Lesson 31 - Monday May 10th

A trip to Camarillo

Although the winds at Camarillo (CMA) were not particularly cross, Tanya decided we would go there anyway.  We look at it on the chart about 30NM away, which is about a 20 minute trip, about three times as far as my trip to Van Nuys.  Tanya said we could track the CMA VOR.  (a VOR is radio beacon that tells you your relative angle to the beacon, and sometimes the distance to it).

Our plane today is 24132, a rather ratty little old Cherokee.  I had to add some oil, but once started it seemed similar to the other planes.  A bit smaller, and the seat was uncomfortable, and there was a lot of cracked plastic, but it got up into the air.

I'd got a weather briefing after arriving at Justice, and I asked them about clouds over the Santa Monica mountains, as I'd seen some when setting off from home.  They told me they could not tell me, as there was no observation station there, but it seemed clear everywhere else.

So we take off, and head for the hill, basically right turn at the shoreline, and head Northwest into the valley.  There were a few large clouds around, so we had to duck and weave a bit to avoid them, but no real problem.

I'm having a problem maintaining altitude.  I REALLY need to focus more on this.  I think I'm currently failing because I don't have an instruments scan drilled in.  I should be checking the instruments at least every 30 seconds, if I want to keep on top of things.   Far too many time I've looked down (or Tanya said something), and I've lost 200 feet either way.   Scan those instruments!

So, up and down, over Thousand Oaks we tune to the CMA VOR, which gives us a nice heading due west.  We get the ATIS, and call the tower at about 10 miles out.  Here begins my unimpressive descent.

Now, I'm looking at the VOR and the heading indicator, and it shows the airport is due  west of us.  Tanya tells me to report that we are southeast of the airport.  I think this is because she was looking at the chart, where out position was kind of southeast, and she normally arrives more to south than we did.  So I get confused and later tell tower that we are southWEST of the airport.  This is on the other side, so tower obvious queries this, and I correct myself.

Then they ask me if I want straight-in, I say left base, they tell me straight in would be best and clear me to land, following traffic currently on a left base.  I can't find the traffic, and my mind seizes up as I forget to check airspeed, altitude and stuff.  We come into the runway way too low, I nearly touch down ahead of the displaced threshold, and it takes a lot of verbal input from Tanya to get me down on the ground.

I think I'm getting a nasty habit of waiting a second for Tanya to say something whenever I screw up.  I can tell I need to add power, or whatever, but I don't do it immediately.  I should just pretend she's not there, and go ahead with whatever I feel is right.  I'm sure she'll stop me if I do something dangerous.

We touch and go, inelegantly, and fly home, again getting distracted and messing up the altitude several times.  We return to SMO, and land twice.  My brain is fried, and I'm rather unconvincing on both landings.

Maybe things will sink in a little while I'm off in Alaska. 

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(c) 2004 Mick West