Friday, May 10, 2013

Montgomery Fields Forever

The alarm goes off. It's 8 o'clock in the morning. I open the window curtains and I see a gray cloud layer all over the city. Sure is chilly outside. I let the water flow in the sink and wash my face with the cold water. I then go to the kitchen and turn my laptop on. That's usually the first thing I do when preparing breakfast. The start-up takes a while, so I turn the oven on and set it on 350ºF to bake the bread roll for breakfast. I take the orange juice, the ham, butter and an apple from the fridge. There are still many eggs in the fridge, so I'll make some scrambled eggs for tomorrow's breakfast. The Nutella is in the overhead cabinet, almost empty. The oven clicks when the temperature reaches the selected setting. I put the bread rolls in and set 7 minutes on the timer.
My laptop is up and running, so I enter Firefox to check the weather. Typical winter weather in San Diego: The marine layer covering from Point Loma to El Cajon to Carlsbad. It's good to be instrument rated in case the layer persists after noon. I planned a VFR cross country flight to Long Beach the night before. The weather report doesn't help for a VFR departure, but the forecast looks promising. I'm sure the layer will dissipate by 10 or 11 o'clock. The weather's good in the Long Beach area. The bread is ready so I put it on a plate and return to the table. I notice a bed-movement noise in my roommate's room. Maybe he's awake. He usually plays late at night and sleeps 'till noon. That's when he has nothing to do, though. Sometimes his instructor tells him to be at the flight school at 7 o'clock for the lesson. My flight instructor is not a morning person, so he usually tells me to be there at 10 or 11 o'clock. I'm his only student for the most time, so we have two lessons per day. A mix of groundschool and then a flight, or two flights, or a whole day of groundschool.

I put a Big Bang Theory channel on Veetle while eating. I'm a slow eater, so I always put something to watch at while having breakfast or dinner. My roommate comes out of his room. "Que pasó muchachooo" is my typical greeting. He's not flying today, but has a ground lesson later in the day.
I put the plate, glass, etc. in the washmachine and go to my room to get ready. No need to shower, I did the night before. It's good that students are not required to wear a uniform in this school. I can understand that when attending a cool flight academy and when already working, but this is just a normal local flight school.

I make sure everything's packed in my bag. Charts up-to-date, headsets, laptop, kneeboard, water bottle... I take my bike and open the door. We live in the second floor, but the stairs are right there at the entrance. The bike is light, so I never have problems getting out and into the apartment. Riding on Ruffin Road, then turning left onto Aero Dr. Past the public library and looking at the planes taking off and landing on runways 28 left and right. I love to live near the airport. You can hear the planes applying takeoff power from the living room; the Marine Corps from Miramar as well. The sound of the F/A-18s in pattern work is just like hearing the waves from your hotel room at the beach. Pretty relaxing. I normally turn onto John Montgomery Dr. and enter the airport via an entry ramp. Passing through the hangars and the Cirrus airplanes of Coast Flight Training, I arrive at the school. I also like to ride directly to the airplane I intend to fly to check if it has fuel.

I put my bike next to the soda machine and enter the school office. Nobody's at the counter, but I hear jazz and blues coming from Nug's office. He was there, I say good morning and tell him I'm doing a cross-country flight with the Archer. I think he has an idea of who I am, since I've been present in the school many days. He hands me 6365C's binder and I check the times and the page of malfunctions. Everything looks good, so I take my laptop and kneeboard out of my bag and leave them there. I take my bag and binder to the airplane and take the cover (pijamas) off the plane. I always put my bag on the right seat of the back to get my stuff easily. I then seat on the copilot side and compare the numbers showing in the tachometer and hobbs with the ones written in the binder. I connect my headsets and start doing the pre-flight check of the plane. Airplane documents checked, flaps are set, check the fuel indicators with the battery on, turn coordinator with no flag and running smoothly...outside the cockpit I check the flaps, control surfaces, drain some fuel from the tanks and sump from the engine, check the tires, windshield, oil, the prop... all that wonderful stuff.

The plane looks good so I return to the office to get a weather briefing with DUATS. I also look at the satellite pictures to see how the clouds are dissipating and their general movement. I then print the briefings for cross countries (with four pages per sheet, of course) so that I have the weather and NOTAM information readily available in case I must divert or something.

With everything ready and the basic flight preparation stuff done, I say bye to whoever is around. I take my laptop and kneeboard and leave the office. As I walk to the plane, I notice the sky has been clearing out. There are some scattered clouds over the coast, so I'm sure I'll be able to depart westbound along the coast as we usually do.
I pull the chocks out and make a quick check of the plane. Ok, everything still in its place. I get into the Archer and strap myself in, after adjusting the seat. I start building my nest by straping my kneeboard around my leg and unfold/fold the visual chart for the sections I'll be using. I then take my scanner and set the ATIS frequency to copy it. "Montgomery Airport information Delta..." With all that done, I start going through the checklist: Pre-engine start checklist. Flaps up, fuel selector to fullest tank, circuit brakers in, brakes set... "Where are the keys? Oh right, still in the binder" - "Clear prop!" I shout from the storm window and check the area surrounding the plane. My instructor did an excellent job on showing me how to properly start an engine. Around the ramp, one usually hears the cranking of an engine followed by a high acceleration of the engine and then a reduction of power. I always turn my head to the sides when hearing that. It's all about the priming and throttle position, taking into account the temperature of the engine. My engines always start with two or three turns of the prop, followed by a slow rise in RPM, and then adjusting the power to 1000RPM. I love it. It's good for the engine too! Oil pressure in the green and avionics on.

