Sunday, March 25, 2018

N188EV 1.6 Chickening out with Aden

Our FBO recently updated their rental rules such that we can land at up to 3,000' density altitude without a mountain checkout. I have been always wanting to go to Columbia (O22), which is just over 2,000' MSL, and previously out of reach without the checkout. So I decided today was the day to try and go.

We took off uneventfully into pretty icky turbulence, bumpety bumping along through the mountain passes out to the Altamont Pass and towards Stockton. Even in the Central Valley, it was really bumpy. The ceiling was somewhere around 4,500 scattered to broken, with lots of flat-bottomed clouds and lots of bumps underneath them.

I decided to chicken out, and we turned back and bumped back to KRHV, where we bumped up and down through the pattern. I selected 15 degrees of flaps and kept my speed up through the approach, and ended up making a pretty soft landing.

Once on the ground, I chatted with the local CFIs and got some words of wisdom.

1. What I was experiencing was mountain waves, not thermals. The flat bottomed clouds were that way for the same reasons that they look that way when they are due to thermals.

2. Everybody else was getting beaten around today.

3. The bumps in the SportStar were certainly way more severe than I would have experienced were I in a C172 or similar.

4. That said, it was not an unsafe day to fly; I could probably have continued up to Columbia to take a peek from a safe distance, had I wanted to keep bumpety-bumping along.

5. That said, there's no way a landing at Columbia would have been advisable.

It's good that I got out there with the assumption that I was going to abort if stuff didn't feel right at any point. Also thanks to my pax Aden for being cool about it and not pressuring for mission completion!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

N915L 1.7 Jasper

I went up with an AeroDynamic CFI today for a jaunt in a C172 to see how things go since I'm thinking of getting my medical (it's a long and sordid story). It was fun and amazing how much more stable the C172 is compared to the SportStar! It was a beautiful day and we flew over Los Banos!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

N188EV 2.9 Meander to KHAF with Melissa

Sightseeing trip with Melissa. Flew KRHV KHAF and made a landing, had lunch, took off and did 2 practice landings, returned to KRHV and did one go-around and one landing. Total 4 landings.

Departed KRHV downwind, flew on the East side of Hwy 101 to about Gilroy, then cut over the Coyote Valley. Returned Northward towards Mount Umunhum, climbing as we went to maintain terrain separation and safe gliding distance to hospitable terrain. Orbited a little to sight-see over the mountain and the Almaden park where we often hike. Did a cruise descent in the direction of Bonny Doon Airport, and continued up the coast to KHAF. Entered right traffic Rwy 30 on the 45 and made an uneventful power-off 180 -- landed a little bit long but was a good soft full-stall landing.

We parked at KHAF and went for something to eat.

Returned to closed traffic and 2 landings. Both were attempts at power-off 180s. One was okay. The other was iffy because I added flaps at the last minute; this made me float; and I sort of gave up on steering the plane while it was skimming a foot or so off the ground; when it finally touched down, there was a little bit of side load. Then flew via the Crystal Springs reservoir and KSJC class C transition to KRHV. Attempted one power-off 180 but ended up being bounced around and decided to go around. The second landing was a standard powered approach and was uneventful.

There were a bunch of fun cumulus clouds and interesting bumpiness underneath, and of course lots of lovely scenery, especially when we were at 9,500' over Mount Umunhum and could see the entire Bay Area from the Southern-most tip of Monterey Bay all the way to San Francisco laid out underneath us!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

N712MF 2.2 Practice flight to E16

I haven't flown since early last December, so it was time for a tough shakedown to get back in the saddle, and today was the appointed day.

I took off from KRHV departing downwind, and did a lot of air work over the lakes (Anderson and Coyote Lakes) which included:

  • Steep turns -- all within PTS, some more impressive than others
  • No flaps power off stalls -- doing well
  • Full flaps power of stalls -- also doing well
  • Deeper stalls with a bit of "falling leaf" recovery -- did ok, remembered to use rudder not stick
I also did a couple of pretend engine-outs where I just set up a descent, noted altitudes, and then got out of there. (I am hesitant to do any truly ambitious power-off practice solo at this point.) In retrospect, I did not remember to follow my checklist, which is very important. Next time.

