Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Phoenix - San Diego / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N7365F) / VFR

This flight went just fine most of the way, but things got messy towards the end.

The weather was hot but otherwise favorable out of Phoenix. I made straight out off runway 26, swinging slightly north to follow I-10 and then down Highway 85, as usual. I couldn't decide whether to use pilotage or navaids, and eventually drifted between both. Following I-8 out of Gila Bend is easy enough, but you have to take care to stay north of the Interstate, otherwise, at some points, you'll end up in Mexican airspace (especially after Dateland). I stayed at 4500 during this time and used the AP intermittently to make it easier to keep a course against a substantial headwind that seemed to come and go.

After crossing the Imperial VOR, I could see heavy clouds lurking on the opposite side of the mountains. The weather for KSAN and surrounding airports had been marginal VFR when I left, so I kinda expected that some IMC might get in my way. Unfortunately, I hesitated a long time before doing anything, and by the time I actually requested a pop-up IFR clearance, I was already in IMC (in real life, I never would have procrastinated like that, but sims occasionally make you lazy). I had a route from KTUS to KSAN in the GPS and I activated that. I noticed, though, that it was a VFR route, missing the IAF of the LOC 27 approach at KSAN, which was at RYAHH. ATC was not online so I was on my own. I rerouted myself from CANNO to RYAHH, but by then I was acutally crossing CANNO. Then, somehow I managed to hit the avionics switch on the panel and turned off all the avionics (EHSI, GPS, radio panel, autopilot, VORs, etc.). I had to turn that on and wait for it all to boot up and keep the aircraft level and straight at the same time, in fog. I was soon badly messed up. Fortunately I knew the terrain a little and knew how high I had to be. I eventually aimed for RYAHH at 5000, and from there clumsily made my approach. The AP was such a pain to set up again that I just turned it off and flew by hand.

Fortunately, as I descended, I got below the clouds, and I was able to cancel IFR and proceed visually, making straight in to 27. I had the ILS tuned, but by this late time, it was easier to just fly by hand and aim for the field, which I had in sight. I know the approach so it wasn't too troublesome.

I finally laned, very smoothly, without hitting anything. Nevertheless, I kicked myself over all the mistakes I had made, letting the situation get away from me. I made it because I knew the area a bit even without being able to see it, but it was still very careless of me. I was not a happy pilot as I parked outside Jimsair.