Flying the Mesa Departure from John Wayne

Up until now, I have only flown to the practice areas south of John Wayne airport. This includes the El Toro practice area as well as the Dana Point practice area. One great thing about flying the same practice areas is that you get accustomed to the landmarks and navigation. Exiting and entering the Santa Ana Class C airspace is also a predictable procedure once you have done the same thing a couple of times.

When I previously took lessons in Carlsbad, the airport was in Class D airspace, so there was no need to talk to an approach controller like in KSNA airspace. At Carlsbad, we would just radio the tower and fly right into the airspace without a procedure or special instructions. Such is the difference between Class C and Class D airspace.

The Mesa Departure:
So on my last flight, my instructor had me fly the Mesa Departure, which is one of the pre-approved routes to leave John Wayne airport when you are flying VFR (Visual Flight Rules). The Mesa Departure has us fly over some buildings at a heading of about 220 degrees after takeoff.

This departure essentially points us towards Huntington Beach, and as a matter of fact, we flew over Huntington Beach pier at around 1,700 feet on the way out. The interesting thing about the Mesa Departure is that it takes us to the Long Beach practice area, which while very crowded are still friendly skies. This is one lesson where I was really excited to be flying and doing something new, but at the same time, I was disappointed that I did not bring a camera with me because there are some awesome sites.

Flying the Practice Area:
Flying over Long Beach harbor, you can see the Queen Mary, the Port of Long Beach and downtown Long Beach. This is a fantastic sight from the air. The Long Beach practice area is full of general aviation aircraft and lots of student pilots from – guess where – Long Beach Airport. This area also gets traffic from other airports like Torrance, Fullerton, and a bunch of others. So it gets very busy on the radio and in the airspace.

Flying through the Long Beach practice area, we ended up right over Palos Verdes where we did some more steep turn practice.

Getting Back To Orange County:
On the way back to the airport, we flew circles around the end of Huntington Beach Pier for the “Flying circles around a point” phase of instruction. Then it was time to listen to ATIS and contact SoCal Approach and announce our intentions. SoCal acknowledged 2-way radio communication right away which meant we were cleared back into the KSNA airspace. SoCal Approach also gave us a new squawk code so that they could have us light up on their radar and hand us off to the John Wayne tower.

On approach back into the airport, the controller had us make a right traffic pattern for 19R which meant she was going to have us land on the “Big Runway”. 19R is the Runway at KSNA that the airliners and larger planes use. Us little Cessna drivers are typically using 19L which is much shorter and narrower than the main runway.

We did 1 touch and go on the big runway and then joined our normal traffic pattern for 19L which is a left-turn traffic pattern. After a few more touch and goes we had enough so we terminated and taxied back to parking.

Stats for this flight:
1.7 Hours
7 Takeoffs and 7 Landings

24 Hours
86 Takeoffs and Landings

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