Thursday, November 27, 2014

N162HG 1.6 Solo

Thanksgiving morning -- went out to practice short-field takeoffs and landings, all closed traffic.

The CFI who looked at my paperwork reminded me that my solo limitations specify visibility ≥ 6 sm, and KPAO was reporting 7 sm. I should pay more attention to visibility next time. I guess I never thought it could be non-obvious, but now I know. On my bike ride to the airport, everything looked hunky dory, but sure enough, looking across the SF Bay, the mountains were pretty obscured. Once in the air, I would have trouble seeing the KNUQ hangars just after turning Rwy 31 downwind.

There were stratiform clouds (reporting SCT200) and no wind. That and the poor visibility would indicate a temperature inversion in the area. I looked at the prog charts and could not figure out why that would be the case or what sort of phenomenon I was observing. More learning about Wx in my future.

Leveling off at 800' in the pattern got better. I realized two things: (a) look out the window and trust the sight picture and things will be mostly fine [how many times do I have to re-realize this again...?]; and (b) firmly establish attitude, controlling by hand through the entire leveling-out maneuver if necessary, then and only then worry about trimming. Overall, I am far more satisfied with how I captured and maintained altitude, though I certainly could do far better.

I did 11 landings in total.

The takeoffs were uneventful. I could not bring myself to climb at 55 kias so I figured I would climb at 60 kias and consider discretion the better part of valor. I tried to become aware of where I actually took off. Based on what I saw and looking at the airport diagram, I suspect I was lifting off about 600' down the runway from my brake letoff point. The POH lists 640' ground roll at gross, 15°C (interpolated). I had about half fuel and myself, and my flight bag which weighs nothing -- but the POH does not tell us how to correct for weight.

The landings were all over the map at first. As I went along, I settled on a technique. I would come in high until a point where I figured an idle glideslope would take me just short of the runway threshold, then dump in my last notch of flaps and maintain 50/-0/+5 kias. What kept happening was that I flared, flared and flared some more ... but had I started that flare earlier, I would have been buzzing the duck pond. Something does not make sense.

I had a bunch of landings where I ended up landing long and others where I made it off before taxiway Bravo. I am not (yet) very aware of the point at which I actually touch down.

I had one landing where tower asked me to expedite my base turn, so I had to slip a lot to burn altitude. It did not result in my best short-field landing of the day, but it was good practice in being able to adapt my technique at short notice to the prevailing needs, and I landed safely with no problem.

At some point, the visibility seemed particularly bad, so I asked tower to say visibility, and they estimated 4.9 sm. I terminated. They asked me if I was seeing less than they reported -- I said no, its just below my solo limitations.

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