Cloudy Day

I spent some time with my head in the clouds today, flying IFR from Santa Monica (SMO) to French Valley (F70) and back. There was a cloud layer at 5-6 thousand feed above the whole basin, but unlike the last couple days no reported or forecast ice in it. I could have gotten to F70 below it, but it was a good day to pick up some time in actual instrument conditions.

Flying out to French Valley was one reroute after another. I got the impression that the controllers were deciding what to do with me as they went along. That’s not too surprising. LA airspace is busy and French Valley is off the beaten path a bit. Eventually they wound up vectoring me south of Santiago Peak (and the old El Toro Marine Core Air Station). This was good practice in situational awareness – Santiago peak is plenty high, and I couldn’t see a thing. I was very careful to make sure that the assigned altitudes all made sense. After crossing the mountains, I was cleared for the approach, then had that cancelled, then was re-vectored for it, all in IMC. You can’t buy training like that.

On arrival at F70, I decided to break off my straight-in approach to join the traffic via the 45 on the downwind to simplify matters. F70’s pattern always seems to have people in it, and today was no exception, so this kept the flow predictable. Cool beans.

At the airport I had a good lunch at the cafe, filed back to SMO and climbed VFR to get the clearance. SoCal picked me up and it was back to the clouds. This leg was completely as advertised, straight down the filed route to SMO. I canceled as soon as I was back out of the clouds near SMO.

Fun day. Both my landings stunk up the joint, though, so I’m setting aside some time this week to work on them. And avgas is 5.21/gal self-serve.

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