The Feral Chihuahua
He did a pre-flight inspection and showed me every bolt he checked and why, then we hopped in to do a short flight. We took off to the west and as soon as we were level he handed me the controls. I had never flown a plane with a stick instead of a yoke and this plane felt like a Lotus Elise compared to the truck that was the 182 I was flying. I was quick to get the hang of the stick though and with small movements had the plane flying the direction and altitude he wanted.
|The Feral Chihuahua|
Time to Go Home
|Northern San Diego |
The clouds had burned back to the San Diego coast and scattered by the time I took off so I got no actual on my instrument departure. This time I hand flew my clearance and route until after the first major waypoint at Oceanside VOR I needed to work on my tracking and knew I'd have at least two hours to practice. I quickly got back into the groove of holding a proper ground track on an instrument flight plan. My route took me along the southern California coast from San Diego to Los Angeles.
|Catalina Island and a cloud free shadow|
|The mountains north of LA.|
Fun Riding the AirI crossed the first ridge with no turbulence but I noticed I was flying a straight and level attitude at 10,200 and climbing. I pushed the nose down and was still climbing. I pushed the nose down more, still climbing! I needed to be at my assigned altitude. ATC was bound to call me soon. Sure enough, "Skylane 20791, say altitude, altitude reporting 10,400 feet". I responded back with my altitude, 10,400 feet and said I was in an updraft and correcting. "Roger, report when back at your assigned altitude." I got back down to 10,000 feet with the wind whistling through the plane as my airspeed increased. I reported back at altitude and was ready for the inevitable downdraft. Another Skylane heard my report and asked ATC where I was so they would be ready for the same conditions. A minute or two later the downdraft came and I was ready for it. My airspeed slowed towards 100 MPH as I raised the nose to maintain altitude. For the benefit of the other Skylane I contacted ATC and let them know I was now in the strong downdraft but was able to hold altitude. They said roger and told me to contact Bakersfield approach and relay the conditions to them as well.
|Folds in the earth between the |
central and coastal valleys.
I was absolutely comfortable alone at 10,000 feet - almost two miles over the valley surface, flying an instrument flight plan, riding a bit of turbulence, watching the clouds to my west, the low mountain range below and the valley to my east slide by. I monitored the instruments and engine gauges, my heading and altitude, and was totally at peace. No thoughts of anything else but just that moment. I wasn't bored or in a hurry, I was just there.
I taxied off the runway at Delta and contacted ground. Then I was taxiing back to Squadron 2. As I turned down the row to my parking spot the realization washed over me, I did it. I was home from a nine day tour of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona as PIC of a small aircraft. I flew to airports with altitudes of 135 feet, 7,600 feet and everything in between. I flew over some of the least and most populated areas of this country. I did all of the planning, the flying, everything, myself. I had dreamed of this trip for so long and I did it. I couldn't wait to do it again!
|N20791 back at Squadron 2. We're home.|