Monday, March 22, 2010

My first time in SoCal

Megan and I are in Southern California (Claremont) to check out Claremont Grad School. While she was at a boring open house, I was hanging out at some local airports! Dropped her off at CGU around 9:00am PDT and went on over to Brackett Field. My destination was Ballard Aviation, but I wasn't sure what part of the airfield it was on, so I drove from the north side by the tower around to the south side. After driving all around the perimeter of the field, I went in to the administration building and asked where Ballard was. It was back where I had come from, on the north side! Anyway, I found Ballard, and went in about quarter to ten.

I looked around and introduced myself to a few of the people there, including Mark. I gave him a copy of my resume, and we talked for a few minutes. I waited for a little bit, watching operations, etc. and it looks like a nice place. I noticed that a couple of the instructors there were very similar to me in age and flying experience, so I'm hopeful that I could land a job there if I wanted to. I was supposed to meet up with a guy I met on the AOPA forums, Rick, about 10:30 there at Ballard. When he got there, we got back in the cars and headed back around to the south side of Brackett, where his hangar is. Along the way, he showed me some of the other flight schools there. We parked by the hangar, and started pre-flighting his beautiful Piper Comanche, N0263P. It looks like the red and white paint is fairly new. I kept getting told how dirty the plane was, but it looked great to me. I guess I'm used to beat-up rentals that are lucky to be washed twice a year (maybe an exaggeration). I've never been in a Comanche before, and it was certainly a treat - looked like a very fun plane to fly. The panel was impressive, at least by my standards, and included an Aspen glass display, a 696, and 530W.

We taxied out and flew around the LA basin, going north around LAX airspace, flew the class Bravo transition north to south right across LAX, then south along the coast to Dana Point, finally north to Cable Airport for a bite to eat.
(approximate route)
I've been a bit apprehensive to fly in SoCal airspace, I've always heard that it is extremely busy. It is, but after seeing it, its not terrible, I feel like I could manage it fairly easily - especially after a little bit of time studying the charts. There was a ton of traffic though, and today SoCal wasn't calling many of them out for us. I was glad that 61P has TIS (a device that points out other airplanes), we spotted many of them that otherwise would have gone unseen.

Rick introduced me to Tony, who is affiliated with the flying club there. I talked to him for a few minutes, gave him my card, and later emailed my resume to him. They have several hundred members and lots of students (though I don't know how many instructors). Lunch was tasty at the restaurant on the field, and the atmosphere was very friendly. We sat practically on the flight line, and everybody seemed to know one another.

Took off again (when I bumped my elbow on the door frame getting in and cut myself, clumsy me (doh!)) and headed back over to Brackett to put the plane to bed, about 2:30. Touched down on 26R, and again Rick was unhappy with his landing, but I'm not sure I could have done better, so no harm - no foul.

Overall, I liked what I saw today, and I met some very nice people. Its amazing how, once you learn the language of aviation, you can meet total strangers and have a lot of things to talk with them about. I really like the area here, and if we do decide to live here, then I'd be very happy flying and teaching. I also think that I could find a job flying, which is a big worry for me now. This will especially be true after this summer working as a CFI back home, where I plan on getting some teaching experience and an instrument instructor rating - both of which would make me a lot more marketable.

I'll wrap up now, its time to go get the girl from her open-house. Again, big thanks to Rick for introducing me to the LA airspace along with a fun, well-executed, and safe flight!

(Meg's camera isn't working for some reason, so I took some pics (in-flight) with my phone. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to upload them via bluetooth so I'll have to post those later.)

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