A flight

As I’ve looked around at aviation web sites and books over the years, there are lots of fragmentary glimpses into a flight, but few complete ones.  I decided to write up last weekends round trip from Reid-Hillview to Boise, Idaho and back to give a complete picture of a pretty uneventful IFR flight.  Weather was not a factor at all in this trip, so don’t expect icing stories or tumbling through turbulence. Flight was made in a Mooney 231, N3636H, which you can learn more about here. This is the hum drum flying that should make up most of your flying career, if you’re just starting out or thinking about it, presented for your entertainment.

C.K. Haun, November 2005

Reid-Hillview to Boise, 7:20 AM PST 19 November 2005

Out to the airplane at 7:20.  I've briefed the weather on DUATs at home, and printed out the flight plan I filed. Nothing more embarrassing that hearing "cleared as filed" and forgetting what you filed. Not that I've ever done that, of course.
Flight planned to be about three hours long, so the preflight emphasis on making sure that the fuel tanks are really full, and that the engine is carrying enough oil.  On my airplane that’s 7 quarts of 8 maximum, if I put in more than 7, the amount over 7 spews out of the crankcase breather almost at once. Just a matter of knowing your airplane.
Load the baggage, not much because I’m flying alone, just a suiter hanging in the back.
Go to the porta-potty one last time, then climb into the airplane.

First thing, set my flight bag on the passengers seat and click in securely in with the seatbelt.  No point in not using the belt, hit a bump and have the bag bounce around would be a bad idea. Plug in my O2 cannula to the ox bottle strapped into the rear seat, check that I have 1800 psi in the bottle, make sure I have good flow.  Loop it over my head, soft thingies up my nose, check once again that I have flow.  O2 back to OFF for takeoff.

Close the door, click my own belt tight.

Grab my start checklist, run through the steps.  Now time to start, ack, hate this part, the airplane is a balky starter.   Prime, spin.   Nope.  Prime, spin.  Nope.  Prime, spin, OK, she’s caught.

RPMs come up, stabilize at 1200 RPM.  Power up the radios, double check the 530 for database currency.  Copy down the ATIS.  Next, put the flight plan into the Garmin.   Probably will have to change it, but I like to at least have the start and end points programmed.  Also, the engine is warming up during the time it takes to punch it in, so I don’t taxi out with a cold engine. I’ve filed the flight per previous routings, basically V344, V6, V113.   All Airways, should be easy to get it.

Taxi, step on brakes.  Cool, the brakes still work. Turn out of my spot, look at HSI, turn coordinator, everything looks like it’s working well. Out to the runup, spinning the dials on the 530 to get to the runup checklist.

Runup normal.

I read it back.  I note the one blatant lie, I will not be cleared to 17k in 5 minutes, I guar-un-tee it.  I don’t even know why they bother saying it, I never get 17k until I’m within 15 miles of Sacramento.

The clearance is exactly the same as the flight plan I had filed, by the way, except for the radar vectors to SJC, so a simple “left to 290, RV SJC, then as filed” would have been enough.  Not complaining, since I don’t have to make any changes to the flight plan I put in the 530. Switch to tower frequency, set 120.1 in the standby freq.

Roll onto the runway.  Apply a little brake and push the throttle forward.  I like to have my manifold pressure up over 30 inches before I get very far down the runway.  Over 30”, fully rolling, 40” of manifold pressure.   No wind, so wait until about 63 knots then apply a slight bit of back pressure.  Nose comes up, a little more backpressure and the mains break free.  Climb to about 150 agl, wheels up.  Everything is working smoothly, and no wind or thermal fluttering, so flaps up while simultaneously rolling in trim.  400 ft;

Now a good bit of radio chatter with some biz jets that have just taken off.  Notice I hadn’t gotten any vectors yet.   Quite a few more calls to two Gulfstreams and an Alaska air flight. Above 2,000 feet now, reduce to 33 inches of manifold pressure and 2600 RPM, my standard climb configuration.  Close first notch of cowl flaps, ground speed showing 107 knots, IAS is about 103.  Nice cool climb configuration.

