Camarillo – War Birds – LA Tour

I got a text from a friend on Thursday asking “Any chance we can fly this weekend?” My schedule appeared to be open, but I thought I should double check with my wife. The beautiful Mrs. Brown confirmed that yes, the schedule was open. (I guess I’m bragging a little, but I must have the best wife in the world.)

I told him that we could fly down to Palomar for breakfast or head West to Camarillo for breakfast. The final plan was to fly to Camarillo for breakfast and then some sightseeing on the way back, dropping down over the hills along the coast near Point Dume and Malibu, then flying past Pacific Palisades, the Hollywood Sign, and Dodger’s Stadium before making a pass around downtown Los Angels. If the weather would cooperate without any morning marine layer it should turn out to be a great trip.

Friday was hot… up in the 90°’s and Saturday was supposed to be more of the same. The one good thing about the heat is that it almost always means clear skies. I filed a VFR flight plan Friday so that I could get my online weather briefing from 180wxbrief.com and after looking at the outlook brief Friday afternoon I sent my friend a text saying it looked like a go.

We met at my hangar and after pre-flight taxied down to the fuel island. There was a Piper that had been practicing landings and it pulled up next to the island and two CFI’s got out while the engine was running leaving the pilot in the plane, the trademark of someone getting ready for their first solo. We watched him taxi away and take off. As I was finishing fueling it up he was coming around and set it down nicely for his first ever solo flight. As he taxied back past us he had a huge grin on his face and all of us were giving a thumbs up, which he enthusiastically returned.

We took off, heading west and then turning towards the northwest over Chino Hills State Park. I called up SoCal Approach and picked up flight following for the trip and we settled into cruise at 6,500′, keeping an eye out for traffic and enjoying the sights. We were settled into “Sunday Driving” mode, not in a rush to get there, with the prop back to 2,400 rpm and 22″ manifold pressure. Around the time we were over the Rose Bowl ATC called me up and restricted us to 6,500′ because there was a Beech at 6,000′ flying the same heading as us, 2 miles behind that was “overtaking” us… I guess that’s what happens when you are in “Sunday Driving” mode.

The Beech wasn’t going much faster than us because it was almost 15 miles later before we could finally see him down off our right wing. He slowly slid in front of us on his descent as he joined the RNAV approach for runway 26. With our altitude restriction cancelled and VFR descent approved I pushed the nose over and trimmed for descent, however there was a small problem. Because of the prior altitude restriction I needed to lose about 1,000′ per minute and that had me pushing 160-170mph on the air speed indicator. I started a turn to the right to keep the Beech in sight.

Camarillo Tower: “November 878, you are overtaking the Beech, advise if you have him in sight.”
Me: “We have him in sight.”
Tower: “He is only doing 120, you are much faster.”
Me: “Roger, we are going to do some s-turns to slow it down.”
Tower: “Roger.”

After all the practicing of s-turns for my PPL, that’s the first time I have actually put them to use. The app on my tablet is pretty neat and allows you to download your flight and view it in Google Earth.

We were cleared to land on 26, #2 after the Beech. After a few descending turns we had given enough space between us and I lined up on final and dropped the gear. As we cleared the runway, and just before we switched to the ground frequency for taxi clearance Michael heard a plane identifying himself as a B-17 on the frequency. (Having already received my taxi clearance I had mentally tuned out the radio chatter somewhat. When I hear my tail number it registers but much of the rest of the chatter just goes by.)

Michael: “Did he just say B-17?”
Me: “I don’t know, I missed that.”
Michael: (Pointing towards the end of the runway) “He did, there’s a B-17!”

Sure enough, down there in the run-up area was a B-17 Flying Fortress and what looked like maybe a Piper.

Michael: “How cool would that be. You are cleared for takeoff, number 2 after the B-17.”

I called up Ground.

Me: “Camarillo Ground, Mooney 78878 cleared 26 at Charlie, request taxi to transient.”
Ground: “Mooney 78878, taxi Waypoint Cafe via Foxtrot.”
Me: “Taxi via Foxtrot, 878.”

It just kept getting better. As we taxied past the Commemorative Air Force Museum there was a B-29 Superfortress parked on the ramp in front of it. Then was we passed the last row of hangars and turned into the transient parking we taxied past a B-24 Liberator, a B-25 Mitchell, and a P-51 Mustang. It’s not everyday that you get to park your plane next to some amazing War Birds. Before we shut down we heard the Superfortress on the radio.

B-29: “Camarillo Ground, B-29 Superfortress, pushing back.”

78878, B-17 Flying Fortress, B-25 Mitchell, and P-51 Mustang visible in the picture.
B-24 Liberator departing.
78878 and a B-17 Flying Fortress

I knew that next weekend was the AOPA Fly-in and that they would have a bunch of planes there for that, but I didn’t know they would already be there at the airport this weekend. And, they weren’t just sitting around, they were giving rides, if you had the money… The cheapest seat on the B-29 was $595, and if you wanted to sit in the bombardier’s spot (maybe the best seat in the plane) it was $1,595 for a 30 minute flight…

The Waypoint Cafe was busy, but it was only about a 20 minute wait to get a table outside. It’s a nice little place right on the ramp where you can watch the planes. They have a small mock-up of the airport with the runway and a control tower next to it. A speaker in the tower plays the actual radio feed from the tower. Breakfast was excellent, and I don’t think I will need to eat until tomorrow. I had the french toast, eggs, and sausage while Michael had the carnitas omelette.

