Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pauma Valley Air Park - Warner Springs Gliderport / Piper Dakota (N9704W) / VFR

Just seventeen miles to cover, and I still messed things up.

I looked at the chart, and decided to make a very brief hop to the Warner Springs Gliderport, on the other side of Lake Henshaw. It was very easy: all I had to do was follow the San Luis Rey River through a small valley and then turn over the lake. But somehow I still got disoriented.

I took off to the west, and made a left downwind departure. I knew from my planning that I should head due east, 090, out of the airport, and follow the valley. But once I was in the air, I saw several things that looked like valleys, and I wasn't sure which was right. After flying for a minute or two in what looked like the right valley, I decided it was the wrong valley, and made a U-turn back towards the airport. Crossing the airport, I carefully headed out on exactly 090. This time I saw a river, a highway, and some power lines, just like the chart showed. And sure enough, after flying for a while (at only 3500 feet, then 4000 feet as the terrain rose a bit), I saw the lake appear behind the hills, and I turned towards it.

Even then, I was going towards the wrong shore. I looked at the GPS and the chart again, and turned further to the left, and finally I spotted runway lights in the distance. Thereafter I managed to land without incident.

Once again, the engine died after I set it to idle, but I was at only 2800 feet this time. I still haven't figured that out. And I forgot to squawk Mode C during the trip, even though I was just inside the Mode C veil. Oh well.

I considered another flight, but the sun was setting and I don't feel good about flying this aircraft through the mountains in the dark.

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