Tuesday, June 24, 1997

Introductory Flight at El Monte (EMT) Airport

This was more or less an impulse thing – when I do take lessons, it might be cool to take a few in Los Angeles when I'm out here for business. So I called up Bartlett Aviation at El Monte Airport (just south of Arcadia) and made a 7 pm appointment with Kelly. She turns out to be a 500-hour CFII from Chicago who appears to be about 17 years old but is probably 20-something (thin, reddish hair, freckles, wire rim glasses). This was another $35 intro flight, and I did better in some ways, worse in others (or maybe she just commented or corrected more, and ended up taking the controls a bit more than Kris at Hopedale – when she said "get north of the 210 Freeway," she meant quickly – steeper turn , though I had kicked into an earlier turn quite fast and too steep, so I was "hedging" and gradually shallowing out my bank, probably slipping in the process, even as I tried to step on the ball). Airplane was a 1975 Cherokee 140. This is LA, and although we only saw 2 or 3 other airplanes, this is not the place to mess around!

Preflight was much like #1, though Kelly had a typed checklist, which was good. We checked oil but not fuel (checked level, didn't drain a sample as the plane had just been flown). The novel thing was setting 118.75 on the radio to get ATIS (Clear, Wind 230 at 9 kts, vis 8 nm, altimeter, active is 19 information QUEBEC). Then I got to call the tower for permission to taxi, "El Monte Ground, Cherokee 2120 X-ray, at Bartlett, request taxi to active," usually forgetting to confirm with "20 X-ray, roger" or whatever. Pretty awkward, but better than at Hopedale, and that was just Unicom! This is an LA-area controller, and Kelly said they expect crisp, quick calls, though they understand that students can be slow on this stuff.

Taxi was a little better than at Hopedale, though I gunned the throttle a lot at first and used the brakes too much (taxi at 900-1000 RPM is good). Runup was OK (don't fixate on instrument looking for that 2000 RPM, continue to look outside the airplane – fixating is not so good), and more radio calls were needed (I forget the wording already, but we got a clear to takeoff with a left departure). Kelly actually held the centerline on takeoff and I followed her cue on rotation and climbout. Heading south, we followed a "wash" (flood control?) because you are right over roads and the I-10, no good place to set down if your engine fails on takeoff. Had to hold substantial right rudder (a "boot full," as they say?) on climbout due to the high engine power and relatively low speed (90 on the instrument, but I think she said this was mph, not knots). I made a left turn to follow the I-10, then left again to follow the I-605 north. The freeways are great landmarks, easy to follow. We then flew above Arcadia for a while, toward and then parallel the foothills (pretty close at one point). We stayed below 3000' (airport elev is 296' but the San Gabriels rise up pretty fast N of Arcadia). It's best to stay N of the I-210 to stay out of El Monte's airspace. I recall the freeways clearly, as well as the big houses above Foothill Blvd and Vons. I saw the Santa Anita Mall, and I did a 30+ degree left bank directly over the race track and got a nice view. I overcorrected on my turns but got better – I certainly did not feel especially skillful or precise. I had trouble keeping the nose level until near the end (level was VERY low vs the horizon – the mountains and haze made it hard to judge the horizon, and I forgot to cross-check vs. the attitude indictor until Kelly reminded me). Kelly was very relaxed and flew very smoothly when she took over toward the end.

Haze was moderately annoying, and the low sun at 7:30 pm gave a lot of glare and NO visibility over the nose when flying W (scratches on windshield gave a LOT of scattering glare). Runway was not that easy to spot when we headed back south (I made the radio call to request a straight-in approach). We did not get a clear to land but rather an instruction to call when 2 miles NE of the airport (Kelly made that call I think – but how do you know that distance?). They called traffic on final, and we spotted a twin down low, so Kelly made several S-turns to slow our close rate. She finally radioed for permission for a 360 to give the landing plane time to clear the runway. I tried to follow the speed, flaps, attitude, control feel, etc on the short final, but it happened too fast for me. There was a crosswind from the right (from 230° on 190 degree runway heading, so maybe a 4 kt crosswind component?). It was enough that Kelly held noticeable right stick and compensating left rudder. Her landing was quite smooth, and she quickly taxied off the runway (I called for permission to taxi to the "fuel pit," where the student pays to top off the tanks, $7.75 for 3.8 gallons, my first AVGAS purchase – this gets subtracted from the $35 intro flight fee, but on normal flights, you pay three things, gas, instructor, and rental fee).

On the whole, Kelly was OK. I think I would prefer a slightly older CFI – she communicated and taught OK, but I couldn't quite "relate" to her somehow. Not likely I will fly much with her (if ever again). I may also check out Bracket Airport in Pomona next time I'm out here. The flight seemed more "routine", somehow, pretty much fun, but I still had some of that frustration of not doing everything at least a little better, like coming out of banks and observing my altitude and other instruments – short answer is that my time in CAP years ago is useless, and sim experience is at least partly negated by bad habits from yank-n-bank combat sims. Real airplanes have a "feel" (especially the rudder in the Piper – nose up/down yoke forces seem mild even without trimming them out). Still some feeling of "is this really happening," especially in banks where I can see the ground better.

A few firsts on this – first in LA, controlled air space, radio comms, real use of trim, fueling the plane – well, some of these are small thrills! I'm not actually taking lesssons, of course, so no log book for this or the last Intro flight! Meanwhile I broke down and bought FS95 on sale at CompUSA for $38 – Flight 2 and Pro Pilot are due later in summer, and 688I Hunter/Killer (sub sim) shipped today but probably won't make stores until this Friday (I planned to be sub-simming tonight if it was out). Bought a VFR Terminal Area Chart for San Francisco (they were out of sectionals and these charts for LA) – this is for "Flight 2" (it may come with one, but it's only $4.33, vs. $7.50 for the sectionals).

Time: 0.6 hours dual (unlogged).

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