Sunday, October 19, 2008

Catalina! With Passengers! WooHoo!

I've been to Catalina multiple times with my flying buddy Ron but this time it was a special trip. My youngest turned 16 and she asked me to fly her and a friend (plus my fiance) to Catalina for the day. I was like "Are you sure that's what you want for your birthday?" I thought she was picking the trip more for my sake, but that's what she wanted since she had never been there.

I was all geeked up for the trip. Since I usually fly with another pilot a trip like this is far different. It's all on me. Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. And don't forget the fuel pump, and don't forget to switch tanks, and don't forget the frequency, etc., etc., etc. Plus, the daughter's friend has never been in a small airplane before.

Fog threatened to be a problem but it worked out just fine. Took off around 10:30, from El Monte. Headed west toward the Hollywood sign, then over Santa Monica, straight over LAX (in the Special Flight Rules Area) and then direct to Catalina. We were about 1500 feet over a fairly thick blanket of fog from the coast all the way out until about 5 miles from the island. Later the daughter and friend said they were less nervous than they expected over the water because they couldn't see it thanks to the fog. Fiance said she was more nervous because there was fog under us. Someone always has to be nervous!

I was nervous about landing. For those that don't know, Catalina is carved out on the top of a hill. They actually blew two hill tops to smithereenes and used the rocks to fill in the middle. The runway is convex so you can't see the other end when you're on it. It's uphill when you land on 22 (most often) and it's bumpy as heck.

My first attempt was definitely too high. Didn't take me too long to decide that a go-around was the prudent thing to do. The second attempt was too fast. I touched down and the plane porpoised once...twice...and I wasn't about to get to #3 so I pinned the throttle and did another go around. Oh well, I guess the third time's the charm. I never felt any embarassment or worrying about what the passengers were thinking (although I explained what I was doing and why, and prepped them for a potential go-around before we landed the first time) so I was happy with myself. The third attempt was practically flawless.

We took the shuttle down to Avalon and walked around town. Got lunch, bought a shirt and a sweatshirt, took the submarine tour (cool!) and then putzed around some more. The 4 p.m. shuttle gets you back to the airport at 4:30 (more like 4:36 this time). The airport closes at 5. I was checking my watch over and over. Quick bathroom break for everyone and we were back in the airplane.

And it wouldn't start....heck! Cranked it. Cranked it some more. Nothing. No pops, no faint glimmers of hope. I let the starter cool off. With sweat streaming down my face and the thought of having to spend the night on Catalina island (work and school the next day!) starting to look like a real finally came to life. Whew!

We took off at 9 minutes till 5. Had a nice flight back. Lots of airplanes headed our way through the Special Flight Rules Area (at least 2 that I recognized from having seen them at the airport, one was a Seneca).

Daughter fell asleep on the way back. We were all tired It was a big day.

First one is Two Harbors, we aimed for that and then turned left to head for a 45 degree entry into the downwind for a right pattern entry to runway 22.

Second one is Me and my daughter at lunch (Pizza!)

Third one is inside the submarine trip we took (thanks to the Purple Board for the suggestion!).

Fourth one is a view of the TON of fish that swarm the boat.

Fifth one is the Hollywood sign

No comments: