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April 26, 2005 > 'Keep the blue side up'

'Keep the blue side up'

by Linda Stone

Capt. Lee Dimmitt, a retired military flight instructor and airline pilot adopted the adage, "Keep the blue side up," because it not only symbolizes keeping a gyro horizon flight instrument at a correct attitude (the ball's bottom half is black and the top half is blue) but has also come to mean that no matter what wild situation you find yourself in, always keep your wits about you.

While Capt. Dimmitt's advice is applicable to all situations, it is especially pertinent to air travel - a three dimensional experience. Although most Bay Area flights originate from three major airports, there are several smaller facilities that service air travel as well. One of these is located close by, in Hayward.

Have you ever noticed the news helicopters buzzing around your neighborhood checking traffic on the freeways? If so, you are probably looking at "News Copters" from TV stations ABC7 and NBC and radio stations KGO and KCBS. All are based nearby at Hayward Executive Airport.

Originally, the airport was an Army airfield built in 1942, home to P-38 fighter planes, as an auxiliary field to Chico Army Field. In 1946, the airport became a civilian airport and in 1947, it was deeded to the city of Hayward and named Hayward Municipal Airport. It became Hayward Air Terminal in 1963 and in 1999 renamed, Hayward Executive Airport. It is now a general aviation and corporate operating field.

Hayward Executive Airport is home to various aviation businesses including aerial advertising and banner towing services, aerial photography, air cargo, charters, aircraft appraisals, parts sales, rentals, air tours, hangar rentals, fuel services, traffic watch services and flight training schools. The airport also hosts special events and fly-ins.

For many, the airport also offers an opportunity to spread their figurative wings. After all, birds do it, bees do it and so can you. Like birds gracefully soaring high above the earth on thermals, learning to fly can give you a much-needed lift (pun intended). Piercing the clouds as you fly above it all with a view beyond compare is sure to make anyone's day something to dream about at night.

Think flying an airplane is beyond your reach? Think again. Every year thousands of people just like you join the general aviation community. Flying is easy, fun, affordable and safe. Some people fly for business, others are interested in aviation careers, but most do it for sheer delight.

"It's anybody and everybody and that's what I like about it. We've got young kids, just at the age level of 16 to get a license, high tech people, a carpenter, an air traffic controller, accountants and college students," said Sandy Wiedemann pilot/instructor for the West Valley Flying Club in Hayward. "A lot more women are going through, which is nice to see and this club hires a lot of women instructors as well."

To earn a pilot's license and join the ranks of Orville and Wilbur, you must first attend ground school. At the conclusion students take an FAA's (Federal Aviation Agency) exam. In addition, students choose a flight instructor, take a "Demo Flight" and assess the instructor's style. "The best way to pick an instructor is personality. The cockpit is small and you are going to spend a lot time with each other so it makes sense to pick someone you really click with and can communicate with," said Wiedemann.

Then it's off to "Pre Solo" to learn the controls, instruments, pre-flight and in-flight procedures. After 15 to 20 hours of dual instruction, you will be ready to solo.

From that point on, flight training will be dual and solo. Students learn how to fly to other airports (called cross-country flights). Fundamentals include; weather, navigation skills aircraft performance and flight planning.

When student and instructor agree, a date will be set for a "check ride" with a Designated Pilot Examiner. An oral exam is followed by a flight test. Successful students are awarded a private pilot certificate.

"I love working with people, it's got to be exciting for the student but I can guarantee it is probably more exciting for the instructor. It is a direct return. Everyday you go out and teach different maneuvers, and it is great to see the excited reactions from students" said Wiedemann.

So, whether you choose to fly in the sky or stay on the ground, it is always wise to "keep the blue side up."

For more information on the West Valley Flying Club call (510) 781-0101 or visit The club will host an open house at the Palo Alto airport on Sunday, May 7 at 10 a.m.

West Valley Flying Club
Hayward Airport
21015 Skywest Drive, Hayward,
(510) 781-0101

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