Now that’s not right.  I turn to 330 to comply, but I’m already blown past V334 so a left turn is not going to get me there.  This has happened to me before, so I know I’ll just have to wait one spin of the ground-based radar, 7 seconds, and hear;

That makes sense, and off  we go

I’m past the SUNOL intersection and passed the hills there, so don’t expect any particular bumps.  Autopilot ON, climb gradient about 800 FPM.   Reach around and turn on my O2. Double-check the nav controls and that the 530 is tracking correctly.  Program the routing into the Garmin 396 on the yoke, my backup and now weather station.

At this point Please Note:  I’m more than 10 minutes into the flight and still not cleared to 17k.  I never am. Why do they tease me so?

Out past Livermore, and some unusually hard jolts over the hills past Livermore.  Hmmm, wonder what that’s about?  Just 10 seconds worth, so no need to take any action. Continue climbing.  The 396 has had time to pick up a full weather cycle from the XM radio broadcasts, so I take a look at the NexRAD picture.   Nothing.  Weather looks clear all along the route.   Winds, ug!  Looks like I’ll have winds on or near the nose the whole flight.  Altitude doesn’t seem to matter, 15k is as strong as 18k.

Nearing Sacramento, finally;

Yes, the MOAs are cold and I can go straight.  This saves me 8-12 minutes of zigzag on V-113. Over Sacramento I level off at 17k.  SF area chart goes away, open up the Jepps enroute chart.

Take my seat back a notch.

Reach into the co-pilots side pouch and pull out the audio cable, plug it into the audio input in the passengers footwell, plug the other end into my iPod nano.  Make with the Tunes.  Roughly 2 hours and 10 minutes left in the flight, winds allowing. Nothing much going on this Saturday morning, just the normal handoffs from sector to sector.  Not much commercial activity.

Over Lake Tahoe, a little unusual, I’m handed off to Reno Approach.  I usually stay with Oakland Center, wonder what changed in the LOAs, I wouldn’t expect me at 17k to be talking with Approach.

Tune FMG on my primary radio, SDO on my secondary.  Still GPS navigating, of course, but like to have the VORs so I can position myself on the chart, since I’m no longer on V-113.

Drone drone drone.  Check my O2 saturation every 10 minutes or so, I highly recommend a portable oximeter.   Gives yah something to do.

Now I’m above Pyramid Lake, and I have to admit, my traffic scan may slow down a bit here.  There is pretty much nothing out here but Dirt, some of it piled higher than other parts, but it’s Dirt all the same, not much traffic to be expected in the turbo altitudes I fly at that’s not IFR.  Particularly since I’m direct, that routing has put me an average of about 10 miles west of V-113. Handed off to Salt Lake Center at the appropriate jaggy lines  on the Jepps.  Get my next Enroute chart out, that will take me all the way into Boise.

I switch my audio connection to the 396.  I’m buying the audio subscription as well as the weather (heck, it’s $7 more a month on top of $60, why not), and listen to a little college football.   Dang it, when is baseball season opening up again?

As I expected, the wind is right dead square on the nose.  Using the E-6B function in the 530 I get a 9 knot headwind.  My groundspeed is being reported as 165-168, so that sounds about right. Have to keep watching my exhaust gas temperature gauge, my mixture control know backs in slowly, so the mixture gets richer over time.

Passing SDO now, less than an hour left in the trip  REO goes to primary radio, SDO to secondary.

Took a look at the METAR and TAF for Boise on the 396, looks like CAVU and a 3 knot wind.  Pretty benign.

Now about 60 miles out, ready to get into arrival mode.

