A Day A Pilot Could Love

I braved the crushing economic times today to go out and polish up my skills in the air. The plan was a trip out to French Valley (F70) for lunch and then a few take-offs and landings at Hemet-Ryan (HMT) to polish them up.

Interesting day to go out. The Santa Anas are coming and a couple airmets were valid in the area for moderate turbulence in the basin. One of the things pilots are always interested in when adverse conditions are forecast is whether the conditions are actually out there, so I was interested in PIREPs in my briefing. I was rewarded by the best one I’ve ever heard: “On the ground at Chino: Instructor reports the wind is rocking his van.” (It sounds funny, but that was helpful to know….)

When the Santa Anas are out, Santa Monica often winds up using runway 3, which they were today. I went straight out toward French Valley, and was asked to follow Interstate 10 past downtown. I often avoid this clearance and head further north, but today they sounded busy enough on the approach that I didn’t argue. The overhanging airspace is 2500′ for LAX, so I passed downtown LA at about 2000′. I hadn’t done that before, and I recommend it. Very spectacular. Sorry that I don’t have pictures, but I was piloting.

I need to plot a better path, though, because the path I took brought me pretty close to El Monte’s (EMT). Close enough, in fact, that El Monte tower asked SoCal to switch me over to them. The controller didn’t have the tower frequency handy, but I basically read it to him when he asked me to stand by for it. By the time I’d talked to EMT, I was over their airspace, and they switched me right back to SoCal. It sounded like a new controller.

The rest of the trip out to French Valley was uneventful, but French Valley always seems to be busy. No exception today, there were two or three folks in the pattern and one or two inbound. In fact, I had a Yak ask to turn initial on an overhead approach inside me for landing (which I was happy to let him do). There’s something satisfying to working in to a busy pattern smoothly, and it was fun to do.

I always enjoy eating at the restaurant at French Valley. That busy pattern is fun to watch while waiting and eating. They were busy enough that I read an entire Pacific Flyer while waiting, but the food was great.

After finishing up, I toddled over to Hemet and got a few touch-and-goes in. The wind was swirling around enough that I initially lined up on runway 23, then heard the wind had turned around and I left the pattern and came back for a touch-and-go on runway 5 (the same runway, other direcction). Then it spun around and I did two more on 23.

The trip back to SMO was beautiful (Santa Anas bring clear skies), but not terribly interesting. By the time I’d gotten back to SMO the wind had turned around and I landed on runway 21.

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