Flying into LAX by myself

A Youtube video by Niko’s Wings of a night approach and landing at Chicago’s O’Hare reminded me that I had done a similar stunt a bit further west at LAX.

If you have no first-hand experience with the navigation of the airways you will not know that landing at one of those big airports like O’Hare is virtually impossible for a private pilot with one fan in front.

You sometimes get routed through a Bravo airspace (the highly protected space around major airports) but have to get explicit permission to enter in the form of a clearance like “Piper Warrior N8300L cleared to enter Bravo airspace.” But landing at the airport that this Bravo airspace protects You don’t’ even think about it  – – –  normally.

But maybe I am not normal. So, in the 90s, I was playing in the airspace west of Burbank – my home airport,  one late night, probably after 1 am. The radio was quiet most of the time and suddenly the idea hit me – why not shoot a practice approach into LAX, just 20-30 miles to the South-East.

So I tuned into LAX approach (now SoCal approach) – “LAX approach, PA28 N8300L, request!” I might have woken up the controller but he came back shortly “N8300L, LAX approach, go ahead.”

I gathered all my courage and asked for a practice-approach into LAX. Unfortunately, the answer was that no practice approaches are permitted at LAX. But – – – you can have a full stop landing. Wow – that was even better! For all you non-flying peeps, a practice-approach the pretense to land at an airport as if there were clouds so that you have to land only using your instruments. Then, when you are close enough to ensure a safe landing, you give full power and get out of there – often turning around, flying another approach – that’s why it’s called ‘practice’ approach.

Now, really landing at LAX with my Piper Warrior – that would be something to tell the grandchildren about, many, many years later. So, yes, Sir – I’ll take that approach and landing into LAX!

So, yes, Sir – I’ll take that approach and landing into LAX!

I got my clearance into the Bravo airspace and radar vectors to the ILS Runway 24R. (ILS stands for Instrument Landing System – a radio signal coming from the beginning of the runway that guides us down to the landing zone vertically and horizontally.)

And then I flew like a young god – holding my assigned altitude within 50 feet and pegged my directional gyro exactly where the controller had told me. I intercepted the ILS and slid down towards 24R.

Then it was time to switch from approach control to tower. Just saying “Los Angeles tower, Cherokee 8300L with you for 24R” grew some serious hair on my chest.

But I did not get to complete my landing at LAX after all. Tower told me that I should finish my approach and then fly a missed approach. That was the friendly way of giving me my practice approach without violating their rule that there are no practice approaches at LAX. It might have been a bit of a loss for me but otherwise, I might have owed LAX a landing fee.

I was handed over the approach control again which guided me out of the Bravo airspace and shortly I landed at my home base Burbank, tied down and went home a hero.