Saturday August 26th, 2017
When you can fly there, everything is closer. Since having the Mooney I have seen a lot more of my family, which really was the main reason to get the Mooney in the first place. A weekend trip to the Phoenix area to see my family would mean a lot of driving for the amount of time spent visiting. By car it is about 6 hours each way, but by Mooney it is between 2-2 1/2 hours each way, which makes a weekend trip perfect.
Due to some plans that changed my wife wasn’t able go so it was just my youngest son with me. I had to think back because I couldn’t believe that this would be the fourth time I have flown there and she hasn’t been able to make any of the trips. She has made multiple flights to Utah and Idaho with me, but we will have to remedy the lack of Phoenix trips soon…
My son and I headed out to the airport about 6:30am knowing it might not be clear yet, but I wanted to change the tint on the front windows before we flew. I wrote up a post on tinting the windows about a week ago. I didn’t have tint on the front windows before but decided to give it a try when I replaced the tint on one of the rear windows. After flying with the fronts tinted I decided I didn’t like it. One of the things I love about flying is just looking out the windows. While I was able to see out with the tint, even at night I could see well, it made it just a little hazy and everything wasn’t as crisp. I love flying and looking out the windows, and having it a little hazy just wouldn’t do, so I wanted to pull it off and just go back to having a strip along the top to help with the sun.
When we got to the airport, the morning mist/fog was lifting. It only took about 10 minutes to change the tint on both front windows and by the time we had the AC all set in the luggage area and everything else loaded up the skies were clear enough to fly. The sound of a plane taking off said the skies were clear and it was time to go.
We fueled up and were soon on our way eastbound into the rising sun. I have said it before, but SoCal Approach is always helpful, even when they are busy.
Me: “SoCal Approach, Mooney 78878.” (A couple of minutes went by as I heard the controller giving instructions to quite a number of planes.)
SoCal: “I think there was someone calling in with a VFR request. State plane type and destination.”
Me: “SoCal, Mooney 78878, we are a Mooney M20Papa, about 2 miles south of the Paradise VOR, requesting flight following to Chandler, identifier Charlie Hotel Delta.”
SoCal proceeded to give me my squawk code and call out my position. They asked for my cruising altitude and I told them 9,500. Initially they held me to 6,000 for traffic, which was okay because before I got there they had lifted that to 7,500, and before I got there cleared me to 9,500.
It was an uneventful flight (that’s always a good thing) as we were handed off from one sector to another. About 40 miles west of the Estrella Mountains I called up and asked to begin a VFR descent. With thae descent approved I pushed the nose over and trimmed it out.
West of he mountains the sky was empty, but on the East side of the Estrella Mountains it was very busy.
Phx Apprch: “November 78878, I need you to fly heading 090 for traffic.”
Me: “Fly 090, 878.”
A little bit later they cleared me to resume my navigation, then:
Phx Apprch: “November 78878, actually I need you to fly 060 for traffic, I’ll call your turn.”
Me: “Fly 060, 878.”
It was good to be on flight following and have that extra set of eyes looking out for us.
We had gone past the extended centerline when the controller cleared me to resume navigation and contact the tower. I switched over to the tower frequency, waited a moment to make sure the frequency was clear, and made my call.
Me: “Chandler tower, Mooney 78878, about 10 miles south of the field, inbound and we have Victor.” (Victor was the identifier for the current weather which let them know I had listened to it.)
Tower: “I have too many calls stepping on each other, nobody call, I will call everyone in turn.” (Turns out when I was calling in there were a few more trying to at the same time.)
The tower started with those that had a specific squawk assigned. There was a Cherokee that he cleared to land on 4R, another plane that was stumbling around with his call that was asked to stay clear of the Delta airspace for a few minutes so he could get some departures out (sometimes when you are struggling with your calls they will basically tell you “hold on, I’m too busy to try and figure you out right now), then he got to me and cleared us straight in for 4L. When we were about 3 miles out he cleared us to land and we settled in for a nice landing. The flight time it was showing when I filed was 2:20, with the vectoring around for traffic we actually landed at 2:30, not bad for a 350 mile trip.
Sunday August 27, 2017
Summer time in Phoenix means a good chance of afternoon thunderstorms. Saturday there were some nice ones that built up east of the valley. I was checking the forecast Saturday evening to figure out when I needed to be in the air Sunday. The outlook was that I would probably need to take off by 5-6pm to be ahead of any storms. We made tentative plans to stay for an early dinner, pending checking the more specific forecast that I would be able to get later on Sunday.
At noon Sunday I logged into 1800wxbrief.com to get a standard briefing. It was showing that if we left at 5pm the weather was good, but by 6pm the forecast for all of the airports in the area showed “Thunderstorms in the vicinity.” The schedule was set.
We got to the airport about 4:15 and put 20 lbs of ice in the AC, turned it on, and started the pre-flight. The temp the car showed on the way over was 110° but I think it was hotter than that on the ramp. I had to wear my leather gloves to do the preflight inspection because even though it is a white plane the skin was too hot to touch. It turns out that at 90° the AC unit does really well, but at 110° it just can’t keep up. I may do some modifications to it and add a second heater core so that the air passes through two of them.