I did a 3 full-stop landings at E16, all short approaches. I went around once because I seemed to be low on energy and was at risk of landing on the blast pad before the threshold, so I started picking the first taxiway as my aiming point, and with timing my flare properly, I was able to nail my landing spot quite consistently. Wind was 310@9-ish on rwy 32, so no xwind to speak of and no gusts, but still. This is reasonable progress towards my goal of true power-off 180 performance in any wind conditions.

On the way back to KRHV, I called in at 3,000 feet over UTC, and was told to make straight in rwy 31 (Left or Right, I don't recall). Just after that, someone in a Cessna called over UTC, didn't give their altitude, and was *also* asked to make straight in rwy 31 something-or-the-other. Yikes. I suspected I was higher than them and feared pancaking on top of them on approach. So I called in and they asked us for our positions, and the Cessna reported me in sight. Whew! :)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

N712MF 1.2 Quick sightseeing with David

David, husband of Caryn (see previous), wanted in on the action too. The plane was already booked starting at 10am so we planned for an early morning sortie.

I planned a flight down the Coyote Valley to Gilroy, then cutting over to Watsonville, a few landings there, then off to see if we can find Bonny Doon in the woods, then returning via the Lexington reservoir, crossing midfield at San Jose, and landing back at Reid-Hillview.

The Wx was pretty much perfect, with a big low-pressure trough sitting offshore drawing air from the land out to sea and keeping the moisture at bay. Even then, we had a relative humidity of 40%. At the cold temperatures in the morning -- temperature 4°C and dewpoint 0°C, carb icing was a concern. I printed out a carb icing risk chart and put it in my kneeboard and planned to use carb heat aggressively.

When we got there, the poor plane was covered in frost! No flying with frost on the upper wing surface, lower elevator surface, or canopy of course! So we moved it out into the sun and waited for it to thaw. Meanwhile, we preflighted. It had plenty of fuel so we didn't need to refuel.

Eventually, by 8:45am or so, it had thawed enough to be flyable -- but there goes the ambitious flight plan and the early start. :) So we decided to just launch, go to San Martin, and come back.

Things went as planned. I used carb heat all the time except when using climb power. I sure miss the carb temperature gage that I had in the C162 Flycatcher way back when!

I did one short approach to Rwy 32 at San Martin. It went okay -- I landed just barely on the threshold and was rounding out before my flare, while my intention is to maintain approach speed all the way to the flare. Winds were calm and the landing was pretty soft.

Pressed for time, we took off again and made a beeline for Reid-Hillview. I got the usual straight in for Rwy 31 right. From about 3,500 feet, I entered a long glide at 59 knots, and ended up with a reasonable amount of energy over the mall. At that point, "cash it in", full flaps, nose down, and approach speed to the flare. That was a reasonable simulation of an engine-out approach and I think it went well.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

N712MF 2.0 Sightseeing over the coast with Melissa

The Wx was good over the coast this weekend for once, so we could go sightseeing. We got up fairly early and off we went.

At first, I did a couple of practice landings. My first one was a standard approach, which I sort of dragged in and was not totally happy with. The second was a short approach where the approach was adequate, but on flare I sort of slid right of centerline a little bit, and the actual touchdown was clean.

I was not sure if Melissa would want to listen to ATC so I planned the flight without flight following. She later said she didn't mind, but I already had the plan "armed" in my mind and we were at the airport, so I decided to fly as planned and keep this in mind for the next time.

We departed KRHV downwind to the South, and flew to the Southern tip of Coyote Lake. I then descended to 2,500' and flew across the Coyote Valley, looking all the while for traffic that may be coming in to Hollister. Then we climbed back up a little and flew towards the Moss Landing powerplant. We turned Northward from there and cruised up the coast, up to the point where we were North of Santa Cruz.

