Interesting Flights

I'll use this page to record some interesting flights, as I progress through my Private Pilot training and after. I'll get GPS tracks and ATC records for some flights, if I can. I'll post pictures via Picasa:


2009 August 23: First solo at SMO

Interestingly, you can get live feeds of air traffic control frequencies, and even archives of ATC conversations via I looked up my first solo flight, and actually found the recordings. It is kind of hard to hear most of the planes, especially those on the ground, as I think that these recordings are made from ham radio volunteers (not necessarily in line-of-sight).

I made a couple of radio errors, so it is a little embarrassing. I flew N96575, a Cessna 172. My three takeoff/landings all happened between 10am and 10:30am (1700Z-1730Z) on Sunday August 23.

00:00 - clear for takeoff 96575
03:03 - clear to land
03:45 - resequencing, call base
04:55 - turn base
06:15 - cancel landing clearance  ?!?!
06:45 - clear to land
08:45 - say request, taxi 21

10:50 - clear for takeoff
13:50 - extend downwind, "call my downwind" ?!?!?
15:10 - clear to land
19:23 - contact ground

21:35 - clear for takeoff
24:45 - clear to land
28:30 - contact ground

The "victory lap". KSMO-Twr-Aug-23-2009-1730Z.mp3
03:03 - position and hold
04:14 - clear for takeoff
07:07 - clear to land, short approach (Tim)
09:33 - contact ground

2009 Aug 27: Solo touch-and-goes at SMO in 5155Q

Tower requested "fly through final approach" while I was on base on my first landing. I thought he meant to overfly the runway (through final), but he really meant to continue base (head north over 405/10 interchange) and then make a right 270 back to final. Because I turned torward the runway, he made me do a left 360.

13:33 - clear for touch-and-go
15:30 - "fly through final approach"  ?!?!?!
17:50 - maintain visual separation with citation

2009 October 20: Solo Touch-and-goes at SMO, in 96575

Solo touch-and-goes at SMO in 96575 (which has become my favorite 172, due to its GPS with traffic). Today was one of the first times I really felt comfortable by myself in the sky, and I did seven touch-and-goes (six were very good, one had a little bounce), one go-around (a short approach were I was too high), and one full stop. The first circle of the included the longest downwind that I've had so far, and I could actually see the Blue Whale. I was happy with the landings, and I think that the key is careful control of airspeed on the approach (especially short approach). Aiming for a speed slightly less than 65 knots helps. The ATC archive is here (starting while I was on an extended downwind on my first circle) and here.

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2009 October 23: Dual night cross-country to Palomar, in 96575

Flight planning and trial cross-country southeast across Los Angeles, to Palomar airport, in Carlsbad (near San Diego and Legoland). It was dark at about 7:30pm, when we took off. We flew the Mini-Route from Santa Monica (2500 ft southwest) over the LAX Class B airspace (right over LAX runway). We kept Tower Enroute, climbed to 3500 ft, and followed the Seal Beach VOR across Long Beach. Southeast, over Dana Point, and then over the water (off-shore to avoid Camp Pendleton Marine Corp base military airspace). There was some fog west of the Palomar runway, but it wasn't a factor to land on runway 24. We taxiied around to (to 6) and took off in the opposite direction, and took a left downwind departure, climbing to 2500 ft. Picked up tower enroute from SoCal Approach as we turned over the ocean, turned inland around Dana Point, for John Wayne (Santa Ana) airport. That is a pretty busy place, even at 9pm, and we had to do two right 360's on our downwind, before following a Boeing 737 in to 19R. It wasn't so busy, though, because they let us do a touch-and-go back out. They gave us a Mini-Route clearance back to Santa Monica. LAX Tower made us descend to 2000 ft, due to other traffic in the Mini-Route. I ended up a bit low after entering the SMO pattern, and the tower was closed by that time, so I was a bit thrown off, and turned base a bit early. After a right 360 (quiet unattended field!), I managed to land it on 21.

