Saturday, December 12, 2015

N162HG 1.4 Bay Tour with Rick

My father-in-law Rick was visiting, and he's an instrument rated pilot. This was my chance to show off my new-found flying skills, and give him a bit of a tour around the Bay.

We departed KPAO, flew towards KHAF, then went North, over the Golden Gate bridge, though the Oakland Class C and over the KOAK Rwy 28 numbers, and back to KPAO.

Rick enjoyed it quite a bit, and was sight-seeing the whole way. He complimented my flying!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

N162HG 2.3 Flight over the coast with Alex

I have promised a flight to our son's outdoor ed instructor Alex since before I got my license. Now she's leaving to travel to South America, so we figured we'd better do it soon.

We started at 9am today at the flying club with an extensive "how airplanes fly" briefing. We talked about lift, parasite and induced drag, the power curve, balance, and stability -- the basic longitudinal dynamics of the aircraft. Starting from a set of pre-made foam model airplane wings and a cheesy arrow made out of some square dowel, cardstock fins and a weight taped to the front, we demonstrated their stability characteristics individually, then rubber banded them together to make an glider we could fly around the ramp.

I took Alex along on the pre-flight walk-around, then we buttoned in, got a pax briefing, and we were off.

We departed Left Dumbarton towards San Gregorio, then flew down and up the coast. We overflew KHAF (but did not land, due to a 10kt direct crosswind I didn't want to mess with). Instead, we flew over the Crystal Springs reservoir, down over Highway 280 almost to the Hwy 17 intersection, then back up. I called into KPAO from the intersection of Hwy 280 and Hwy 85, got a straight in, and did a normal landing. I then did one more lap around the pattern to show Alex a short field takeoff and landing, then we parked and were off.

During the flight, we did a lot of sight-seeing around the coast and the landmarks of Santa Cruz, and I performed some maneuvers to demonstrate to Alex the things we had learned about earlier. I had never done these "experiments" in such a controlled fashion before, and I developed a new-found respect for the Flycatcher. Trimmed for level flight at 95 kias, cutting power resulted in the least unsurprising thing possible -- a descent at 95 kias. Firewalling the throttle resulted in a gentle climb at -- guess what? -- 95 kias. Effing textbook! Pulling back the stick -- which as I noted was the "fast/slow" control not the "up/down" control -- slowed us down to 70 kias, and just as the power curve predicted, we climbed faster! Getting this performance of course requires that Cessna carefully design all the various and sundry second- and third-order effects to cancel out, but the result is very easily "explainable" via the first-order theory.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

N162HG 3.0 Training at New Jerusalem

Training flight to brush up on my student-pilot exercises, so my skills don't rust too much. The goal was to fly to New Jerusalem Airport (1Q4) and do takeoff and landing practice, and do some air work around the area.

* Took off uneventfully from KPAO, normal departure and found 1Q4.
* Normal landing.
* Short takeoff, squirrelly.
* Short landing, had too much energy.
* Short takeoff, okay.
* Short landing, a lawn-mowing experience: approach too shallow.
* Short takeoff, forgot to raise flaps after takeoff!
* Short landing, okay.
* Short takeoff, good.
* Short landing at KPAO, okay but too much float.

I went to the area North of the field and did some ground reference maneuvers (rectangular patterns, turns around a point, and S-turns on a road). There was not much wind, so/but I did more or less okay. I did not feel as stressed-out about these as I was during my student pilot days, partly because I was far, far away from any obstacles out in the Central Valley fields, and could plan whatever approach to my patterns at will.

I then climbed and did air work.

First I did some stalls, which were uneventful. I tend to let go of the stick a bit early, just about as soon as I feel even the slightest "break" -- so they were particularly gentle. I don't really want to do overly "deep" stalls until I've gotten some experience in a Citabria with a CFI recovering from actual spins, just in case. So I think discretion is the better part of valor under the circumstances.

I then did slow flight, and was happy that I could trim the plane almost "hands off" to fly with flaps with the stall horn blaring, then do a super-gentle 360 turn in either direction.

Afterwards, I needed to orient myself to return home. I had brought my Nexus 9 tablet running Garmin Pilot, but it was not charging properly and ran out of battery. So out came my paper chart. I pointed myself at New Jerusalem, got a bearing, then at Tracy, and got another bearing, and plotted the intersection roughly, then figured out my bearing to the Altamont Pass. I pointed the nose in that direction and, lo and behold, there it was in a few minutes. Perfect!

Once home, KPAO was a zoo. There were like 8 airplanes waiting to land.

Tower asked me to do a 360 just as I was about to join the right downwind for Rwy 31, and I followed the instructions literally, right away. This sort of put me circling within the limits of the normal pattern. And indeed -- as I finished my turn, there was a Cessna sailing over my head, uncomfortably close! Mental note: Regardless of what the controller says, take responsibility for moving away from traffic! Next time, if I'm asked to do a 360 near the downwind, I'll ovalize it to move away from the downwind leg, then return with trepidation as though I were almost on a 45.

I took one shot at landing, but was asked to go around due to faster traffic behind. I got sent all the way down to the auto bridge, and all the way back to Moffett Hangar One. Finally, the controller said, "Best speed to the airport please!" I put the pedal to the metal until the last possible minute, flying at around 110 knots indicated (this is practically supersonic, to a Flycatcher), then at the last minute ditched flaps and made a short approach to a point just shy of the first taxiway, plopped it down, then turned off the runway immediately. As I turned, I could see a big twin coming down behind me....

Overall, I think this was a good "skills refresher". I only wish flying were less expensive so I could afford to do this sort of thing more often!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

N162HG 1.9 Trip to KHAF with Melissa

Flew to KHAF and back with Melissa. 3 landings total.

The Wx was good over KHAF, surprisingly, so Melissa and I packed into the Flycatcher and we zipped off to KHAF.

Inbound, there was someone landing who didn't seem to be bothering with silly stuff like making radio calls. For some reason, I totally misjudged my pattern, coming in super duper close to the runway on downwind, then turning correspondingly close. I had to slip to land, after warning Melissa about what I was doing. She didn't seem to mind very much, and I made a very smooth landing.

We got out, secured the airplane and walked around. She was anxious to get back so we did not linger.

Outbound, we took a detour around the airport and found the parking area where I could have stopped and which would have been really close to the shops and restaurants over the airport fence. Lesson learned. We took off, then I did one more pattern and did a full stop short field landing, which was fairly good. On the way back to KPAO, I demonstrated some steep turns at 3500' to Melissa. I offered to demonstrate slow flight; as soon as I started slowing, she said it didn't feel safe and she didn't want to do it, so I sped back up. On some level, I'm kind of proud of her for realizing the inherent un-safety of flying slowly -- even if we were high enough that this was a non-event. We got back to KPAO where I attempted a soft field landing; it was safe but, for some reason, I ended up getting blown sideways, I think because of sloppy rudder work on my part.

Melissa said she enjoyed it, so that's awesome!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

N162HG 2.0 Trip to Petaluma with Lisa

I've been meaning to fly with Lisa since I got my SP-ASEL. She's a CFII friend who has been informally mentoring me through many, many things regarding aviation. Today, we finally got to have a flight where I could show off my new-found skills. Um, such as they are....

The plan was to go from KPAO to Petaluma (O69) and back. I hoped to get a KSFO Class B transition on the way up, and return via a Easterly route passing between Oakland and Mount Diablo. If we didn't get the Class B on the way up, we would try again on the way down.

I had planned pretty thoroughly, with route leg headings and estimated times written down, Google Maps views of the destination airport, and all that. Lisa seemed to approve.

We called in to ground at KPAO, and it turns out KSFO was not giving Class B transitions at that time. Well schmell. We went the Easterly route then. Our route was KPAO VPSUN VPDUB VPWAL O69, with the plan being to cross VPSUN at 4500' and remain at that altitude for the rest of the trip. However, when we called in at KPAO, they gave us flight following, and NorCal told us to remain below 4000' for a while. Otherwise, they were fine with our route.

On the VPWAL O69 leg, there were a bit of mountains before crossing the San Pablo Bay. These were not clear from the chart. They looked "high" from far away, but were less than 1000' and looked really low when we passed them at 4500'. Interesting how terrain can look misleadingly high from far away. Lisa flew quite a bit to get a feel for the Flycatcher and also so I could spend time futzing with my charts and comparing to what I was seeing out the window.

