Last night saw the completion of all my COM rating pre-requisites (except the written test) with a night dual flight to Camarillo, a little north north west of LA.
It started off worryingly by finding that the DG had been sqawked inop a couple of days ago but my instructor had flown it earlier in the day and said it was fine. Everything else in the Archer looked good so we strapped ourselves in and got underway. This was my first time flying this particular Archer but it felt just like the other one I have flown. One cool thing about this Archer is that it has an HSI and I had never flown with one of those before.
After making our turn towards Oceanside I gave up fighting the electric trim which just did not seem to be working and used the manual wheel between the seats. Its a little too far back for my taste, especially with a passenger in the right seat; good job we are friends is all I can say. I hadn’t used the autopilot before but figured I’d make this trip as easy as possible, switched it on, coupled it to the heading bug on the HSI and let it do all the work. The air was quite smooth and once trimmed the plane pretty much kept to my desired altitude.
We had asked for the Shoreline Route through the LAX Class Bravo which can be hard to get but the alternative was the Hollywood Route at a further 2000 feet up. At Seal Beach VOR we were cleared through the Bravo via the shoreline route but were quickly given direct LAX, an outbound heading and a descent. Halfway to LAX we were given direct Santa Monica and a further descent. I hadn’t been prepared to use SMO and had to look it up on the chart – head down on a chart 4500 feet above LAX is not something I enjoy. Once past the Class B I headed direct to Camarillo VOR and landed straight-in 26.
On the ground we asked the tower for the Hawthorne Radio frequency to close our flight plan and the guy said he would close it for us. As we taxied back to the runway he asked if we’d like him to open our return flight plan once off the ground – what a great controller! We did a brief runup at the runup area and I used the opportunity to retrieve three pens that had rolled on to the floor during the flight. Then we were off again, left downwind departure back towards Van Nuys VOR for the Shoreline route back south.
When Pt Mugu approach handed us to the first SoCal controller the frequency was crazy busy, it seemed like forever before I could get on the frequency. Our route had us heading east until we picked up the 323 radial from LAX but we couldn’t do that until we had a clearance. I waited and waited and waited…. then we got a quick turn to the south east, and then another. My instructor was watching his GPS anxiously as we headed for the Class B above the floor at that location. Every time the controller started with “Cherokee …” but with some other tail number he’d fidget nervously. We slowed to 90 knots to give us more time and got ready to descend. About 2 miles from the boundary we were turned back to the north east. After a little while the controller apologized for all the turns and said that if we still knew where we were what did we want to do. I said we’d like the Shoreline Route and he gave us a turn and a direct LAX, own navigation thereafter.
The sight of all the planes lined up for LAX was quite a sight, lots of twinkling stars in the sky to the east. After LAX we were cleared all the way to Montgomery Field own navigation and any altitude. The headwinds had been stronger than forecast so once we were past Oceanside VOR we descended fast to try to make up some time. The tower had already closed so I had the odd pleasure of making position calls on the tower frequency. I had tuned the HSI to the ILS as I was curious to see it in operation but a little too much looking at it from downwind to base left me quite high on final. We landed long on the runway and had to use the last taxiway but it was never in doubt (at least in my mind!). We taxied back to parking, put the plane to bed and arranged a sim session for next month in the club’s Frasca. I’ll renew my holds currency and I want to do some DME arcs, partial panel etc.