Catalina is a great 3-day weekend getaway for people in Arizona, Nevada,
California, and maybe even New Mexico. landing at the airport is not as big
a problem as it seems for experienced pilots. I have been there four times;
twice in a C-182 and twice in my Sundowner. Some inexperienced pilots come
in 100 feet too high and have to go around once or twice, but if you fly
the numbers and keep focused on the runway the landing is mostly routine.
The landing fees went up recently, but if you spread the total cost over
four days it is more palatable. Catalina is a nice change from the desert
because there is actual water. The 60-gallon fuel capacity is a big plus
for our planes because there is no avgas available on the island. The shops
and other activities are worth the effort.

People have different views on crossing the water. The ideas here can be
applied to any extended over water operations. The shortest over water
distance is from Long Beach. Many pilots fly to there and then cut across.
This is also the route that is taken by the fast boats, which is the usual
mode of transportation to and from the island. I am coming more from the
south, so I stop in Ramona to refuel and take the airway from the Oceanside
VOR. Before venturing over the water I am trimmed out at my planned
cruising altitude and I check to see that all of the instruments are steady
and reading correctly. The probability of an engine failure is the same
whether over land or water, and mine has not had a catastrophic failure in
over 3800 hours (2000 + 1800) of operation.

One of the reasons I selected a Sundowner over a Musketeer is that a
Sundowner has two doors, which makes for a faster egress in the event of a
ditching. I also travel across the Gulf of California, which is 80 miles of
open water. I always try to get flight following so someone can direct the
Coast Guard rescue chopper to the last known position. For all extended
over-water flights, I wear my life vest and everyone else has one on their
lap. The theory is that I will be busy and won't have time to put it on. By
donning my live vest before the flight, I also demonstrate how to put a
life vest on to everyone else. Showing people how to put on their life
vests is actually an FAR requirement. The water temperature is usually only
65 degrees in the summer, so hypothermia is an issue. The options are to
wear a wetsuit or take a raft along, neither of which sound like great
alternatives for the few times I cross the water.

A ditched Musketeer net weight is at least 1500 pounds, which would require
24 cubic feet of air to float. With the big holes in the cowling, and
floorboard, open doors, and another huge opening in the tail, I don't count
on having more than about 30 seconds to get out. The wings have smaller
openings and will fill up with water more slowly. It may actually take
longer than 30 seconds to sink, but I only plan on having 30 seconds.
Another option is to take some emergency SCUBA devices called SpAir. They
are small tanks of compressed air (3000 psi) with an integral regulator
that will provide several minutes of air. Since my wife and I are certified
SCUBA divers, this is an option. Navy and Coast Guard helicopter pilots and
crew have them close at hand. The water between the mainland and Catalina
is about 6000 feet deep, so riding it down very far is not a good idea,

Carl Foster Sundowner 9761L Tucson Arizona

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