We arrived at O69 without event. It was hard making out the runway as usual -- the main problem is figuring out, given where we are right now, how big should the runway look? There was a Cessna Caravan taking off who was very nice and diligent on the radio about making sure we didn't crash. I did a nice smooth landing.

We got fuel after much futzing with the stupid half-broken gas pump, took care of natural liquid elimination needs in ... um ... nature, then got in the plane and puttered off to the runup.

At the runup, I realized I had failed to test the fuel! Eek! I shut down right there, tested and came back in. Then we restarted and took off.

We made for the Golden Gate Bridge, hoping to try again for a Class B transition. As we got closer, I saw there was a thick layer of fog over the bridge and San Francisco. As a Sport Pilot, I am required to fly with reference to the ground, which I take to mean I cannot fly "VFR on top" over a layer, so no Class B transition that way either. No problem. We turned to retrace our Easterly route, back to KPAO.

Then we realized it was getting late. As a Sport Pilot, I am not allowed to fly after the end of evening civil twilight. We were right at the middle of San Pablo Bay, and Lisa suggested I just call NorCal and ask for a direct route. I did, and they gave me a squawk code.

We were routed direct to the Oakland Coliseum (hard to find without knowing where to look, but hard to miss once you see it) at 2000', then direct midspan San Mateo bridge at 1400', then released to talk to Palo Alto.

On the return flight, Lisa helped with the flying a bit, and also helped with getting our waypoints entered into the GPS.

At Palo Alto, things were quiet, and I made a pretty smooth twilight landing.

Overall, I think having a GPS is a pretty important thing for flying around the Bay Area. Maybe if everyone used paper charts, then the controllers would have different expectations, but I get the feeling that basically everyone expects everyone else to have the precision and situational awareness of a GPS. This means I should consider, at some point, switching to an EFB.

When we landed, there was a meeting of the Ninety Nines at Advantage Aviation, so Lisa just joined right in. By the time I had packed up, they were all listening with rapt attention as she held forth about some flying story or the other!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

N162HG 2.0 Watsonville fly-in with Rodrigo

Today's plan was to attend the Wings Over Watsonville fly-in, flying there with my friend Rodrigo. I planned to go out there by following Hwy 280, 85 and 17 over the Lexington Reservoir and out to the coast, then returning via E16 (San Martin, aka South County) and transition the SJC Charlie to get practice talking to controllers. The idea was to do as much of the trip as possible using pilotage and paper charts.

We took on only 1/2 tanks to keep our weight down.

On our way out, Rodrigo did most of the enroute flying. I called for 3500' after we cleared the SFO Bravo shelf. Then, as we went South, he asked me if I was going to talk to Norcal or descend below the 2500' SJC Charlie! Oops, I did it again! I was so careful about the Bravo, but forgot the Charlie! I decided we should descend to 2000' then climb again when possible. I correctly identified our climb point, clear of the Charlie, via landmarks, and we climbed clear of terrain while following Hwy 17 over the mountains.

Once we were within sight of Santa Cruz, Rodrigo asked me if we should take a shortcut or continue flying to the coast. Hm. I called up the temporary tower frequency for KWVI, and it was a hot sticky mess! Oh my god. There were like half a dozen airplanes talking over one another and the controller was clearly very overwhelmed. I took the controls and started circling over the Santa Cruz pier, and called in expecting to be given directions to make inbound. Nobody replied. Reports from planes in our vicinity, only some of whom we actually saw, continued.....

At some point one of us -- Rodrigo or I -- figured they were expecting me to just make inbound. But I didn't want to do that without asking first. I called specifically asking if I could do that, and was told to make inbound and report on the right 45 for Rwy 20. I descended to TPA, to avoid running over anyone or getting run over, and did that.

The problem is that there was a hill, hard to see on the sectional, which if you happen to be flying at TPA happens to obscure KWVI from view. I sort of felt around until Rodrigo pointed out that, um Ihab, there is the runway! Oh. I made inbound, was given a very long downwind, was asked to turn base seemingly seconds before we crashed into the hills :), and made an uneventful landing.

I was asked to follow the ground crew, but they didn't take any interest in me until I complained. Eventually, we backed into some grass and parked. There were no tiedowns and I had failed to bring the chocks, so I set the parking brake and borrowed a couple of random wood blocks from some dude in a hangar, and we were good.

We had lunch. I walked to the 7-11 to get drinks with my credit card. We checked out a Rans S-6S, David "Pablo" Cohn's Commonwealth Skyranger, and a bunch of other planes.

We got fuel, again 1/2 tanks.

We pulled the plane out to depart. There was a dude who wanted to get by with his Cub and was running around frustratedly -- it was not clear why he was in such a hurry given that we told him we were leaving. I tried very hard to ignore his wild gesticulations and go through my startup checklist. As it was, I forgot to ground lean before taxiing. Oh well. :P I got to the runup, did my runup, then called in to take off. Another pilot was like, Skycatcher, are you going to pull up to the hold short line there? Ah, this is not KPAO. We pull up! So I did.

We did an uneventful departure towards E16, I got the KPAO ATIS, and then I called into Norcal. So far so good.

Going Northbound, I then did my classic mistake of not realizing just how far to the left of KSJC the Pruneyards (VPPRU) are! Once again (I did this before on a training flight, tsk tsk) Norcal was confused about my course and asked me if I was going South of KSJC or planning to cross midfield. I cluelessly said, whichever works for you. They replied, we'll get you a route. I said I was going direct VPPRU. They said ok, that works. Oh dear. I must have come across as very clueless!

Now apprised of my actual route, I made North without event. As I passed KNUQ, there was a Cirrus about 3nm to our left that I was told to follow in. I kept losing sight of them -- most of the time, it was Rodrigo who saw them. That made me kind of veer to the right of the KPAO centerline. Yuck. Anyway, I centered myself again, tried a short field approach, and sort of made it but sort of didn't -- I was maybe one foot short of my intended point, probably because I had under-estimated the wind. It was okay though. I landed, and it was short.

But then there I was. Tower told me to expedite off the runway because there was someone following me and already over the pond. I did my best, but the following traffic had to go around. Oh well. :P

Overall, this was a decent though not perfect flight, and I learned a lot!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

N162HG 1.8 Sightseeing down the coast with Aden

The Wx was reported clear over the coast today (even clear over KHAF, imagine that!), so Aden and I decided to go for a sightseeing tour, sort of a repeat of the one I did with Melissa a while back.

This time, Aden helped me preflight, draining the fuel and following me around as I got ready. We departed Left Dumbarton without event.

As soon as we crossed OSI, it was clear that, while the coast was navigable, there was going to be no landing at KHAF; it was already thickly overcast. We turned Southeast and flew down the coast.

Aden took the controls for a while, keeping us down the coast and doing some 360s. He did pretty well, given that this is the first time he held the controls of a plane. He kept altitude within a couple hundred feet, without looking at the altimeter.

We found Las Trancas (private airport on the coast) then dead-reckoned from there to try to find Bonny Doon (another private airport farther inland). Amazingly, we found it. It actually has an asphalt strip and everything! And apparently it's for sale. Hm. :)

On our way back, the clouds had moved in but were not horrible -- but, to be on the safe side, we went directly from Pigeon Point lighthouse to OSI.

I did some takeoff and landing practice just to make sure I didn't forget:

* My first landing was "normal" where I practiced greasing it in, cutting power gently and only when very near the ground. Worked well.

* Next, short field takeoff which was uneventful, and a short field landing where I sort of had a little bit of high-flare disease, but I was right on the money for my landing spot.

* Finally, a soft field takeoff, then a soft field landing which went pretty nicely.

Overall, I was pretty happy with this flight.

Friday, August 14, 2015

N181DF (1.7) DA40 Bay Tour with Rodrigo

This was 1.7 of time when I did much/most of the flying, but not loggable since I was not PIC (and cannot be, since I'm a Sport Pilot).

I went up with Rodrigo in Advantage Aviation's Diamond DA40. The plan was to learn about transitioning the SFO Bravo and try out a new airplane.

After takeoff, Rodrigo taught me how to adjust the propeller, throttle and mixture. This was my first experience with a constant-speed prop aircraft.

