May 18, 2009

Around and About (Still Alive!)

Given the somnolent state of this blog, my few readers probably wonder whether I'm actually still alive or not, but never fear: as of this morning, the FAA has again certified my aliveness (if not my alertness at that time of the morning), and it's really only the high price of flying and the recession's grip on me and the local economy that's kept me from being more active. In any case, as with last time, my medical got renewed without fuss or bother, and the whole visit to the medical examiner was an enjoyable experience (as unlikely as that sounds — I've been using the same AME for a decade, and he's quite a character…).

In other flying-related news I helped shepherd a friend of mine's two-year-old kid through the Hiller Aviation Museum at San Carlos Airport (KSQL) over the weekend, which was a lot of fun (he's way too young to actually come flying, but he already likes airplanes and seems to have a good idea what they are for a two-year-old). When the Aviatrix had coffee with me in Berkeley a few years ago she'd just come up from visiting the Hiller herself, and her description of the place made me want to visit some time (like so many local pilots I've done dozens of touch and goes at San Carlos airport without ever stopping there, let alone visiting the museum). For a variety of dumb reasons every time I'd planned on going there the visit got canceled, but yesterday seemed like a good day, so off we finally went (it helps that it's mostly indoors in air-conditioned modernity, given that yesterday was wiltingly hot, by far the hottest day of the year around here so far).

Even with Aviatrix's description, I was unprepared for how good it was in reality: it's a sign of something, at least, that while at most aviation museums I can identify maybe 80% of the planes and gear (at least approximately), I couldn't do better than about 40% at the Hiller. Even more enjoyable (especially with kids in tow) was the way you could sit in and play with various real cockpits — a 747, a 737, an ex-Blue Angels F-something-or-other (wish I'd noted it down…), etc., and a bunch of hands-on simulators and other working displays. It's very different in size and focus from somewhere like Castle Air Museum, another local(ish) museum I like a lot, and I'd thoroughly recommend it for kids and adults of almost any age. They even have a little raised platform right next to the museum near the west side of the runway that you can stand on to watch the local air traffic in the pattern or on the runways and taxiways (and, of course, that's exactly what we did, regardless of the heat and glare).

I think one of the high points for me was buying a soft Southwest 737 plush toy that Alex, the kid, immediately took to heart, and apparently cuddled all night. It seemed kind of appropriate given Oakland's role as one of Southwest's main hubs, and the number of Southwest 737's flying past his place that he sees every day. He certainly seemed to know what the fuzzy purple-and-orange 737 was :-).

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