My wife has only flown with me once, and that was on my discovery flight. The discovery flight was to have been a flight over to Catalina Island and back, but it was socked in so we made it a local flight which then turned into a training flight. Those of you that have flown and trained in small airplanes know there is a huge difference between taking off, flying somewhere, and landing (regular flight) and performing turns, climbs, descents, and touch-and-go’s (training flight). My wife did not enjoy the training flight…
Today’s flight was going to be different than that first flight she went on. The plan was to make a short flight from Chino to Brackett where we would have lunch at the Cafe on the airport. Then we would fly back to Chino with a detour over our neighborhood so they could see our house. My older son wasn’t able to change work shifts so it ended up as just myself, my wife, and my youngest son.
We picked my son up from a Boy Scout campout and went straight to the airport. When I told him we weren’t going home but that we were going to go fly he was excited, hopefully he would stay that way…
We arrived at the airport and I got the book for the plane as well as a couple sets of headphones. As we were walking out to the plane I spotted my CFI and stopped to chat with him for a minute, then it was time to do the pre-flight on the plane. I had the “help” of my 12 yo son.
He asked me a lot more questions than the Examiner did when I was doing the pre-flight for my check-ride. It was fun doing the pre-flight with him tagging along asking me questions about just about everything on the plane, what it is and what it does.
With the pre-flight done it was time to climb in and get going.
Everyone climbed in, buckled up, and I went through the rest of the checklist to start up the engine. On the first try it didn’t catch so I gave it one pump on the primer, waited, and then tried again. This time it fired up. It was hot outside so we left the door open a little to get a breeze inside. Despite my assurance that we would close the door before taking off I think my son asked me three or four more times “Can we close the door yet?”
With the rest of the checklist done we taxied to the end of the hangar row and I called up Ground for taxi clearance after getting the ATIS information. Once in the run-up area I went through that checklist and we were ready to go after a short pre-flight briefing which consisted of showing my wife how to work the door in case we had to make an emergency landing, telling them both to keep an eye out for other planes and let me know if they see one, and telling them both that once I have contacted the tower when we are approaching the airport there’s no talking unless it is to point out another plane. (That last one required a few reminders in flight for my son)
We were cleared for take off from 26R with a right turn to the north west. As we were climbing out I had two thoughts come into mind. First, this is so cool that I’m the pilot that is flying my wife and son around. Second, that I’m the pilot that is flying my wife and son around! I can’t make mistakes, there’s nobody else there to help me fly the plane, it’s all up to me to make sure everyone gets safely back on the ground. No pressure…
It is a very short flight from Chino (KCNO) to Brackett (KPOC) which was by design. Just a couple quick flights to give everyone a chance to see how they like it. As soon as I was given a frequency change by the KCNO tower I was listening to the ATIS for KPOC and then calling up the tower asking for a full stop. The tower initially told me to enter the left downwind for 26L, followed shortly by instructions to just enter left base for 26L. That worked out fine for me as it saved me flying further west to enter the downwind and instead just made a slight turn to the right to enter the pattern on the base leg.
I was still a little bit out when the tower called back again and switched me to 26R. There was a small business jet that I could see was holding short of 26L to depart so the tower had switched me to allow him to depart without waiting on me to land. I made the turn to final, put in my last two notches of flaps, settled into a nice stabilized descent, and made a mistake. 26L has PAPI lighting to help you stay on glideslope but 26R doesn’t. I’ve only been to KPOC once and that was at night when 26L is the only open runway. Anyway, I glanced at both runways and thought “They both start at about the same place so I’ll just keep an eye on that PAPI.” As I was on short final even though the PAPI said I was right on, it looked like I was high, which was when I realized what my mistake was. 26L has a displaced threshold which is about 600′ long so I was on approach to land about 600′ down runway 26R. I pulled a little more power and brought the descent to about 500′ per minute instead of a softer 300′ per minute. Just before the end of the runway I pulled power, let it sink, flared out, and touched down with a thump.
Kathy: “That wasn’t bad.” (Nice to hear her say that)
As we were slowing down the tower came on the radio.
Tower: “Cherokee 7205Juliet, what are your intentions?”
Me: “We’d like to go to the restaurant.”
Tower: “05Juliet, exit left at Echo, cross 26L, contact ground.”
Me: “Exit at Echo, cross 26L and I’ll contact ground, 05Juliet”
Once we were clear 26L I called up Ground who told me to taxi to transient parking. However, as I said I had only been there once before, at night, I saw the area in front of the restaurant with some markings on the ground and mistakenly thought I could park there.
Ground: “Cherokee 05Juliet, how long are you going to be staying?”
Me: “Probably 30 minutes, just long enough for lunch.”
Ground: “Okay, you can’t park there, you’ll need to go over to transient, they only allow drop off and pick ups there.”
Me: “Okay, can you direct me to transient?”
Ground: “To your left behind the fuel island.”
Me: “Thanks, we’ll park over there.”
All I can say about the folks in the Tower and Ground, they’re a very nice, helpful bunch.
We found a spot to park the plane, shut it down, and walked over to the restaurant. Norm’s Hangar Cafe is a nice place located just off the runway. You can sit on the patio or inside and watch the planes. We chose to sit inside where there was AC, it was almost 90° outside. The food was great, priced reasonably, and it was fun to watch the planes. If you go, make sure you have cash because they don’t take any cards.
After lunch it was time to head back to KCNO. We departed KPOC and then headed south to fly over our house so they could see it from the air.
It took a few minutes as we were heading towards KCNO for me to work my way into the radios, it was busy. The tower initially told me to enter left downwind for 26R and then changed the instructions telling me to turn 10° right and just enter left base for 26R. There were a few other planes to watch for and I let the tower know when I had a visual of the Cherokee that I was to follow in.
The landing was nice, not my best but much better than the one at Brackett, and one that I felt pretty good about. I didn’t land flat, it wasn’t hard, the mains touched down and I held the nose up until enough speed had bled off that it settled down, and I still got a “Wow, that was rough!” from my 12 yo son… My wife told him that wasn’t bad at all, and I told him it doesn’t get much better than that. (Everyone, at least my 12 yo, is a critic…)
We cleared the runway at the first taxiway and I received clearance to taxi back to the school. I had a little smile on my face as I listened to Ground talking to the Cherokee that had landed before us. It was one of the planes from the school with a student pilot in it. He had landed long and missed the first taxiway so we were able to taxi back in front of him saving us a little time.
Once back I went through my check list to shut down the plane and then everyone piled out. I turned the book for the plane back into the school, we gave the headsets back, and walked out to the car. On the way my son said it had been fun, and that his sandwich was so good, which is what’s important to a 12 yo. I asked my wife if she enjoyed it and she said yes. Then I asked the all important question “So will you go flying with me again?” Thankfully she said “Yes.”
My first flight with the family was a success, even if I was a bit nervous.