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.