I had signed up for a Sunday Angel Flight. Dennis Lord would fly the first leg. We would pick up 7 year old Larry and his Dad and I would fly them to Santa Monica (SMO) where Larry would be seen by UCLA staff the next day.

This was a two flight mission. Pilot #1 would fly Larry from Santa Rosa to Harris Ranch (3O8) where we would meet them about 4 PM.

Flight planning began on Friday when I did my three night landings at FUL to be night current. We’d be getting Larry late in the day and arrive at SMO after dark.

The weather forecast was for generally clear skies in SoCal until after midnight when rain would begin. The weather would start in NorCal and the area around 3O8 was forecast to be 10,000 overcast, 10 miles, and rain showers during our arrival at 3O8. It would then proceed south.

Saturday AM was spent in detail flight planning. With the approaching weather I decided to file IFR for all the legs except SMO to FUL. 3O8 does not have any instrument approaches. While the weather was forecast for VFR what if they were wrong or a downpour reduced the visibility? The FARs did not require that I file an alternate even though 3O8 had no approaches. It met the 1-2-3 rule; 1 hour before and after arrival the ceiling was forecast to be at least 2000 AGL, and 3 miles visibility. Still I filed Hanford (AJO) as an IFR alternate.

I collected my charts. IFR area chart; enroute charts; approach charts for AJO, SMO, FUL; departure procedures, airport charts, filed routes (in case I was cleared as filed), and the expected KIMMO2 STAR (standard terminal arrival routes) for SMO. LA basin was to be clear but what if the rain arrived early. No point in having an IFR rating without the charts to use it. We got our clearance as I filed it: LAX VTU V485 ROM. I fully expected that if the weather forecast was accurate we could descend to 8,000 once North of Fellows VOR and we would be in VFR conditions.

Dennis flew us toward 3O8. Our GS at 10,000 was about 100k with 35 knots or so of headwind component (thank the GNS 530 for doing that math). About 50 S of FLW we flew into a cloud layer. It’s zero outside so Pitot Heat ON. No ice. Dennis did a good job of maintaining heading and altitude on instruments.

North of FLW I asked for 8,000 and got it. We’re now in the clear and about 30 miles visibility or better. Should I cancel IFR and go direct? I needed to confirm the weather at 3O8 but it has no ATIS or feed to FSS. I called Flight Service and they gave me the NAS Lemoore weather. As forecast – VFR. I cancelled the IFR flight plan and accepted flight following. The GNS 530 took us direct to 3O8 where Dennis landed in some light showers.

A phone message from Pilot #1 told of a delay. While we waited the rain arrived and left and was now south of 3O8 on its way to LA. Pilot #1 showed up with Larry and his Dad about 5 PM, an hour late. We loaded our passengers into 9UP and I took the left seat.

I loaded FLW (V485) OHIGH into the GPS as a start and took off heading Direct to FLW. It was getting dark but I could see the cloud base still at 8,000 or so. I called Oakland Center (ZOA) to pick up my IFR clearance and got FLW OHIGH direct SMO. We climbed to 9,000 in the clouds but the tops were breaking up and there was still a little daylight glow above the clouds. Shortly though we were back in the clouds and by now it was really night.

ZOA handed us off to LA Center (ZLA). ATC radioed,”Angel Flight 9UP, just want to check that you got the full clearance.” I replied, “FLW OHIGH Direct”. ATC came back with “Its FLW OHIGH FERNANDO 5 ARRIVAL”. Oh No! I forgot Fernando 5! It’s at home!

Fortunately the GNS 530 had FERNANDO 5 so I put it in the flight plan. But the GNS only knows the course. You need the chart to know any altitude or airspeed restrictions. Confession time. “LA Center, Angel Flight 9UP has FERNANDO 5 course guidance, but no info on altitudes or airspeeds.” “9UP, that’s OK, there aren’t any.”

Still in the clouds I called Flight Watch for a weather update in the LA Basin. It was as forecast and the clouds broke to clear skies just about the Oxnard Plains.

Our ground speed was in the 170’s. Crossing OHIGH “9UP descend and maintain 7000, pilot’s discretion (PD)”. With this tailwind I stayed at 9,000 for another 10 minutes to enjoy the speed. Socal “9UP is vacating 9000 for 7000”. Then, at 500 – 700 fpm down Dennis and I saw 190 knots. We did the VOR A –GPS A approach in VFR conditions and landed at SMO.

We handed Larry and his Dad off to a Ground Angel – people who provide transportation from the airports to hotels or hospitals.

We flew the LAX mini-route at 2,500 to get to the south side of LAX and on to FUL. (I prefer to be cleared INTO the Class B than worry about altitudes and trying avoiding it.)

A great day of flying experiences and we did some good, too.

I hope to have a Smoke Eagle member with me on the next Angel Flight to share the flying. Thanks Dennis for being along, doing the flying, and keeping the plane going the right direction while I was looking for FERNANDO 5.

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