Complexities and Benefits of Flying in Southern California
When you think of California, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Yeah, that’s what I thought, GREAT WEATHER! When you are looking for a flight school, this is definitely something to consider. Along with its weather, or lack thereof, Southern California is a great place to train in and around some of the busiest airports in the United States. Now let’s think about Southern California’s geography; basically, we have a little bit of everything. From the beautiful coast to the unique mountain ranges, to the high deserts. You will learn the importance of flying in mountainous and non-mountainous terrain. Now fast forward, you are ready for your first professional pilot job, or maybe you are looking to buy or rent a plane — well, in SoCal the opportunities are endless.
To state the obvious, Southern California, specifically, is known for its sunny days and clear skies due to its dry subtropical climate. The summers are warm, dry, and clear and the winters are cool, short, and not too cold, nor too hot, which makes for pretty comfortable flying weather. The summer dry season typically runs from May through October, with the exception of a few summer storms. Towards the fall season, we start to be several degrees cooler than inland temperatures, not to mention the great air circulation. But, unlike the East Coast, we rarely experience humidity throughout the year. Why would you care about this? Because it affects our aircraft’s performance! As the water content in the air increases, the air becomes less dense and decreases our aircraft’s performance. For this reason, many pilots enjoy turbocharged aircraft in places like Florida simply to combat the humidity. On warm winter days in SoCal, or with the occasional monsoon, we do get quite a bit of moisture in the air but it allows pilots to learn about air density and proper preflight actions to ensure the safety of flight. Speaking of performance; whether you decide to train near the coast or more inland, you may be affected by winds differently.
Why is Southern California known to be such a busy airspace?
Well, Los Angeles International airport is the most notable airport in California and the 5th busiest airport in the United States, also ranked in the top ten busiest airports in the world. It’s Big, Busy (and blue) airspace is the gateway to the Pacific Ocean and sees more than 700 daily flights. SoCal is actually home to three different Class Bravo airspaces: Los Angeles International, Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, and San Diego International Airport. San Diego, on the other hand, is one of the busiest single-runway commercial service airports in the world. Between Los Angeles and San Diego, you can explore countless General Aviation airports to master your landings, practice instrument approaches, and learn navigation! What does this mean for you? Well, as a pilot who has trained in both the East Coast and the West Coast, I have found some of the biggest benefits of learning how to fly in busy and complex airspaces is the experience you gain in situational awareness and airport operations. Situational awareness is one of the most important skills to have as a pilot and something I distill early on in my client’s training. It's one thing to learn about navigation, airspaces, and flight planning, and it’s another to actually implement it in your day-to-day training. It takes much practice to develop the ability to perceive, understand, and effectively respond to a situation in the air. You will also find many “practice areas” in the vicinity of these airports where you can practice all of those maneuvers you need to pass your checkride, all the while scanning for traffic! If you are serious about a career in Aviation or you want to experience real-world flying in real-world situations, Southern California is the place for you. Not to mention other special-use airspaces like Restricted areas, TFR’s, parachute operation areas, and more. Now let’s talk about some airport operations; your workload is high, but so is your reward. In one single flight, you can expect to talk to many different Air Traffic Controllers and, depending on the airport, that can include Clearance, Ground for taxi instruction, Tower, and maybe even Approach. I remember the first time I spoke to an Approach Controller: “SoCal Approach, Skyhawk um I’d like flight following please…?” their response: “Last calling, what did you want?” To say the least, I was intimidated! But one way to learn how to do something right is to do it wrong first! Of course, with practice and confidence, I now enjoy using their services and talking on the same frequency as United 787’s and Deltas A320’s. You just don’t get the same level of experience when you are flying out of a non-towered, empty, calm area! Sure, it's great to fly out of a untowered airports and learn those “untowered coms” but there are also plenty of untoward airports in SoCal where you may be able to experience the same thing. You can get the best of both worlds flying in French Valley, CA or Victorville, CA for example. It makes flying everywhere else feel like a breeze, ish
Why is flying in Southern California such a magical place?
Have you ever heard of a single place where you could snowboard in the morning, hike the desert in the afternoon, surf in the evening, and finish off the day with a night flight? Well, you can do that all in SoCal! Have you ever flown to an Island before? Well, you can do that in SoCal too! Ok that was a bit dramatic, but it’s true.
Come out and experience everything Southern California has to offer...
I’d love to share all the opportunities that are out there for anyone who is ready to get paid to be a pilot or who may want to buy or rent a plane and explore Southern Californian airspace. Los Angeles has a very rich history in aviation and is home to many jobs ranging from great flight schools to charter companies, and airliners. Flight instructing is a rewarding career path for many. It is not a surprise that aviation is booming right now, and with high numbers of student pilots, there is a very high demand for excellent flight instructors. Though this may not be everyone’s route, you could find yourself towing banners across Huntington Beach, taking families on tours of Los Angeles, chartering cargo, flying for a part 135 Charter company, aircraft ferrying, skydive jump piloting, and much more. When it comes to time building or just finding a low-hour pilot job that allows you to fly and make some money, SoCal is an aviation hub for pilots and aspiring pilots. Aviation is a large community but is still rather small, you will find very passionate and generous pilots here in Southern California and make connections that you will keep for the rest of your aviation career. I love to discuss and educate people on the complexities and benefits of flying in Southern California and would love to answer any questions you might have.