2020-02-17 Catalina Checkout

To celebrate having passed my checkride on the previous day, I went on a flight to Catalina with my instructor. I already had this timeslot booked for potential training in the event that I had failed or received a discontinuance on the checkride, so it was easy enough to extend it the two hour timeslot into a 3 hour timeslot.

This is not flight instruction, go talk to your CFI about this.


The briefing consisted of two things: how we would handle potential engine outs over the water, and how to actually land at KAVX.

Catalina Island is far enough away from the mainland that we would be flying outside of gliding distance of land. Meaning that we’re required to carry life-vests in the aircraft. We also discussed what we would do if we were to get an engine out on the way to the island. Because there’s more boat traffic near the mainland, we decided that it would be more prudent that, unless we were within gliding distance of the island, it would be more prudent to turn back to the mainland and attempt to land near boat traffic. We briefed exactly what we’d do as we approach the water, including passing in front of a boat in order to increase the chances that we’d get seen and they’d rescue us.

As far as actually landing at KAVX, we briefed what nearly all of the causes of crashes at catalina are - people doing straight in approaches and being lower than they thought they were. KAVX’s runway is bowed at the top, with a 2.1% grade for the first ~2000 feet of runway 22, with the last 1000 feet or so being a downslope. It’s also fairly narrow. Both of these create the illusion that you’re higher than you actually are. In addition to that, KAVX is on top of a mountain - there are cliffs on both ends of the runway. With prevailing winds from the south, the causes a downdraft on short final for runway 22. Thus, if you’re already lower than you should be thanks to those illusions, that downdraft then brings you further down and greatly increases the chances of crashing into the cliffside. So, we briefed a better approach - enter right pattern for 22, being cognizant of your altitude at all times, especially on short final, and also doing soft field takeoffs and landings because the field has quite a bit of potholes.

After the safety briefing, we also briefed what the specific plan was: take special flight rules south, pick up flight following after, once we get past the bravo shelf (roughly when we pass by Palos Verdes), climb to 5500 feet and continue south. Head towards the twin harbors near the west side of the island. Descend to 3500 as we approach the twin harbors, then enter the 45 for the right downwind. Land but be prepared to go around if necessary. Pay for parking. Do at least one lap in the pattern. Go fly around the island, then head back. On the way back, climb to 6500 while we’re still close to land and pick up flight following. As we approach the bravo shelf near Palos Verdes, descend to 4500, then set up to enter the special flight rules north. After that, land back at Santa Monica.


Preflighted. Got flight following from the ground. Yay towered airports that actually talk with approach. Departed with a right box climb. Tracked the SMO 132 radial at 3500 (per what the TAC says). Transitioned through the LA Special Flight Rules area, gave controls to my instructor so I could get a photo of LAX.

Last updated: 2020-02-24 13:32:51 -0800