After breakfast we wandered back out onto the ramp were we were quickly approached by someone asking to see our hand stamp. I told him I didn’t have one but that was my Mooney parked “right over there” on the ramp. He said that we couldn’t be out there without a stamp. I asked him why, when we had just flown in that morning and that was my plane “right over there.” After a short chat it was determined that we could “walk around a little, but not too much.”

Keeping that advice in mind, we did “walk around a little” and then wandered over to the Commemorative Air Force Museum and saw the planes they had there. We also got to watch them push back the B-29, start up the engines, and taxi away.

When we got back to my plane I was glad that I had put the tow bar in before we left Corona. The B-17 was blocking where we would have pulled out so I pushed it back to where we had a clear path to taxi. There was a large group of people at the fence by the Cafe that were looking at the planes and taking pictures. As I started pushing my plane back I heard a young kid shout “Wow! How is he doing that?” For just a moment, I had superhero strength in the eyes of a kid. 🙂

We got our taxi clearance and went to the run-up area. After run-up we found ourselves 5th in line behind a couple of twins and singles. As we sat there the plane was shaking from the prop-wash of the twins out in front of us. I switched over to the tower and it was busy. At other towered fields I have always called in to let them know where I was at, so once there was a break in the radio chatter I jumped in.

Me: “Camarillo Tower, Mooney 78878 holding in sequence 26.”
Tower: “Mooney, I don’t have time for you, call when you are #1.”

Different procedures for different fields. The tower was juggling arrivals and trying to get in some departures. The B-29 called in as he was arriving back in the area after their latest flight and the tower asked him to extend downwind so he could get some departures out. Yep, the tower was asking a B-29 Superfortress to extend his downwind so we could take off… Finally we were #1 for departure.

Me: “Camarillo Tower, Mooney 78878, #1 at 26.”
Tower: “Mooney 78878, stand by for landing traffic.”

After the next two planes on final landed and cleared  the runway we were given our take off clearance with a right downwind departure. As we were climbing out we watched the B-29 pass under us on his base leg. It’s not every day that you get to be on the radio with a B-17 and a B-29 and share some airspace with a Superfortress.

I had mapped out our flight path for the way back making notes of altitudes I needed to be at to remain out of LA’s Bravo airspace but still picked up flight following for an extra set of eyes in what I knew would be busy airspace. I know that I have said it before, but the controllers here in Southern California are great. VFR traffic is not their responsibility, but they have always seemed to make time when I’ve been flying. Traffic along the coast was busy with SoCal calling out multiple planes as we flew along. I had planned to skirt around Santa Monica’s airspace but SoCal handed me off to their tower and they cleared me through so we took the shorter route through their airspace from the coast to the Hollywood Sign. After passing Hollywood Hills we turned over Dodger’s Stadium for a pass around downtown Los Angeles. The Santa Monica Tower had handed us back off to SoCal and I let them know where we were headed and that we would remain at 2,000′. (The Bravo shelf there is at 2,500′) After one pass around downtown we headed northeast to get out from under the Bravo and then climbed up to 3,500′ for the rest of the flight back to Corona.

What a great day of flying. What started out as a breakfast run with some “flightseeing” turned into an adventure with old War Birds and an unplanned airshow.

A Budding Pilot?

My youngest son loves to fly. Not only that, he actually enjoys it when you are getting bounced around. We haven’t been in what I would consider severe turbulence, and I hope to avoid it if at all possible, but we have been in moderate where I saw his bottom bouncing off the seat cushion and I made him tighten his seat belt, it didn’t even phase him.

We went flying once where I let him take the yoke, but he couldn’t see over the panel so it wasn’t that exciting for him. Since we got him the cushion all we have done is cross country and there isn’t much for him to do. He would keep asking if he could help fly, but when you are just flying a heading and trying to maintain an altitude it doesn’t hold much of a “fun factor” compared to maneuvers.

This evening we finally had some spare time to just go out and fly. The clouds at home looked threatening, but they were hung up on the hills and east of the Santa Ana Pass where the airport and practice area are, the skies were clear.

He was excited as we did the pre-flight.

Son: “Am I going to get to land it?”
Me: “Nope.”
Son: “Why?”
Me: “A couple reasons, there is a lot to learn before you are trying that, and I’m not a CFI with training on how to help you do that.”

We took off on 25 from Corona and headed south-east along the foothills before turning east for the Lake Matthews practice area. Once we were close I let him take over and started giving him instructions on what altitude he was aiming for and what direction to go. His legs aren’t long enough yet to touch the rudder pedals with his seat cushion so I kept my feet on them and kept the ball centered. I kept my hands lightly on the yoke as we made our first pass around the lake but by the time we were on our second lap he was doing all the flying with just a little nudge here and there on the yoke by me.

Was he having fun?

Yep, there’s the smile!

After the second trip around the lake I had him head back over town and then turn south toward lake Elsinore. The sun had gone down which made it easy for him to fly along I-15 heading south. Once near Lake Elsinore I had him turn us back towards Corona. (It was getting late and it was a school night so I figured I should probably get him home and to bed at a fairly respectable time… He would have wanted to keep flying for hours…)

Once we were about 13 miles south of the airport I told him that I had the plane again. The winds were blowing steady, straight down 25 which made for a nice landing.

