400 Hours!!

A Few Stats: 264 Flights 476 Landings 65.5 Hours Solo Flight (Apparently I don’t fly alone often) 297 Hours Cross-Country Time over 50nm (Lots of longer trips) 40 Hours of night flying 60 Airports landed at 38,800 Miles Flown (Approximately) 13 States landed in We flew to Arizona to visit…

Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
5 Dec 2019
Tags

A Few Stats:

  • 264 Flights
  • 476 Landings
  • 65.5 Hours Solo Flight (Apparently I don’t fly alone often)
  • 297 Hours Cross-Country Time over 50nm (Lots of longer trips)
  • 40 Hours of night flying
  • 60 Airports landed at
  • 38,800 Miles Flown (Approximately)
  • 13 States landed in

We flew to Arizona to visit family this weekend and on the way home I passed 400 hours of flight. I can’t even believe that adventures that we have had, and things now that if they had happened 300 hours ago would have felt overwhelming.

We were driving to the airport Saturday morning and I was looking at the skies wondering where everyone was on a beautiful clear Saturday morning. Even pulling up to the hangar and getting the plane ready I only heard one other plane. After pre-flight and loading up the plane I pulled it our of the hangar and someone a few hangars down was also getting ready to fly. We would shortly find out that I suppose everyone flying was on their way to Fullerton…

After run-up we taxied down to runway six (departing to the east that morning) and then held there at the hold short line for almost 10 minutes because of landing traffic and the tower juggling multiple calls coming in. Normally we might wait 2-3 minutes… Finally we had our chance:

Tower: “Mooney 78878, without delay, on departure right turn approved, runway six, cleared for takeoff.”
Me: “Without delay, right turn approved, runway six, cleared for takeoff, 878.”

KFUL Departure

With that I let off the brakes, eased the throttle in, pushed the mixture in, flipped on the electric boost pump, and once we were lined up on center-line I pushed the throttle all the way forward and we were on our way. As we lifted off and were climbing out I heard tower tell another plane “You are number five for landing.” He was doing a great job juggling everyone that was inbound.

We had picked up flight following on the ground and had our squawk so made a turn to heading 120° and continued our climb. Typically about the time I make my turn the tower has me switch over to SoCal but he was so busy with all the other planes we didn’t get a hand off from him. I watched our location on the tablet, waiting for the hand off, and as we exited his Class Delta airspace I switched over and called up SoCal. (Once you are outside of their airspace you don’t need a hand off anymore.) This was just the first of things on the flight that would have made me nervous 300 hours ago.

With the long delayed hand off we ended up right over Disneyland (if you are in contact with ATC and on a discreet squawk you can fly through the TFR) which let Kathy grab a quick photo before SoCal cleared us to climb to 9,500′ on our own navigation.

Disneyland

We were handed off a couple times, vectored once for traffic, and then flying through the Banning Pass. Here came number two of things that would have seemed overwhelming 300 hours ago. Usually just before the pass I get another hand off to the next sector, but I didn’t get one. I could hear the controller and the other planes he was talking to but he never gave me a hand off. I waited a few minutes and tried calling him back up but by that point I was either out of range or blocked by the mountains and not getting any response so I pulled up the low IFR charts on my tablet, found the frequency for LA Center for the area and called them up.

Me: “LA Center, Mooney 78878, niner-thousand five hundred, I think we missed a hand off back there.”
LA Center: “Mooney 78878, that’s okay, you’re supposed to be talking to me now anyway, Palm Springs altimeter xx.xx.” (I don’t remember the setting)
Me: “xx.xx, 878.”

It was a great flight, smooth air, and Mesa Gateway was busy. (Usually is with the flight schools there and frequent military aircraft.) Phoenix Approach turned us over to tower and I called them up, here comes another situation that would have felt overwhelming 300 hours ago.

(I have to offer a disclaimer and apparently an apology for those that have heard me on the radios. I pulled up the liveatc feed and typed out word for word the radio conversation with KIWA Tower. If you haven’t pulled up the liveatc feed of your radio transmissions you should. I thought that I was doing well, keeping my transmissions short and to the point, but what I found is that I started all my answers to the tower with “All right,” a completely unecessary statement and one that just uses up extra radio time. One might think that isn’t a big deal, but if you listen to the speed of the transmissions and everyone trying to get on frequency even an extra second or two here and there makes a difference. Now that I know that I am doing it I will be making a concentrated effort to break myself of this habit.)

LiveATC Feed from arrival at KIWA

Me: “Gateway tower, Mooney 78878, about 9 miles southwest, inbound with November.”
Tower: “Mooney 78878, Gateway tower, at or above three thousand one hundred pattern altitude make right traffic runway one two center.”
Me: “At or above three thousand one hundred and right traffic for one two center, 878.”

I looked at my wife and said “I wonder if he’s confused and thinks we’re a turbo-prop?” Gateway is an elevation of 1,384′ which would put the traffic pattern at 2,384′. I was planning for and expecting pattern altitude of 2,384′, but this was part one of your non-standard pattern/landing. I continued my descent and stopped it at 3,100′ and entered the right downwind, at which point the tower called me up again and I found out he was holding me higher for a couple of Cessna’s in the pattern.

Tower: “Mooney 8878, traffic ahead and to your right lower two thousand six hundred indicated is a Cessna.”
Me: “All right, we’re looking, 878.”

We continued the downwind at 3,100′ looking for the Cessna which I did not see. I’m still often amazed at the difficulty in spotting a small plane, even when you know where to look.

Tower: “Mooney 8878, ok let’s do this, let’s make a tight left 360.”
Me: “All right, left 360, and I do have that Cessna off my nose in sight.” (I had just spotted him.)
Tower: “8878, thank you sir for that, and just for the sequence make a left 360, you’ll fall in behind number three for the downwind.”
Me: “All right, left 360, 878.”

We rolled into a left turn holding at 3,100′ and about halfway through the turn received more instructions.

Tower: “Mooney 8878, out of your 360, now if you’d like to begin a descending turn to pattern altitude of two thousand-six hundred, extend downwind, tower calls your base.”
Me: “All right, uh, we’ll descend down to two thousand six hundred in the turn, and we’ll extend downwind you’ll call my base, 878.”

I backed the power down so that we would begin descending instead of holding altitude and we rolled out of the turn and continued our downwind leg.

Tower: “Mooney 8878 you’re number three for the runway following a green and white Cessna ahead and to your right two thousand one hundred indicated on the base turn number three one two center cleared to land.”
Me: “All right, number three and we have that Cessna one two center cleared to land 878.”

Arrival at KIWA (Downwind leg to landing)

With the Cessna we were following in sight we our base turn and followed him in rolling out on about a two mile final. Up ahead we could see a flight of three F-18’s holding short for us. We touched down right on the 1,000′ markers (a couple feet left of centerline) and rolled out making a right turn at Kilo and got to watch the F-18’s taking off as we taxied to the FBO where there were two Marine F-5′ parked on the ramp.

It’s always fun to fly into Mesa Gateway. There are often military aircraft there on the ramp at the FBO, and I always think about my dad and all the time he spent flying T-38’s at what was then Williams Air Force Base.

F-18’s Departing

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