A Cross Country Adventure

Click to enlargeIt had been quite a long time since I took a cross-country trip but everything looked good for my plan to fly myself and Teri to Camarillo for lunch, followed by an excursion to Santa Rosa Island with Channel Islands Aviation.

Our Piper ArcherIt started off ominously with two sqawks that had not been fixed – no beacon, or landing light. No big deal, strobes will subsititute for the beacon and I plan to be back before dark. The plane looked in good shape and I picked up my pre-filed IFR clearance. I must have filed the wrong timezone in DUATS as they had me down as departing at 10.30 rather than 9.30. Although the plane has DME it had been acting up on the last training flight so I filed /U. This turned out to be wise as it barely worked throughout the whole trip.

I had realised during the week that all of my flights in the Archer were dual and I had never been shown how to shut the door. So I made it a point before we got there to check out the door mechanism. About over Oceanside my wife says that she thinks the door isn’t closed properly, she can see light through the top of the door. Eek, I had forgotten about the latch at the top of the door. There was no way to fix it in the air, but the door was thoroughly closed, my wife seemed not worried so I decided to continue to our destination.

If you look at the flight track above you can see an odd course reversal, north east of CMA. I was being given vectors to final so had the VOR approach tuned into NAV1 and the VNY VOR into NAV2 as I had been instructed to intercept the 260 radial. I am sure it was tuned in correctly but the needle never came in and a gruff LA Centre chastised me for busting my turn before turning me back onto the approach. For the rest of the trip I distrusted NAV2.

I made two oversights in my “briefing” of the plate. First, if I had looked properly I would have seen the 260 radial feeder and had been setup for it before being given the intercept. Second I hadn’t taken in the (obvious) fact that the VOR approach was 20 degrees offset from the runway. At the last step-down fix I aligned myself with the runway and the tower rightly queried if I was south of course. I need to get out in the system more often.

Lunch at CMA had to be quick for us to get to the excursion in time. I will blog about that on my regular site but I’ll say it was a great trip.

Click to enlargeAfter lunch I had gone to the plane to check it out and saw a large puddle of brake fluid under the right main gear. Uh-oh. I called the owner and he had me check the brake pedals – the right brake was indeed almost gone. He told me just to come on back to San Diego making sure I coast to a stop on the runway rather than use the brake. He convinced me that it would be easy so I made plans to do just that.

I knew I would control the plane using a combination of braking with the left brake and correcting with the right rudder. Taxiing out to the runway was instantly a lot harder than I had expected. In retrospect I should have pulled the plane off the line to give me a straight taxi out. However, the effort required to taxi out and stop at the runup and then again at the runway proved useful in forming a plan for when I landed.

At the runup I realised I couldn’t do the engine runup – no way to hold the plane in place with the engine at 2000 RPM. I figured that it would be ok to miss since there had been no engine issues on the way up but it didn’t help my apprehension about the forthcoming landing at Montgomery Field.

In contrast to the IFR trip up, I elected to fly VFR back, flying over Point Mugu, Santa Monica and through the Special Flight Rules Area over LAX. Over Oceanside I asked for the ILS into MYF so that I could get some more practice, and be guaranteed the right, wider, runway. On final I called the tower and told them my predicament and informed them I would be using the full runway. The controller asked if I needed assistance (I declined) and approved my request. He also added that if I wanted to use the displaced threshold I should do what I need to do.

I touched down right on the numbers in what was probably one of my best short field landings (the Archer really is a joy to land) and used aerodynamic braking to slow the plane down. About 3/4 down the runway I was slow enough to turn off and slow to a crawl. I was cleared to parking during which time I was down to a snails place. My final challenge was parking. Our spot was at the very end of a row of planes, an out of control stop here would be an expensive disaster. I toyed with the idea of pulling the plane down but I was pretty certain I had the one-brake taxi routine down and inched down the row, cutting the engine near the end and coming to a stop without incident.

All in all a very interesting day. I made some mistakes from being rusty on cross country procedures and IFR flying, and had to overcome a mechanical problem. I gained some confidence in my flying skills from dealing with the problem and came away with some lessons learned for the next time.

You can see my pictures from the island tour in this flickr photo set. I highly recommend visiting there.

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