A Cloudy Afternoon with the Kids

My oldest son wasn’t able to go flying with us last week because he couldn’t find anyone to change shifts at work. That just meant that I had to go flying again this weekend so I could take him up. I had originally scheduled to rent a plane this Saturday…

Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
30 Oct 2016

My oldest son wasn’t able to go flying with us last week because he couldn’t find anyone to change shifts at work. That just meant that I had to go flying again this weekend so I could take him up. I had originally scheduled to rent a plane this Saturday but his work schedule wasn’t going to allow it so I changed it to a Sunday afternoon flight. Shifting the flight to Sunday afternoon also made it so that I could invite my 2nd oldest daughter to come with us. (My oldest is too far away, at least until I have my own plane…)

Saturday afternoon as I was working in the backyard there were a lot of small planes flying overhead. Some people look up when they hear a plane and others don’t even notice. The next time you are at the park and hear a plane, look around and see who is looking up and who isn’t. I’ve always been the one to look up and wonder what it would be like to be the one flying the plane. The difference now, compared to six months ago, is I know what it is like to be the one flying the plane, and it’s AWESOME!!!

My plan for today’s flight was to fly to a couple airports I had never been to just for the experience of navigating to and landing at someplace new. I created a flight plan from Chino to Hemet, then to Redlands, and back to Chino. It would be just under an hour of flying as we would be making a circle around March AFB’s airspace. I filed my VFR Flight plan through the app on my tablet Saturday afternoon and requested an Outlook Briefing. The forecast didn’t look perfect, ceilings were going to be around 5,000′ with some scattered rain showers in the vicinity of the flight, but the visibility was supposed to be between 6-10 miles so if the forecast held it would be good.

Sunday dawned and it was overcast just as expected. I checked online at 1800wxbrief.com just after lunch to get a Standard Briefing for my flight which was supposed to be at 3pm. I wasn’t expecting it to be good because I had been receiving text message updates of changing conditions earlier in the day. A really cool feature of the website is that you can set it up to give you updates prior to a scheduled flight as well as easy links to open and close a VFR flight plan. The forecast now was looking like we might not be flying to Hemet and Redlands, but I would wait and see if it cleared up.

My daughter arrived at the house at 2:30pm and I made one final check of the weather. I called and got the weather information at Hemet, winds from 190° at 12mph, gusting 19mph. At that point I wrote off going to Hemet. There are two runways there that would work, 22 which the crosswind factor would be 6mph with gusts at 9.5mph (runway 22 is 2,045′ long and 25′ wide), and the larger runway, 23 where the crosswind factor would be 7.7mph with gusts at 12.2mph (runway 23 is 4,314′ long and 100′ wide). If it was a steady crosswind and I wasn’t taking the kids on a pleasure ride I would have given it a try for the practice and just go ne around if I couldn’t make it work,  but there was no reason to go there today.

I checked the weather at San Bernardino (Redlands doesn’t have weather reporting and is just East of KSBD) and the weather was approaching minimums and forecast to get worse, so that canceled the Redlands plan as well. I told the kids that we would figure something out, maybe fly to Fullerton or just take them out and fly them around the Lake Matthews area and south around Temecula. On the drive to the airport the clouds were hanging on the hills to the north, but the ceiling was much higher to the South so I was leaning towards a short flight South.

At the school I picked up the plane’s book from the receptionist and a fuel tester. She asked if I was still going to Hemet and Redlands and told her the weather wasn’t going to cooperate so we may just go South. She told me that the planes coming back were saying that Lake Matthews and the French Valley Airport were very busy today. I guess our timing was perfect because it would end up being very quiet out there this afternoon.

We went out to the plane and my 12yo ‘helped me’ with the pre-flight. I put the flaps down and then started at the right wing. I checked the flap and moved to the aileron, moving it up and down.

Son: “I thought that wasn’t supposed to move?”
Me: “No, this is the aileron, it moves, you’re thinking of the flaps over there.”
Son: “Oh.”

He was right there with me asking more questions as we moved around the plane. After I looked in the tank he wanted to check it too to make sure that the fuel was blue (the color of 100LL fuel). He wanted to use the sump on the wing tanks to test the fuel so I helped him do that. He kept wanting to jump ahead but I told him that everything has to be done in order on the checklist so you don’t miss anything. We finished the pre-flight and he wanted to pull the plane out. I told him the school wouldn’t want him doing moving the plane (assuming his 60lbs could actually pull the plane) but that he could help me and hold onto the towbar as I pulled the plane out. With everything done outside the plane I climbed in, got situated, and moved seats around so the others could get in. The engine didn’t start on the first try, or the second, but after a pump on the primer the third time was the charm and it fired up.

