I love flying at night! Here in the LA/Orange County area there are so many lights on the ground that even when there is no moon there is enough light to help you keep your bearings. I have been to the airport a few times and just flown around the traffic pattern to get in practice doing night landings, but I really wanted to “go somewhere” at night for that cross country practice. I’m not ready to head up over the mountains to the high desert at night yet, I’ve been out to the Palm Springs area at night already, and I didn’t feel like going south towards San Diego. However, I thought it would be beautiful to fly past LA at night so I settled on Camarillo.
There was supposed to be clouds and a storm coming in on Thursday with the clouds starting to arrive on Wednesday so I was keeping an eye on the weather during the day. I filed a VFR flight plan on 1800wxbrief.com to get a weather briefing and it showed that I should have VFR conditions for my flight and quite some time after I was done, everything was shaping up nicely.
I got out to the airport and as I was finishing up the pre-flight on the plane a friend with a Viking at the end of the hangars arrived along with another friend that has a Mooney at the field. I walked down to chat with them, they were heading up to Rosamond where they said there’s a nice Mexican Restaurant on the field that’s open late. (A lot of airport restaurants close fairly early). I added it to my list of places to go.
I got my GoPro set up under the left wing so that I could capture the city lights and climbed in the plane. I always monitor the CTAF while doing the run-up to get a picture of where the other traffic is in the area. The run-up looked good and I was ready to depart with just one other plane on the radio. He had entered the downwind as I was doing my run-up and as I finished he announced that he was turning onto the base leg. I decided I would hurry up and take off instead of waiting on him since there was plenty of time for me to clear the runway before he would even be on final. However, it is never a good idea to “hurry up,” you just might forget something…
Me: “Corona traffic, white and gray Mooney, taking runway 07 for a right downwind departure, Corona.”
The take off was smooth, I retracted the gear, turned off the fuel boost pump, raised the flaps, and adjusted the trim. At 1,200′ I made my crosswind turn and then my downwind, announcing that I was leaving the pattern. As I climbed out over Chino Hills it registered what I had forgotten…
GoPro has a cool app that you can use to control the camera from your phone. You can see what the camera sees, stop and start recording, even turn the camera on and off. It works great, sort of… Once the engine is running above idle speed there is too much interference and the phone can’t connect to the camera. Normally that’s ok, I just start recording right before take off and let it run. The problem is that as I hurried to take off, I forgot to start the GoPro recording, and it turned out to be a beautiful flight. All I was left with was trying to get some pictures with my phone.
I picked up flight following and enjoyed a quiet, smooth flight to Camarillo. It was quiet enough that at one point someone called in with a radio check to see if his radios were working, there had been about five minutes with no transmissions at all on the SoCal Approach frequency we were on.
This was my first flight with my home built Stratux showing me traffic and providing weather and it worked well. Having ADS-B In traffic and free weather for around $100 is right in my price range. It is amazing how many planes are in the air, the constant stream of flights heading into LAX is impressive to watch. Also having access to weather will come in handy on longer cross country trips I have planned.
Just after passing the Van Nuys Airport I began my descent. Watching that airspeed indicator up at 185mph sure is fun. It was quiet at Camarillo too with just one other plane on the frequency. I was given my landing clearance at about 10 miles out on a straight in approach. Leveling out my descent and reducing power for a minute allowed enough speed bleed off and get down to 120mph so I could drop the landing gear. I still slowed down a little sooner than I needed to, but I’m still getting a feel for how long it takes to get the speed down. The route I flew was about 94 miles and it was about 40 minutes from take off to landing, not too bad.
After landing the tower cleared me to taxi back and had me stay on their frequency rather than switch to ground. (That late at night chances are tower and ground were probably the same person) I taxied down and took my time while stopped in the run-up area to get configured for take off and the flight back.
For the return flight I picked up flight following again. Again there wasn’t much happening on the radios. Approaching Burbank the did ask me to go up to 6,000′ for a Skyhawk that was circling ahead at 5,500′ (my previous altitude). I climbed up, passed over the Skyhawk , and then was given clearance to return to 5,500′. I took my route down over Yorba Linda, then through the Santa Ana Canyon, and landed back at Corona about 45 minutes after leaving Camarillo. It was nice to get in the night-time cross country, I’m just going to have to do it again with the GoPro to see what kind of video I can capture.