We were not approved for a Bravo transition, so instead we turned West and flew up the coast. I have so far been really scared of this route, since I imagined there would be masses of traffic all trying to squeeze into the "slot" between the surface Bravo and the ocean (not wanting to go too far out to sea). Well, it turns out there was some traffic, but not a whole bunch. Quite manageable and easy to see. We were talking to Norcal, so getting traffic alerts helped.

What was more interesting as we flew up past San Francisco is that we were directly in the path of KSFO Rwy 28 departures, and in at least one case, they asked us to hold our position because one such departure was not climbing. I was flying at the time, and I put us into an immediate left turn. The thought of a midair with a B777 or whatever was not pleasant! :) In any case, when I do this next time, I'm definitely going to be talking to Norcal.

We flew over the Golden Gate Bridge and towards Alcatraz, diverting a bit North to avoid a stadium TFR over San Francisco. Norcal asked our intentions, and Rodrigo said we wanted to fly over the Oakland Coliseum. That got us over to KOAK tower, who directed us to go to the Coliseum then overfly the Rwy 30 numbers, then proceed to mid-span of the San Mateo Bridge.

Rodrigo asked if I wanted to do some air work and I said yes. So, at that point, he asked to terminate flight following.

We then flew towards Sunol and, mindful of the SFO Bravo above us, climbed to 5500' over the Livermore valley area. He demonstrated a gradual stall, which was amazing -- the plane just mushed down and buffeted, but nothing even remotely similar to traditional stall was present. He then demonstrated a steep turn, and had me do some of my own. Definitely takes some getting used to -- there is really not much need for back pressure in the turns, even when pretty steep.

We flew back to KPAO via Sunol, with me doing the radio and Rodrigo flying, and demonstrating the use of the autopilot.

I was awe-struck by the Diamond. After the Flycatcher, it feels so roomy! The back seat on that thing is huge! We were cruising -- oh -- 110 kias, meaning about 125 mph more or less, at 9gph. That's 14 mpg, which is not great, but I guess it's not horrible either.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

N162HG 2.1 Flight to Byron with Rodrigo

I've been meaning to fly with various friends. This week, my family is away, so I have lots of time. I started the week with a bit of a virus or something, so I was not up to taking to the air, but today I felt okay. On the spur of the moment, I asked my pilot friend Rodrigo if he wanted to go flying, and we went off to the airport....

I thought my charts expired August 05 so I ran to get new ones, catching the airport store at the last minute. Then once I had them I realized they expired August 20, and the ones I bought were identical to the ones I had. Oh well. :)

I planned for 1/2 tanks this time, and we decided to go to Byron for some takeoffs and landings, and refuel there for the trip back. On the way there, Rodrigo took the controls and did some maneuvers to get a feel for the plane. He said the rudder felt "heavy", which of course mirrors my own sentiments on the matter. :) We did some pattern work, landed, got fuel, then did some more pattern work and returned. On the way back, I tried using Rodrigo's copy of Foreflight on his iPad to see how it felt; it was pretty nice.

One thing Rodrigo mentioned is that I tend to cut power around 50' up, dive for the runway, then arrest the descent. He was like, why don't you keep in power until the point where you start flaring, so you don't have this massive sink that you then have to arrest? I tried that and my landings became very, very smooth! Wow! Of course they were not short landings, but that's not the intention when you come in with power and a standard stabilized approach. I'm calling this my new "no artificial emergency" method of landing, where I do not create an emergency then attempt to recover from it.

I noticed that I am now much better at "automatically" calling out my untowered airport maneuvers. I am not so much thinking "wait am I on crosswind? left or right? ..." -- I just rattle out the right thing to say and it comes out correct without too much thought. "Byron Traffic Skycatcher 162HG left crosswind runway 23 Byron". Then I'm like, really was that correct? Yes! Wow, go figure!

All in all, I did 6 landings, and Rodrigo flew some of the cruise and maneuvers and our approaches into Byron and Palo Alto.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

N162HG 1.1 Sightseeing along the coast with Melissa

With our son at a friend's, Melissa and I took the opportunity to run to the airport for a quick flight. We departed Left Dumbarton from Palo Alto, got to the coast around Pescadero, then flew down all the way to Davenport, turned around and flew back, then came back to land at Palo Alto.

There were some clouds over Half Moon Bay that I judged, correctly as it turned out, would not creep over the mountain pass near the Woodside VOR by the time we came back. There was also a thick layer out over the sea, but we were able to sightsee while staying well clear.

I did a short-field landing. Melissa called it "bouncy" but I did not really bounce; she just was noticing the bump down onto the spring gear. I was almost stopped in, like, 200'; I had to quickly accelerate back and motor on to exit Bravo to get out of the way of landing traffic. Overall, I was pretty happy with my landing, except that I would have liked to see a higher/steeper approach.

Melissa took lots of pictures and enjoyed it, which was great!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

N162HG 2.5 Palo Alto to Byron

I tried to get my wife to go with me on this trip, but she was worried about leaving our son for a long time so I went solo. My plan was to go to Byron (C83), practice takeoffs and landings, and return.

The plane already had 3/4 tanks, so I was good to go. I took off uneventfully, and entered the Byron pattern on the 45 for right pattern Rwy 30 for my first landing. Meanwhile, there was a glider being towed into the pattern for landing practice (what a big pain in the butt for such a short flight!), and the constant stream of skydivers being dropped by a twin calling itself "Elevator 2".

On my first landing, the glider tow plane was like, "Skycatcher, you're waaay out there, guy!" I guess I was a bit far from the runway. I am usually too close on strange fields, so, oh well.

I did a total of 5 landings at Byron. They were uneventful but not artful; I ended up floating a lot due to the masses of thermals around the area (I think gliders call these "lift" -- I call them annoying bumps).

The big thing I learned today was how to hold my own in a busy pattern in an untowered airport. It's sort of a mess, with the glider folks calling out their launch procedure; Elevator 2 telling us what he's doing; people chatting about random b.s. that doesn't really belong on frequency; and the occasional hotshot coming in with a Bonanza and flying dramatic S-turns on final. The time available to get your few words in edgewise is not huge.

I did find myself more or less doing most of the pattern stuff automatically, without having to think about it. It was really nice to be able to get to that point....

I stopped for fuel at some point. I also tried to get water to drink; apparently the tap water at C83 is not technically potable, and it tasted like sh*t, but the dude at the airport said they added chlorine to it so it was fine, and I didn't want to fly dehydrated.

Part of stopping for fuel was having yet another experience with the infernal fuel credit card machines, which are the same everywhere, and which have totally busted and unreadable LCD displays, which is fine because you sort of get to know what to expect since they are the same everywhere.

At some point Elevator 2 wanted to come in for landing and said he was going to come in ahead of me. I offered to do a right 360; he said no then changed his mind. As I was turning, he was coming down in a dive into the pattern, which made for a very dramatic closure. He radioed "Exciting!" and I responded, "Woo hoo!"

On my trip back to KPAO, I was trying to get to VPALT by pilotage when I noticed the unmistakable burned grass in front of me, and with a quick GPS check confirmed that I was headed towards R-2531. Good to know. :) Subsequently, I used my GPS to navigate around KLVK's airspace (I was above them, but only barely). I guess it'd be nice to be able to navigate only by pilotage and paper charts, but in the busy Bay Area airspace, the GPS really does help.

I came home feeling tired and happy. But my only complaint is that this is just so damnably expensive. I wish I could find a really cheap plane to fly -- N162HG is nice, but it's fancier than I need. Then I would not feel guilty about long-ish adventures like this, and could afford to do them more often.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

N162HG 1.3 Sightseeing to KVLK with Aden

Today, KHAF was reporting clear (when does that happen, ever?) so we had the usual conversation in our family as to whether my wife or my son was going to go with me. My son won the argument, I guess, so we were off.

Winds were a bit on the high side (18kt if I recall correctly) but aligned with the runway enough to be below 7kt crosswind component. That sounded pretty achievable.

We did a left Dumbarton departure but, as we approached OSI and climbed, it became clear that the coast was covered in a layer of clouds with bottoms around 3000-3500'. I didn't really care if they were technically over KHAF or not --- the problem is that I didn't like the idea of sneaking under them and, possibly, having them move closer to the mountains and making it hard to get back home.

Aden and I had a quick confab and decided we'd go to Livermore instead. So, I turned back and asked KPAO to transition their airspace to VPSUN.

