Saturday, May 17, 2014

Poro Point, San Fernando Airport, La Union

San Fernando Airport, La Union

I just returned from an overnight air safari to and from Poro Point (May 16 - 17, 2014). This was my first flight to San Fernando Airport (around 100 kilometers northwest of Rancho Caridad) and the landscape en route was beautiful--yet not as "threatening" as those en route to Baler and Castillejos. I didn't have to fly so high as there were no mountains to cross; however, I did prefer to maintain an altitude of between 1,500 to 2,000 feet to get a good view of the Cordillera Mountains and its foothills along the northern stretch of the Lingayen Gulf.

As I am a newbie in radio communications, I was almost relieved that the control tower did not respond when I called to request permission to land. Thereafter, I just reported my position each step of the way until landing on the tarmac. As it happens, there was a utility-vehicle sweeping the airstrip while I was on final approach, which was a bit alarming. Fortunately, the vehicle entered the ramp (out of the main airstrip) just seconds before I touched down. I later confirmed that my radio frequency setting at 122.1 MHz was correct and that the San Fernando Airport and its control tower start operations at 8 a.m. This works for me as I would typically land at my air safari destinations (including San Fernando Airport) no later than 7 a.m.

As I parked my aircraft beside the airport building, I was met by a bunch of friendly airport staff, foremost of which was Roberto Odido, Airport Marshall and veritable Guest Relations Officer. When I mentioned that I came from Nampicuan, Nueva Ecija, Robert informed me that he was born in Mt. Amorong, the neighboring dormant volcano of Mt. Balungao, another dormant volcano (about 30 minutes drive from Rancho Caridad) I visit periodically for my hot springs therapy. That makes us practically neighbors and instant friends! We have coffee together and he invites me to his home for dinner.

After refilling my aircraft with gasoline, I proceeded to the beach resort I stayed in when I took my Vulcan on the Northern Luzon Loop last year. I was looking forward to the Kilawin Tanigue that was prepared by the resort owner himself. Unfortunately, the resort is now under new management, so Roberto brought me to several alternatives (which were either fully booked or beyond my budget) until I finally settled at the Ritz Apartelle--perhaps the least costly accommodation in the vicinity (P600 with aircon for 24 hours; decent, clean and safe) and the closest (walking distance) to the the airport.

Shortly after landing, I noticed some fluid splattered on the radiator and propellers. It was the 2T oil from the oil tank, which had a cracked cap large enough to leak oil. I recall reading this complaint from other users of Rotax 582 engines with the same 2T oil tank configuration. I don't understand why Rotax, arguably the definitive engine choice for recreational aircrafts, would manufacture such a lousy cap for its oil tank. In any case, I purchased some Mighty Bond at the local sari-sari store and managed to seal the crack of the cap (or most of it) before I tagged along with Roberto to have dinner at his home.

Roberto's house is just 5 minutes by motorcycle. However, just a hundred meters from the airport, Roberto's motorcycle got a flat tire, so we walked about 20 minutes to his house, dropping-off the motorcycle at the vulcanizing shop owned by the cousin of Roberto's wife. We arrived at Roberto's house fronting the beach north of the San Fernando Airport. About 200 meters to the left was the private jetty of Philex Mining. A lady offered to sell 1.5 kilos of squid, which we purchased. There was a constant sea breeze as Roberto prepared our fresh catch three ways--kilawin, stuffed/fried and adobo--while we drank our cold SMB. All in all, a pleasant dinner by the beach at sunset. Thereafter, I retire early for my return flight to Rancho Caridad at the crack of dawn.

I think I've been terribly lazy about taking pictures and will be more diligent on my next air safari trips.

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