Lesson 29 - Friday May 7th
Special Flight Rules
Very action packed lesson today. Very nice weather for it too.
Tanya took me in the back and described the procedure for transitioning the LA Special Flight Rules Area. This is a block of airspace over LAX that allows you to fly right over it without having to contact SoCal approach to get permission to traverse the Class-B airspace. It's pretty simple, just fly along a VOR heading at a certain altitude and report position on CTAF whilst squawking 1201. Easy.....
For takeoff I request a "Right Climbing 270 for the LA Special Flight Rules", and this is cleared, we take off, pretty bumpy, head out to the shoreline, and then begin a wide 270 degree turn to take us south over the top of SMO airport. So far so good.
As we cross SMO we request a frequency change, get it, change to the SFR CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency), 128.55. You've got to report your position at four points (Ballona Creek, North Complex at LAX, South Complex at LAX, and Imperial Highway, using a formulaic incantation.
Me: LA Special Fight Rules traffic, Cherokee 8074T, Three thousand five hundred, South East Bound, over Ballona Creek, LA Special Flight Rules traffic.
That's it, no response comes back as it's just you announcing your position to the other traffic.
This goes fairly smoothly, although I'm a bit flakey on the calls, but I get them out, more or less.
Flying over LAX is way cool. 3500 fleet up directly over the runway, you can see the big jets land and take off, and see them lined up on the taxiway. I need to get some photos of it sometime.
When we exit the corridor, Tanya tells me to switch to SoCal approach, which we'd set up earlier, so I switch over, and call "SoCal Approach, 8074T, with request".
They tell me to stand by, and proceed to talk a mile a minute for various big jets, and Tanya realizes she got the frequency wrong, she'd put in 124.7, which seems to be Point Mugu, when we needed 124.65 for Socal Approach for John Wayne (I think, based on the chart).
Anyway while this is going on I keep loosing track of altitude, as I focus on the radio. Stupid really, as it should be fairly easy to maintain altitude, but I lost around 800 feet. I got somewhat confused as to where to say we were, but eventually we got on the right frequency, established contact with Socal, and got a squawk code.
Then we descended to about 1200 feet over Point Fermin, and the Angels Gate breakwater, just west of the Queen Mary. The view was AMAZING, you could see all of the long beach basin, all the industrial harbor area, the Queen Mary and the Dome.
Not that I had much chance to admire the view. Tanya started me with turns about a point, where you bank about 30 degrees and fly in a circle, trying to keep a fixed distance from a point (a small lighthouse on the breakwater). I had a hard time figuring out the feedback loop here. You have to bank harder as your ground speed increases, when you are flying downwind, but I never figured out which way the wind was blowing. I need to try to keep a mental picture of the wind direction, which should be discernable by the motion of the airplane when you make the first circuit, but I should also know what it was from weather reports, to make a good first guess.
We then did some S-Turns along the breakwater, I was a bit sketchy at first, loosing altitude, but we did a few and I finally did some solidly on altitude. You are required to do them within +/- 100 feet of your starting altitude.
Then heading back, just the reverse of the outgoing trip, and relatively straightforward. After traversing the special flight rules area, we contact SMO, cross the runway midfield, descending, around 4000 feet (as we fly NW at 4500), then make a wide left descending 270 to enter right downwind for 21.
My landing is actually not too bad, considering the excitement of the flight, we bump a little, but gently, and I squeal the brakes for some reason. But mission accomplished.
Four pages in the logbook now, and I have a total of exactly 30 hours. I still feel a little ways away from soloing. I'm somewhat over the typical 25 hours that was mentioned earlier, but I don't feel too bad about it. I had some problems earlier with motion sickness that cut down my lessons, and there is a lot to learn flying in the complicated LA airspace. I'm making consistent progress (if a little slow), but I'm familiar with this from learning things like juggling before. You keep practicing, you get better. There's no rush, in a few years I'll be flying my Cirrus SR-22 up the coast, regardless of how long it takes me to get my license.