Thursday, February 07, 2013


Last Friday, I flew N6824R down to Hawthorne, next to LAX, for the Los Angeles A Cappella Festival. I decided on Hawthorne as it seemed easier to get to USC from there than from Santa Monica.

Despite the beautiful, sunny weather, I decided to file an IFR flight plan and fly it down, so that I wouldn't have to cope with the LAX airspace VFR, which has always seemed daunting.  But 24R has no certified GPS, so for the first time, I ended up flying IFR enroute using only VOR navigation. And I realized just how inaccurate VORs are - I was on course, as best as I could tell, less than one dot deflected, but when you're almost 40 miles away from a VOR, that's way off course!

I get the impression that with the prevalence of GPS, there's a higher expectation for being on course to a fix, even though ATC knew I was /A (without GPS).  Once I fired up my iPad, I saw what they were talking about, and proceeded to use the iPad and ForeFlight very heavily for situational awareness.

On the way in, I made one very critical error - for some reason, I inverted the approach course on the LOC approach into HHR before dialing it in.  In retrospect, this makes no sense. So my turn on course was very confused, and caused a moment of franticness - but I figured it out. Not in time that ATC didn't ask what I was doing and whether I need to be turned outbound for another vector, but in time that I could respond, "negative, moving to intercept the course now." Good thing it wasn't IMC - not that I would've attempted this in IMC at this point.

One win on the way down was that even though I meant to fly at 12,000, below required O2 levels, I had hooked up and preflighted the O2 system and had the cannula hanging at the ready in case I needed it.  I monitored my O2 levels with an oximeter, and all was fine, but they did send me up to 13,000 along the way, so it was great to just pull up the cannula and turn a knob.

The way back on Sunday was gorgeous. I came back VFR and flew the Mini Route over LAX (and I think I did it well).  There was a lot of confusion about the flight following; controllers kept terminating flight services instead of handing me off (though they'd give me the next frequency - "N24R, flight services terminated, squawk VFR, for flight following contact approach on xxx.x. Good day.").  So I cruised along at 8,500, and picked up flight following again once I was out of the busy section.

The approach into SJC was great - I found the Pruneyard, I slowed the plane down gradually, and landed it easily (it's a very easy plane to land).  All in all, this was an awesome first trip!

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