Flying in turbulence

The first time I flew in turbulence was 2007-01-05. It was a solo flight from KSEE to KSZP (Gillespie in San Diego to Santa Paula) a few weeks after I received my pilot certificate. I had flown the route a few times before, but always in clear and calm weather.

This time, it was a bit windy when I took off - nothing major. I opened my flight plan and got flight following, and proceeded to climb to 6500 feet. After turning west over Ontario, I began to get a bit of bumpiness. Just before Burbank there are some hills that extend south from the San Gabriel mountains - these force air upwards. When I reached that area, I was instructed to contact So Cal Approach on a new frequency - 125.5. I dialed in the radio and called, "So Cal Approach, Cherokee eight zero seven five charlie, level six thousand five hundred." I was acknowledged and given Burbank's altimeter.

A few moments later I hit a moderate downdraft - my headset tapped the ceiling of the plane; I pulled back a bit on the yoke and climbed back to 6500 feet. Then, a significant down-gust hit and I dropped 500 feet or more in a matter of seconds. I hit the ceiling and my cell-phone flew out of my shirt pocket and bounced off the ceiling. So Cal Approach called, "Cherokee seven five charlie, state altitude," to which I replied "Seven five charlie attempting to maintain six thousand five hundred." A King-Air heading the same direction (the only other plane I saw the entire trip; usually you see five or six) confirmed that we had "moderate chop."

After that, there wasn't much more excitement. I flew my approach over Fillmore into Santa Paula high, but the wind was not gusting in that area. I landed normally and parked the plane - but I now felt like a pilot and not just a driver. Since then I've been in other occasions of moderate turbulence, such as last weekend in the Banning Pass, and they don't bother me. I do know to keep all items securely fastened, though!

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