The CIX VFR Club SoCal
Club Events - SoCal Day Trippin'
A tour around Southern California
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The CIX VFR Club
Club Events - SoCal Day Trippin'
A tour around Southern California Briefing by: Joel Phillips.
  Briefing Thanksgiving (26-28 November, 2010)  
Start Time and Place On the apron at McClellan-Palomar Airport, KCRQ, from 20:00 UTC on Friday 26th.
Note that this is an extended holiday event, and can be flown either fully or in part on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Departure and Duration We will depart and fly individually or in small groups. The distance is approximately 250nm, with three stops. Anticipate spending around 2 1/2 hours on this event. The trip can be flown as a single block, or split across the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the Thanksgiving weekend. File separate PIREPs for each of the four legs.
Weather ...or not Before starting we will check the weather. If it is unsuitable for our trip as planned, then we will fix it. Something we can do in the simulator - wouldn't it be nice if we could do it in real life!
FSInn has a "CAVOK" button. Click this and you get calm clear weather.
Those using SB will need to turn off the on-line weather updates, and select calm in the FS weather options.
Overview This flight explores some of the best and most diverse places that Southern California has to offer.  We will be landing at three of the most popular destinations for SoCal VFR day trips.  In this 252 nautical mile journey we will go from the beach, to the mountains, and then to the desert all in the same day.  We will begin at a field height of 331' to one at 6,752', all the while navigating through some of the most complicated airspace in the world.
FSX flightplan can be downloaded here.
FS9 flightplan can be downloaded here.
Plan-G 2.0 format (.plg) flightplan can be downloaded here.


Joel has provided scenery for the event, which can be downloaded here.
Leg One:  Carlsbad to Catalina Island Leg One - Carlsbad to Catalina Island  for a $100 Buffalo Burger (KCRQ-KAVX, 50nm)

Charts available here:
McClellan-Palomar Airport, KCRQ -
Catalina Airport, KAVX -
Catalina Island Information -

We depart from Palomar Airport (KCRQ) on the Alpha One departure (a VFR noise abatement procedure that requires a heading of 250 after takeoff and no turns until the shoreline is reached).  We will then head northwest along the Pacific shore line toward Dana Point on a heading of 290, being careful to avoid the MOA airspace of Marine Corps Camp Pendleton.  The heading will eventually come north to 305 until reaching Dana Point harbor.  A VFR altitude of 4,500' suggested.

After reaching Dana Point Harbour, we will turn to the west on a heading of 245 and track the 250 inbound radial of the Catalina VOR (SXC 111.4). This will be a 32 mile leg and 4,500 remains the suggested VFR altitude.


For pure tourism, turn slightly south onto a heading of 225 allowing to fly near to the Avalon Harbour of Santa Catalina Island.  This is one of the more popular destinations for Californians and is steeped in great history over the past 75-100 years.  It's at this time to that you begin getting to the TPA (Traffic Pattern Altitude) of 2600' for KAVX.

Plan on a left base entry for landing on runway 22. This airport is situated on the edge of a steep ledge and often tempts pilots to come in too high, and subsequently too fast.  There is a pulsating/steady burning VASI. Too high and it blinks white.  Too low and it blinks ready.  On correct glide path it is steady red.  


Transient parking will be off to the left (south)of runway 22.  Let's grab a Buffalo burger!


Leg Two: Catalina to Big Bear Leg Two - Catalina to Big Bear for a Some Mountain Fresh Air (KAVX-L35, 95NM)

Charts available here:
Big Bear City Airport (L35) -
LAX VFR Sectional -

We will depart from Catalina most likely from runway 22 with a right downwind departure:   

We will then track the 250 inbound radial of the Seal Beach VOR (SLI, 115.7) for 32 NM.  This leg takes us near the Los Angeles Class Bravo airspace.  Although  this leg can be flown strictly VFR and with no required communication with LA_CTR (provided your altitudes are carefully calculated), my recommendation is that you contact LA_CTR on 125.80.  The call should be something like the following:

