|2006/09/27 Flight to Catalina (KAVX) and back
π 2006-09-27 23:06 by Merlin in Flying, Nflying
I hadn't gone diving in a while, and Jennifer never got her diver's certification, so I thought it would be a good idea to realize another plan of mine, and fly from Palo Alto directly to Catalina Island (which beats flying commercial, going to the ferry terminal, and taking the ferry by several hours when you compare it to a 2-2.5H flight in a trinidad TB20)
This flight to Catalina was however a perfect justification for the IFR training that I had decided to get, but barely started: we ended up leaving about 2H late due to a persistent overcast in Palo Alto, but ultimately still got to Catalina faster than if we had flown commercial, and no worries about swiss army knifes, baggage at the carrousel, and a potential missed ferry connection :)
By 12:00, PAO had enough of a hole in the clouds that I was able to climb over the top on upwind to the crosswind turn, and was already over the top by the time I ended back on downwind and towards Moffett. The Garmin 496 ended up being quite useful the tops rose increasingly when going south, and I was able to get real time top information, and find a course change that allowed me to leave the bad tops that were over LA when I had climbed to 14,000 feet and the tops were still rising somewhat. I was also able to use my brand new emergency bottle of oxygen that fits in my flight bag.
While climbing higher, I often found myself where I could technically still see some distand ahead of me, and even see the ground somewhat (when looking under the plane, not ahead), but the horizon was gone, so it was a good excercise in soft IFR while still being in technically legal VFR conditions (I did however get out of itby climbing and finding the edge of the clouds on the Garmin, and headind away from there).
The arrival at Catalina was uneventful as it had been VFR all day, with unlimited ceilings, and I got there in time to see the DC-3 air taxi take off soon after I landed. Landing fees, overnight for 4 days, and a return shuttle for two was $75, which all in all was quite reasonable, especially with the brand new paved runway that had just been renovated.
The flight back was even more "interesting", as being October first, we were out of the June-September period of time where it is illegal for rain to occur, and sure enough, by the time we biked up to the airport, we were greeted by IFR conditions with fog to the ground.
This was not a great sign, and weather forecasts showed rain on the route and low ceilings in the Silicon Valley (less than 4000 feet), so we aborted the rest of the bike ride (which wasn't much fun in dense fog), and planned on leaving a bit earlier than planned (15:00 instead of 17:00), especially so as to ensure a landing during daylight (night + low clouds + mountains in VFR = no good).
On the way back the Garmin 496 with real time XM weather showed the heavier parts of rainstorm, which way it was heading, and showed terrain avoidance making navigation with restricted ceilings easier. The flight back was barely 2H with light rain, smooth air, and outside of a somewhat dicy pass by Salinas which had a TFR that blocked most of the useable route for VFR people who couldn't climb, nor hit the mountains on the east, I was able to fly at 7,500 feet the entire way back until Salinas where I had to duck under the cloud cover below 3000 feet, and was able to navigate safely between mountains back to San Jose and Palo Alto.
All in all, it wasn't a hard flight, but it could have been, and the Garmin 496 is what made me confident enough in knowing where I was heading, and that ahead was going to be ok (of course, that's what flightwatch is for, but they were quite busy).