After doing all the before-taxi checklist items, I release the brakes and advance the throttle just a bit to start moving. When starting to move, I test my brakes to a full stop and then start a normal taxi to taxiway India. While taxiing on India I call ground "Montgomery Ground, Cherokee 6365C at India approaching Golf, for westbound departure, with Delta." They give me instructions to taxi to runway 28L via Golf, Hotel and Bravo. Checking the instruments in the turns and when not accelerating, I reach the run-up area of runway 28L.
Before takeoff checklist. Basically checking the flight instruments, flight controls, engine run-up and mags check, appropriate suction and engine indications. I set the GPS with the route, comms and navaid frequencies on the radios and course on the VOR instruments. It's also a good thing to mentally review the procedures in case the engine starts running rough on takeoff and climb, or if something else happens.
"Montgomery Tower, Cherokee 6365C holding short 28L, ready for westbound departure." - "6365C, wind 260 at 8, runway 28L, cleared for takeoff."
I note the time, write it in my sheet of paper on my kneeboard, release the brakes, turn the landing light and transponder on, I start moving to the runway, check final is clear and align the plane on the centerline, while checking the wind cone to position the flight controls for that wind. "Takeoff!" I advance the power smoothly and check for proper setting and engine indications. "Engine on the green, airspeed alive..." I dance on the rudder pedals a bit to remain on the centerline while accelerating down the runway. At 60 knots I start pulling the yoke to establish a lift-off attitude and the Archer breaks free of the ground, still accelerating past 65 knots. I maintain Vx for some time and start dropping the nose to maintain 76 knots, which is Vy.
I climb westbound direct to Mount Soledad and try to reach 4500 feet before getting into the Bravo airspace in the north. It climbs pretty quick with only one person on board and "full" fuel. "65C, frequency change... approved"

Past Mount Soledad reaching 4500 feet, I check my altimeter to verify I was at 4500. It was an unusual altitude at that point, caused by the lighter weight performance and winds. As I requested flight following to Long Beach at 6500 feet with SoCal Approach, I could see the ocean to my left, still covered with some scattered clouds. To my right: Ramona, Encinitas, Palomar Airport as I cruised at 110 knots over the ground with some headwinds.
Not much happens when cruising. Just checking the fuel gauges, changing the tank every 30 minutes, engine indications, listening to the ATC... and enjoying the feeling of being airborne.
Just before flying abeam Orange County I request a practice ILS approach to Long Beach. "Expect vectors for practice ILS runway 30 approach." I already had my terminal procedures booklet with the approach chart ready. I tune the ILS frequency in the nav 1 and 301º on the OBS. Click on the Nav 1 audio switch and waited for the ILS identification code. All of that being part of the standard approach briefing, including listening to the ATIS, reviewing the touchdown zone elevation, tuning the expected frequencies on standby, glideslope intercept altitude, timing from the Final Approach Fix to the Missed Approach Point at 90 knots, minimums and a review of the missed approach procedure.

I'm now getting vectors for the straight-in ILS approach, which I acknowledge "65C, heading 290", "65C, heading 320, descend and maintain 2000, maintain 2000 until established on the localizer and cleared for practice ILS 30 approach".
I complete the descent checklist items and begin reducing my speed to 90 knots before intercepting the localizer. Smooth approach, I must say. I start the time at the FAF as I was already established on the glideslope. Flaps 10. I was then handed off to the tower frequency and they cleared me to land. Before landing checklist complete. "I really like the approach here; nice long concrete runway" I'm thinking. Flaps 25, still on the ILS and managing power and attitude to maintain a nice 3º approach. I ignored the timer, since it is a beautiful day and wanted to enjoy the view. Flaps 40 and final approach speed of 65 knots. Over the runway threshold, I continue my normal approach path and attitude until reaching a nice flaring height. I start pulling the yoke while reducing power smoothly; dancing on the pedals and making horizontal adjustments with the ailerons to keep a nice trajectory to the centerline with the wings level, except when getting a crosswind, I bank the wing to the wind and try to make a smooth touchdown with that wheel. Basic crosswind technique. This wasn't the case, though. The wind is coming right towards me, helping me make a good and soft landing on that runway.
While keeping a good climb attitude and making correct adjustments, the plane touches down on its main wheels first. I like to keep the nosewheel up and flaps down to keep that aerodynamical braking in effect to avoid using brakes. I then start calculating the distance to my exit taxiway, Golf to the right, and begin using brakes to get to a normal taxiing speed and leave the runway. I complete the after landing items and call ground. "65C, requesting taxi for a southbound departure", "65C taxiing to runway 25L via Golf, Charlie, Lima, Juliet, Juliet 1". I taxi and notice a Jetblue A320 at the terminal gate. When at the hold short position, I do a quick magneto and engine indications check. I contact tower and was cleared for takeoff after a Cessna touched down and other two crossed the runway.