KPAO asked me to cross at or above 1500'; I crossed at 2000' and they told me to remain there. Of course, given that I was further South than I usually am, I entered ... can you guess? ... correct! the edge of San Jose's Class C! The tower controller was really nice and asked me if I was maintaining my current course, then recommended descending. I of course descended like crazy and turned clear. He then said, "Observe you are clear of the San Jose Class C, frequency change approved, have a nice flight!" Lesson learned, I guess. Watch for the magenta as well as the blue!

It was a bumpy ride to KLVK, but fun.

In the KLVK pattern, it became clear that they thought I was "Cessna 1 6 2 Echo Golf" ... which caused some confusion when they asked me to change from 25L to 25R in the middle of my approach. I have said my callsign so many times now that I tend to slur/hurry it, but as my friend says, it's the one thing that a controller cannot on some level predict. So, second lesson learned.

It was windy but not with a huge crosswind at KLVK, and my landing was okay -- I still had my early flare disease (am I ever going to get rid of this?) but it was safe. I think I really need to do more landing practice, on my own so I can concentrate, and try and refine my landing technique.

At KLVK, Aden and I went for a walk and then hopped back in and took off.

When inbound KPAO, our controller asked me if I wanted to do a direct right base, and I said yes. He mentioned specifically "at or below 1500'" -- maybe he was the same controller as before and wanted to remind me to stay below the San Jose C again! :)

A fellow aviator was flying a Yak in from the East, like me, and the tower sent him all over tarnation to get him behind me, including sending him on a left pattern, putting him on a long downwind, etc. Poor dude still had to do S-turns. The Flycatcher is slow. :)

For my KPAO landing, it was bumpy with a bunch of wind but not too much crosswind. I decided to try adding 5 kt to my approach speed, to 60 kt, to see if that would make the landing more gentle. It worked -- up to a point. I touched down gently, but then bounced up a little bit again. I guess the POH advice to use partial flaps for this sort of approach is worth heeding. Next time.

In summary: This was my first PIC flight in wind conditions a little beyond my solo limits (higher winds but not more crosswind), and I think I did fine. I sort of knew that, given that I have flown in all sorts of whacky conditions with my CFI.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

N162HG 1.3 Sightseeing with Melissa

My wife Melissa and I went out for a quick jaunt: KPAO right Dumbarton departure, over the Sunol hills South of KLVK, out to the Clifton Court Forebay near Byron Airport, and back again.

The hills had their normal share of up- and downdrafts, which was fine. The air over the Bay was quite bumpy though, which made for a bit of a less stable approach and less greasy landing than I would have liked to see, but it was okay.

The moment I started talking on the radio, Melissa started giggling at the radio jargon, and was having a hard time not giggling all the way through the takeoff! She later told me that everyone talks with this weird monotone on the radio, which is true and I don't know why we do that -- is it just the culture, or is it something fundamental to trying to get your information out quickly so as not to take up airtime on frequency?

In any case, she said she loved it, and lamented the fact that I'm a Sport Pilot and so can take only one of my family members at a time when it is now clear that they both love flying!

Today is my birthday, and I could not ask for a better birthday present!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

N162HG 1.7 Sightseeing to KLVK with Aden

This was my first-ever "real" flight with a passenger. Fittingly, that passenger was my son Aden.

We went to the airport early in the afternoon. There were some hiccups. For example, the LOW VOLTS annunciator would not show up during preflight on the G300. I flipped through the manual and checklists -- does it mean some important component which should be pulling down the voltage is not connected? No -- according to the checklist, that's normal. I asked for 3/4 tanks, and the fuel truck dude overfilled a little, which was fine -- we had weight margin to spare. (The convenient thing about the Flycatcher is that fuel and pax weight does not affect the CG. If it's fuel or pax, you can do the "W" part of your W&B and pretty much skip the "B" part.)

But the wind was getting up beyond 15 knots with a strong crosswind, exceeding my 7 knot xwind / 15 knot total solo limitations. I decided to scrub for the moment. Aden was a good sport about it.

After a family feast of Mexican food (#protip: all y'all stop reading this and have some birria de chivo right away, preferably at Taqueria Gonzalez in Redwood City), we went home and chillaxed. I noticed that the winds were starting to die down. I asked Aden if he was up for another try, and he was!

We drove to the airport, where I preflighted without event.

We took off with a right Dumbarton departure, went to the Sunol golf course (VPSUN) point, then basically flew around at 3500' sightseeing wherever Aden was curious. We went most of the way across the Altamont pass and back, went over the Del Valle reservoir and circled looking at the little recreational areas, and overall just checked things out.

I then needed to take a leak ;) so I called into Livermore for a landing. Tower said, "Say parking." I was like, um um. The FBO? The controller sent me to 25R. When we landed, it was clear the Ground folks knew that we had no idea where to go, and very nicely directed us towards the guest parking area.

We tried to push the airplane into the parking but it was difficult since we had not brought our towbar with us. We ended up sort of managing, but next time I'll just taxi in or bring the damned thing. We used the bathroom, ate some energy bars, then buttoned in and started up again.

While in the runup, KLVK winds were like 30015KT -- the crosswind was above my solo limits! Gefplatz! I could easily fly if I was desperate, but why risk it, and anyway, I have to have some limits. We sat in the runup for 5 minutes or so, and the wind became more gentle and more aligned with the runway, so we departed 25L with a left crosswind departure.

Our arrival at KPAO was uneventful. We were invited to make a right base for Rwy 31, and I was happy to see the red and white PAPI lights just so as I turned final.

Aden helped me push the plane back into parking, and we packed up and were off.

After so much training, the fact of flying with some person in the right seat -- even my son -- seems pretty routine. I guess the way the system works, we are not allowed to cart members of the general public around till we get to this point. So in some sense, this was pretty momentous in being a confirmation of a process I went through, but it did not feel momentous because -- well, I mean, it was a routine and relaxing flight. What of it?

I'm still very, very happy though!

Friday, June 19, 2015

N162HG SP-ASEL Checkride 0.7

This checkride was to address deficiencies from my previous attempt.

I filled out the IACRA paperwork again and showed the DPE my passport. According to my marriage certificate and passport, my middle name is "Abd-El-Hamid". That settles that.

I pre-briefed the DPE on how this was going to go. I said --
  1. This is a briefing more for myself than for you.
  2. I will fly this like a training flight, which means interrupting any demonstrations if I deem them to be unsafe, since I am a new pilot. If that affects the results of the test, then so be it. (He shook his head "no" at that point.)
  3. I would like to do a normal landing as a warmup first. (He said ok.)
He asked me, so what about last time made it not like a regular training flight? I replied that I should have called a go-around in the bounced landing rather than trying to stick it out for test purposes. He seemed happy with my answer.

On my first takeoff, my stall horn pipped just a little bit as I rotated, and I sort of mumbled in acknowledgement of that. My first landing was a greaser, stall horn squeaking and sliding in on ice. The DPE was like, "Wow! You must be happy with that one!"

The DPE then said, go ahead and demonstrate whatever you want to demonstrate.

I said I would do a short field landing. My second takeoff was uneventful. I was sent out on a slightly long downwind for traffic, but I established a stable final approach, more or less on speed if maybe just a tiny bit fast. My flare was just a little bit high but not unacceptably so. My nose waggled in yaw a little bit -- again, not unacceptably, but this is the sort of stuff I want to work on in my future flying. The DPE said "Ok".

I then said we should do our short approach. The DPE said I could cut power any time I liked, and we agreed I would do it about midfield. I had an uneventful takeoff, upwind to the auto bridge for traffic, then back again, and cut power. I established best glide at 70 kias, let us glide for a second, then turned and made for the runway. Landing assured, flaps down, slip like a madman, recover just barely over the runway, then hold it and be patient and float off the speed ... until chirp! I touched down very softly with the stall horn squeaking. I was talking to myself all the way down, in the third person, for every step. #whateverworks

I asked the DPE what we should do next. He said, taxi back to parking without hitting anything. I succeeded in that task, fortunately, and shut down, and he said "Congratulations!"

Thursday, June 18, 2015

N162HG 2.0 Bob

This was a final training flight to address checkride deficiencies.

We took off from KPAO and went to KLVK, where we flew a bunch of short approaches and takeoffs and landings. In summary, I was able to "make" all my landings and short approaches; there were no undershoots or overshoots, and no approaches were so bad as to require a go-around. One short approach looked like it might undershoot, but I just held my glide speed and made it, which sort of put me at ease about the whole scene -- between extending my glide time and slipping like hell, I figured I could, with pretty high confidence, make successful short approaches.

