Lesson 14 - Saturday March 27th

Socal, Traffic and 80% Landing

No flying for 18 days, and then two in two days!  I'm not complaining, it's a beautiful day today, sunny, nice breeze, 10 miles visibility.  Perfect.

The lesson is at 9AM, and when I arrive, we go and do a bit of ground instruction in the back.  Tanya takes me through the whole procedure for landing.  This seems like a LOT of information to take in, and I'm pretty sure it's going to take me while to get it all straight.  But basically it's just a set of procedures for what you do at every stage, from joining the pattern, through turning base and final, to "round-out" with letting the airplane settle and flaring to land.

I pre-flight the plane (8074T) and when Tanya arrives she says this time I'll talk to SoCal approach. She gives me little spiel to read, which actually turns out pretty similar to what happens.

So, up we go.  I take of without a lot of prompting this time, but feel a bit wobbly, and I'm still tending to forget things.  But we get up in the air. Fuel pump off at 1000ft. Right turn at shoreline, stay a bit offshore, as there is a lot of traffic today. 

Multi-tasking is my weak point as I tend to fixate on one thing, especially if it's new and confusing.  So I get a little confused and nervous as we are climbing through 2000 ft, turning along the shoreline, and then I have to contact SoCal.  Tanya dials them into the radio, and I get out my script.  First of all you have to contact them and tell them you have a request:

Mick:  SoCal Approach, Cherokee 8-0-7-4-Tango, with request.
Socal: 8074T go ahead
Mick: SoCal Approach, 8074T is a PA28 slant alpha departing out of Santa Monica 3400 for 4500 going to Point Dume to practice maneuvers, request traffic advisories if possible
SoCal: 8074T standby for radar code

So then we wait a while, listening to SoCal talk to other people, then we get:

Socal: 8074T, squawk 4757
Mick: Squawking 4757, 8074T

They have given us a discreet squawk code for our radar transponder.  This allows them to identify us on the radar screen.  Normally we just squawk 1200, so this was another new thing for me.  I dial in the numbers on the transponder.

Socal: 8074T, ident
Mick: identing, 8074T

I press the "ident" button on the transponder (after Tanya points to it for me).  This will make my symbol flash on the controllers radar screen, so he can see exactly where I am.

Socal gets back to me pretty quick, and reads out my position, heading, altitude, and gives me an altimeter setting.   I'm afraid I miss most of it, but looking back it would have been something like:

Socal: 8074T we have you five miles North West of Santa Monica, at 4000 feet, heading 280. yadda yadda something something, altimeter 3009.
Mick: Rodger 3009 74T.

Really I should have had a better idea of exactly where I was, relative to SMO, so I could have confirmed the position was correct.  I could easily have checked the altitude and heading, but I did not do that either. 

That's Socal done for a while, we continue to listen to them, and we are "with" them and have to respond to them if they say something.. 

We fly up to Point Dume, and do some slow flight, power on stalls, and descending with flaps, then simulating a go-around.  I had brain fart several times and forgot the simplest of things, but managed to execute things fine when Tanya told me what I was supposed to be doing. 

We then turn around and head back.  On the way back Socal starts throwing traffic at us:

Socal: 8074T, traffic at 12:30, 3500 feet northbound
(we look around for a while)
Tanya: 8074T, negative on traffic
Socal: 8074T, traffic is 12:30 one o'clock, 3500 feet northbound.
(we look some more, spot a plane circling out to sea)
Tanya: 8074T, we have the traffic

SoCal gives us traffic like that a few more times, each time we have to look for the traffic, and tell SoCal if we see it or not.  When we see it, we just keep it in sight until it's no longer a factor.  It's a pretty busy day today (first nice weekend for three weeks).

We do a bit more slow flight on the way back, then Tanya handles the hand-off from SoCal to SMO Tower, and I call the tower as usual at the Palisades, and get the normal "report abeam".

As we approach the airport, Tanya starts drilling me on what we went over earlier.  Approach the pattern at TPA 1400 feet (Traffic Pattern Altitude - varies by airport), Engine 2000 RPM, Speed 85 Knots, enter downwind leg 45 degrees, midfield.  Turn left over the freeway, keep altitude, nose up a bit, parallel the runway, look ot for when abeam the tower to report, although they usually call you:

Tower: 74T, you will be following a Cessna on two mile final, report when in sight
Mick: 74T, looking for traffic.

We fly along downwind, not very far, about the end of the runway, when we get the next call.

Tower: 74T, traffic is on one mile final
I just spot the traffic as they say this, so:
Mick: 74T I have the traffic
Tower: 74T cleared to land, you are number two.

They must have said something else as well that I missed as Tanya starts speeding up, "They want us to turn base now, okay, first notch of flaps, turn base, establish descent, keep the airport in sight, watch your airspeed, see he's landed, second notch of flaps,  we don't want o be too high, too fast, too low, too slow, at the wrong angle, okay, let's put in the third notch now as we are on a short final, turn final, bit less power, bit more power, get lined up, head for the numbers, lined up, we're descending too fast, more power, keep lined up, okay, slowly bring the power back, keep straight down the runway, head for the numbers, pull back, level off, power to idle, look down the runway, let it settle, let it settle, raise the nose, oh, okay, keep the pressure off the nose, head that way, keep the pressure off the nose, brake, okay, that was good, that was 80% you."

80% me? It did not really feel like it.  It all passed in a bit of a blur, but I can see where we are going with this, and I know I'll finesse it eventually.  I've just got to do it in a blur about fifty more times, then I'll have it down.