The flight was to Lone Pine (O26) for Angel Flight. We (Dan and I) were returning a child with a life threatening condition home from a week’s summer camp in the Santa Monica Mountains for kids with similar conditions.
Weather was CAVU all day everywhere. The pick-up was at SMO and destination was O26. The family actually lives in Olancha, 20 miles south (pop 190, homes: 78). I flew FUL SMO O26, and Dan did the flight home.
As usual I used the LAX Mini-Route to get to SMO. I had already written down the HHR, LAX, and SMO tower frequencies before takeoff. Dan programmed the GNS 530 for VPLSR SMO, and I set up the VOR as backup with the SMO 128R. Once clear of FUL Class D I called HHR TWR for the LAX Mini-Route. I got the SMO ATIS since there would be little time later. We proceed to VPLSR at 2,500’. Two miles shy of it were handed to LA TWR. They cleared us into the CLASS B via the MINI-ROUTE. Over the north LAX runway we were handed to SMO tower who cleared us to land from a right downwind. Piece of cake.
We found our passenger, Jesse, got loaded up and departed SMO with other Angel Flights taking their PAX home to their cities. We got flight following and Dan set up WJF O26 in the GNS 530. (I thought I said WJF IYK O26 but Dan said he input what I said.)
The flight required transiting the ISABELLA MOA and OWENS MOA. The chart said these were M-F MOAs but the NOTAMS for our Sunday flight said otherwise. Still, no reason not to go, just know there is company in the MOA. Joshua Approach provided radar services and the only traffic of concern was a glider maneuvering against the east side of the Sierra-Nevadas.
The crest of Mt. Whitney was visible over the tops of the nearer mountains. It just wasn’t where I expected it. On previous flights through the Owens Valley it was on the left, but it was straight ahead and there was no valley. A quick check using the GNS 530 terrain map show RED ahead. At 8,500’ we would have fly through the mountains to get to O26. This is not right. That’s when Dan and I found the GNS 530 flight plan entry error. An update to include IYK and then direct IYK and suddenly it all made sense.
The Owens Valley is one of the great places to fly for the views. The terrain gets higher when going North (you arrive at Mammoth Airport at pattern altitude after cruising at 8,500’).
I had set the GNS 530 VNAV to reach 1000’ AGL (4,700 MSL) 5 miles from O26 and a planned decent rate of -500 fpm. Over Olanca the GNS said to start the decent.
My info for O26 said this was a lonely airport. Fuel yes, faded centerline, faded numbers, and weeds in the runway. The ASOS frequency was silent. No traffic either. We were on our own for weather. I planned a straight in to 34 while we both looked for any sign of wind direction. We saw nothing so I focused on the wind sock at the approach end and it confirmed no wind. Nevertheless my landing was pretty poor.
We parked the plane and saw there we no other planes in sight, anywhere. We were alone at Lone Pine.
Our passenger was met by his Mom and off they went to Olanca. They did say there were good restaurants in town, Dan and I were going to fly to IYK or MHV for a late lunch since we had no car and those airports had on-airport restaurants. But we explored the airport a bit including an open hangar. “Free bikes, please return bikes here” In the hangar were three bikes and two had air in the tires. A quick smart phone check said restaurants were a mile away so off we went to have lunch in Lone Pine.
With lunch over, Dan took the PIC role and flew us home. O26 is at 3,800 and with an OAT of 102 (per the Best Western sign) so he elected to lean to max power on the ground and do a short field takeoff from the 4000’ runway. His plan was to overfly PMD to avoid R2515 (continuous and unlimited R airspace) to POM but we were cleared through R2515 and over Edwards AFB above 7,500 and ended up arriving at FUL via a Mt Wilson crossing to EMT and then to FUL.
It was a great day and great weather for great flights. Angel Flight gives me a reason to go to airports I might never otherwise visit. (Why would anyone go to O26?) But sometimes you have a great lunch after just a 10 minute “free bike” ride at 102 degrees – but it’s a dry heat.