On the way home we talked about the flight.

Me: “You know that after the first time around the lake I didn’t hardly touch the yoke at all.”
Son: “Really?”
Me: “Yep, that was all you.”
Son: “That’s cool.”

That about sums up my feelings when I was able to take the controls of a plane the first time. I think we may have a future pilot on our hands.

You can see our flight and the sections that he flew in the screen shot.

CA Poppy Preserve – 100 Total Hours of Flight

We decided to take a flight over the California Poppy Preserve near Lancaster today. At the height of the bloom a few weeks ago we weren’t able to go as there was an airshow at the Lancaster Airport and a TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) that extended almost to the edge of the Preserve. I probably could have worked around it but decided to just stay clear and go a different time. There were still some patches of orange/gold left but most of the blooms were gone. Looking down at the lines of cars on both sides of the road and the packed parking lot I was glad to be flying above all of them.

The hills of Chino Hills State Park were still covered with the yellow mustard flowers, but portions of the hills that were bright green two weeks ago were already starting to turn brown. A not so gentle reminder that soon all the hills would be brown and remain that way until the winter rains return again next year.

As we flew over the mountains to the Antelope Valley we passed by the Mt Wilson Observatory. On the flight I was amazed at the number of lakes and reservoirs there were scattered around through the hills and mountains.

Later as I was entering the flight into my logbook I found that I now had 100 hours of flying! Another milestone passed. I’m at 39.4 hours in the Mooney and with another 20 hours will have surpassed the time I spent in the Cherokees.

Mooney Time Machine to Phoenix

Many people when they are thinking of purchasing a plane start by looking at the cost to own, fly, and maintain an airplane. Of course that makes sense, one must know what one is getting into. However the next step, when they start trying to justify the expense and they try to explain to themselves how it really does make sense economically is where they seem to go astray. The problem is that for most of us that fly and own a plane, it doesn’t make sense economically. We fly and own because we love to fly and love the freedom of knowing we can go to the airport anytime we want and our plane is waiting, just the way we left it. We also own and fly because it gives back the one thing that we all have the same limited amount of, time.

It still seems surreal to me that I can go to the airport and fly my plane wherever I want.

One of the reasons I bought a Mooney is because they are fast, which means that I can visit family in Arizona in the same amount of time it would take me to drive to San Diego. Maybe you are asking yourself, “Why did he say he traveled to Phoenix in a Mooney Time Machine?”

The answer is simple. If I was driving to Phoenix I would have had to wake up and get on the road by 6am to get to my parents home before lunch. However, by travelling in my Mooney Time Machine I was able to wake up at 6am, have some breakfast, spend some time helping my wife get the home and backyard set up for a baby shower before heading to the airport, and still arrive at my parents before lunch time. “Time Travel.”

We got to the airport and spent extra time on the pre-flight as we had time to kill waiting for the ceiling to lift. Finally the ceiling was high enough for VFR flight, and reports from Riverside and March AFB had higher ceilings with the skies becoming clear prior to the Banning Pass. We watched a couple of planes depart as we pulled the plane out of the hangar. We climbed in, started up, and taxied to the fuel island to top it off. There was another pilot fueling his Beech and I chatted with him about where each of us was flying to. He was headed to Twenty-Nine Palms. After finishing fueling up and a quick bathroom pit-stop we took off, about 5 minutes after the Beech.

Heading East we normally would be above Riverside’s airspace by the time we got t0 it, but we had to stay no more than about 1,000′ AGL (Above Ground Level) to stay below the overcast so I called up the Riverside tower to request transiting their airspace. They asked my altitude and cleared me through.

Flying down low is a lot of fun (although it doesn’t leave you as many options if you have problems) because when you are down lower you really get a feel for the speed you are travelling. We flew along the 91 freeway and headed between the hills to the south of the San Bernardino Airport. The clouds had broken up by that point in the flight so we started our climb to a cruising altitude of 7,500′ and called up SoCal Approach for flight following.

I had seen that there was an Airmet for low-level turbulence when I got my weather breifing so I was expecting a bumpy ride. As we were handed off to the next controller I found out how soon I would be seeing the bumps.

Me: “SoCal Approach, Mooney 78878, 7,500”
SoCal: “Mooney 78878, Palm Springs Altimeter 29.91, expect light to moderate chop.”
Me: “29.91, 878.”

Right after that was one more call for traffic.

SoCal: “November 878, traffic 12 o’clock same direction, 5 miles, a Beech, also at 7,500, you’re about 20 knots faster.”
Me: “Thanks, we’re looking for him, 878”

It was the Beech that took off before us at Corona, and it was fun to be told I was overtaking him. We didn’t end up seeing him but we did hear him on the radio requesting a VFR descent to Twentynine Palms.

I thought we were maybe going to be in the clear on the bumpy air because going through the pass it was smooth. I was wrong… Once we were through the pass we found “the chop.” We spent the next portion of the flight bouncing around but the Mooney handled it well and my son enjoyed the “roller coaster” feeling when we would hit an air pocket and bounce up or down. As we were getting ready to leave that sector and get handed off ATC checked in to see about our ride.

(If you’re wondering, I couldn’t remember all the specifics of the conversations so I pulled up the recording. It still seems odd to me to hear my own voice on an ATC recording.)