With the preflight done we gave my dad a hug, told him we loved him, and climbed in. With sweat running down my back and dripping off my chin (yes, I know that is an ugly picture) I finished my checklist and got the plane started up. Soon we had our taxi clearance and were rolling along, waving to my dad who was still standing just outside the door of the terminal.
After run-up we didn’t have to wait for anyone else to get our take off clearance, apparently we were the only ones crazy enough to be taking off in that heat. In the initial climb the temps climbed over 400° which I was expecting given the outside temp, but as we got a little altitude I pushed the nose over some to get the speed up to 120mph which gave more cooling and brought the temps back down.
Once clear of Chandler’s airspace I called up Phoenix Approach to pick up flight following. After giving me my squawk code and verifying my position they wanted to know the specifics.
Phx Approach: “What is your cruising altitude?”
Me: “One-zero thousand five hundred.”
Phx Approach: “What is your on course heading?” (They were trying to figure out if they wanted to clear me through the Bravo shelf I was under)
Me: “Currently 250, I’m going to fly that until I am west of the Estrella Mountains.”
Phx Approach: “November 78878, cleared through the Bravo on course, VFR climb approved.”
Me: “Cleared through the Bravo, VFR climb, 878.”
We climbed to 10,500 and leveled off. About 30 miles west of the Estrella Mountains, cruising along at 10,500′, we weren’t in Phoenix’s airspace, but we were on the approach path. Time after time ATC (Air Traffic Control) would call out a plane opposite direction, a 737 descending to 12,000′, or an Airbus descending through 13,000′, and a few more. Each time I would respond that we were looking, but they were all coming “out of the sun” and I would finally see them when they were about 3-4 miles away.
We definitely made the right decision to leave at 5pm. At 6pm I decided to take a look at my tablet and see what the weather showed back in Phoenix. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway (I’ll always think of it as Williams from when it was an Air Force Base) just east of Chandler was showing 1 1/2 miles visibility from the dust moving in front of a huge thunderstorm that had built up to the east and was moving west, along with winds from 090, 15 knots gusting 25. Fifteen minutes later Williams was 1/4 mile visibility, winds 090 18 gusting 35, with lightning and that same storm moving further west. By 6:30pm Chandler was IFR conditions, winds 060 18 gusting 28, 1 mile visibility, with blowing dust. Yes, we got out of there at the right time.
Again it was an uneventful flight, but it was good to be on flight following. Just east of Palm Springs I asked to begin our descent.
Me: “SoCal Approach, Mooney 78878, we would like to begin a VFR descent.”
SoCal: “November 78878, traffic, 12 o’clock, 5 miles, eastbound at 9,000′, type unknown.”
We were at 10,500′ and there was another plane headed our direction at 9,000′ who was not talking to ATC and there was a chance that we could descend into his path.
Me: “Okay, we’ll stay at one zero thousand five hundred until we are past him.”
SoCal: “I’ll let you know when you are past.”
Very soon after that I saw a small plane just lower than us passing by off our left side.
SoCal: “November 878, traffic passing off your left wing is no longer a factor, VFR descent approved.”
Me: “VFR descent, 878.”
At this point I pushed over for a fairly steep descent and watched the indicated airspeed climb to about 170 mph and our ground-speed hanging around 199 mph. When you are moving that fast and the air is smooth it is soooo fun. We were handed off again and restricted to 5,500′ or higher as we were going to be passing right over March Air Force Base so I leveled off at 5,600′. About the time we were directly over their runway the altitude restriction was lifted and we began our descent again. I was monitoring 122.70 (the CTAF for Corona) to get a feel for the traffic around the airport, there wasn’t any.
SoCal canceled radar services at 7 miles out so I went back to squawking 1200 and called a 7 mile final for runway 25. I made another call at 5 miles and 3 miles, there were no other planes on the radio and I couldn’t see any in the pattern that might not have had a radio or been on the wrong frequency.
We were landing on 25 with the winds coming from 300 at 9 knots, that would give us about a 7 knot crosswind which actually isn’t much. (I do remember when I thought 7 knots crosswind was a lot…) I crabbed the plane down final until on short final and then kicked in some left rudder and right aileron to get the nosed lined up with the runway and keep from drifting to the left. With the runway made I pulled the throttle and just kept trying to hold the center-line.
I know I am bragging now, but it was a beautiful landing. The right wheel touched down, followed by the left wheel, and then about a second or so later the nose wheel touched. If only all of my landings could be like that. I proceeded to let my 13 yo son know how pleased I was with myself, and he responded the way most 13 year olds respond.
Me: “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Son: “But what if it does?”
Me: “It doesn’t.”
Son: “But what if it does?”
Me: “It really doesn’t, I greased that one on.”
Son: “But what if the airline does.”
Me: “They don’t get better than that.”
Son: “But what if they do?”
Me: “Really, they just don’t.”
That is honestly the conversation that took place as we were rolling down the runway to the west end of the field where my hangar is before turning off onto the taxiway. The flight time it showed when we took off was 2:10, and 2:15 after taking off we were shutting down in front of our hangar.
It was a great visit to family that would not have happened this weekend without the Mooney. I love flying that plane!