Around LA with Andres

Andres is a friend who hasn’t been flying in small planes before. I, on the other hand, haven’t gone in two months. In early December I had my flight of poor timing, which earned me a no-fly fee from the club since I didn’t use their plane. The cost of that flight, plus bad weather, kept me from flying in early January. Then weather plus plane availability (it was either bad weather or totally booked on weekends) caused me to earn another no-fly fee for January. So, flying we went.

The weather promised to be light-to-moderate turbulence, but most PIREPs were either far south (east of San Diego) or north of us by around 30nm, so I figured it would be ok to try — otherwise, the day was just fantastic. I warned Andres that we could expect some bumpiness, but that if it got too annoying for us then we’d just turn around and come back. I like using words like “annoying” or “bothersome” with first-time fliers so as to not get them unnecessarily worried about things like light turbulence. We looked at weather maps and decided to pick our route when we got to the airport.

A normal preflight followed our arrival at the airport. It really helps to have two people to remove the cover off the plane! We sat down and planned our route, deciding to just fly around the LA area and see how it goes. In my mind, I figured if it was not pleasant that we’d go out to Torrance and then come right back, but if it was fine that we’d head on to Palos Verdes and then Long Beach, climb up the LA river, fly by the Hollywood sign, and then come back over LAX. We asked ground for flight following (I wanted to see how that went with SoCal in the PV Practice Area, being a bit more nervous out after the mid-air collision there), and then took off.

There wasn’t a bump in that sky. Smooth sailing up to 2,500 ft and off we went to the practice area talking to SoCal Approach. Once past Torrance I asked to descend to 1,000 ft staying with them, but they advised that I might lose them on the radio that low so I stayed at 1,500 or so. I let Andres fly for a few minutes, all the while watching out for traffic. Having SoCal was at once helpful and strangely odd — I’m so used to calling out my position in that area and listening out for other planes reporting that I constantly felt naked in a way. The airspace was not busy in the least, with everyone probably preparing for the Super Bowl.

After some slow flight (I like practicing this and showing passengers that the plane can fly slowly, too) we told SoCal that we wanted to go upriver, and switched over to Long Beach who OK’ed our transition at 2,000 ft. I followed that, ducking to around 1,800 where the LAX Class B started at 2,000, and then continued around Downtown LA, past the Griffith and the Hollywood sign, talking to SoCal at that point. Then SoCal told us to go talk to Santa Monica, and we requested a foothill transition. Since the air was smooth, and we had a bit of time, I figured that we could go to Malibu, maybe do some turns around a point or steep turns for fun, and come back. But by the time we go to Pepperdine, all of sudden we flew straight into that light turbulence. It was such a strange contrast, going from perfect air into bumpy air, and it didn’t seem to be based on altitude as we climbed and descended with no change. So, we turned around and went our way back to Santa Monica, took the mini-route, and landed back.

Some faults I observed of myself:

  • I don’t remember checking the airspeed before extending flaps, neither during slow flight nor on landing.
  • I didn’t perform a cruise checklist, nor did I have a systematic check of other gauges. I did glance at a few of them, but could have easily missed one.
  • When dialing the SMO navaid frequency, I dialed it up as 108.10 instead of 110.8, and kept being surprised by not getting reception until I realized my folly. I should have just checked the chart.
  • When refueling after our return, I did not attach the grounding cable to the plane.

Some other notes:

  • KSMO didn’t tell me about a helicopter a few hundred feet below us when we were in their airspace, though they told me about other traffic. It took Andres to see it.
  • I really like having a printed checklist that’s in this plane rather than an electronic one on my iPad. Much easier to use.
  • It’s a good thing my flight review is coming up, because I could use some practice in stalls. It’s been a long time since I’ve done them in a Cessna.

Totals: 1.4 hrs in C172.

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Around LA with Andres

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