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.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

N188EV 2.4 Flight to Byron with Aden

Quick flight to Byron and back with Aden.

I got VFR flight following there and back all the way to the Altamont Pass.

I did a total of 2 landings -- a short approach full stop and shutdown to use the bathroom, then another long downwind for traffic.

My landing at KRHV was another short approach, which went well except that I flared too early (too twitchy on the stick), bumped a bit, and bounced.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

N188EV 1.7 Flight to KLVK with Torsten

Flew from KRHV to KLVK and back with my friend Torsten. At KLVK I did 2 or 3 landings.

One lowlight ;) -- I overflew the Del Valle dam and called into KLVK. All good so far. They gave me left traffic runway 25 left. I for some reason got confused about which direction 250 magnetic was, and instead started making this really weird maneuver to get into position for what would have been left traffic runway 7 left. Torsten was like, what are you doing? :) This sort of rattled me and my landings were far from perfect (but completely safe).

Sunday, July 23, 2017

N188EV 1.8 Sightseeing flight with Aden

After working really hard on Airball for the past few weeks it was time to have some fun. I went out with Aden for a flight to sightsee over the hills South of San Jose, and do a few landings at E16.

We took off uneventfully and flew over Anderson Lake and Coyote Lake. I did some steeply banked turns with the excuse of having Aden check out some of the scenery below; little did he know that I was actually practicing my 45-degree steep turns! :)

We then turned towards E16. The AWOS was not working so I waited while another pilot flew in tentatively to check what direction the pattern was. It ended up being Rwy 14, so from 3500' over the Southern tip of Coyote Lake, I barreled down in a slip and ended up at pattern altitude in plenty of time to come in on the 45.

I did one landing which my compatriot called "smooth". It was a power-off 180.

I then did two low passes, to get the feel of moving around the runway. On my first pass I was a bit wobbly because I was trying to practice sliding left and right over the runway while keeping the nose pointed forward, and I slid a little too much to the left. On my next pass I just concentrated on staying straight and centered and it went fine.

I then did one more landing, also a power-off 180, and there I landed a little flat but it was ok.

We took off again and headed for the hills once more, then from there back to KRHV.

I was given straight in Rwy 31R while a Cessna was given a parallel straight in on Rwy 31L, and ADS-B showed them to be a few hundred feet lower than me! I had visions in my mind of my low wing airplane settling on top of their high wing one, so I offset waaaay out till I could see them, and then kept them in my sight. All went well.

For my landing, I again judged when to start my approach, then cut my engine and did the rest of it power off. It went well but again my landing was a bit too flat with a bit too much energy. Better than too little energy, I guess, but still. I would like to acquire the skill of better judgement.