SoCal: “November 878, how was your ride through my airspace at 7,500?
Me: “It was pretty bumpy.”
SoCal: “Would you classify it as moderate?”
Me: “Yeah, I would give it moderate, is it any smoother up at 9,500?”
SoCal: “Let’s find out, hold on a second. Shuttle 5720 how was the ride for you?”
Shuttle: “We’re in light to moderate right now, it’s getting a little heavier as we get closer to the hills.”
SoCal: “Do you happen to remember when it started?”
Shuttle: “It was below 11,000 but above 11,000 it was okay.”
SoCal: “878 did you hear that? It was mostly smooth above 11,000, do you want to try maybe 95, see what it’s like there and make the decision?”
Me: “Yeah, I’ll go up to 9,500, 878.”
SoCal: “Roger.”

I trimmed it out for a shallow climb and told my son what we were doing.

Me: “We’re going to climb up to 9,500.”
Son: “Why?”
Me: “To see if we can find some smoother air.”
Son: “But I like the bumps.”
Me: “Well, I like it smoother so we’ll try it up higher.”

I guess he can be my flying buddy on the windy, bumpy days…

Once up at 9,500 and a little further East the air was smooth and we were clipping along with a nice tail-wind, showing a ground speeds between 195-201 mph. What a treat that was compared to the 120 mph ground speed I saw when I rented the Cherokee to fly to Phoenix back in November. We landed in Chandler two hours after taking off from Corona.

It was a great visit seeing family and showing the plane to my sisters, nieces, and nephews later in the afternoon. The kids climbed in and grabbed the yokes, pretending to fly with big grins on their faces. We talked about going up flying, but when we got to the airport in the afternoon the winds were strong and getting stronger. I told them that we could wait and go the next time I fly out so we could go flying in the morning when the winds are usually lighter. I knew it was going to bounce us around and wanted their first flights in a small plane to be enjoyable, not a rough ride that might leave them not wanting to fly again…

The next day, Sunday, we climbed back into our Mooney Time Machine to head back home. The winds that were pushing us along upwards of 200 mph across the ground on our trip East were now working against us. We stayed lower at 6,500 where the winds were lighter and we were seeing ground speeds of 145-155 mph.

We had left later in the day, taking advantage of the plane to spend more time with family. I didn’t feel like I was ready to make the whole flight after dark over the un-populated desert, but knew if I could be back to the Palm Springs area before dark I would be fine for the rest of the flight. I’ve flown that area before at night and a comfortable with it.

As we were approaching Palm Springs nature laid out a beautiful sunset for us. The sun was going down right off our nose, framed by the Banning Pass and the high clouds towards the coast. We began our descent and once we had the airport in sight ATC canceled our flight following. There was no traffic in the area or on the radios so we made a straight in, landing with some gusty winds. As we touched down my son looked at me…

Son: “Not your best work dad.”
Me: “Really? Not bad for the winds.”
Son: “It wasn’t that bad, just not as good as the others.”

Everyone is a critic… 🙂

Lake Havasu – Anza Borrego State Park

I was looking forward to today ever since that Mooney fly-in at Santa Maria got rescheduled because of bad weather forecast. It would be a chance to meet some of the other Mooney owners from MooneySpace, meet a WWII P-40 fighter pilot, and fly someplace new. All week long the forecast was looking good, that is until the end of the week when it really mattered. Friday night it was looking like it would be IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) which meant I wouldn’t be going. Hoping that it might change I got up this morning and checked again. No luck, the forecast was showing MVFR (Marginal Visual Flight Rules) for five hours but going back to IFR by 3pm. Not wanting to risk going against the forecast I made other plans for a fun flight.

A friend who flies out of Corona and is IFR rated was taking off as we were fueling up for our flight. He later texted that even though he had filed and flown an IFR plan it was VFR conditions the whole way there. The forecast IFR afternoon conditions never materialized either and at 10pm it was still VFR conditions at Santa Maria. However, it has often been said that it is better to be on the ground wishing you were up in the sky, than up in the sky wishing you were down on the ground.

My backup plan was a flight to Lake Havasu for lunch and then flying over Anza Borrego State Park on the way back. We took off just after 11am and climbed up to 7,500′ for the flight east, picking up flight following about ten minutes into the flight. It was a beautiful flight with some bumps as we flew over Needles.

Lunch was great, we saw a C-130 landing in front of us as we sat at the hold short line, and then we were off on our way back. Instead of flying straight back we detoured a little south to over fly Anza Borrego. There was a lot of green on the hills, and when we got to Warner Springs the entire valley was green.

Flightseeing

Not that I need an excuse to go fly, but it doesn’t hurt to have one. A friend sent me a text asking if I had plans for Saturday morning. I told him I didn’t to which he responded that he was going to be out my way and wondered if he helped pay for some gas if I would take him flying. You Bet!!!

His first choice was to go looking for whales off the coast and do a little whale watching from the air. The Mooney is a great plane for travelling places fast, but you can also slow it down and have great loiter time while barely sipping fuel. I figured that we could head out over the channel, look for the whale watching boats to let us know where to look, stay at about 1,000-1,500′ (out of the way of the drones those boats like to use), and put all that “turns around a point” practice to good use. There were just a couple of problems with that plan. First, I don’t have any life jackets, and second I didn’t have enough time that morning. We decided that we would get some life jackets and go whale watching another morning when there was more time.

