Merced Airport (KMCE)

Merced, California

The original plan was to fly from RHV to Porterville Airport (PTV) in Porterville, California.  Unfortunately, 'the best plans of mice and men....', during run-up while performing a magneto check the left magneto continually would stumble.  I tried applying more power for a moment and reducing it to perform another check, but the stumble persisted (tried it twice).  So, back to the FBO to have the mechanics check out the magneto.  They changed and cleaned the plugs and took it out to the run-up area themselves, performed a run-up and came back again - evidently there was another cause.  They began the process of changing the magneto to see if this would correct the problem.  While they were doing all this, the time was clicking by.  It was now after noon so I took out my sectional, while I waited, and looked for some alternate destinations which would meet my new time frame.  I decided I'd fly to Merced Airport and have some lunch there (assuming the plane was going to check out after the magneto was changed).

Soon, the magneto was replaced and the mechanics took out the plane for a run-up check.  Upon coming back they indicated a thumbs-up that all checked out.  YEAH!!!  Time to get some air!  There is something that needs to be said before I begin with the journey to MCE.  As has always been, the mechanics were exceptionally diligent and worked hard (past their lunch time) to get the plane ready for me.  It is their expertise, pride in their work that is the one of the many reasons that I like the FBO I rent from.  Every time I go up, I feel most confident in the quality of their workmanship!

Got clearance from Ground to taxi to runway 31R via taxiway Zulu and off to the run-up area again.  This time everything checked out beautifully, so I pulled up to the hold-short line and called the tower for clearance to takeoff with a Calaveras departure.  I received clearance and off I went.......

Leaving Reid-Hillview with San Jose Airport (Class C) in the distance

Livermore Airport LVK

The route of flight that I planned and flew was Reid-Hillview - Livermore - Tracy - Modesto - Merced.  The route provided a beautiful, warm VFR day for the entire flight.  I was having one of those relaxing flights where most everything ran smoothly and I could soak-up the exceptional view.

Town of Tracy

Tracy Airport (TCY)

Modesto Airport (MOD)

View of Castle Airport (MER) in the distance

As I approached Castle Airport (formerly Castle Air Force Base) I initially misidentified it as Merced Airport.  I tuned my radio to the local CTAF frequency (in this case Merced CTAF) and was watching a low-wing in the pattern who was not identifying their position in each leg.  As I drew closer to the airport it became clear that the runway I was looking at was much longer than Merced was.  It was then that I realized that I was looking at Castle.  

I spotted Merced Airport just a few minutes afterwards.  As I was making a 45 into the downwind leg I observed a Citation jet pulling on the runway and taking-off.  Since, I wanted to allow a good amount of time for the jet's wake turbulence to dissipate I announced on CTAF that I was abandoning my entry into the pattern for wake turbulence avoidance and would re-enter the pattern, shortly.

I made a few shallow 360's over some farmland, nearby and returned to the airport and re-entered the pattern making a 45 into the downwind.  Soon I was on final and landed on the runway, taxing to the closest taxiway to find the transient tie-down area and get some lunch.


A view from the-down area with the airport offices and the Pilot Lounge.




Another view.  In the distance you can see another building.  This structure is actually an airport terminal for passenger flights with United Express.  Out of curiosity I took a peek inside and saw basic seating for the passengers waiting for their plane.  There was a United Express kiosk with three individuals staffing it.  There was even one x-ray machine for luggage and a metal detector - like in the 'big' airports.

This little restaurant right on the field was a wonderful stop, with food that was good and exceptionally affordably-priced.  I had to look twice at the menu where it listed a glass of orange juice for .60

It was HOT outside the cafe but once I entered the cafe I was greeted by the comfortably cool air conditioning.

Make it a point to stop here if you happen to be doing some flying around the Merced area.

Alternate transportation for the airport?  A jet-powered witches broom!  Very funny! :)


While my plane was being filled-up by the attendant on the fuel truck he related a funny story about the tower (now abandoned).  He told me that just after a first-time solo cross-county student landed at the airport it was sometimes fun to ask them while he was fueling their plane if they made sure that they had cleared their landing with the tower.  A brief moment would pass before the student realized the joke. :-)

The pilot lounge was very comfortable and homey.

A view outside the entrance to the pilot lounge/airport office

Leaving Merced Airport and heading home!

Although I had planned a totally different trip (which the day's earlier adventures made it necessary to come up with a different plan) it reminded me of the fact that we, as pilots are such a fortunate lot.  Though the destinations are wonderful to visit the real gift is our opportunity to be in the sky again.

Good Flights!

Below graphic designed by: Jeff Bucchino,

"The Wizard of Draws" (copyright owner)

Click PilotGuy to fly home 1