Flight Lessons: first Van Nuys trip

When I got to the airport this afternoon, I didn’t know if I’d be able to fly. The clouds were covering about half of the runway at about 800ft. My instructor said that we could fly to Van Nuys (VNY) and do pattern work there.

We did all of the pre-flight stuff and were on our way. To get out of Santa Monica, we made basically a right U-turn and stayed just below the clouds until we were clear. I followed the 405 over Sepulveda pass and in to VNY.

Van Nuys has two parallel runways: 16R and 16L. There’s a documentary about VNY called “One Six Right” that’s just about to come out, but… that’s another post. We were cleared to land on the smaller runway, 16L. After flying at Santa Monica, 16L looked like a little toy runway, but it’s almost as long as what I’m used to: 4000 ft. instead of 5000 ft. The big difference is the width. I’m used to SMO’s 150 ft. wide runway and 16L is only 75 ft. It turned out not to be a problem, but that first landing seemed crazy. It’ll be interesting when I start going to even smaller airports (VNY is the busiest General Aviation airport in the country).

Everything went pretty well. I wasn’t very happy with a couple of my landings, but most weren’t bad. I made my first turn (crosswind) after taking off way too early the first time up and almost cut someone off. Luckily they were a few hundred feet above us and we saw them in time to get out of the way.

Oh, the other big thing was that we practiced doing a forward slip. To do a slip, you turn the plane one way (left or right) with the ailerons and go the other way with the rudder. If you do it right, the plane will fly along a straight line, but your nose will be pointing to the side. Since the air is hitting the side of the plane, it causes a lot of drag and is a good way to lose altitude without speeding up. We only did it once, but it’s not something I really need to know how to do well yet.

After our last landing at VNY, we switched seats for the flight back. The weather in Santa Monica had turned overcast at 500 ft. so we had to go IFR (instruments) and my instructor didn’t want to try landing IFR from the right seat today. It’s kind of weird having to fly the whole way back on instruments since we were in the clouds for less than a minute. Once we got through the airport was easy to see and we came right in.