It was getting late so I needed to make a beeline for home. I set a direct course for the Lexington Reservoir and climbed like hell so as to give myself glide distance away from the mountains should I get an engine failure. When about 9 miles South of Lexington, I called Norcal and got sent direct midfield KSJC, as usual, then direct KRHV. That was uneventful and Melissa later told me it was cool but "scary" to be flying so close over the large, busy airport!

For my landing, I again asked for a short approach and that one worked quite well. I did a soft landing, on centerline, without having to slip, and with a steadily increasing flap setting concluding in full flaps (on the SportStar, that's a barn door) right at the end. It was not a real "power off 180" since I did not nail my abeam sport, but I did make a reasonable landing from a power cut abeam the threshold so I am calling that a decent standard at my current level of experience. Of course, this was with essentially zero wind; recall last time I flew it was windy in Byron and I learned that I have a lot to learn about correcting for winds in that maneuver. But I'm getting there.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

N712MF 2.0 Flight to Byron with Caryn

I took my friend Caryn on a flight today.

I was watching the Wx all week and there was a cold front that predictably passed over us leaving some high clouds by last night. This morning they were gone, but in their place a surprising amount of cumulus clouds, as much as a broken ceiling in some places, around 4,000' MSL. It seemed like a bad day to try to go to the coast, so I planned a trip to Byron instead.

We took off and snuck under the clouds, remaining well clear, up to and through the Altamont Pass. The day was bumpy, but Caryn was a good sport. Then I curved over to make my landing at Byron.

That's where I realized that I'm way out of practice in xwind operations, because there is hardly ever an xwind at KRHV!

My first landing was an attempt at a power-off 180. I was flying a right pattern with a 9-ish knot left crosswind, so I ended up misjudging and having way less energy at the end than I expected. I ended up adding power towards the end. But meanwhile I'd forgotten my xwind landing technique and ended up being blown aside and landing with a bump. I should really have gone around. Lesson 1: Learn to go around more often when things are iffy.

We stopped and used the bathroom, then took off again. My takeoff was really weird because, again, I had apparently forgotten what I knew as a 30 hour pre-solo student. :) My landing was a bit better, but still rather shuddery.

Finally, I took off again with real crosswind technique, and came around and did one more landing which was a bit of a bump-down but I did land in proper configuration, putting down one wheel before the other. It was not beautiful, but it was workmanlike. That said, I almost ran out of right rudder -- I've been told about that regarding the SportStar, but never experienced it till today!

While in the pattern there were two interesting things.

First there was someone on final, looking like they were quite a ways away. I took the active to take off, and he was like, "Blue and white SportStar, I'm on final!" I had already taken the active so decided I should just take off and get out of his way, and I apologized to him over the radio. He didn't answer, and I felt a bit bad about tht. But really I don't know that I was that close. It's a judgement thing I guess. He had just turned final seemingly quite some distance away. But I certainly don't want any other pilots to feel like I'm cutting them off, and would happily have waited had I known he'd want me to.

Second, there was a jump plane, "Elevator One", that called in with a "high downwind" and"high base". He was way above pattern altitude and I honestly had no idea where he was. I turned final but it turns out I turned inside him and he called me on that. I was like, wait are you the Cessna? (I expected a twin.) He was like yeah. So I asked if he'd be willing to make a 360 for me, and he was, and later I thanked him and he said "You're welcome", so no hard feelings. I wonder how I could have dealt with that better. With all the workload of trying to land and making sure not to crash into anything, someone flying a "high" pattern was a bit hard. On the other hand, these folks are finding ways to make GA pay, so I have no problem getting out of their way ... if I see them.

We came back the same way we went, and this time I opted to call into Norcal and get flight following starting from Altamont. They did warn me about this Bonanza that was coming straight at me about 500 feet above me, so I guess that was a good thing.

My landing at KRHV was a total greaser. I slid onto the runway and had the nosewheel off the pavement until the last possible moment, when it plopped down ever so gently. No crosswind, good landings.