However, there was a flight to be made so we decided to go up over the ski resorts at Big Bear, transit around the lake, and the overfly Lake Arrowhead. I was a little worried that it might be bumpy given the forecast winds aloft, but the bumps never materialized. With the exception of a short spell on the north side of the lake it was as smooth as can be.

On the way back we detoured over the Lake Matthews training area. I asked if he wanted to fly her for a little bit so he took us on a few circuits around the lake. He later commented that this makes two times in his life that he has been at the controls of an aircraft, and both times were in a Mooney. (He apparently has great taste in what he will fly.)

After landing back at Corona and putting the plane away he asked how much he owed me for fuel. I told him not to worry, I would have gone and burned the fuel anyway, but if he wanted to buy lunch we could call it even, that sounded like a fair trade to me. Lunch was an In-n-Out cheeseburger (animal style), fries, and a Diet Coke along with good conversation. I got to go flying, spend some time with a good friend, and got lunch out of the deal, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Camarillo by Night

I love flying at night! Here in the LA/Orange County area there are so many lights on the ground that even when there is no moon there is enough light to help you keep your bearings.  I have been to the airport a few times and just flown around the traffic pattern to get in practice doing night landings, but I really wanted to “go somewhere” at night for that cross country practice. I’m not ready to head up over the mountains to the high desert at night yet, I’ve been out to the Palm Springs area at night already, and I didn’t feel like going south towards San Diego. However, I thought it would be beautiful to fly past LA at night so I settled on Camarillo.

There was supposed to be clouds and a storm coming in on Thursday with the clouds starting to arrive on Wednesday so I was keeping an eye on the weather during the day. I filed a VFR flight plan on 1800wxbrief.com to get a weather briefing and it showed that I should have VFR conditions for my flight and quite some time after I was done, everything was shaping up nicely.

I got out to the airport and as I was finishing up the pre-flight on the plane a friend with a Viking at the end of the hangars arrived along with another friend that has a Mooney at the field. I walked down to chat with them, they were heading up to Rosamond where they said there’s a nice Mexican Restaurant on the field that’s open late. (A lot of airport restaurants close fairly early). I added it to my list of places to go.

I got my GoPro set up under the left wing so that I could capture the city lights and climbed in the plane. I always monitor the CTAF while doing the run-up to get a picture of where the other traffic is in the area. The run-up looked good and I was ready to depart with just one other plane on the radio. He had entered the downwind as I was doing my run-up and as I finished he announced that he was turning onto the base leg. I decided I would hurry up and take off instead of waiting on him since there was plenty of time for me to clear the runway before he would even be on final. However, it is never a good idea to “hurry up,” you just might forget something…

Me: “Corona traffic, white and gray Mooney, taking runway 07 for a right downwind departure, Corona.”

The take off was smooth, I retracted the gear, turned off the fuel boost pump, raised the flaps, and adjusted the trim. At 1,200′ I made my crosswind turn and then my downwind, announcing that I was leaving the pattern.  As I climbed out over Chino Hills it registered what I had forgotten…

GoPro has a cool app that you can use to control the camera from your phone. You can see what the camera sees, stop and start recording, even turn the camera on and off. It works great, sort of… Once the engine is running above idle speed there is too much interference and the phone can’t connect to the camera. Normally that’s ok, I just start recording right before take off and let it run. The problem is that as I hurried to take off, I forgot to start the GoPro recording, and it turned out to be a beautiful flight. All I was left with was trying to get some pictures with my phone.

Looking southwest towards LAX and Santa Monica.
Coming back from Camarillo with downtown LA just out in front of my right wing. I’m amazed at how small the downtown area is from the sky. If you zoom in the purple light is the top of the Staples Center where the Clippers, Lakers, and Kings play.

I picked up flight following and enjoyed a quiet, smooth flight to Camarillo. It was quiet enough that at one point someone called in with a radio check to see if his radios were working, there had been about five minutes with no transmissions at all on the SoCal Approach frequency we were on.

This was my first flight with my home built Stratux showing me traffic and providing weather and it worked well. Having ADS-B In traffic and free weather for around $100 is right in my price range. It is amazing how many planes are in the air, the constant stream of flights heading into LAX is impressive to watch. Also having access to weather will come in handy on longer cross country trips I have planned.

Just after passing the Van Nuys Airport I began my descent. Watching that airspeed indicator up at 185mph sure is fun. It was quiet at Camarillo too with just one other plane on the frequency. I was given my landing clearance at about 10 miles out on a straight in approach. Leveling out my descent and reducing power for a minute allowed enough speed bleed off and get down to 120mph so I could drop the landing gear. I still slowed down a little sooner than I needed to, but I’m still getting a feel for how long it takes to get the speed down. The route I flew was about 94 miles and it was about 40 minutes from take off to landing, not too bad.

After landing the tower cleared me to taxi back and had me stay on their frequency rather than switch to ground. (That late at night chances are tower and ground were probably the same person) I taxied down and took my time while stopped in the run-up area to get configured for take off and the flight back.

For the return flight I picked up flight following again. Again there wasn’t much happening on the radios. Approaching Burbank the did ask me to go up to 6,000′ for a Skyhawk that was circling ahead at 5,500′ (my previous altitude). I climbed up, passed over the Skyhawk , and then was given clearance to return to 5,500′. I took my route down over Yorba Linda, then through the Santa Ana Canyon, and landed back at Corona about 45 minutes after leaving Camarillo. It was nice to get in the night-time cross country, I’m just going to have to do it again with the GoPro to see what kind of video I can capture.

