Tuesday, November 25, 2014

N162HG 1.4 Solo

Since I have not flown for a while, I decided to depart and do air work first before coming back in for landing practice.

Departed Left Dumbarton towards the coast, then practiced climbing and descending between 2500' and 3500', leveling out each time, while in a 20 degree turn. Did several of these while turning either way (left and right). The goal was to try to address my general anxiety about leveling out while turning, which is a problem in the KPAO pattern (and, I imagine, potentially elsewhere) since I always end up needing to level out just as I am turning downwind after takeoff.

I did okay, though the one critique I have of myself is that I allowed myself to fixate too much on the altimeter -- I should do a better job of keeping my eyes outside and on the nose.

The whole exercise was basically one big clearing turn, and I did a clearing turn before the clearing turns. :) Yet at some point, a plane that was far away over the water suddenly appeared at what seemed like 1000' or so below me, scudding directly underneath. I was startled and wondered why they chose that flight path. I would think that, passing underneath, they lose sight of me at some point, which would be bad, right? Wouldn't they want to keep me in sight all the time? As for me, I was keeping my eyes skinned as best I could, looking above and below me. I think what happened was that, as I turned, they must have snuck in from behind me.

I am not sure if this warrants concern as a loss of separation, but it is certainly something I did not want to be surprised by.

On the way and back, I practiced being aware of the terrain underneath me and looking for possible forced landing fields.

Returned to KPAO and did 3 landings, practicing short field technique, which were uneventful. There was practically no crosswind. In all cases I was able to comfortably slow down and turn off Rwy 31 at taxiway Bravo. In one case I slid a tire very briefly, but that was my mistake and was not necessary for slowing down. My speed control was a bit sloppy; I was trying to shoot for the recommended 50/+5/-0 kias, but I saw 47 and 48 momentarily. I need to be careful about this if I am to continue practicing short field while solo.

Altitude control in the pattern was passable -- the exercises actually did help -- but I lost altitude station when I was told to look for and follow some traffic, and I had to scan around and worry about where they were.

Overall, this was a good flight. I enjoyed myself. Also, I felt like, technique aside, I was "driving the plane" successfully, just like I "drove the car" in my early days of driver ed. If someone told me to get from A to B in my Flycatcher, I can pull it off. I guess the stuff I'm now trying to learn, like short and soft field T/O and landings, are a bit like merging onto a fast, busy highway -- that would have scared the sh*t out of me in my early driving days.

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