Gone viral – Superbloom 2019

One week ago today, I took some friends (both named David) on a flight to check out the wildflowers in Southern California. Later that day, I posted a few pictures on my WingsByWerntz Facebook page of what has been termed a “superbloom” of California Poppies (the state flower – Eschscholzia californica) near Lake Elsinore. One week later, Facebook tells me those pictures have reached over 2 million people!

It’s been a strange experience to see pictures I took get thousands of likes, comments, and shares. I’m a professional pilot, but an amateur photographer. I’ve even had people email copies of the pictures to me without knowing I was the one who took them!

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2018 Distinguished Flight Instructor Award

I’m proud to announce that I’ve been recognized as an AOPA Distinguished Flight Instructor for 2018, one of only 8 in the state of California. Distinguished Flight Instructor is a title given to high scoring flight instructors from the Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association (AOPA) 2018 Flight Training Experience Survey. AOPA’s Flight Training Experience Awards were created to highlight the best flight training the industry has to offer. Continue reading

Luck and Skill but no Miracle

General aviation (small airplanes) made a splash in the news recently, especially in LA, with the emergency landing of a Cessna 172 on a street in Huntington Beach, CA. The news was accompanied with dashcam and security video, as well as cellphone pictures of an airplane stopped in the middle of a street surrounded by surprised drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. The web and news outlets filled with titles like “Student Pilot Makes Miraculous Emergency Landing”.

As an instructor, I find nothing “miraculous” about this. The pilot showed good skill, along with some luck. Continue reading

2017 Distinguished Flight Instructor Award

I’m proud to announce that I’ve been recognized as an AOPA Distinguished Flight Instructor for 2017, one of only 8 in the state of California. Distinguished Flight Instructor is a title given to high scoring flight instructors from the Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association (AOPA) 2017 Flight Training Experience Survey. AOPA’s Flight Training Experience Awards were created to highlight the best flight training the industry has to offer. “This year’s group of schools and CFIs were especially close as we analyzed the results of the 2017 Flight Training Experience Survey,” said Chris Moser, director of AOPA’s Flight Training Initiative. “It gives me great confidence to both hear about some incredible flight training providers and to see how much their customers truly value them.” The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is the world’s large aviation association.  Continue reading

Impossible Turn

Please do me (and yourself) a favor. If you’re not familiar with the “impossible turn”, read on, and get with a good instructor before your next flight (while I hope this article is useful, it’s no substitute for instruction). It’s imperative that you understand the dangers of the impossible turn. An experienced pilot died yesterday in a crash at my home airport (EMT). From initial reports, it appears he had an engine failure soon after takeoff and attempted the impossible turn from a low altitude. Continue reading

Santa Barbara (SBA)

Santa Barbara is one of my favorite nearby flight destinations. In an airplane like a 172, it’s about a 1 hour flight each way from EMT and you have the option of a 15 minute walk to a seaside restaurant once you arrive. Santa Barbara is a Class C airport – they have some airline service and a lot of private jet traffic, but don’t let that keep you from giving it a try. Continue reading

Alternator Failure

Just last Friday, I had another alternator failure. In terms of equipment failures, charging system failure is the one I’ve seen most often. I’ve had a dozen or more failures in 7000 hours of flying. Depending on the situation and airplane, this failure can be anywhere from a non-event up to a serious emergency. Let me describe my recent experience on a VFR instructional flight and discuss some other possible scenarios. Continue reading

Terrain and IFR

Sundays are normally my non-flying days. I’ll often be found on my bicycle on the roads around Altadena, Pasadena, and La Canada. This Sunday found me and cycling buddies climbing the Angeles Crest Highway (ACH) from La Canada to Clear Creek Junction. It was a cool, cloudy, and foggy morning. As we climbed through the clouds, visibility was very poor (sometime as low as 200 ft).

Poor visibility at Clear Creek (~3600 MSL)

Visibility at Clear Creek

Part way into our climb, a stream of fire and sheriff vehicles began passing us going uphill; we also heard a helicopter overhead above the clouds. Experience led us to expect another motorcycle crash on the road. Only when got to Clear Creek (3600′ MSL) did we hear they were looking for a downed airplane.  Details were non existent, but my first guess was VFR into IMC (pilots who aren’t trained to fly in the clouds ending up in the clouds with deadly results). Continue reading