“As long as it’s not in that weather…”

I was looking for a title for this post. That was my son’s response to my question of “So, will you go flying with me again?” In all fairness, my answer to him was “I don’t really want to fly again in that weather either.” What kind of weather was it you ask? Well, let me start at the beginning.

How do you get a kid to get up early on a Sunday morning? You offer to take him flying and to let him do some of the flying… I knew just offering to take him up into the sky wouldn’t be enough of a draw so I had to sweeten the pot. We needed to go early so we could be home in time to get ready for church, so I went into his room and woke him up.

Me: “Hey, do you want to go flying?”
Son: “Where?”
Me: “I don’t know, just go fly around.”
Son: “It’s early…”
Me: “I’ll let you fly it some.”
Son: “Okay…” (Still not sounding entirely convinced)
Me: “Alright, hurry up so we can get going. Wear pants, not shorts, it’s cold outside.”

With that I headed downstairs to make sure I had everything in my bag. He came down a few minutes later, still not quite awake, grabbed a Pop Tart, and we were on our way to the airport.

Rather than go fly somewhere specific I told him we would just head out over the Lake Matthews practice area and I would let him do some of the flying. After pre-flight, which he always likes helping with, we taxied down to the fuel island to get some Avgas. Next to the fuel island is a place they call “The Bench” which… has a couple benches, who would have guessed… They are under a canopy where people can sit and watch the planes. There is also a speaker so you can hear the communications taking place on the CTAF. There was an older gentleman, we’ll call him Joe, sitting there who asked if we were going flying.

Joe: “You guys going up?”
Me: “Yeah.”
Joe: “You know they’re talking about winds later, up to 50mph gusts.”
Me: “The Santa Ana’s are coming today?” (If you live in the area you know about the Santa Ana winds. When you get high pressure over the high desert area it sends winds towards the coast and as they get to the canyons they compress and build speed resulting in high sustained winds with very high gusts.)
Joe: “Be careful.”
Me: “Thanks, we’re just going up for a little bit.”

With that we got in the plane, started up, and taxied down to go through the run-up. I hadn’t seen anything in the forecast about the Santa Ana’s, and usually when they are going to be blowing there is a warm breeze coming from the east that precedes them. The current winds reported were calm and it was looking like it was going to be a nice smooth morning. Looks can be deceiving.

We took off to the west on runway 25 and then turned to the southeast and climbed up to 4,500′ while heading toward the lake. Once we were close I asked him if he wanted to fly it a little.

Me: “Let’s head towards those mountains out there.”
Son: “Where?”
Me: “Those ones right in front of us.”
Son: “I can’t see them.”
Me: “You can’t see out in front of us?”
Son: “No.”

Hmm… He could see out the side window fine, but not over the panel. I was going to have to get a cushion for him to sit on next time. I asked him if he could see the instruments in front of me. He said he could so I started explaining to him what the different instruments did. I told him to watch the turn coordinator and it would tell him if we were flying straight or turning. I would keep us level and he could make us turn. We spent the next little while just making lazy turns around over the practice area. “Hey dad, I’m flying by instruments” he said, “I could be an instrument pilot.”

I asked if he wanted to do some steep turns. We made one turn to the left and he was surprised by how far a 45° bank was and that we wouldn’t just fall out of the sky. Next we made a steep turn to the right but he said that gave him a little bit of a headache. I was trying to follow my wife’s advice of “Quit while everyone is still having fun” so we decided to quit with the turns and head back. There was still plenty of time so I told him we could go over to the Chino airport before going back to Corona.

After today’s flight I have decided that before going to do any practice at Chino I will check Riverside’s winds as well. It was just like a couple weeks ago, the winds at Chino were from 330° at 3 knots but while flying the base leg for runway 26L the winds at 1,800′ were strong and coming from the East. The result was getting tossed around as we turned final and descended through the winds coming from different directions. I reassured my son that it was fine and would smooth out which it did once we were at about 1,100′.

We landed, taxied back, and received clearance for a southeast departure to Corona. As if the rough approach at Chino wasn’t enough, it was going to get worse. Once we turned crosswind I started monitoring the weather at Corona on my second radio. Forty-five minutes earlier we had departed runway 25 with calm winds. We had just taken off from Chino with light winds coming from 330°, but the winds reported at Corona, just five miles to the south, were coming from 040° at 18 knots, gusting 26 knots.  I would have loved to see a graphic of how those winds were swirling around. I plugged the winds into my tablet and it told me I was going to be looking at a crosswind factor of 9 gusting 13, not what I wanted to see. I told my son that it was going to be really bumpy but not to worry.

We overflew the field 500′ above TPA (Traffic Pattern Altitude) and extended out to make a left turn and enter the right downwind for runway 07. When I warned him that there would be bumps, that was an understatement. As we turned onto the base leg and flew past the mouth of the canyon we were really getting tossed around. I looked over at my son who was bouncing all the way off the seat cushion and told him to tighten up his seat belt. If he was taller he would have probably hit his head on the roof.

