The one weekend I flew with BoatPix back in August I hit as many airports as I did during my entire flight training. One of them was LAX, which, if you haven’t seen it, has a pretty cool helipad to land on. We were flying by LAX on the way home to SNA (John Wayne/Orange Co) and needed to clean the helicopter’s bubble anyway, so…. Unfortunately, my camera has some issues with sun glare, and pointing it directly into the setting sun fried its sensor for the entire approach. Maybe I’ll get to do that approach another time, but the basic challenge on the approach is that Tower wants you above the runway complexes that flank the helipad in the center of the airport. You bring the helicopter in high over the runways, then make a steep descent for a pinnacle landing to the helipad. (Although it’s a steep descent, the actual approach maintains a normal angle–the idea behind the steep descent was to get to an altitude where I could make a normal approach.)
The departure is not as much fun, but it’s still very cool. This time, your flight path has to parallel the two runways that flank you (25 to the south, and 24 to the north). Eventually, you have to cross paths with departing airliners that are using those runways though. For this, the tower keeps you low along the shoreline until you clear the airspace. This turns out to not be that unusual, and earlier that weekend we were working off the departure end of North Island Naval Air Station (where we were moved out of the way of a C5 that was outbound).
The last part of this video shows me doing a less than smooth approach into SNA. I’m still stuck on the flight school mentality where I fly a pattern to land. If you’re working on your commercial ticket, you need to get experience breaking out of the downwind/base/final and 60 KIAS/200 fpm approach mentality. Yeah, I never did them during training; the school was more worried about noise complaints from the homeowners who bought houses next to the airport. To pull them off now takes a bit of brain power–something that’s running short when you haven’t flow a lot recently and you’re at an unfamiliar airport. There’s nothing difficult about them, it just requires you to break some ingrained habits.