My first 2 landings on KLVK 25L were with a tiny bit of high flare, and Bob tells me this is because 25L is surprisingly wide (or, rather, that KPAO 31 is surprisingly narrow). I adjusted, however, and did fine.

We came back to KPAO for more landings and I again, I did fine.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

N162HG 1.0 Bob

This was the first of my remedial training sessions with Bob. First, he made me calculate what 75 pounds (say) of weight do to the stall speed. We know Vs0 is 37 kias at gross, 1320 pounds. At 75 pounds less, we have:
Vs0 = sqrt((1320 - 75) / 1320) * 37 = 35.9 kias
So I am accustomed to flying it with a stall speed of 35.9 kias, and it was 37 kias during my checkride. A difference of 1.1 kias in stall speed is not enough to noticeably change the characteristics and flyability of the aircraft.

Math doesn't lie. I am convinced.

So what else happened? I know I failed because of the bounce, and specifically because the DPE had to take the controls to save us from disaster. Bob discussed with me how it would have been the right thing under these circumstances to execute a decisive go-around. If the DPE says this was a simulated pattern emergency, where we simulate loss of power, I could reply that a true power loss situation would have been survivable with (possibly minor) damage to the aircraft. If at this time the DPE still wants to fail me, then fine, but at least I'll have a fighting chance. :)

Well anyway, all that is behind us. We took off with half tanks to do pattern work at Palo Alto.

And I failed ... to reproduce any of the bad patterns I had the day of my checkride. I wondered if I was having trouble judging HAT (Height Above Touchdown) correctly. I did that fine. I wondered if I could actually execute a short field landing with the "closer" aiming point the DPE asked for. I did. I wondered if I could execute a simulated emergency short approach. I did (but see below).

I had Bob demonstrate a short field landing, from which I learned a lot (keep more power in on downwind and base, aim for the spot, fly low then stall in). I also had him demonstrate a bounce and a recovery.

I then executed a sort of gentle bounce, which I recovered from and landed, and a huge teeth-grinding bounce, from which I immediately did a go-around safely.

The one problem I had was one simulated pattern emergency where I was coming up short of the runway and had to go-around. The reason was that we had 18 knots of wind down the runway and I failed to account for that -- I did the normal thing I do when there's no wind and allowed myself to glide downwind for a while before turning. So -- check, keep that in mind for the future.

Other than that, the other simulated pattern emergency was fine; I slipped aggressively and came in at the runway threshold, and for what it's worth, the subsequent landing was a valid "short" landing in its own right. That should tell me that, in the future, if I carry a slip to the ground and recover properly, I can land pretty short.

We go to KLVK for our next lesson to see if we can repeat the performance. Wish me luck.

Friday, June 12, 2015

N162HG SP-ASEL Checkride Attempt 1.6

I took my checkride today. To make a long story short, I failed:
Below is a narrative of what happened.

Preparation the afternoon / evening before

I completed the IACRA form paperwork, and collated all my forms in one place. I also went through my logbook, totaled all my hours, then wrote up a document describing item by item how my logged training meets the 61.311 and 61.313 requirements.

I completed an XC flight plan from KPAO to KMER as requested, writing up very detailed top-of-climb and top-of-descent calculations based on the aircraft performance, estimating gph based on forecast temperature, etc. I got an outlook briefing and filed a VFR flight plan at I computed a W&B -- it was tight because the DPE is a big guy and the Flycatcher is tiny, but we were able to squeeze in, barely.

I made sure I knew the PAVE and IMSAFE acronyms.

My CFI gave me only two assignments for that night: (a) get a good night's sleep; and (b) avoid stress. Things were going really well until there was a family crisis which required me being on the phone and lots of angst; my wife and I had insomnia as a result; and the upstairs neighbors were clomping around until very late.

Preparation in the morning

My wife made me a hearty breakfast and made extra, and I packed some scrambled egg sandwiches.

Paperwork with DPE

My middle name is "Abd el-Hamid" (عبد الحميد), a common Muslim name meaning, basically, "servant of Allah". My driver license spells it as "ABD ELHAMID" which is fairly reasonable. My student pilot certificate spells it "ABDELHAMID" because apparently the US government doesn't do names with spaces in them. The DPE had to call around to make sure the relevant discrepancies would not scupper the whole effort. I actually had a rather entertaining time at my FSDO earlier, for that same reason. Yeesh.

I got a full briefing for my XC flight plan on

My CFI and the DPE then went over more paperwork, got the IACRA forms filled out, and my CFI left.

Oral exam

The DPE gave me hints when he felt like I was almost at an answer but didn't quite get it. Overall, things were very friendly and congenial. I would assure anyone taking a checkride to not be worried about this part -- if you have been trained, and assuming your DPE is like mine, you will do fine. The following were the major areas of questions:

* Choose between a set of questions by color code -- I chose the "middle of the road" set.

* A middle of the road METAR to decipher; I had to look up one little bit of it but was able to figure it out.

* Inoperative equipment and how they affect the airworthiness of the aircraft. My advice here is be sure you know the "TOMATO FLAMES" FAR 91.205 and its limitations, and how equipment is marked inoperative and by whom and under what circumstances, and how that relates to regulations about maintenance in FAR Part 43, but do not waste your time memorizing what TOMATO FLAMES stands for. :) Much better to spend the time talking through all the various ramifications with your CFI for 10 minutes, which is what I did and it worked out for me!

* Point out locations on the chart with particular airspace visibility, and digging into my answers and making sure I knew the set of possible other correct answers.

* Show in the airplane Mx logs where important work was done. Basically, I had already filled out my club's maintenance checklist, and the DPE seemed mostly interested to know that I could point to actual log entries for the checklist items -- in other words, that I had filled it out myself and was aware of why these items were all in order.

* Questions about engine performance and aerodynamics, where the "right" answer sort of had to be teased out of me even though I knew the theory. On the other hand, this is one of the things where I know the theory very well and the answers still had to be teased out of me, so I guess the moral is, if you know your stuff, and can discuss it, you'll do fine.

* He asked me about how to recover from a spin. This, he said, was the one question where there was no leeway -- I had to know this, no hints or help. Fortunately, I did.

Discussion of XC preparation

Asked to see my route and asked why I had chosen it. I had chosen KPAO VPSUN VPALT O15 KMER. I explained that I wanted to stay away from "Desolation Wilderness" -- the hills to the East of San Jose -- since they are high and forested and do not afford good emergency landing locations. I also described how I was using small airports as waypoints but also "grazing" a larger Class D airport (KMOD) and setting a waypoint when abeam.

He seemed pleased with my choice to optimize for emergency landing locations, and said how much he hated it when people just draw a straight line from origin to destination.


I preflighted and verified fuel load. I was worried about running out of fuel, but the DPE said don't worry, we'll look at the fuel as we go. I indicated our likely practice area and used my chart ruler to show how much fuel we'd need to get back to KPAO, and I noted I would like to call Bingo at 1/4 tanks. With the DPE on board and with less than 1/2 tanks, we were at max gross.

I went inside, checked the METARs again just to be sure, drank some water, and ate one of my egg sandwiches for strength. My watch strap was broken so I failed to check what time it was; had I done so, I might have known it was getting late and anticipated I'd be more tired and hungry.

The actual checkride

It was a wicked hot day.

I started to enter my route into the GPS. He said we will not be using it since the PTS requires I use charts and pilotage. I was relieved -- I hate spending time being examined on the menus of arcane Garmin software. I flipped the knob so the right-hand MFD screen had the engine info on it, and kept it there for the rest of the flight. There, now we're a Piper Cub!

During taxi, he kept reminding me to taxi SLOWLY. This is a bad habit of mine -- being too heavy on the throttle while taxiing.

In my runup, he suggested I make a habit of (also) testing the engine idle with the carb heat on -- since that is a configuration I actually use and I want to make sure the engine does not cut out.

We departed Right Dumbarton without event, and I started timing my XC segments. At one point, I forgot to restart the stopwatch in my transponder, and he asked me, "how much time till VPSUN?" I did some quick mental math, adding up all my planned times so far and comparing to total flight time, and said "5 minutes". He was happy with that answer.

