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Club Lets Members Keep Their Heads in the Clouds : Anacapa View pilots and students combine socializing and improving their flying skills by meeting for lunch in out-of-the-way places.

September 16, 1993|AURORA MACKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lisa Breuer knows that not everyone will want to join her recently formed lunch group in Camarillo.

For one thing, members are always choosing restaurants that are hundreds of miles away and take hours to get to.

And then there's the tab.

"We call it the $200 hamburger," Breuer laughs.

But for the handful of people who do show up, the investment of time and money are well worth it. This, after all, is no ordinary lunchtime crowd.

This is the Anacapa View Flying Club, based at the Camarillo Airport.

It's made up of flight instructors, private pilots and student pilots, along with a sprinkling of spouses and children. Some of the pilots are working professionals, some are retired. A few own their planes, while others plunk down the cost of renting and fueling a Cessna for the day.

All, however, have one thing in common. The monthly jaunt the group makes to various restaurants throughout California--the most recent trip to a steakhouse along an otherwise barren stretch of Interstate 5--lets them do what they love most.

It gives them an excuse to fly.

LUNCHEON FLY-IN

It's an overcast Sunday morning, and so far only a few cars are parked outside the small corner office that Lisa Breuer two months ago christened the Anacapa View Flying Club. Today, it is the gathering spot for a fly-in to the Harris Ranch near Coalinga. But on its non-lunching days, it's a full-fledge flight school with three instructors. The school is just a stone's throw from the airstrip, next to which sits row upon row of small planes.

Breuer, 32, didn't start the school because of any dearth of them in the county--there are three others at Camarillo Airport, two at Oxnard, two at Santa Paula and one (for civilians with some military connection) at Point Mugu. Instead, she says, it was more of a way to test her own wings.

A top-rated air transport pilot with more than 5,000 flight hours logged, Breuer is licensed to teach other instructors as well as to fly for any major airline (a job she turned down). During the last eight years, she has also taught off and on--with a brief but disastrous interlude running her own air taxi company in Alaska--at three of the county's airports.

Then, last year, she told her husband and former flight student, Jim Breuer, that she thought it was time to work for herself once again and teach full time.

"I've talked with other instructors who were pretty open about the fact that they were just trying to build time, to log enough flight hours so they could get an airline job," Breuer says. "That's not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes a person in that frame of mind won't give everything they can to a student. I love to fly, but I love teaching just as much."

Beyond teaching, though, Breuer also pictured the kind of place where pilots and students could gather and socialize--an aviator's country club of sorts. The only difference, of course, would be the absence of alcohol anywhere on the premises. With a "bottle to throttle" rule of at least eight hours, refreshments would include a perpetually filled coffee pot, cold sodas in the icebox and a bowl of popcorn free for the grabbing.

The school's lunch club, she envisioned, would serve two more purposes. As an open, monthly invitation to the estimated 2,777 licensed and student pilots in the county, the fly-ins would give experienced pilots the chance to hook up with other like-minded folks who enjoy keeping their heads in the clouds. And for student pilots who still had doubts about the value of getting a license, it would show what spending all that time and money eventually would do for them.

You get to go places.

WEATHER WATCH

On this particular Sunday morning, however, the 15 people gathered on the patio outside the flying club don't look as if they're going anywhere. Even though a few more cars have arrived, the sky is still unchanged. The club's American flag, attached to the side of the building, snaps in the wind.

Some members pull out and begin studying their aviation maps--multicolored ones with large circles that represent air miles around various airports, rectangles that show airstrips and dots that represent towers. Others gaze absently into the sky.

"You called the weather, didn't you?" one woman asks a man as he emerges from the building and joins the group.

"Yeah--it's supposed to break up at 1700 Zulu," he says, squinting up into the hazy clouds. Then, to a non-aeronautical visitor, he translates: "Zulu time is standardized time for airline pilots who fly into different time zones. It's the same as Greenwich mean time."

Mean time is what other earthbound folks--who haven't learned to cope with elements beyond their control--might consider this long wait just to get under way. But for the aviators, it's apparently no more frustrating than for a surfer waiting for the waves to rise.

Even when 1700 Zulu--or 10 a.m.--comes and passes, and the clouds still have not lifted, the solution is merely to pour another cup of coffee.

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