With the gust factor of 8 knots I made sure to carry some extra speed on final. We came down over the trees and as we approached and had the runway made I pulled the power. The left main touched first, then the right main finally decided to join it on the runway, and last of all the nose wheel. I’m not sure if I was holding my breath or not, but I was glad to be on the ground and more than happy to make the call “Corona traffic, white and gray Mooney, clear runway 07, Corona” as I rolled off the runway onto the taxiway.

The good news, even after that flight he said he’ll still go flying with me, “As long as it’s not in that weather…”

French Valley Dinner Run

Finally, I get to fly with passengers in the Mooney!!!

It was hazy/misty this morning, the remnants of the rain that never quite materialized yesterday  which meant plenty of time to get some yard work done while waiting for the skies to clear up. A little after noon my wife and I piled in the car with our son and headed towards the airport. There was a slight delay in traffic (a frequent occurrence with the construction) but eventually we were at the hangar, our hangar with our plane in it.

Pre-flight was completed, I pulled the plane out with the help of my son, and my wife put the car in the hangar. Originally we planned to go to Borrego Springs for a late lunch/early dinner.  The airport is right next to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park which is location #9 on the old “Soarin’ Over California” ride at Disney’s California Adventure. It was my wife’s favorite ride there and when we talked about getting the plane one of the first items put on the “flying bucket list” was to do our own flights over the locations in the ride. However, given our later start than intended we decided to just make a quick flight over to French Valley, I’d heard good things about the restaurant there.

We all got in and buckled up and I started the engine. The first stop was the fuel island to get some 100LL Avgas and then it was down to the east end of the field for the run-up. Everything looked good on run-up. I gave them the pre-flight briefing as to what we would do in the event of a problem during/after take off. I also warned my wife that it is usually bumpy when flying crosswind past the canyon, just so that she wouldn’t be caught off guard.

We took the runway, lined up, full power, 2,700 rpm on the tach, and lifted off just after passing 70 mph. Sure enough, after turning crosswind it was a little bumpy, and my wife had a little nervous smile. I asked how she was doing and she said that it would just take a little time to get her “sea legs.”

The flight there was short and uneventful. There was a little traffic on the CTAF and I began announcing 10 miles out.

Me: “French Valley Traffic, white and gray Mooney, 10 miles north west of the airport, I’ll be overflying midfield at 3,000′ and extending out to enter a left downwind, French Valley.”
Unknown: “They’re using a right downwind.”
Me: “Sorry, yes a right downwind for 36.” (Dang it, I knew it was right but my mouth didn’t follow what my brain wanted.)

I made another announcement at 5 miles, 3 miles, and crossing over the field. There was a Cessna inbound from the north and a Cherokee inbound from the north east that had also been making position calls so I was looking for them. After passing over the field and extending out about a mile I reduced power and entered a shallow descending left turn so I could come around and enter the downwind on a 45°.

Cessna: “French Valley Traffic, Cessna entering right downwind for runway 36, French Valley.”
Me: I could see the Cessna as I was coming around through my turn. “French Valley Traffic, white and gray Mooney, entering right downwind on a 45 for runway 36, I see the Cessna and will be number 2 behind him, French Valley.”
Cherokee: “French Valley Traffic, I have the Mooney and will enter right downwind behind him number 3 for 36, French Valley.”

I kept an eye on the Cessna, dropping my gear early to slow down a little more for spacing. We all continued with our calls throughout the rest of the pattern. I watched the Cessna touch down and he was exiting the runway as I was on short final. I pulled power as we were crossing over the numbers and set down harder than I wanted to. My “Sorry” to my wife was responded to “Oh, that was fine.” I told her I thought it was funny that the little bumps bothered her but my sub-par landing didn’t. As we were rolling out and exiting the Cherokee announced short final. One of the two planes that were holding for departure came on the radio with “Nice job to the three of you, well done.” It indeed was nice pattern work for an non-towered airport with three planes joining the pattern around the same time.

We found the transient parking, shut down, and wandered into the restaurant. They have a nice place there with lots of art work and pictures as well as models hanging from the ceiling. We were warned that the portions are “very generous” and they were. I had one of their 1/2 pound burgers, and if all three of us had eaten burgers I may have needed to recalculate the weight and balance… 🙂

The bonus to starting the flight late, was that we were flying back as the sun was going down. Another item on the flying list was to see a sunset in flight and it looked like we were going to check that off. As we headed north west the sun was dipping down behind the mountains with rays of light breaking through the clouds. It looked like the clouds were fairly thick off to the west, and it was getting hazy so we thought that we weren’t going to get much of a sunset. Boy were we wrong. As I made the right turn to enter the downwind for runway 25 we could see west through Santa Ana Canyon and the sky was beautiful!

I ran through my checklist on the downwind and as I turned onto the base leg I took a look to my left at the airport and could see we were going to be in for a treat. We turned final and there was a beautiful sunset in front of us for the end of the flight.

This time I did a better job holding the plane off in ground effect until the stall horn chirped and the mains set down. It was a great first flight with some of the family, looking forward to many more.

“Flightseeing” – Was that Wind Shear?

Ah, finally coming down to the end of the insurance transition requirements. I’m feeling pretty good in the plane, although I still have quite a way to go in learning how long it takes to slow her down. The Mooney really isn’t that different to fly than the Cherokees that I trained in, it’s just faster, so everything happens faster. That, and it doesn’t like to slow down. With the Cherokee you could pull the throttle and push it over into a dive and really didn’t pick up much speed. In the Mooney you can pull the throttle and push it over into a shallow descent and just watch the speed build up. As a result, I have a tendency to slow down too early when approaching the pattern at an airport because I am worried that if I don’t then I won’t be able to slow down in time.