As we approached VPSUN, he asked me to plan a diversion to KSNS! That was way further than I expected a diversion to be, and I sputtered thinking, Salinas Salinas, where in the frack is Salinas? He was like, "It's not on your chart!" (I had my KSFO Bravo chart with me.) Ah, that Salinas. I've flown there before! I got out my sectional and with the chart ruler plotted the route -- surprisingly, it was pretty much a straight shot to Salinas from the vicinity of Fremont. Who knew? I gave him the numbers (fuel, heading) and he was satisfied with that.

Over VPSUN, he asked me to -- for-real now -- go to KLVK. I got the ATIS and entered the pattern for Rwy 25L without event. While on the way, he warned me to stay as high as possible over areas without good emergency landing spots, even if that meant dropping to pattern altitude a little bit late. No wonder he was so happy I routed around Desolation Wilderness! :)

He also kept asking me to fly slowly due to turbulence. He said he was worried the tail would snap off.

He called for a normal landing, but then on short final noted to me that there was a fire truck on the runway. I verbalized "Go around, go around!" and went around.

He called for another normal landing, and I did one -- but it was a BIG BUMP! I was rather frazzled by that but kept on keeping on. This was, it turns out, the beginning of the sadness.

He called for a soft-field takeoff and landing. I executed a good soft-field takeoff -- just the right amount of nose-up, no tail scrapes, accelerating just fine, remembering to establish climb and accelerate then ditch flaps, everything. Peachy keen.

On downwind, he asked me to pull to idle and pretend I had an engine failure. I verified with him that he was handling the radio for a short approach, which he did. I then started a slow turn towards final, which actually was a bit too early so I ended up rather high. I slipped like a mad devil to burn energy, keeping my speed down around 60-65 kias or thereabouts so I would not exceed flap speed and also so as not to be overspeeding once I got out of the slip. I must have exited the slip early, because I was floating quite a bit high over the runway and losing runway length fast.

I put the nose down a little to drop, but I must have done too much. (Later, he told me I should have just kept the nose where it was and been patient.) I ended up doing a bounce, then another, then ... he grabbed the controls and stabilized my bounce, just as I was saying "go around" and pushing full throttle. I ended up in a climb, but of course he had had to take the controls to save me from disaster. The damage was done. My shame was complete.

I did a run around the pattern and another landing, which actually turned out really nicely -- a greaser this time, perfect flare, chirp, rollout. He then suggested we go to the fuel island and fuel up.

I fueled up, feeling dismal and defeated. The fuel pump display was so hard to read, and the fuel nozzle seemed so heavy. The ramp at KLVK was baking hot. I went in and used the bathroom and drank a sip of water.

The DPE advised me to attach the grounding clip to the exhaust, not to the nose gear, for a more reliable ground connection, which was good to know. He also told me that, if you ever add 80 octane to 100LL, the result is transparent, at almost any mixture ratio! This ensures that mixing any gasoline in your tanks leads to a transparent "not right" color. Cool!

I noted this was the first time since 2014 that any CFI has had to grab the controls from me. I then said, let's go. He asked me if this officially meant I wanted to press on, and I said yes. He said this was good, to get back into the saddle.

At that time, I noted I was getting hungry, but the KLVK buildings didn't seem to have any food, and I'd failed to bring my second egg sandwich with me.... Bummer. But oh well.

He asked me to do a short field takeoff to a left crosswind departure, and we'd do a short field landing at KPAO, and air work in between. I called in and was given Rwy 25R. It seemed strange to get a left crosswind from the right runway, so I asked them to confirm. They were like, "You can get any departure you want!" :)

I turned to use maximum runway length, held brakes, and off we went. He called the "over the obstacle" point during my short field takeoff; I pushed over, accelerated, raised flaps and then established normal climb. I then turned crosswind at 1100' MSL, 300' below pattern altitude per the AIM, and we were off.

On the way, he again kept reminding me to fly slowly through the turbulence. He said he'd give me vectors, and we flew to VPSUN then turned out towards the Sunol pass and over Fremont.

He said, once we're over the hills, slow down a little. I did. A little more. I did. After a few rounds of this, I asked, is this slow flight? He said yes, I'm doing it bit by bit. At some slow speed -- nowhere near stall -- he asked me to do a turn, and using throttle to maintain altitude, I did it. He seemed happy. All that slow flight practice mad this "slow flite lite" exercise seem easy!

He then asked me to keep slowing down at constant altitude until stall, then recover. The resulting stall was very gentle, and I recovered fine.

He then asked me to go to KNUQ for ground reference maneuvers. He was handling the radio from that point on. Tower asked us to go North of the airport, where he pointed out a point and asked me to do a turn around it. Again, he wanted me to keep my altitude up till I was very close, in case the engine failed while we were over the Bay.

The point he chose was really close, so he suggested a power pole that was further away. I opened up from it a bit, picked my 4 reference points, and flew around it once without event. He then asked me to fly to the Shoreline Amphitheatre then do a short field landing at KPAO.

While I was approaching, he was pretty chatty. Throughout the checkride, I did not hesitate to merely smile and nod, but be quiet, whenever he was chatting and I needed to concentrate. This time I said something like, "Cool, maybe we can talk later and do the landing now," or something. I think (hope?) I convinced him that I was capable of maintaining a sterile cockpit.

He selected the landing point to be the end of the KPAO Rwy 31 displaced threshold. That threw me a bit since I usually put my short field touchdown point a bit more forward, but I tried for that anyway. As we came in, at 50 kias short field approach speed, I noted that we were amazingly close to stall! As I rounded out, my stall horn came on surprisingly early, and we bumped in rather violently. I was not happy with it.

We taxied back, with him again reminding me to taxi slowly.

When we shut down, he asked me what I thought of the soft field landing. I told him the aircraft was heavier than I've ever been used to it, and that although it's my responsibility as a pilot to account for that and adjust my speeds, I had failed to do that due to being unfamiliar and surprised with the feel of the aircraft. He said, "That works for me."

We finished the paperwork with him being on the whole encouraging.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

N162HG 0.8 Bob

Last flight before checkride attempt. Did some takeoffs and landings in the pattern at KPAO, and all went more or less well except for one soft field landing where I came down a little hard on the mains but still lowered the nose gear gently. Most of the lesson was on the ground, doing paperwork and endorsements, looking at the aircraft Mx records, and the like.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

N162HG 1.7 Solo

My goal today was (a) to practice some checkride maneuvers solo; and (b) to try to relax and feel proficient in flying, hoping that this carries through into my checkride.

The winds were beyond my solo limits so I waited around the club until about 1800h local when they finally died down, then took on 3/4 tanks and went out. I departed towards VPSUN uneventfully.

My first thing was to descend to 1400' MSL (1000' AGL) and do ground reference maneuvers. There was a significant wind (10-14kt, if I recall correctly). I picked a field that Bob and I had used previously and did more or less okay with the rectangular pattern and turns around a point. I started out a bit too close to the downwind line with the rectangular pattern, but corrected later. I tried to do S-turns but there was not really a good road and anyway I was sort of right at the edge of my 25nm solo radius, so I didn't do much of that.

I climbed back to 3500' MSL, circling to look for traffic. Interestingly, there was traffic passing by -- an aircraft going through the Altamont Pass towards Sunol -- so I'm glad I looked.

I then tried steep turns. All were within PTS altitude maintenance near as I could tell. I don't know how well I kept my bank angle, since I was not glued to the artificial horizon. All involved zooms and dives that had to be corrected; I think this is my weakest maneuver at the moment, even though, frustratingly, if I go back in this very selfsame blog I can find instances months ago where I did them just fine even without looking at instruments. The difference is that, back then, I was doing them near Half Moon Bay where I had a good horizon through most of the turn.

One of the things I've been doing differently in my steep turns is trying to make them coordinated; I didn't bother with that previously. It so turns out that I need consistent inside rudder to do so. As a result, I also need to pull harder than I used to, and I feel more of the g forces in my butt rather than partly in my side. All in all, it's a cleaner maneuver, I think, but I need to get used to it. Anyway -- I think I'm making PTS at this point and I can just hope for good luck when I do it in the checkride.

