Many people when they are thinking of purchasing a plane start by looking at the cost to own, fly, and maintain an airplane. Of course that makes sense, one must know what one is getting into. However the next step, when they start trying to justify the expense and they try to explain to themselves how it really does make sense economically is where they seem to go astray. The problem is that for most of us that fly and own a plane, it doesn’t make sense economically. We fly and own because we love to fly and love the freedom of knowing we can go to the airport anytime we want and our plane is waiting, just the way we left it. We also own and fly because it gives back the one thing that we all have the same limited amount of, time.
It still seems surreal to me that I can go to the airport and fly my plane wherever I want.
One of the reasons I bought a Mooney is because they are fast, which means that I can visit family in Arizona in the same amount of time it would take me to drive to San Diego. Maybe you are asking yourself, “Why did he say he traveled to Phoenix in a Mooney Time Machine?”
The answer is simple. If I was driving to Phoenix I would have had to wake up and get on the road by 6am to get to my parents home before lunch. However, by travelling in my Mooney Time Machine I was able to wake up at 6am, have some breakfast, spend some time helping my wife get the home and backyard set up for a baby shower before heading to the airport, and still arrive at my parents before lunch time. “Time Travel.”
We got to the airport and spent extra time on the pre-flight as we had time to kill waiting for the ceiling to lift. Finally the ceiling was high enough for VFR flight, and reports from Riverside and March AFB had higher ceilings with the skies becoming clear prior to the Banning Pass. We watched a couple of planes depart as we pulled the plane out of the hangar. We climbed in, started up, and taxied to the fuel island to top it off. There was another pilot fueling his Beech and I chatted with him about where each of us was flying to. He was headed to Twenty-Nine Palms. After finishing fueling up and a quick bathroom pit-stop we took off, about 5 minutes after the Beech.
Heading East we normally would be above Riverside’s airspace by the time we got t0 it, but we had to stay no more than about 1,000′ AGL (Above Ground Level) to stay below the overcast so I called up the Riverside tower to request transiting their airspace. They asked my altitude and cleared me through.
Flying down low is a lot of fun (although it doesn’t leave you as many options if you have problems) because when you are down lower you really get a feel for the speed you are travelling. We flew along the 91 freeway and headed between the hills to the south of the San Bernardino Airport. The clouds had broken up by that point in the flight so we started our climb to a cruising altitude of 7,500′ and called up SoCal Approach for flight following.
I had seen that there was an Airmet for low-level turbulence when I got my weather breifing so I was expecting a bumpy ride. As we were handed off to the next controller I found out how soon I would be seeing the bumps.
Me: “SoCal Approach, Mooney 78878, 7,500”
SoCal: “Mooney 78878, Palm Springs Altimeter 29.91, expect light to moderate chop.”
Me: “29.91, 878.”
Right after that was one more call for traffic.
SoCal: “November 878, traffic 12 o’clock same direction, 5 miles, a Beech, also at 7,500, you’re about 20 knots faster.”
Me: “Thanks, we’re looking for him, 878”
It was the Beech that took off before us at Corona, and it was fun to be told I was overtaking him. We didn’t end up seeing him but we did hear him on the radio requesting a VFR descent to Twentynine Palms.
I thought we were maybe going to be in the clear on the bumpy air because going through the pass it was smooth. I was wrong… Once we were through the pass we found “the chop.” We spent the next portion of the flight bouncing around but the Mooney handled it well and my son enjoyed the “roller coaster” feeling when we would hit an air pocket and bounce up or down. As we were getting ready to leave that sector and get handed off ATC checked in to see about our ride.
(If you’re wondering, I couldn’t remember all the specifics of the conversations so I pulled up the recording. It still seems odd to me to hear my own voice on an ATC recording.)
SoCal: “November 878, how was your ride through my airspace at 7,500?
Me: “It was pretty bumpy.”
SoCal: “Would you classify it as moderate?”
Me: “Yeah, I would give it moderate, is it any smoother up at 9,500?”
SoCal: “Let’s find out, hold on a second. Shuttle 5720 how was the ride for you?”
Shuttle: “We’re in light to moderate right now, it’s getting a little heavier as we get closer to the hills.”
SoCal: “Do you happen to remember when it started?”
Shuttle: “It was below 11,000 but above 11,000 it was okay.”
SoCal: “878 did you hear that? It was mostly smooth above 11,000, do you want to try maybe 95, see what it’s like there and make the decision?”
Me: “Yeah, I’ll go up to 9,500, 878.”
I trimmed it out for a shallow climb and told my son what we were doing.
Me: “We’re going to climb up to 9,500.”
Me: “To see if we can find some smoother air.”
Son: “But I like the bumps.”
Me: “Well, I like it smoother so we’ll try it up higher.”
I guess he can be my flying buddy on the windy, bumpy days…
Once up at 9,500 and a little further East the air was smooth and we were clipping along with a nice tail-wind, showing a ground speeds between 195-201 mph. What a treat that was compared to the 120 mph ground speed I saw when I rented the Cherokee to fly to Phoenix back in November. We landed in Chandler two hours after taking off from Corona.
It was a great visit seeing family and showing the plane to my sisters, nieces, and nephews later in the afternoon. The kids climbed in and grabbed the yokes, pretending to fly with big grins on their faces. We talked about going up flying, but when we got to the airport in the afternoon the winds were strong and getting stronger. I told them that we could wait and go the next time I fly out so we could go flying in the morning when the winds are usually lighter. I knew it was going to bounce us around and wanted their first flights in a small plane to be enjoyable, not a rough ride that might leave them not wanting to fly again…
The next day, Sunday, we climbed back into our Mooney Time Machine to head back home. The winds that were pushing us along upwards of 200 mph across the ground on our trip East were now working against us. We stayed lower at 6,500 where the winds were lighter and we were seeing ground speeds of 145-155 mph.
We had left later in the day, taking advantage of the plane to spend more time with family. I didn’t feel like I was ready to make the whole flight after dark over the un-populated desert, but knew if I could be back to the Palm Springs area before dark I would be fine for the rest of the flight. I’ve flown that area before at night and a comfortable with it.
As we were approaching Palm Springs nature laid out a beautiful sunset for us. The sun was going down right off our nose, framed by the Banning Pass and the high clouds towards the coast. We began our descent and once we had the airport in sight ATC canceled our flight following. There was no traffic in the area or on the radios so we made a straight in, landing with some gusty winds. As we touched down my son looked at me…
Son: “Not your best work dad.”
Me: “Really? Not bad for the winds.”
Son: “It wasn’t that bad, just not as good as the others.”
Everyone is a critic… 🙂