It was windy this morning but at least the winds were fairly steady, unlike yesterday when it was gusty. I decided for my last couple of hours I would fly up around Big Bear to see the lake and mountains with all their snow. One of the guys over on the Mooneyspace forums calls it “Flightseeing” when you’re flying around just looking out the window, and I think it describes the flight perfectly.

It was bumpy leaving Corona as I began my climb to the north-east, but once I got past about 6,000′ it smoothed out. I am still amazed at how “close” places are when you are flying instead of driving. Before I knew it I was looking at the west end of the lake and marveling to myself that I was already there. I flew along the north shore of the lake and then turned south after passing the airport to head west along the ridge where the ski resorts are. It was beautiful with all the snow and seeing the lake partially frozen over.

Big Bear Airport with the lake in the background.
Snow Summit

I thought about heading back, but I had time to burn so I flew over to Lake Arrowhead before turning south-west. Once I cleared the mountains I began a shallow descent and was seeing ground-speeds that occasionally nudged above 200 mph. I read someone say that in a Mooney you can slow down, or you can descend, but you can’t do both at the same time without speed-brakes (and I don’t have any speed-breaks). I only had about 30 miles from the ridge-line to the airport, but I really needed at least 50 miles for the descent, so I made a couple turns around Lake Matthews to bleed off some speed and altitude.

With time left to burn, I dialed up the ATIS for Chino, made a note of the information, and called up the tower. The winds were reported as calm and they were using runways 26L and 26R.

Me: “Chino Tower, Mooney 78-878 (with a little pause between the first and second 8 in the tail number, it seems to help them get the number right) 2,500 over the 91 15 interchange, inbound for a full stop taxi back with information Uniform.”
Tower: “Mooney 78878, enter left base for runway 26L.”
Me: “Enter left base for 26L, 878.”

Here is where it got interesting. A left base is at 90° to the runway. If I am landing on 26L, the left base would be flown at a heading of 350°. You rarely are flying the direct heading because the winds will force you to “crab” (fly at an angle to the heading you want) into the wind so that you have a straight track in relation to the ground. Because you always want to land into the wind, on the base leg you are typically crabbing towards the airport. However, I was flying along at about 1,600′ and crabbing away  from the airport at a heading of about 20° which is about a 30° crab angle… I’m thinking to myself “Is the ATIS information old and hasn’t updated? Am I going to be coming in with a tailwind?” Just then another plane called the tower and when the tower answered they also gave updated winds, 330 at 3 knots. Here I am about 1,100′ above the airport elevation being pushed by a wind coming from a heading of about 90-110° and the winds just a few miles west of me on the ground are coming from a heading of 330°…

Tower: “Mooney 78878, runway 26L, cleared to land.”
Me: “26L cleared to land, 878.”

I began my turn to final and as I descended the plane was all over the place. It felt like driving a rear wheel drive car on a snowy/icy road with the back of the plane fishtailing back and forth. I had my eye on the ball in the turn coordinator and was dancing on the rudder pedals to try and keep it centered and get stabilized. In my mind I was preparing to abort and go around but once I got down to about 500′ AGL (Above Ground Level) it all smoothed out, what a relief. I was able to set the plane down and exit the runway.

I received my taxi instructions and made my way back to the end of 26L, then went through my pre-takeoff checklist and got everything set. After a short delay I was given clearance to take-off along with an advisory to watch out for the flock of birds that was making its way across the runways.

The tower had asked me where I was headed prior to departing and I told him Corona. I picked up the conditions at Corona from the AWOS shortly after getting airborne at Chino and shortly after that the tower gave me the frequency change. I made the switch and started making my position calls on the CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency). The reported winds were going to give me a 10 knot crosswind for runway 7. I wasn’t very excited about that… but thought that I would just get lined up and if I could hold the center-line I would land it, if not I would go around until I could. I had plenty of fuel so eventually I would be able to land…

The day before a friend and I had watched a couple of planes landing on 7. As they would come in over the trees on final you could see them getting bounced around and watch the pilot making corrections to stay lined up. The combination of the wind with the buildings and trees makes for some exciting mechanical turbulence. It was no different for me today.

Coming down final approach I would have my nose lined up, and then it wouldn’t be. I would drift a little left, then a little right, and the whole time the airspeed indicator was bouncing up and down +/- 5-10 mph. The wind was not the reported steady speed, it was gusting. The runway at Corona is 60′ wide, which is plenty of space to land a Mooney. The main landing gear on the Mooney is under 10′ wide, so in reality you only need about a 20′ wide runway if you can keep it centered. The problem I was having as I came down final was I wasn’t sure which 20′ of the runway I would be using, the middle section, the section on the right, or the section on the left. It turned out to be the section to the left of the center-line.

I came in with only one pump on the flaps, not even the two pumps for take off setting. Less flaps means a higher approach speed which is good when dealing with a gusty cross-wind. I set it down hard enough that I thought it was going to bounce, but the plane stuck to the runway and I rolled out about half-way down before exiting. It was an exciting finish to my last required solo hours. The next flight will be with passengers.