There was not a lot of time for flying this weekend, but I did find a way to sneak some in by leaving for the airport at 6:15am. It was cool and clear Saturday morning, a welcome change from some of the heat I have been flying in. Whenever I get the chance, I like going to airports I haven’t been to before. I like the challenge of navigating there, entering the pattern, and landing while not being familiar with the landmarks. I made and filed flight plans from Corona (KAJO) to Apple Valley (KAPV), then to Borrego Valley (L08), and then returning to Corona Friday evening and checked the Outlook Briefing Friday night before getting a full weather briefing Saturday morning.
I picked up flight following just out of Corona and was assigned a squawk code. Shortly after passing Sliverwood Lake ATC Gave me frequency change and had me go back to squawking 1200. Traffic was landing on 18 so I entered a left downwind and came around to land. 18 has a 1.5% grade down and flying the downwind leg into rising terrain made it a little more interesting. There were a few other planes coming and going, including a Mooney and a Cub that was flying the pattern without a radio.
I took the second taxiway exit and taxied back. After plugging in my route for the next leg and checking the frequency for departure I took off south on 18, turned crosswind, and climbed to the East as I departed the area. A few miles East of the airport I switched frequencies and called up ATC, (Air Traffic Control).
Me: “LA Center, Mooney 78878.”
ATC: “November 78878, this is Joshua Approach.” (I thought I was always handed off to LA Center in that area. My tablet doesn’t tell me who I am talking to, just the frequency. I’ll be sure to look it up ahead of time the next time up…)
Me: “Joshua Approach, Mooney 78878, about 5 miles East of Apple Valley, request flight following to Borrego Valley, Lima zero-eight.”
ATC assigned me a squawk code, let me know they had me on radar, and cleared me to climb to my requested altitude of 7,500′. A few minutes later and I was handed off to another controller. A short time after that and ATC let me know I was going to be below his coverage and he would probably lose radio contact. He gave me the next frequency for SoCal Approach in case he lost me. Sure enough, a little later I called up to see if I was still in contact and received no response so switched to the next frequency.
Me: “SoCal Approach, Mooney 78878, 7,500.”
SoCal: “November 78878, Palm Springs Altimeter 29.xx” (I can’t remember the exact number and don’t have it written down.)
Me: “29.xx, 878.”
As I approached the Palm Springs area she called up wanting to confirm my routing. I was trying to work on tracking VOR’s on this trip so that made it easy to give her the answer.
SoCal: “November 78878, will you be going Thermal and then direct Borrego Valley?”
Me: “I’m going Palm Springs, then Thermal, and direct to Borrego.”
After passing over the Thermal VOR and the Jacqueline Chochran airport with its below sea level elevation, the destination of my PPL Training night cross country, I began my descent to Borrego Valley and was promptly sent back to squawking VFR (1200) with radar services terminated because I was below their coverage. It was quiet at Borrego Valley so I made straight in for runway 26. The only other traffic on the radio was a CAP (Civil Air Patrol) plane that was entering the pattern as I was crossing the numbers.
My landings at both Apple Valley and Borrego Valley were very nice. I was hoping that by going up for some solo time without any distractions would help me get back on track and it was working.
After once again setting up my flight on the tablet I took off on 26, turned crosswind, and then downwind without decreasing my climb rate. By mid-field I was at 2,200′ (Traffic Pattern Altitude is 1,518′) and turned north crossing over the field before heading off to the north-west. A short climb to 6,500′ and I settled in for the short flight back. There were some patchy clouds that I was flying above, but I knew that I would need to get below. Corona was showing clear, but I didn’t know at which point between French Valley and Corona it would go from “Scattered” to “Clear” and I didn’t want to arrive close to Corona with 6,000′ to descend. As I approached French Valley I saw a big break in the patchy clouds so I pushed the nose over to head down through it and under the clouds ahead.
It was a busy day in the air with people taking advantage of a cool Saturday morning to go fly. There were multiple planes in the pattern at French Valley as I passed overhead descending down through 5,000′. Arriving back in the Corona area there was a plane entering the downwind for 25 and another that was doing pattern work and had just taken off and turned crosswind. I announced that I had both of them in sight and would be entering a left downwind for 25, number 3 behind the Cessna. The day was finished off with a nice landing at my home base and I felt great about today’s flight.