Overall, it was a beautiful night to fly, and fairly quiet in the very busy Los Angeles basin airspace. The GPS track looks pretty good, although it seems a bit off at the Palomar Airport. There are plenty of visual references at night in Los Angeles, if you figure out what they are, but the ocean and even some of dark areas south require radio navigation. My total distance was 219 miles (190 nautical miles) with a max speed of 136 mph. It was about 9:30pm when we landed, so the total flight was about two hours. (Engine time was 2.5 hrs, on the hobbes.)


2009 October 24: Solo cross-country to Santa Maria

Finally! I was excited (apprehensive? nervous?) about the solo cross-country flight, and considered it the best way to build confidence and abilities (when I have to do EVERYTHING with no safety-net provided by the instructor). I had hoped to do this the previous weekend, but I could not get out due to fog north along the coast. This week, the fog burned off a little after 10am, and I had 76575 reserved until 3:30pm.

I took off at 10:50am from runway 21 at SMO, right turn at shoreline. I followed the shoreline north and west, climbing to 4500 ft (careful to stay out of the Class B airspace on the SMO VOR 252 radial). Near Pt Mugu, I called SoCal Approach to get flight following (always helpful for traffic advisories). Staying north of PCH, I flew over the Ventura VOR and then tracked the 289 radial up the coast. The 289 radial goes over the ocean along the coast, and when it intersected the ground, I changed course to overfly Santa Barbara airport. I continued to follow the coast until intersecting the Gaviota VOR 0 radial, which goes north directly to Santa Inez airport. Above Santa Inez, I turned to follow the 101 toward Santa Maria. (There was a Gulfstream coming into Santa Maria from behind me, and ATC directed me to turn a bit to the right for him to go past.) I made a straight-in approach to runway 30, and had no problem with the landing (<65 knots does the trick). I landed at 12:20pm, which was about 15 minutes off my flight plan... I think I used a Cessna 172R engine deck rather than a 172P, and I also think that it was a bit windier aloft than I had planned.

After a short break to check in with my instructor, I departed Santa Maria via runway 30, and flew over to Santa Inez airport. It is an untowered airport, but was actually busier than the others on this trip. I made right turns to land, which in retrospect may have been rude, but I had wanted to avoid the departure end of the runway (gliders). I taxiied to transient parking (east of the fuel depot), tied the plane down, and then walked (trotted?) into the town to get food and water. (I got a pretty good burrito at SY Burrito in the local market.) I took off from IZA at 1:57pm (a 50 min stay), with a left downwind departure. I overflew Lake Cachuma at 3500 ft, and east through that valley, climbing as necessary due to the narrowing mountains. At a weird little greenish lake, I turned south, popping up over the hills at 4200 ft, before diving down to 3500 ft over the coastline. I did a landing at Oxnard airport at 2:30pm (to fulfil the requirement for three towered airports), with no problems, and a left downwind departure. I made Point Dume at about 2:48pm, and was happy to see my "home airport" for a right base. I was directed to make my base turn right around the 405/10 interchange, and unfortunately could get down in time, so I did a go-around with left turns, and landed with no problems at 3:07pm.

Exciting, fun, and I never felt like I was overloaded or out of control! This will be a good hobby, I think, and I imagine that I will make a similar flight again after I get my full license. The plane 96575 performed well, even though I thought that it was running a bit slow. The GPS navigation was very helpful, and my workload would have been much more without it. It ended up being 3.5 engine hours (pilot-in-command time, solo time, cross-country time). In the map below, my outbound track is green and my inbound track is blue. Total distance was about 300 statute miles.


2009 November 22: Solo cross-country to Palomar


2009 November 25: Failed Checkride

My first attempt at the checkride was mostly correct, which is another way of saying "failed". I did the oral portion well and my flight planning was fine. We flew out from Santa Monica with a right downwind departure, picked up flight following near the Getty Center, and then flew along the Hollywood Hills to the practice area north of El Monte airport. I did most of the maneuvers fine (slow flight, stall recovery, etc), but lost too much altitude on the steep turns. Fail! My emergency descent was shaky, too, as I was paying too much attention to the canyon walls rather than on the landing point. We did a couple of landings at El Monte (fine), and then headed back to SMO via downtown (less than 2500 ft to avoid the Class B airspace). I am pleased to say that on my next try (after a little practice, rethinking, and calming of nerves), I nailed everything and was certified as a Private Pilot.


