I was looking for a title for this post. That was my son’s response to my question of “So, will you go flying with me again?” In all fairness, my answer to him was “I don’t really want to fly again in that weather either.” What kind of weather was it you ask? Well, let me start at the beginning.
How do you get a kid to get up early on a Sunday morning? You offer to take him flying and to let him do some of the flying… I knew just offering to take him up into the sky wouldn’t be enough of a draw so I had to sweeten the pot. We needed to go early so we could be home in time to get ready for church, so I went into his room and woke him up.
Me: “Hey, do you want to go flying?”
Me: “I don’t know, just go fly around.”
Son: “It’s early…”
Me: “I’ll let you fly it some.”
Son: “Okay…” (Still not sounding entirely convinced)
Me: “Alright, hurry up so we can get going. Wear pants, not shorts, it’s cold outside.”
With that I headed downstairs to make sure I had everything in my bag. He came down a few minutes later, still not quite awake, grabbed a Pop Tart, and we were on our way to the airport.
Rather than go fly somewhere specific I told him we would just head out over the Lake Matthews practice area and I would let him do some of the flying. After pre-flight, which he always likes helping with, we taxied down to the fuel island to get some Avgas. Next to the fuel island is a place they call “The Bench” which… has a couple benches, who would have guessed… They are under a canopy where people can sit and watch the planes. There is also a speaker so you can hear the communications taking place on the CTAF. There was an older gentleman, we’ll call him Joe, sitting there who asked if we were going flying.
Joe: “You guys going up?”
Joe: “You know they’re talking about winds later, up to 50mph gusts.”
Me: “The Santa Ana’s are coming today?” (If you live in the area you know about the Santa Ana winds. When you get high pressure over the high desert area it sends winds towards the coast and as they get to the canyons they compress and build speed resulting in high sustained winds with very high gusts.)
Joe: “Be careful.”
Me: “Thanks, we’re just going up for a little bit.”
With that we got in the plane, started up, and taxied down to go through the run-up. I hadn’t seen anything in the forecast about the Santa Ana’s, and usually when they are going to be blowing there is a warm breeze coming from the east that precedes them. The current winds reported were calm and it was looking like it was going to be a nice smooth morning. Looks can be deceiving.
We took off to the west on runway 25 and then turned to the southeast and climbed up to 4,500′ while heading toward the lake. Once we were close I asked him if he wanted to fly it a little.
Me: “Let’s head towards those mountains out there.”
Me: “Those ones right in front of us.”
Son: “I can’t see them.”
Me: “You can’t see out in front of us?”
Hmm… He could see out the side window fine, but not over the panel. I was going to have to get a cushion for him to sit on next time. I asked him if he could see the instruments in front of me. He said he could so I started explaining to him what the different instruments did. I told him to watch the turn coordinator and it would tell him if we were flying straight or turning. I would keep us level and he could make us turn. We spent the next little while just making lazy turns around over the practice area. “Hey dad, I’m flying by instruments” he said, “I could be an instrument pilot.”
I asked if he wanted to do some steep turns. We made one turn to the left and he was surprised by how far a 45° bank was and that we wouldn’t just fall out of the sky. Next we made a steep turn to the right but he said that gave him a little bit of a headache. I was trying to follow my wife’s advice of “Quit while everyone is still having fun” so we decided to quit with the turns and head back. There was still plenty of time so I told him we could go over to the Chino airport before going back to Corona.
After today’s flight I have decided that before going to do any practice at Chino I will check Riverside’s winds as well. It was just like a couple weeks ago, the winds at Chino were from 330° at 3 knots but while flying the base leg for runway 26L the winds at 1,800′ were strong and coming from the East. The result was getting tossed around as we turned final and descended through the winds coming from different directions. I reassured my son that it was fine and would smooth out which it did once we were at about 1,100′.
We landed, taxied back, and received clearance for a southeast departure to Corona. As if the rough approach at Chino wasn’t enough, it was going to get worse. Once we turned crosswind I started monitoring the weather at Corona on my second radio. Forty-five minutes earlier we had departed runway 25 with calm winds. We had just taken off from Chino with light winds coming from 330°, but the winds reported at Corona, just five miles to the south, were coming from 040° at 18 knots, gusting 26 knots. I would have loved to see a graphic of how those winds were swirling around. I plugged the winds into my tablet and it told me I was going to be looking at a crosswind factor of 9 gusting 13, not what I wanted to see. I told my son that it was going to be really bumpy but not to worry.
We overflew the field 500′ above TPA (Traffic Pattern Altitude) and extended out to make a left turn and enter the right downwind for runway 07. When I warned him that there would be bumps, that was an understatement. As we turned onto the base leg and flew past the mouth of the canyon we were really getting tossed around. I looked over at my son who was bouncing all the way off the seat cushion and told him to tighten up his seat belt. If he was taller he would have probably hit his head on the roof.
With the gust factor of 8 knots I made sure to carry some extra speed on final. We came down over the trees and as we approached and had the runway made I pulled the power. The left main touched first, then the right main finally decided to join it on the runway, and last of all the nose wheel. I’m not sure if I was holding my breath or not, but I was glad to be on the ground and more than happy to make the call “Corona traffic, white and gray Mooney, clear runway 07, Corona” as I rolled off the runway onto the taxiway.
The good news, even after that flight he said he’ll still go flying with me, “As long as it’s not in that weather…”