Carmel Valley: 03/17/01

These are the days of our lives. I left for Carmel Valley around 1:30PM. Much to my surprise it was quiet at the airport. There was little wind and today was the first nice day after some time. A left Dumbarton departure and after 15 minutes I was zooming along the coast. My heart stopped for a second when I saw the Oil temp gage pointing to 110 degrees, it should be much warmer. My other instruments,  including the engine monitor gave me reassuring "good’ values.

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I tapped the glass with my finger and the oil meter jumped to the "correct" value. It had simply stuck. By now I was close to Santa Cruz. A bunch of small planes where whale spotting below, close to the surface. I was temped to join them, but I could see that Carmel Valley wasn’t fogged in. I had tried a few times before to get there, but I never made it due to the fog. Today it was going to work.

I contacted Monterey approach. They came back to me after 5 minutes and cleared me into their airspace. After you overfly Monterey airport you turn to a heading of 103deg and you’ll see Carmel Valley right in front of you.

Carmel Valley is the oldest airpark in the US, and therefore in the world. It was founded in 1941. It is situated between two mountain ranges. (These mountains aren’t very high, probably no more than 4000 foot)  There was a fairly stiff wind., so as soon as you descend under the tops of the mountains, you encounter turbulence. Much to my surprise, there wasn’t  anyone flying in or out Carmel Valley, at least no one on the radio frequency. I overflew the airport. From the air the runway looked like it was in pitiful shape. The concrete, or what was left of it, was cracked badly. Next to the runway was a nice grass runway, but that wasn’t marked on my map, so I decided to land on the concrete. If the runway looked bad from the air, it felt a lot worse on the ground. As soon as I touched down, a mans voice over the radio said: Welcome to Carmel Valley!

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The voice belonged to Lars de Jounge, a Swede who leased the airport for about 4.5 years. The lease is now over and the airport is in a struggle to survive. As usual, housing developers have gotten their eye on the field. An airport is usually a large open space. As houses get build closer and closer to the airport, the owners of these houses feel at risk of crashing airplanes. First, they know that when they build the houses and second, the claim that airplanes crash into houses next to the airport is simply not true. Noise is also not an real issue, on average Carmel sees less than 4 airplanes a day, in the weekend less than 10. There is a $10 landing fee, unusual in the states, to discourage people who don’t belong to fly in.

Of course you can build houses there. What is the result ? More houses. You can also leave the airpark in existence, have an open place where people can walk and gather and little kids can look at airplanes. I’m getting a little sentimental here, but I do think that if it inspires 1 kid a year to study and become a pilot instead of going to the shopping mall to become a better consumer, it’s all worth it.

-Roger