2010 April 3-4: Flight to Oceano/Pismo Beach

On the long Easter weekend, I decided to exercise the rights and privileges of the private pilot certification, and make a trip up to Pismo Beach (near San Luis Obispo). The endangered Oceano Airport (L52) had been recommended by a coworker, and the central coast of California has always been a scenic and enjoyable. I had never flown that far north, but some of that uncertainty had been alleviated by a helpful instructor

who used to fly there, and he had showed me some procedures in the simulator. I rented N172EP, a Cessna 172N equipped with a Garmin 430 GPS, from Justice Aviation, from Saturday 4pm through Sunday 6pm.

I fretted about the weather on Saturday afternoon, as it was windy along the coast (including 20 knot winds near Santa Maria) and there were clouds over Santa Monica. The weather report predicted that Sunday would be overcast and rainy in the afternoon, so I was also worried that I might not be able to get home once I was there. Fortunately, the clouds cleared out at 4pm, and discussions with the previous pilot-renter of 172EP convinced me that the crosswinds were reasonable. (Really, the whole overnight nature of the adventure added a new dimension: Weather over time. All of my previous flights, even the long-distance cross-country as a student pilot, had taken place over the course of one or two hours. Since this covered two days, weather forecasts were much more important. What should be the correct criteria for canceling a flight? There was wind risk, cloud risk, and lack of local experience… I think that any two of them would be sufficient to cancel the flight, but all had been mitigated to some degree.)

“Santa Monica Tower, Cessna 172EP, holding short at 21, for right turn at shoreline.” “2EP, Santa Monica Tower, right turn at shoreline approved, cleared for takeoff.” “Cleared for takeoff on 21, 2EP”. With that, I taxied onto the runway, faced the ocean, pushed the throttle to full, and ascended. My course is shown in the map below, but it was my “typical” for the north coastline. I climbed to 4500 ft, called SoCal Approach for flight following at Point Dume, and then proceeded over Oxnard Airport along the Ventura VOR 289 radial. Once over land again, I flew over Santa Barbara airport and further along the coast, intercepting the Gaviota VOR 0 radial (i.e. turned north), and flew towards Santa Maria airport (via GPS). The wind and cloud coverage had noticeably increased once I got into the Santa Ynez valley, and 4500 ft was just over the scattered clouds. Past Santa Maria, I terminated flight following, set the GPS for Oceano, and descended to 2500 ft. Oceano traffic was quiet, with all of the chatter on the shared frequency having to do with the Lompoc airport. I overflew the Oceano field at about 2000 ft or so, ensuring that I was in the right place and getting a sense of the wind, then turned outbound on the 45, flew a mile or so, then did a descending 180 turn into the wind to rejoin the downwind at pattern altitude (1000 ft). On the final approach, I was pushed around by crosswinds, but training served me well, as I landed reasonably well on the 2300 ft runway.

Oceano Airport was vacant, but there are tiedowns, self-service fuel, a bathroom, and a little pilot lounge area with internet access. They charge for overnight stays ($10), mostly on the honor system it appears. I checked into Pacific Plaza hotel, in walking distance, and got a clean quiet room for the night. It is also within walking distance of the beach, so I watched the sunset, the trucks on the beach, and the assorted families camping together. A good Mexican dinner and a beer (at Juan’s Cantina) fortified me for a chilly walk on the beach at night, observing the stars in the clear sky and the roaring fires of campers.

Sunday was new day, with new weather and challenges. The weather reports forecast clouds in the afternoon, but clouds in the morning over Los Angeles. I resolved to fly due east, into the central valley, so that my alternative would be to land in Van Nuys (or failing that, Bakersfield), if the cloud coverage was too much. Before taking off from Oceano, I fueled the plane by myself for the first time. (Yet another milestone.) Some crosswinds and some kites on the beach below, on takeoff, but neither were an important factor. I picked up flight following from Santa Barbara Approach, and headed east.