On a whim, I tried doing left/right bank coordination exercises (commonly but incorrectly referred to as "Dutch rolls"). I got sick to my stomach after just a few of these, but I could tell that I was "out of phase" in my rudder input. I don't know how I can practice these if my stomach won't let me. That all said, for routine everyday turns, I seem to do adequately in coordinating rudder and aileron -- I at least make the effort -- so I should probably just focus on watching the nose carefully during turns in all my future flying and keeping things coordinated that way.

I did slow flight without flaps. Altitude loss/gain was within PTS. For some reason, without the weight of a CFI in the right seat, it was harder to get to stall -- I think I'm accustomed to the speed with CFI on board, and I freak out about reducing further, so my stall horn was sort of warbling between its low and high pitch states rather than solidly in its high pitch. 180 degree turns left and right were uneventful, and I recovered fine. I don't know if I'd pay to watch me in an airshow, but this is not a problem maneuver.

I then did slow flight with flaps, with similar results.

I did a departure stall at 2000 rpm and recovery was uneventful.

A landing configuration stall with flaps in a left bank was also uneventful. I did not note how much altitude I lost, but I was able to recover pretty quickly without secondary stalls. I think part of that may actually be that I tend to "recover" at the first hint of a stall, so in a future flight with Bob I'll have to do at least one stall where I really muscle it in all the way.

I then returned to KPAO and did a normal landing on Rwy 31 with very little to no crosswind. I flared properly for once (!) and was able to turn off at the first taxiway without trouble.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

N162HG 2.1 Bob

KPAO to practice area near KLVK, did some air work (steep turns, slow flight with and without flaps), then proceeded to C83 (Byron) for closed pattern. Brief rectangular ground reference work in the vicinity of C83, then returned to KPAO under the hood while attempting unusual attitude recovery and demonstrating spatial disorientation with eyes closed. Took off the hood just before KPAO pattern entry and landed.

Steep turns were okay; got better when I paid attention to keeping my bank angle accurate throughout the turn, and using my "feel" for the correct amount of g force expected.

Slow flight was also okay; I am a bit slow to add flaps on entry, and slow to remove them on recovery, but within tolerances.

Do not forget: In the checkride, clearing turns on every maneuver. That cannot be emphasized enough!

Diversion to C83 was successful but I need to be more aware of pilotage landmarks -- specifically, Byron is right beside a huge lake, so notice that, look for said lake, and go there.

While entering the C83 pattern, I remembered oh, I should set my heading bug to runway heading. This made me come in a bit too close since I was futzing with my instruments. It is indeed useful to have the heading bug -- just add it to my approach checklist and be done with it early, so I can concentrate on the pattern when I'm in it.

Time in C83 pattern was stressful due to parachute jumper activity (call sign "Elevator"), lots of people coming in and out, and pilots using the CTAF frequency as a CB radio channel to chat with one another about their boats or whatever. I needed to be reminded to call out my pattern legs -- too much time at controlled airports where I don't have to! My patterns were all excessively close-in, which is a consistent problem for me. In the future, I think I will need to practice actually flying a crosswind and noticing landmarks around the airport for flying the pattern.

Today I learned that parachute drop zones are not always at airports. So the C83 drop zone icon on the sectional chart is right where it is relative to the two airport runways. The "Elevator" aircraft kept saying, "Jumpers away! Please do not overfly the airport!" -- that was confusing to me as I was still in the pattern and so presumably overflying said airport. Well it turns out the drop zone is sort of North-West of the two runways, and that's what they wanted us not to overfly. That stuff happens not to be detailed in the A/FD, so ... well ... consider it local knowledge gained.

There was basically no wind, so the rectangular pattern practice was sort of an exercise in nothing. :) The thing I noticed was that I had trouble visualizing where my entry was supposed to be given the prevailing wind. My goal now is to make some simple cardstock cheat sheets for my ground reference maneuvers, which I can hold up and re-orient as needed relative to the terrain to remind me where I need to be.

Returning under the hood, I had a tendency to fishtail around the magenta line -- generally because I did not have an integrated scan to maintain heading and course. Holding altitude and general course was not a problem.

Bob briefed me on unusual attitude recovery:
  • From a dive: (1) throttle idle; (2) level wings; (3) pull up.
  • From a zoom: (1) throttle full; (2) push down; (3) level wings.
He then demonstrated a nose-down unusual attitude and I was able to recover fine.

I then asked to try closing my eyes and demonstrating spatial disorientation. I ended up holding altitude quite well just by "feel" on the stick, but ended up in a 25-ish degree consistent left bank without knowing.

In the process, we also learned a bit more about the Garmin G300, including the ability to hit "Direct" and have it give you a direct course to your next flight plan waypoint.

The air was bumpy, and when landing at KPAO, I came in just a little bit slow and bumped down a little after the flare, but the landing was safe.

Friday, June 5, 2015

N162HG 1.3 Bob

Took off from KPAO and did a couple of landings, then did a right Dumbarton departure to KRHV. Flew along Hwy 680 and identified the VPNUM and VPEMB waypoints, as well as the technique to stay out of the KSJC class C airspace. Did short field takeoffs and landings at KRHV, then returned to KPAO via the KSJC and KNUQ airspaces.

This was a chance to remind myself of how the KRHV surface procedure works. Taxi off the runway, then tower says contact ground. Ground says taxi to runway; there is no holding T-bar: just go all the way to the hold short line and hold. Then switch to tower again and say where you are. You then eventually get your takeoff clearance.

My intention was to practice my landings at KPAO, remember "how" I did them, then repeat this at KRHV in an attempt to combat my ground shyness. By the end of a few circuits around, I had more or less gotten the hang of it -- not perfect by any means, but much better than before.

Protip: Remember to hold back the yoke while braking!

It's always fun to overfly KSJC at 1500' with Southwest 737s landing underneath us!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

N162HG 1.7 Bob

Flight from KPAO to the practice area near KLVK then back to KPAO.

2 off-airport emergencies. Remember: look for places to land while flying; the best place to land in an emergency may be that perfect field behind you that you just passed, rather than the desolate wilderness in front of you that you are stressing out about.

Slow flight: flaps late on entry, recovery good.

Rectangular pattern: first entry flubbed due to being way too close in. Went well when I flew far away from the field and entered cleanly. During the checkride, do not insist on finishing a badly started maneuver -- ask to go back and do it again! Second entry was good.

Turns around a point: 1st turn was a bit whacky but then did fine. Overall not a problem maneuver for me.

S-turns: was confused about where to turn steep versus shallow. I need to draw this out so I can remember it. Also my legs are not equal on either side of the road. I'm still doing this maneuver at least partly "by rote" rather than with reference to the ground.

In general, for cross countries, when passing an airport, tune the ATIS and get some data about winds and altimeter.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

N162HG 1.6 Bob

Flew from KPAO to VPSUN, then diverted to KRHV, did some closed pattern work there, then returned to KPAO with VFR flight following through the KSJC and KNUQ airspace.

Consistently coming in high -- because I am "ground shy" when in an unfamiliar pattern. I "survived" a simulated in-pattern power loss, but just barely -- by slipping so massively I was worried I'd fall out of the window. The problem is that the pattern at KPAO is a huge wide flat area over empty marshes, which look farther away; the moment I'm over houses or with rising terrain (both of which exist at KRHV), I feel like I'm going to dump myself into someone's front yard any moment. :)

My job for my next practice is to fly around the KPAO pattern and establish a "procedure" that works for flying my patterns. Then the next time I'm with Bob, fly that same "procedure" at some other airport and "trust" (but verify...) that it gives me the correct results there as well.

Monday, May 25, 2015

N162HG 1.4 Bob

Closed pattern at KPAO, different sorts of landings. Did okay except for my short field landings, where I was coming in too short for my "intended" point -- Bob said, why don't you just move your "intended" point further up, fly the same approach, and be done with it? Also tended to have trouble keeping the nose perfectly straight on landing. But generally felt better about things than last time.

Friday, May 15, 2015

N162HG 1.4 Bob

Bumpy day with some clouds -- Bob noted I should not do this trip if I were alone. We went out to KLVK, did some closed pattern work, then returned. Too bumpy to do air work.

Generally did okay in takeoffs and landings, but airport procedures were a bit shaky. Having trouble leveling off while ATC talking to me giving me a complicated-ish clearance. Flubbed my readback of a "cross 25L, hold short 25R" clearance.

