentally go down.

I was over Calaveras Reservoir, announced my position to tower and got clearance to enter the downwind.  Set-up my approach and soon I was on the ground, amazed that an hour or so ago, I was in a town so unlike the one I was in now.  Got to tell you that being a pilot, with all the incredible places that one can go, always makes me feel a bit like Dorothy when she had just been given the 'ruby slippers'; except instead of home, a pilot's 'ruby slippers' takes him/her to new and exciting places - a whole new level of access,,, new realms of possibility.

Don't know if you'll make it this far, but if you do, hope you enjoyed my 'adventure', 'cause I know I did! J

Below graphic designed by: Jeff Bucchino,

"The Wizard of Draws" (copyright owner)

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