After taxiing to the end of the hangar row and listening to the ATIS information I got our taxi clearance from Ground and we went out to the run-up area. Everything looked good on run-up so I brought it back down to 1000rpm and briefed my “passengers.” I made sure my son in the right seat knew how to work the door and went through the different abort procedures if we had problems on take off. I told them it wasn’t so they would worry, but it was something I go through before every flight so that if something did go wrong they could stay calm and know what was going on.

Run-up done and ready to depart.
The “back seaters”

It was a nice cool day and the plane climbed well. Combined with the overcast it was a very comfortable day to fly, and the air was surprisingly smooth. As we headed southeast the tower was giving me traffic alerts (there wasn’t much activity on the radios). He was telling me about a plane coming my direction about 300′ below me that despite my best scanning I couldn’t see. As we got closer to Lake Matthews the tower offered to continue giving me traffic advisories or I could make the frequency change. I told him I was going to switch over to the frequency for the practice area.


I changed frequencies and waited a few seconds to see if anyone was making a call. It was quiet so I reported in with our altitude, location, and direction of flight, then waited for others to respond but there was just silence. It seemed strange, I had been told the lake was busy, and there was nobody on the radio. I kept scanning the sky looking for any movement and even double checked the frequency to make sure I had it right. Taking a look to the west I could see that it was clear flying through Santa Ana Canyon and I told them we would fly over that way. It didn’t look like it was clear all the way to Fullerton so I told them we couldn’t make it there, but we could fly over the neighborhood again.

I switched frequencies again, this time to the one on the Terminal Chart where you are supposed to make your position calls, but even that was pretty quiet. The only people on it were a helicopter behind us and another plane way off to the west.  My younger son sent a text to my wife that we were going to be flying over and we made a couple of lazy turns over the house. We could see her standing in the driveway and she sent us a couple of pictures she took on her phone. My younger son got to see his middle school and my daughter took a picture of the high school where she and my older son graduated from.

Esperanza High School

We turned back to the East and I told them we would go take a turn around over the lake. Again the radio in the practice area was silent, we were the only ones out there. I asked my daughter how she liked flying. She said she was surprised that she wasn’t nervous “for someone who likes to keep my feet on the ground.” Later on the drive home she would tell me that she wanted to go flying again.

Lake Matthews on the right side and low clouds in the direction of Redlands directly off the wing. We never could have made it there today.

Son: “Is that the field down there where you would practice your emergency landings?”
Me: “No, we would do those over there” (Pointing to the area to the south west of the lake.)
Son: “Are we going to do one?”
Me: “No, I’m not going to practice those with you guys in the plane. But we would just be flying along here and my instructor would reach over and pull the power like this.” (I pulled the power on the plane which I think made my daughter’s heart skip a beat. I immediately add the power back in.)
Me: “Don’t worry, you would be surprised at how far you can go without any power when you are gliding down.”

I could see some rain approaching from the west so told the kids that we were going to head back so we could be on the ground before the rain got here.

Chino Airport about 10 miles right off the nose, rain falling on the hills to the west of the airport.

I made my last call on the practice frequency before switching to the Chino Tower and we were still the only ones out there. Normally I call in to the tower when I get to the 91/15 interchange but it was quiet on the radios so I called in a little early.

Me: “Chino Tower, Cherokee 7205Juliet, just south of the 91/15 interchange at 2,200′ inbound for a full stop with information Yankee.”
Tower: “Enter left base for runway 26L.”

That’s odd I thought, no tail number was given and they rarely give the left runway for full stops because it ends in a long taxi. Maybe I had stepped on someone’s transmission, or maybe someone stepped on the tower. That was followed shortly by someone else calling in and then the tower asking them to stand by because there was a controller change taking place. I decided to make a left 360° to buy a few minutes instead of continuing to head towards the airport. About halfway through the turn the tower called back.

Tower: “Cherokee 7205Juliet, change to 26R and enter left base over the 15 freeway.”
Me: “Will change to 26R and enter left base over the 15, 05Juliet.”

We flew along the freeway and then received clearance to land as we were turning for what would be about a 4 mile final approach. When we were on short final I told my 12 yo that I would try to make this a better landing for him. We came in nice and stable, easy 300′ per minute descent rate, and then I started my flare a little to high. I caught what I did, pushed the nose over just a little, and then flared again but set down harder than I wanted. I really wanted to just grease in a nice soft-field type landing. The landing was somewhere in between the landing at Brackett and the one at Chino last week, both of which he didn’t approve of.

Me: “Sorry about that.”
Son: “What? That was good.”
Me: “Seriously? That wasn’t as good as the last one last Saturday.”
Son: “Oh, I thought it was a good one.”

Either he is getting more used to a small plane, or setting him up mentally that it was going to be good helped tone down his critique. Either way, I’ll take it. 🙂

Beginning of a rainbow forming between the hangars on the taxi back.

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