Now, I ain’t going to descend yet.  There is a line of mountains south of Boise, and I prefer to stay high until I’m over them, so I’ll stay at 17k as long as I can.   I always get “Pilots discretion” here, I expect many other folks want to stay high also.   With speedbrakes in the airplane, and more than 20 miles from the mountains to Boise proper, I know I can bring it down easily when it’s time.

But this is the signal for arrival, so I start buttoning up the cockpit.  iPod back into flight bag, wrap up audio cable and put it back in the side pocket. Roll my seat forward again.  Tune in the ATIS for Boise, they have a strong transmitter so I can pick it up clearly.

Check my approach plates, even though I won’t be using them, want to make sure they’re right anyway.  ATIS matches the METAR on the 396, adding that runway 10 approaches are in use.  Boise seems to use 10 as the calm wind runways.

A Horizon Air Dash-8 is behind, then past me, and the controller is dealing with him so I don’t get my standard mandatory stepdown as soon as I usually get it.

I’m over the start of the mountains, so I’m ready to take that discretionary decent, let me tell ATC I’m doing so;

The last little bit is because there are FBOs on both sides of the airfield, and if I were at Boise Executive they’d land me on 10L.  Since I’m a Turbo Air customer, they’ll be landing me on 10R.  I will admit that one of the reasons why I use TurboAir is because it’s on the opposite side from the commercial passenger terminal, and all the other FBOs are on the commercial side. Since they have parallel runways at Boise this means that all the commercial airplanes want 10L, so they don’t have to taxi as far.  Going to TurboAir and landing on the right means I’m not in the way of the 737’s and Dash-8s.  Sure, we have every right to be in the same traffic flow, but why force the issue if you don’t have to?  Make it easier for everyone, let them have the left, I’ll take the right. Coupla minutes pass

Time for the cannulla to come off.  O2 shutdown and pull the thing off my head. Also time to start slowing this beast down a little. Pull back the manifold pressure a little more, and pop the speed brakes. Decent speeds up to 1,300 FPM, and I start losing speed, down to 140 indicated.

About 15 miles out, final check of the cockpit.  Everything looks great, turn on my landing light. Whoop-dee-doop, start hitting some heavy bumps from thermal turbulence over these brown/green/brown fields.  Autopilot off for the duration. Level off at 6k. (BTW, the airfield is at 2,800 ft), speed brakes in, back up to 27 inches manifold pressure.

Hmmm, keep my speed up.  Well, first things first, I drop a little manifold pressure and pitch up, slow to gear speed of 130 and drop the gear.  I’ll keep my speed up to a max of gear speed, thank you very much.

I’m following the VASI in, and slowing to my final speed.  The Cezzna driver knew that, and he knew that this wasn’t going to work, but he didn’t say it strongly enough.  I could see him, no factor yet. 80 knots, and the tower finally sees it

Taxi for 2 minutes, stop outside the TurboAir hangar, there’s Jay waiting to give me a hand.

Nice flight!

Boise-Reid Hillview 1:00 PM MST 21 November 2005

Back Tuesday afternoon for the return to San Jose.  Filed for V-113, and expected to probably stay on that since this was a weekday. Two people flying back, so had done the W&B in the hotel, everything looks fine.  Load baggage (more this time), preflight.   Load me and my passenger. Boise has a clearance delivery frequency, so I go through my preflight checklist up to starting the engine, and turn on the radios without starting the engine.  Copy the ATIS.

Read it back, all ok. Start engine, it starts pretty well this afternoon.

Heck, there are no winds but he’s still sending me down to the other end of the runway.   Thought he might give me 1 0.   And he didn’t offer any intersection takeoffs, uprising. Boise’s runway is 10,000 ft long, plus taxi distance to TurboAir, so it’s a two mile putt putt putt along the ramp.   Of course, this taxi route passes me right in front of the 10 alert A-10s the Air National Guard has at Boise, which is always nice to look at.

Runup, everything looks good.   Density altitude is about 3,500 this morning, fine for my turbo and experience tells me fine for lift in this airplane also.