"Los Angeles Center, Golf Sierra Charlie Alpha Lima."
"Golf Sierra Charlie Alpha Lima, LA Center."
"LA Center, Golf Sierra Charlie Alpha Lima, VFR 15DME inbound Seal Beach VOR, climbing 9,500, request entry into Bravo airspace and flight following to Big Bear."
" Golf Sierra Charlie Alpha Lima Bravo entry approved, squawk ####, maintain VFR."
"Roger LA Center, cleared into Bravo airspace, squawk ####, maintain VFR, Golf Sierra Charlie Alpha Lima "


If you have been cleared into LA's Class Bravo airspace, you can continue your climb to a recommended VFR altitude of 9,500. You will soon be over the LA Basin and situational awareness is paramount.  First, as you get close to SLI VOR, look to the left and note Long Beach Harbour.

The next important visual reference point (though the term "VRP" is not used U.S. VFR navigation) is the 91 freeway.  This freeway will lead us to our next waypoint, Paradise VOR (PDZ, 112.2, 28NM).  We will be tracking the 060 inbound radial of PDZ.  While you're on this leg take a few minutes to look at the vastness of the greater Los Angeles which is home to 17,900 people.

Over PDZ VOR we will turn to a heading of 045, and track the 045 outbound radial of PDZ.  This will take us all the way to Big Bear, California (which is located in those mountains dead ahead).

This mountain ridge is notorious for severe up and downdrafts.  You'll notice that to the left about 10 degrees is a valley that I have in real world gone up to avoid the bumps, and it is a little less of a climb, however one must be mindful of planes departing Big Bear to the west.

Big Bear Airport is at the east end of Big Bear Lake.  The prevailing wind are from the west so expect landing on runway 26, with a right downwind entry into the pattern.  The TPA is 8000'.

Let's get some fresh air.  Too bad it's not winter, we could go skiing.

Leg Three - Big Bear to Palm Springs Leg Three - Big Bear to Palm Springs' Air Museum (L35-KPSP, 32 NM)

Charts available here:
Palm Springs International Airport (KPSP) -
VFR Sectional Chart:
ZLA ARTCC recommendations:
Palm Springs Air Museum -

We will depart from Big Bear with a left downwind departure.  Altitude is going to be a crucial component of this leg as we will be going from almost 10,000' to a TPA at Palm Springs International Airport of 1000'.  Because of the potential for density altitude, the common procedure is to climb over Big Bear lake thus extending the upwind leg before turning to the crosswind leg.

As you can see from the panel that at nearly 9,000' the ridge ahead can barely be cleared.  This is Sugarloaf Mountain, which is 9,952'.  If you are unable to climb sufficiently, turning to the east you'll find lower terrain.

Once clear of the ridge, you will see the beautiful Coachella Valley, the getaway place for thousands from November to May.  We will be tracking the 125 inbound radial of the Palm Springs VOR (PSP, 115.5).

Once over the Palm Springs VOR, turn right for a heading of 225 and descend to the TPA of 1000.  This leg will set you up for a left downwind pattern entry for runway 31R.

All lined up and ready to land on runway 31R.  Note the transient parking on the right, that's where you will be taxing.  The farthest building on the right is the Palm Springs Air Museum.

Leg Four - Palm Springs to Carlsbad Leg Four - Palm Springs Return to Carlsbad  (KPSP-KCRQ, 65 NM)


Because of the route we are taking, the best departure is a left downwind.  However being that we will be departing from runway 31R, which means we will have to cross the departure end of 31L which is the blast off point for lots of jet traffic.  If you have AI turned on, be extra vigilant.

After turning downwind, get on a heading of 165 and begin climbing to a minimum of 6,500.  There is a mountain pass that we will head through the has the wreckage of many GA planes in it, so circle to climb if necessary.

After reaching the summit of the pass, turning west to a heading of 250.  This will take us over the Anza Valley.

After approximately 30NM, we will be turning south over Billy Joe's Airstrip and heading south for our final destination .  As you turn to the west for the final leg into Carlsbad, note thepoint of interest marked on your's Joel's home.