Nobody must fly from San Luis Obispo to Santa Monica via Bakersfield, as all of the air traffic controllers were curious about my flight path. What’s wrong with Bakersfield? I encountered clouds… First, I stayed underneath them at 3500 ft. There was a break, somewhere in the wilds, so I climbed up to 5500 ft. More clouds, after passing the Fellows VOR, like the last redoubt before the central valley, so I climbed up to 7500 ft. It was unusual, and worrisome, to not be able to see the ground, and rely upon the whispers of the weather service from an hour ago that Bakersfield would be clear. My entry into Kern County was triumphant, as I picked up speed as I descended back to 5500 ft over Taft-Kern County Airport (L17). A couple of minutes later, I-5 came into view, Bakersfield Approach handed me off to LA Center, and I followed the 5 into Tejon Pass (“The Grapevine”). The air traffic controllers wanted to know if I could see the terrain (affirmative thankfully), as mountains rose around me. I could see lower clouds ahead to the south, so I descended down to 3500. LA Center called to say that they were 1) losing me off their radar, and 2) SoCal Approach would not be able to resume flight following due to workload. Ouch… This required some rethinking of my flight plan (to avoid Burbank Class C airspace). (Did I need really need flight following? Probably not, as everything outside Los Angeles was VERY quiet [almost empty]. But I wanted it for psychological reasons: If I had trouble, I would already be talking with someone who knew who and where I was.) My options were to head southwest back to the beach (returning to SMO over via Palisades), head southwest but contact Van Nuys at Santa Susana pass (returning to SMO over Sepulveda pass as I had planned), or follow the 5 contacting Van Nuys (and maybe do a straight-in touch-and-go back to SMO). I elected to try the Santa Susana / Simi Valley approach, since I had some familiarity with it and give me time to get my wits together and listen to the SMO ATIS. After getting over the hills north of Simi Valley, I descended down to 2500 ft (to stay under the clouds) and called Van Nuys. They gave me a new squawk code, and I transitioned south of their field to Sepulveda Pass.

As always, it was good to hear:

“November 1 7 2 Echo Papa, Santa Monica Tower, right base for 2 1, cleared to land.”


2015 April 3: Flight to Avalon

There have been many interesting flights in the five years between this one and the last, but unfortunately I haven't been saving GPS tracks. Several particularly interesting flights include trips to Palm Springs, a trip north (to Oceano, up further along the coast attempting to get to Monterey, but diverting to San Luis Obispo due to clouds), a trip to (the Class B) San Diego airport, and a trip to Las Vegas. The new ForeFlight flight tracking app holds some promise to deliver kml-based flights tracks more easily.

One of my favorite flights is to Catalina Island "Airport In The Sky". It is about 50 nm from Santa Monica, and it takes about 35 minutes to get there with a C172. This flight track shown below utilizes the LAX Special Flight Rules cooridor (an altitude of 3500 ft out and 4500 ft back, across LAX). Outbound, I usually climb to 5500 ft over Palos Verde, to give myself a little more altitude over the ocean. Yes, one is out of gliding distance to the shore, so the plane should hold enough life jackets for all passengers. The approach to Catalina takes one over Two Harbors village, and then left to join the 45 for runway 26. Even though there are landing fees, and the burgers are expensive, the views (and memories?) are worth the trip. The last several flights, I've departed straight out, and flew at about 250 ft off the ocean, until climbing up over Two Harbors. Often on the return to SMO, given the Special Flight Rules 4500 ft altitude, a good idea is to cross midfield, and ask to make a left descending 270 to the north downwind.