With takeoff power and everything on the green, I take off from Long Beach, heading back to Montgomery Field. I start flying direct to the Emmy and Eva Oil Platforms, climbing to 5500 feet. I have to remain clear of the John Wayne class C airspace, since I haven't established flight following with SoCal Approach just yet. I keep flying southbound, climbing to 5500 feet to remain clear of the Charlie.
I then get a sqawk code and am cleared to fly direct Mount Soledad. Just some twists and clicks on the GPS and I'm now flying direct VPSMS, the GPS waypoint name for it. Nothing special in this return flight. I look at the departures from John Wayne Airport. ATC has to restrict their climb because of me. Looks cool to see an airliner fly below you. "Sorry guys" I think to myself for being a disturbance in their climb. Newport Beach, Dana Point... just some miles more to go.

I'm cleared through the San Diego class Bravo airspace at 5500 feet. This is where the fun begins. I then select 126.9 on the comm 2 to listen to the Montgomery ATIS an I copy it on my kneeboard sheet, circling the ATIS identifier letter. Fuel balance's good, the engine's good, speed's good, I'm good.
I'm now instructed to descend to 3500 and I go through the descent checklist. "65C, you're 5 miles from Mount Soledad, radar services terminated, contact Montgomery Tower". I turn my landing light on and switch to tower frequency. I contact them just before reaching Mount Soledad, to which they respond "65C, squawk 0400, make left downwind for runway 28L. Traffic, barnstormer, 5 o'clock 3 miles". I already had the biplane in sight and I start my descent to traffic pattern altitude. The view is perfect. I can see Coronado Bridge, downtown, Miramar and the mountains to the east. Just a couple of feet to lose after passing the Sierra Mesa College. I'm sure they get to hear all the airborne traffic into and out of Montgomery Field.

The plane is starting to move now, but a bit of turbulence only makes things even funner and interesting. With the landing checklist done and at 1400 feet, I get another traffic advisory. A helicopter departing Sharp hospital. In sight and reducing my speed to make a smooth approach from downwind leg, I fly abeam the runway numbers, reduce my power and apply 10º of flaps. "65C, traffic's a Cessna landing on 28R, wind 290 at 6, runway 28L, cleared to land".
45º from the runway, I start my turn to base, flying over Fry's and Wal Mart. Flaps 25 and just a cumple of seconds later, I start my turn to final, adjusting power and attitude to enter a nice final approach path.

Flaps 40 and speed 65 to 70 knots, I bank the wings of the Archer to the wind and apply opposite rudder to maintain the plane's longitudinal axis aligned to the centerline. All while keeping a constant path to the runway and correcting the attitude shifts caused by the wind and turbulence.
2 planes waiting for me to land: A 172 and a yellow Cub. I hope I can make a smooth touchdown to make them do the 'not-bad' face. Just before reaching the threshold, I cut the power and start transitioning to a climb attitude. Holding that attitude and making quick adjustments, I touch down with the mains first and the nosegear milliseconds thereafter. Wasn't a smooth one, but I'm safely on the ground, decelerating with full back pressure on the yoke. "65C, exit left on Golf and contact ground, good day!"

Before landing checklist done and time noted, I contact ground requesting taxi to NAC. "65C, taxi to NAC via G, caution helicopter landing at midfield". I read back and open the storm window to get some fresh air while taxiing to the school. I take a deep breath
The chocks are still where I left them. I calculate the inertia required to enter the parking position without adding more power. I turn to the center, watching both wingtips to avoid the wingtips of the planes on my both sides. I then stop, put the parking brake on and turn the avionics off. Mixture out and the engine shuts down. As soon as the prop stops moving, I turn the mags and master switch off.

With the time noted, I remove my seatbelts and get the binder to enter the hobbs and tach time. "It was a good flight!" I say to myself an I then start packing my nest and my headsets back in my bag. I stretch when already out of the plane, standing on the wing by the door. I take my bag and the binder out and recheck everything's off and nice for the next guy flying it.
With the door closed, I take the cover from the baggage door and throw it on top of the plane.
Following a clockwise walk from the right of the plane, just behind the wing, I secure the rear straps first, and then the front ones. With the chocks on the nose gear, I then take my bag and the binder to the office. I greet everybody and return the binder, telling them everything's fine with the plane.
I check the schedule, so I can fly in the late evening and reserve the plane for me.

After an usual chat with the guys there, I then take my bike and leave. I always try riding hands-free around the ramp, always looking out for cars or other planes coming out of the hangars, of course ;) It's lunch time, so I'll go home and cook something. My teriyaki ala Daniel, maybe. Anyways, I decided to stop by at Christy's Donuts and then go to Learn to Fly San Diego and see whether my roommate was there. Riding home, I began thinking where to fly in the evening. As I looked to my left, a Cessna flying on final to land. I'll let the finger decide where to fly without looking at the chart.

Nothing like flying at Montgomery Fields Forever...

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