(The route in purple is the route programmed into the GPS. The route in yellow is my actual flight path.)
Learning from my previous experiences, I remembered to gather all of the frequencies I needed ahead of time. I brought AOPA's airport directory and read what they had to say (mainly that there's a landing fee that that "Approval required through unicom prior to takeoff or landing.") I then called out to Catalina to verify that information and find out the cost of the landing fee. It is a good thing I did so because the landing fee had been increased from the $7 I was expecting to $10 and I only have $9 in my wallet, so I ran back to the car and grabbed a few quarters. I then went inside and filed a flight plan. I'm not familiar with the SoCal frequencies used when departing to the west, so I asked the pre-flight briefer for the frequency to use for requesting flight following. He said he thought 119.6, but he wasn't sure and said I should ask the tower to pass me off to SoCal.
So, I went out, readied the GPS, and called ground for approval to taxi. I was assigned 28L and after doing the runup, I asked the tower to pass me to SoCal after departure and they agreed to do so and gave me the frequency (119.6) to use. Within a couple minutes of takeoff, the tower had already passed me off to SoCal and I got cleared through the class B to the north. I'll have to remember to ask for this more often. When flying northeast, I wait until I'm over Ramona before calling SoCal as it's the only place where I know the correct SoCal frequency.
During my climb, I managed to snap a pretty good picture of Mission Bay:
A few minutes later, I arrived at my first checkpoint, Mt. Soledad:
I then turned to fly direct to the Oceanside VOR. On this flight, I was practicing radio navigation. As you can see from the above map, I did a much better job of following my planned route. On the way north, I passed Palomar Field:
After a while, I arrived at the Oceanside VOR and turned west towards Catalina. Unfortunately, the afternoon light did not provide much opportunity for good pictures of the island from afar. Once I got close enough, I did get some good pictures of Avalon Bay and another bay that I don't currently know the name of (maybe Banning's Beach):
Right after that, I spotted the field:
(Now that I look at this picture, I just noticed that the front cover of AOPA's Airport Directory shows a single picture of an airport and it just happens to be this airport!)
So, I called in to request permission to land and was quickly granted permission. After that, I treated it like any other uncontrolled airport and called out my position. Although you can't see this detail in the map above, I did circle the airport once to get a good view of it and the surrounding landscape (which is quite green and beautiful!) Although I had some amazing photo opportunities on the way in, I was too busy landing the plane to try to mess with a camera. I'll have to go back with a passenger sometime.
Final approach looks a little scary. There is a steep slope up, then 10 yards or so of grass and then the runway. When I was coming in, there were people standing just off to the side of the end of the runway, so I was trying not to get too low over them. I ended up having a pretty hard landing. I think this was because the runway slopes upward and I thought that it was shorter than it really is. I knew that I definitely didn't want to run off the end of the runway (since it just drops off down the hill), so I rushed the landing and ended up stalling a little high. But, the plane survived. The runway seemed pretty rough as I taxied down it--certainly not the pristine runways I have encountered previously. After I arrived at the parking area, I saw that the airport was as busy as I suspected given the amount of traffic on the radio. I was unfamiliar with the layout of the parking area and since the field is uncontrolled, there was no one to ask where to park. I couldn't find any paved spaces that were available, so I ended up having to park in a dirt and weed area. I even accidentally mowed through a plant on the way to park. (I did check the prop afterwards and found no damage. It does now have a greenish tint to it, though.)
I then took some pictures of the surrounding area:
And of course, I couldn't resist standing at the end of the runway and probably scaring other pilots myself:
So after a little while of relaxing and taking pictures, I continued my journey back home:
As you can see, I did a much worse job of following my planned course. I noticed while flying that I seemed to keep drifting farther north, so I kept crabbing into the wind more and more. So--I started out on a heading that the digital VOR said would take me directly to the Oceanside VOR. As I drifted north, I next tried turning farther south than what was indicated on the digital VOR. Given the path that I took, I obviously never crabbed far enough into the wind to correct for it. I also noticed that the digital and analog VORs were off by 2-3 degrees. It's also possible that I didn't have my heading indicator set properly, though I did check that a couple of times in flight. I could have used my GPS' heading indicator, but I couldn't figure out a way to get it to display in numerical units.
Anyway--I did eventually make it to Oceanside, but as you can see, I overshot it. I'm not sure what happened there. I don't remember seeing the VOR indicator switch to the opposite direction, but I did feel like I was too far inland, so I started to turn south. Right around this time, SoCal called me and asked to verify that my destination was Montgomery. I said it was, so they asked me to stay above or west of the coast, so you can see on the map where I complied with that request. I then switched to the Mission Bay VOR and picked up the radial that I wanted to follow. I was doing fine following that radial until SoCal told me about traffic that was above and to my right. I spotted it and reported back. Over the course of a few minutes, the other plane fell behind and to the left of me and I lost sight of it. SoCal started warning me about it again as it started to decend. They soon told me that the other plane was at my 9 o'clock at my same altitude and it looked like he was extremely close to me. I tried a number of banks to the right to try to see out of my left side, but I was unable to see anyone. (I'm really starting to hate the high-wing planes, but I guess I could have had the same problem in a low wing if the traffic was slightly beneath me.) I then told SoCal I was heading west a little to avoid the traffic and you can clearly see that path on the map as well.
While this may sound a little overloading, it actually wasn't that bad at all, and I had plenty of time to snap a few pictures on the way. Here's San Onofre nuclear power plant:
A nice lake that I have not identified (but the picture came out nice):
An airport that was right between the coast and I-5:
Torrey Pines State Reserve:
Torrey Pines golf course:
The Del Mar racetrack and fairgrounds:
The UTC area, including the famous Mormon tabernacle:
As you can see on the map, my original plan for the return trip was to fly to Mt. Soledad and then in the Montgomery. But, I read something in the Plus One newsletter that mentioned you should fly all the way down to the Mission Bay VOR to properly enter Montgomery on the 45. I decided to give that a try and it seemed to work pretty well and I was assigned 28L. I snapped a picture of the field on downwind:
and then put the camera away for the remainder of my trip. Unfortunately, I was too close to the runway and when I turned out on final, I found myself north of 28R. (Again, I had to curse my high-wing aircraft. In this case, I know that a low-wing would have provided much better visibility throughout my turn.) I made a quick turn back to line up with 28L and ended up making one of my best touchdowns yet--a very gentle landing with the perfect tire chirp on contact with the ground.
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