Jenny – PilotsnPaws – AZ to SoCal along with some bumpy air

Friday, January 26th The Mooney Time Machine means I can work most of a day in Southern California and be at dinner at my parents house in Arizona for dinner, amazing. The original plan was to fly out Saturday morning but my son didn’t have school Friday, so after checking…

Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
28 Jan 2018

Friday, January 26th

The Mooney Time Machine means I can work most of a day in Southern California and be at dinner at my parents house in Arizona for dinner, amazing. The original plan was to fly out Saturday morning but my son didn’t have school Friday, so after checking the weather and sunset times I decided we could make the flight Friday afternoon/evening. (The requirement was to be coming into the Phoenix area by last light and not be over the empty desert in the dark with no ground references. Always know your personal limits and never exceed them.)

I went straight to the airport from work and my wife and son met me there. Preflight, run-up, and we were on our way taking off from runway 07 and headed East. With the SL40 radio I had put in I can monitor a second frequency so prior to taking off I had tuned the standby to 135.4 so that I could monitor the traffic at SoCal Approach. Once we were clear of the airport area I tried to pick up flight following.

Me: “SoCal Approach, Mooney 78878.”
Pilot: “You’re still on Corona.”

I had forgotten to hit the switch to put SoCal in the primary. Apparently I’m still getting used to the SL40 and becuase I was listening to the traffic on 135.4 and the radio at Corona didn’t have anything on it I hadn’t remembered to switch over… I changed to SoCal and with a break in the radio traffic I made my call again. If there is a lot going on there will often be a few calls before ATC comes back to you so I waited through the next few calls, but they didn’t acknowledge me. A couple minutes later with another break in the radio traffic I tried again with the same result of not getting acknowledged. A third try came with the same result and I was beginning to wonder if something had gone wrong with the radio as the controllers at SoCal are typically very helpful.

By this point in the flight we were climbing over the top of March ARB so I pulled up the info on my tablet to see if it was a different approach sector. (You don’t have to fly very far in Southern California to go from one controller to the next.) The frequency listed for departure from March ARB is 134.0 so I thought I would give it a try. After mt first call ATC came back asking me for my request. I asked for flight following to Chandler, Charlie Hotel Delta, and she gave me my squawk code, and then cleared me to 9,500′, my requested cruising altitude.

The flight was uneventful and just under two hours later after Phoenix Approach had cleared us through the Bravo I decided to cut the corner and go over the Estrella Mountains just as the last light was fading from the sky. Soon after that we were handed off to the Chandler tower and instructed to enter a right downwind for runway 22R. Shortly after that we touched down on 22R and taxied to the fuel pump.

As a post flight side note, if you are going to text people when you take off with the approximate arrival time, make sure you text all of them when you land… My standard procedure is to text whomever I’m going to visit right before I take off along with the estimated flight time. Once I land I send a short text to the same group letting them know I am safely on the ground. For this trip I delegated those duties to my beautiful co-pilot.

The first text went out to my parents and 3 sisters that live in AZ letting them know we were on our way. After we landed I asked my lovely co-pilot to text them and let them know we were there. Unfortunately instead of sending a text to the same group, she only sent one to my parents who would be picking us up. (Her thought was they were the ones coming to get us so they were the ones that needed to know we had landed…) The timing works out that by the time I fuel the plane and then taxi to parking they can make the drive there. Sure enough, as I am pushing the plane back to line up with the tie-downs my parents were walking out of the terminal. My wife went to meet them and my dad then continued over to help tie the plane down. We visited while getting bags out and then closing the plane up, then walked out to their car.

By this time it was about 45 minutes after we were supposed to arrive, and nobody had notified my sisters… My mom had left her phone in the car so she was not available for them to ask if we made it. Our phones went off at the same time with a text to the group that just said, “Hoping all is well and you were just delayed.” Realizing that they weren’t told we arrived, I texted back “We’re here…” Followed shortly by my wife texting “I’m fired.”

Sunday. January 28th

When we flew Thomas from Stockton CA to Phoenix AZ in November the ladies running the rescues had told me that if I was making other flights to AZ to let them know. I tried to see if we could put something together when we went at New Years but it was too short of notice. However this time we were able to put something together. They had the sweetest little dog that needed to get to Southern California and we had room for her.

While getting my weather briefing I learned that rhere was high pressure over the Great Basin area and low pressure off the coast so the Santa Ana winds were blowing back home. Our schedule was to arrive after dark when the winds should be dying down some.

The rescue met us at the airport with Jenny and after checking the plane over and saying good bye to my parents we got in and had Jenny handed to us. As we took off we could see my mom and dad still standing in front of the terminal so I gave them a little wave of the wings. Jenny was initially a little wound up and just wanted to be in my son’s lap, but once we were airborne she settled down inside the kennel. The winds were in our favor and we were cruising along at 8,500′ with ground speeds between 175-190 mph. I had to shake my head when I looked out the window and saw that about a mile off my right wing there was a flock of geese heading the other direction. We had about a 15 knot tail wind at that point and I had to wonder if they wouldn’t have been better off down lower…

Even with the winds and the airmet for turbulence it was a fairly smooth flight “most” of the way. We watched the sunset behind the mountains past the Salton Sea and came into the Palm Springs Valley over Indio as it was getting dark. The plan was to stay in the middle of the Banning Pass where it would be smoother, and everything was going according to plan until SoCal called me up.

SoCal: “November 78878, turn left 10 degrees for traffic, cross Palm Springs at mid-field, then resume own navigation.”
Me: “Left 10 degrees, cross Palm Springs at mid-field, then resume navigation, 878.”

The vector was no big deal, but instead of flying through the center of the pass we found ourselves about 5 miles from the mountains where it was bumpy. As soon as we crossed the airport I turned north again and we bounced our way along back to the middle of the pass.

My wife had been watching a movie on her tablet to distract herself from the bumps which was not a good idea. She informed me that she might be sick so I started digging around quickly in the back of the seats for the air sickness bags I have in there. In my hurry I was pulling things out and tossing them on the back seat which resulted in some of the items landing on my son who was also watching a movie but apparently doesn’t get motion sickness.

Son: “Hey, why are you throwing things at me?”
Me: “I’m looking for the barf bags, mom feels sick.”
Son: “Oh.”

I finally found one and handed it to my wife who held it near her mouth for most of remainder of the flight but fortunately did not end up needing it.

Coming through the Banning Pass I tried to get a descent into Corona, knowing it was going to take extra distance because of our high ground speed, but SoCal would only step us down because of traffic. The first step down was to 6,500′ and once there I pulled power back to “try” to slow down some. Even at 50% power our ground speed was still over 150 mph. Next we were given a descent to 4,000′ and held there. About 10 miles East of the airport I asked for lower.

Me: “SoCal Approach Mooney 78878, can we get lower now.”
SoCal: “November 78878, do you have the airport in sight?”
Me: “Affirmative, we have the airport in sight.”
SoCal: “Descent approved, I don’t have any traffic between you and the airport, did you want to stay with me for advisories?”
Me: “No, we’ll go ahead and switch to their frequency.”
SoCal: “Roger, frequency change approved, squawk VFR.”
Me: “Frequency change, squawk VFR, thanks for the help, 878.”

We still had altitude to lose and the winds had us cooking along so I made a turn to the south and came across the north side of Lake Matthews. As we made our turn back toward the airport for the 45° entry to a right downwind for runway 07 we were actually pointed almost right at the airport. The winds were just blowing carrying us sideways. (This is where all that ground reference maneuvers to compensate for wind in your PPL training comes in handy). The reported winds at Corona were from 050° at 12 knots gusting 28 knots. Those translate to 8-18 knots from the left and 9-22 knots on the nose, at night, on a 3,200 x 60′ runway with no PAPI/VASI.

With the 16 knot gust factor I only put in 15° of flaps (two pumps) and while I normally fly final at 80 mph I kept it over 90 mph with the air speed indicator jumping a little with the gusts. I also came in a little high knowing that I was coming over the trees. When landing on 07 in winds it is always a little unpredictable as there is mechanical turbulence down low from the wind moving across the trees, plus once you end up below the tree line the winds change. We were bouncing around and yawing back and forth but touched down about 1,000′ down the runway fairly close to center-line without any side load.

There wasn’t anyone else out flying so rather than use the brakes I just let us roll all the way to the end. Rolling past the windsock I watched as it was swinging back and forth across the runway heading by about 30° each way. With the wind conditions and landing after dark I was very happy with the landing. We rolled to a stop in front of our hangar and shut down the plane as the lady that was picking up Jenny came walking up. We had told her we would be there about 6pm and it was 6:05pm when I shut down, pretty good timing.

I congratulated my wife on making the trip, telling her that was probably the worst winds we would ever fly in.

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