Flying in the U.S.
A brief guide to flying in the U.S.

Airspace (Controlled):

Class A - FL180 to FL600 – IFR only.

Class B - think really BUSY airports. Examples - Los Angeles Intl., JFK, O'Hare, Miami Intl. etc....the sort of places where you can book a ticket to fly into from the UK.
Class B Airspace provides separation for all aircraft based on weight category....very clever. Therefore, specific instructions are required before entering, which is called an ATC clearance. NEVER enter unless you specifically hear the words "N...... you are cleared through Los Angeles’ Class B Airspace via...[heading] and .... [altitude].”  Always read back for the tape, incase anything happens.
Typically, Class B extends like an upside down wedding cake from the surface to 10000' MSL (true altitude) and can extend as far out as 30 NM from the primary airport (solid blue line on VFR chart).
Airports are best avoided unless you are accompanied by an Instructor or a really ballsy private pilot (except Las Vegas and San Diego who, from my experience, happen to be very accommodating).  It’s ok to be a little scared of Class B airports.
Other restrictions apply also: transponder with altitude encoding -within 30NM (thin magenta line on chart).

Class C - think COMMUNICATE or COMMUTER airports like Gatwick, Stansted, Aldergrove, Birmingham other words 'regional' airports, that have a substantial number of Airline slots. McClellan/Palomar airport in California is an example.
Typical dimensions include an inner surface area - 5NM; a shelf area - additional 5NM radius; and an outer radar service area extending to 20NM radius. The first two are mandatory (and marked on a chart by a thick magenta line) to communicate with the approach controller prior to entry and extend to 5000' above the airport's elevation.
Nothing to be scared of here but a little bit of intimidation is understandable, due to the communication. These airports will always offer basic radar service - separation of all aircraft.
Mode C is required again, inside and above, however a 'clearance' is not - but it is mandatory to contact them prior to entry with your call sign, aircraft type and equipment suffix, position, altitude and request (inbound, or 'flight following' - radar service)

Class D - think DIALOGUE of airports like Brize Norton, and Biggin Hill, etc. where there are limited jet traffic, but mostly General Aviation. These will always have a control tower, which may close during anti-socialable hours. (the airport usually remains open)
Surface area usually extending 5 Statute miles (unusual SM) and up to usually 2500' above airport elevation.
Communication with ATC is required prior to entry, and there is no specific equipment requirements other than a radio. Marked on chart by a thin, dashed blue line.

All of above airports will be coloured blue on a VFR chart to show they are controlled by ATC

Class E - Think of all other controlled airspace that exists in a lot of places, and is marked by different, sometimes confusing manners.
Generally, will include all areas that ATC feel obliged to provide separation for IFR traffic in IMC. Otherwise during VMC flying VFR, it is not an issue at all.
For example - Federal Airways - "Victor airways" are always 'controlled' from 1200' AGL to 17999' MSL (True Altitude) and are 4 NM from centerline - you can fly along these VFR unlike in UK
Over the “Lower 48” States it will always be there at 14,500' MSL to provide transition for IFR aircraft transitioning to/from Class A.

Some non-towered airports will have Class E surrounding them - again to allow IFR approaches into them during IMC, starting either at 1200'AGL, 700' AGL, or from the surface, marked with a faded thick blue line, faded think magenta line, or a thin dashed magenta line.

Airspace (Uncontrolled)

Class G: NON-GOVERNED sometimes refered to as 'GOOD' airspace, as there are few restrictions, and plenty of freedoms etc.etc. This will exist surrounding some non-towered airports from the surface to overlying airspace - there isn't really a whole lot else, unless you want to fly pretty low to the ground!
The main difference between E and G, is that in G airspace ATC cannot issue IFR clearances, and therefore has no authority. Basically its the airspace that the ATC guys don't want. The weather minimums can be frighteningly low - for example 1SM vis, and clear of clouds in one example.

Airspace (Special Use - Govt.)