Power up, onto the runway.  Accelerate without any pause this time, since this is a 10,000 ft long runway and I could take off 5 times in it’s length if I wanted to. Off the ground within 1500 feet, gosh look at all that runway still in front of me! Seems like a waste, but wheels up, flaps up, and climb out.

And that is that for a good long while, nearly two hours.   Except for frequency handoffs there is nothing for me to take action on, and in the Salt Lake Center airspace I stay with one controller for up to 22 minutes at a time.  The MOA’s are hot today, so I’m not going to be given direct anywhere, just keep my butt on V-113.  Lots of talk to the USAF boys, and 121.5 (which I guard) has cryptic statements every few minutes. iPod, XM radio, and chatting with my partner after she finishes her book.

Finally, about 70 miles north of FMG

Again near Lake Tahoe handed off to Reno Approach, I’ll see if this keeps being the standard.

This direct routing takes us out of the V-113-SAC-SUNOL routing I had filed, which is normal for down here in the Bay Area and Central Valley. Straight over the lake (Tahoe airport is within my Mooney glide range from 16k), very pretty blue water underneath.

Time to start buttoning up the cockpit, I know that soon after passing Lake Tahoe the controller will start lowering us down.  Which is good, we’re down to about 600 PSI on the O2 bottle with both of us breathing from it.  I carry two 22 CF bottles for us, because one bottle lasts about 3 hours maximum, no matter what the sales literature shows.Over the foothills, and the first altitude reduction;

Passing through 12,000 I take off my cannula and Karen takes off her mask. Gosh, quite a few forest fires around, this long, dry, high that has been sitting over California is not good.

Read it back.  Had this clearance before, the radial guidance isn’t strictly needed for me because the CEDES intersection is in my database and the GPS guidance is right along the 215 radial.  Punch it into the GPS. Over Stockton I’m hearing a whole lot of IFR training going on, from a lot of people who are clearly clueless.  Hope I didn’t sound that bad when I was in training.

Read it back.  Hmmm, all they changed was taking out the direct SJC  Fine with me.

3 minutes later

Huh?  A radial intersection? Read it back, flipped the GPS from GPS mode to VOR mode.  I already had ECA on the radio, twisted to the 183 radial.  Put Modesto on nav 2, ident’ed it, and spun the OBS on my second CDI to insure that I was where I thought I was in relation to Modesto.  I was, so set that for 216.

That’s 3 re-routes in the space of about 6 minutes, by the way.  Not quite sure why, but it felt like he was trying to get me away from the approach practice mayhem in the valley and at Livermore, this route would take me over the hills east of RHV where instructional flight (and most other flight) does not happen. Picked up the ATIS at RHV while I had a second.

Getting near the intersection

OK.   We’re dead east of RHV, so I guess we’re going to come over the hills abeam the numbers.  Haven’t done this one before, glad it’s a clear sunny day.

Yeah yeah, I will, but dang it’s hazy out there today!  OK, look for something nearby.  Ah, there is the large lake at the waterpark next to the airport, let me look up from that…

OK, I’m cleared.  I’m also at 4,500 feet over hills, and TPA is 1100 feet in only about 6 miles.   Speed brakes out, basically slide down the hill.  Poor guys who spent $3 million on these houses gotta hear me putting over them.  Airport was there in 1939, live with it!

Approach can’t really deal with separation any more,

Scootch on down to TPA.  I’ve never entered the pattern from over the hills dead east of the airport before, so I’m a little closer in to the threshold of the runway than I’d like.   Concentrate on maintaining good airspeed and coordinated flying, get the gear down, dial in some flaps, turn to final.  A little high, pop the speed brakes for a second or two, then back in when the VASI looks good.   Over the fence and down, slightly bumpy landing but not a problem. Off at the end of the runway (my brakes are not so strong), taxi to parking.

3.0 hours, another nice flight!