August 28th 2002, Palm Springs

A new passenger for this trip – my friend Cassie was brave enough to strap herself into the right seat for a quick jaunt to Palm Springs. The idea was to sight-see up the coast and turn inland, under San Jacinto, and through the Banning Pass to the airport.

Having a snap-happy passenger meant that I got some great views that, as a pilot, would be hard for me to take – such as these ones taking off from Montgomery Field.

We headed north up the coast, taking in Del Mar and the beaches:

Reaching Carlsbad, we turned towards the 15 and followed it north until we could see Diamond Lake:

From there we headed towards the Banning Pass and I made my first mistake of the day. I didn’t know what the Banning Pass looked like and assumed that the first pass we came to was the one to follow but it didn’t look right so I did a 360 turn whilst I studied the map (and the GPS) to see where we should be going. I’m glad I did, the valley I was going to follow would have been very difficult to get out of had I followed it too far. The main reason for the error was getting Mount San Jacinto wrong – I thought a different peak was it and therefore I would turn too early. Its interesting to me as I write this why the GPS didn’t help me any, I can’t remember why.

Over the ridge, we saw the 10 freeway and turned east to follow it to the airport. At this point I called up Palm Springs Approach to tell them we were coming in and I was pretty much cleared through to landing. It had been a pretty smooth ride all the way to here but the winds through the pass were very strong and we had a very bumpy approach to the airport. I guess these winds are why they put a windmill farm there?

Given the long, long final I was able to set up, the approach to the runway was not as difficult as I was expecting though certainly the turbulence had me sweating. But we made it on to the tarmac very smoothly and taxied to Signature where we then went to the main terminal for some lunch.

As much as I wasn’t looking forward to it, our departure route would be the same as our approach – over the bumpy air across the windmills. Listening to some pilots checking into the FBO who had come over the other pass (the one I used on my first solo trip here) every route in and out of the airport was unpleasant. We took off to the west and encountered the turbulence very quickly. The wind would push us over and up and really all I could do was keep the plane upright and pointing forward. Thank to the wind and the heat, the climb performance was very poor and as much as I wanted to climb and try to get above the wind, all we could do was bounce around and watch the pass that would take us away get closer. Easily my least comfortable take off and climb so far.

Coming back, we followed route 15 south, then across the Wildlife Park, over Ramona and on to Gillespie. We were cleared straight-in 28L. As we neared the runway I was way too high and way too fast (sounds familiar!) and ended up having to go-around. The second time around I got it right and we made a fair landing back to end the day.