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2016 August 21: Fox Field

I had originally planned on flying to Camarillo airport, to partake of the Waypoint Cafe's Sunday tritip. But the airport was closed due to an airshow. So... Time to try something new. I've flown into Mojave Airport several times, and each time noted General William J Fox Airfield but never stopped. There were comments on various blogs about the good on-field restaurant (Foxy's Landing), so I gave it a shot. From Santa Monica, I took the "right turn at shoreline", and headed up north into the Valley at about 3000 ft. I aimed west of Van Nuys (the SILEX intersection), to give me some time to contact SoCal after takeoff. (I could probably shave ten minutes or so off the trip if I flew direct up past Van Nuys, but I would need to climb really quick... and what if I can't get a hold of SoCal?) Still, I ended up climbing and climbing up to 7500 ft. And then, once over the mountains, I dropped in at over 1500 feet per minute. It was hot, and windy, in the desert. And much of the runway was off-limits (maintenance?). But the Tower was helpful, transient parking was ample, and the FBO/Terminal was well-kept. I had a tasty bacon cheeseburger while looking at the runway. I refueled (self-serve and awkward due to the wind) on the field before taking off. On the way back, I flew direct. I contacted Joshua Approach about six miles out of KWJF, and climbed up to 6500 ft. Once back over the Valley, the views were great. When I started descending (to 4500 ft), Socal directed me to stay east of Burbank. I believe that I effectively flew the GPS-A approach into SMO, as I turned west pretty near DARTS (over Griffith Park). Overall flight time was 1.8 hrs, by the Hobbes.

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2017 February 14: Santa Barbara

According to my logbook, I've flown into the class C Santa Barbara airport four times. It feels like it has been more than that, perhaps because I've flown over it so many times, on trips up to Santa Ynez or points further north. Marcy and I did it as a Valentine's Day adventure, since we both took the day off. We took the G-1000 equiped N353MV, one of the better-appointed 172's at Santa Monica Flyers, so it was in relative comfort.

My process for Santa Barbara is simple: Depart Santa Monica VFR, with the traditional right turn at the shoreline. Follow the shoreline (avoiding LAX class B airspace), until about Point Dume. At that point, contact SoCal and ask for flight following to SBA, at 4500. Overfly the Ventura VOR, Oxnard airport, and follow the shoreline. Santa Barbara Approach will send you to the right runway... Usually (the long) 25 or 15 left. Taxi to Atlantic Aviation, and enjoy the comforts of a high-class FBO. I've taken taxis into downtown Santa Barbara (expensive) or Uber (about $20 each way). Or, best, just walk from Atlantic to the beach. There is a nice restaurant on the Goleta Pier, and plenty of pleasant ocean breezes. Departure is basically just the reverse, with the only trick that Santa Barbara wants you to contact Clearance before taxiing. This is fine, as it allows one to open Flight Following right away.

Today, there were no real problems. Outside the LA basin area, and especially in our outbound flight, there was relatively low traffic. Santa Barbara had some fog off the departure ends of 15 left / right, so we landed on runway 7. We took Uber downtown, and had a pleasant lunch and shopping trip. On the way back, Clearance advised that we would depart 15L, at or below 1500, and wanted us to follow the runway heading until directed. (Almost every other trip, I've departed 7 or 25, following the 101 freeway east. I suspect that they had conflicting traffic this time around.) Santa Monica was a bit busier in the late afternoon, which was perhaps a reflection of the terribly surface driving conditions of Valentine's Day. There was also some marine layer between the Palisades and the airport, so we transitioned east to the Getty before turning inbound. You always have options.

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2017 June 25: Boys First Flight

Ethan is almost five and Joshua is almost three. They are comfortable in the their car seats, able to communicate, and interested in airplanes. We believed that they would keep their headsets on... So we decided to take them for their first flight in a Cessna 172! They were very excited.

The flight plan was simple and short. We took a left downwind departure from Santa Monica, to follow the 10 freeway toward downtown. (If they were uncomfortable during takeoff, we were essentially still in the pattern, so we could just land right away. But there were no problems.) We circled downtown, flew over Dodger Stadium, and then followed the foothills past the Hollywood sign. We could have returned to SMO again right there again, but they seemed to be enjoying it. So we flew west to the beach, and up the coast a little way toward Malibu. With a quick steep turn, we turned around and headed back to land.

A successful first flight! It was only about a half hour in the air. They weren't scared, and seem to enjoyed themselves. Their carseats fit well enough into the back of the (older model) 172, which I'm sure made them feel more comfortable. They both seemed enthusiastic to fly again!

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