Prohibited P-## avoid at all costs unless you want to get up close and personal with the presidents personal F16, or attack helicopter....surrounds whitehouse, etc areas of permanent national security interests

Restricted R-#### generally good idea to avoid these area's also, as there are plenty of invisible hazards...i.e. bullets and bombs etc. You can, under some circumstances, fly through them. It's like a military zone or danger zone...can be hot or cold.

Alert Areas A-#### - think of a cocky 19 year old student pilot's with Ramjet technology courtesy of Uncle Sam. Be vigilant in these areas.

All of above will be marked on chart with a Blue-hatched outlined box.

Military Operating Areas MOA - you can fly through these but certain hazards will exist...such as low flying camouflaged aircraft, paratroopers, etc. Best to avoid if unsure, but there will definitely not be any live ammunition, missiles, or bombs going off.

This is similar marking except it is magenta in colour.

Other special use areas include Controlled Firing Areas, not too many of those - the Arty will stop for you, therefore no hazard - National Security Areas - temporary, similar to the Royal Family visiting somewhere, except it can be voluntary or prohibited. . And Temporary Flight Restriction - found particularly around large groups of people - sports events etc. Find out from the Weather Briefer where these are.

Airspace (Other):

Terminal Radar Service Area: TRSA (refred to as “tersa”) is very much like a mix of Class B, and Class C airspace, except main difference is that it is completely voluntary, and no equipment is required to enter or transit...offers Radar Service.


Generally speaking, radio calls are not quite as rigid as they are in the UK. Used like a telephone with the odd roger, wilco, contact, negative, unable, and affirm, thrown in there for fun.
Radio talk is generally is simple and facility addressing, Aircraft type and N# (skip the 'november') where you are - position and altitude (try to use airports or navaids as a reference), and what you want to do followed by any remarks.
For example:
You: "Daytona approach, Cessna 45632, request..."
ATC: " Cessna 45632...say request (sometimes 'go ahead')"
You: "approach, Cessna 45632 is a Cessna 172 slant uniform, 3 miles south of Gainesville VOR, at 3500 feet, inbound for Daytona, with numbers, request flight following"
ATC: "Roger, Squawk 2345" "Cessna 632 radar contact..say altitude"
You: "3600 for 5500 Cessna 632"
The best advice I can give is to be aggressive, tell 'em what you want him to do for you.

Takeoff and Landing Patterns
In the UK a Standard Overhead Join is recommended In the United States, aircraft usually join the pattern at a 45 angle to the downwind leg and abeam midfield. Although aircraft may legally join the pattern at any point, the AIM clearly states that the only approved pattern entry is the 45

Other Regulations:

The same intent as JAA regs but a few differences...including:
VFR Altitudes - 0-179 Odd thousand +500'; 180-359 Even thousand +500'. (IFR aircraft have drop the 500')
Right of way rules are the same.
TPA (Traffic Pattern Alttitude) is most often field altitude plus 1000’, unless specified otherwise.
Altitude pressures are in Inches (“altimeter setting”) versus Millibars (QNH)
Alcohol - 0.08% BAC; 8 hours.
Coffee, and very little, if any, tea.

VOR Tracking

The Instrument Flight document in the Training section of the club web site contains a section on VORs and how to use them. If you are unsure how to track a VOR radial, download and have a look at this.
The document covers the use of NDB and DME for direction and distance measurements as well.

Radio Discipline

Take care not to let our Teamspeak chat cut across ATC. Stop any conversation immediately the R/T comes alive, then continue if "he wasn't talking to us". This is difficult because when transmitting on Teamspeak you can't hear the R/T. So be brief on Teamspeak, and be aware that ATC might be trying to get through. If anyone hears an R/T message which seems to be being ignored, just say "ATC is calling G-CIXN" if you have identified the callsign, or "ATC is calling us" which is a cue for everyone to be quiet on Teamspeak until ATC call again (which they will). Remember too that if asked to "Stand By" by ATC, you do not reply - not even "Roger", but simply wait until you are called again.
Remember also that there are several different ATC frequencies in use, and you may not be able to hear when communications are taking place. Make sure you have set and know how to use a Teamspeak mute switch.
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