Difficult day, returned somewhat dispirited.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

N162HG 1.0 Solo

Stayed in the pattern at KPAO, and did 7 takeoffs and landings. There was a slight right crosswind which picked up as the flight went along. On my last takeoff, while I was rolling onto the runway, Tower called the latest wind and it was right on the verge of my solo crosswind limitation, so I went ahead and took off but then terminated after the landing.

Takeoffs: 1 normal, went okay. 5 short-field, went okay, though I might need to do my initial climb more slowly (book technique is 55 kias, which is a scary deck angle!). 1 soft-field, went okay but was a bit sloppy on the nose up on rollout and nose down after takeoff; I would have liked to see a more crisp technique and see myself more in control.

Landings: 1 normal, my first one of the day, went okay, with pretty good crosswind correction. The remaining 6 were short field landings. Two of them were sort of undershoots (came up short of my intended point, the top of the numbers). One, my last one, was a hard early flare which would have been a great short field landing had I had the good sense to do it 2.5 feet lower.

For one pattern, Tower asked me to do an early crosswind to get out of the way of a King Air behind me, then I had to land in front of a Centurion that was already on an extended final. I was able to do that and adapt just fine, and did not mind that I ended up abeam the numbers just after rolling out of my downwind turn. My landing for that pattern was actually pretty good too. I don't have an explanation for this; maybe the unfamiliar pattern helped me concentrate on flying and I just sort of did it and pilot-ed up. I don't know.

Overall, I'd say my performance was safe, but the landings were not precise, marked by consistent ground shyness and early flares, which has been my bugaboo since day one. I think my crosswind corrections were good despite bumpiness of the air and different winds at different altitudes; I was doing the right "dance" on the pedals most of the time.

At some point I am going to need a CFI to demonstrate landings to me -- perhaps alternating between demonstration following on the controls and doing my own flares -- to (a) ensure I have the proper sight picture of a good flaring height fixed in my head; and (b) to watch me like a hawk and remind me of habits (rather than outcomes) of where to look on final and through the flare.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

N162HG 1.6 Bob

Took off with a Right Dumbarton departure. There were very strong winds, so Bob asked me to ask for an early crosswind 'cuz we were fighting the winds just to get to the danged bridge. We overflew VPSUN then went around the practice area near KLVK and did some slow flights. Turning while in slow flight brought us to the edge of stall due to pretty bad turbulence, so we decided to knock it off. We then returned to VPSUN and proceeded to VPKGO towards KSQL for closed traffic. Over the Bay, I encountered carb ice for the first time in my life; carb heat fixed it immediately. We did 3 landings under very difficult conditions (very gusty and strong crosswind) at KSQLl; one of the landings was no-flaps. We returned to KPAO and did one final normal landing.

* Slow flight: lost a bit of altitude in the entry to my first attempt; the next two were better. Considered a "pass".

* Landings: tough to do and my patterns were too wide at KSQL and too tight at KPAO, but considered a "pass".

Bob said I did well and all my work today had no "fail" points.

Friday, May 8, 2015

N162HG 1.2 Solo

Went to the airport for a solo, but the wind was 13KT at 40 degrees to the runway, so the xwind was out of my limits. So I went and stood by the runway for a while watching people's takeoffs and landings. One thing I learned is that little planes don't spend a long time rotated but with the mains on the ground. Which means that, in an xwind takeoff, with proper correction, the downwind main wheel lifts off first, but you don't spend like ten seconds rolling on the upwind main. You just sort of pick up one wheel then the other and off you go.

Back at the flying club, I checked the wind again and it had abated and shifted so I could fly. Out of the peanut gallery of CFIs checking me out, one of them was like, "Yeah, ask for a wind check at every landing!" His buddies corrected him: "Don't get creative!" As in, leave the poor n00b alone, he's had enough trouble for one day.

I took off with a right Dumbarton departure, then went off to VPSUN and onward to VPDAM, cruising at 3500', and motored up and down the area clear of the KLVK class D to do air work. Tower told me "frequency change approved, see you in a bit," which was friendly.

I sort of remembered to do my clearing turns. I think I had started doing steep turns before I realized, but from that point on, I remembered them. An improvement over forgetting them completely.

Steep turns were generally a piece of cake. I had dives and zooms but all within PTS -- some well within. I felt pretty good about these. One thing I am learning is that things work best when I use a touch of inside rudder to keep the turn coordinated and outside aileron to counter the spiraling tendency.

I tried slow flight with and without flaps. One time, I just fumbled and things seemed to be getting hard to keep under control, so I recovered and tried again. For 2 more, with and without flaps, I was able to enter and recover easily within PTS. I wavered in heading as I changed power settings, but it was able to correct and get back on heading, and my deviations were like +/- 5 degrees, not much more. I did 180 degree turns to the left and right in both slow flights. For the with-flaps maneuver, I was able to trim for mostly hands-off flight with intermittent stall horn squeaking.

I thought I had 1/2 tanks when I checked on the ground, but when I got in the air it seemed like only 1/4 tanks. Weird. Well anyway so at that point I was bingo fuel so I made for VPSUN, then returned to KPAO. I called in over Lake Elizabeth at 3500'. I headed for the bridge using headings from my paper chart, and started a 500 ft/min descent, turned over KGO and made right traffic as instructed. Overall, I was pretty happy about my approach -- I calculated my descent rate pretty well and reached the target altitude and came in at 800' on the 45.

I tried a short-field landing, and succeeded -- I had, I believe, a 13 knot headwind, so it was short enough that I had to add power to motor over to the runway turnoff before people got mad at me.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

N162HG 1.8 Bob

Departed KPAO Left Dumbarton to VPSUN, then did a couple of off-airport emergencies and air work over the valley away from the KLVK airspace. Then Bob diverted me to KRHV while I was over the Del Valle dam. I flew to the San Antonio reservoir then on to the airport.

At KRHV, I did 3 approaches, one resulting in a go-around, attempting a short-field landing. Generally did not succeed in the short field part, mostly due to not having the approach set up properly (unfamiliar airport). But my patterns became better.

On one upwind, I was told they would call my crosswind, but they "forgot" about me. Bob told me to maneuver clear of the KSJC Class C anyway.

Departed KRHV via the KSJC Class C. Was told by KSJC to fly over the Rwy 30 numbers, then head for the KNUQ hangars. KPAO then told me to set up for a straight-in Rwy 31. I was off to the right of centerline but did not correct until reminded by Bob. Flew another attempt at a short field approach, with better results -- barely made it within 200' beyond my intended touchdown point.

* Remember to do clearing turns without having to be reminded.

* Remember to listen for what the controller wants, and as PIC, compare with what I want. Remain clear of airspace, do not assume controller has it all under control. Think of my own flight path to the airport; don't just assume that controller's vectors are all-encompassing.

* Need to get into stable approaches with proper speed control. This has been difficult at unfamiliar airports, but I need to do better at this.

* Once I have decided on a course, fly the course and trust my own navigation. I was constantly flying "wrong" courses when diverting to KRHV. My map navigation is good; use it. Also, make course maintenance a second-nature habit.

* Steep turns were good.

* Off-airport emergencies were okay. Need to do the full procedure checklist, rather than freeze up. Remember, at best glide, ~ 500 ft/min descent rate, there's plenty of time to follow a checklist!

* A big off-airport emergency is poor judgement or calculation of altitude AGL. Use the altitude of the nearest airport as a guide for ground altitude.

* Slow flight was okay.

* Stalls were okay.

I have a solo planned. Things to work on:

* Some more pattern work.

* Remembering clearing turns.

* Slow flight and stalls. Positively hold the PTS standards. Watch for P factor when recovering from slow flight, especially at high pitch of no-flaps.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

N162HG 1.6 Bob

More work to get ready for my checkride.

Departed towards VPSUN. This time, I used the G300 GPS exclusively and did not mess with paper charts. Did slow flight with and without flaps, two emergency landings off-airport, and steep turns. Then I asked to go to KLVK for practice; entered 3 mile final from over the Del Valle dam and did a normal landing. Took off left crosswind and returned to KPAO for a no-flap landing.

* I had to be reminded to do clearing turns.

* Steep turns were within limits but altitude was wobbly.

* FAIL: During slow flight, I lost a lot of altitude once while slowing down, and once while recovering. During the slow-down, it was because I was "afraid" to be slow and added power too early. During the recovery, it was just inattention.

* Off-airport emergencies: These went okay, though I had to be reminded to do some of the checklist items (the items to restart the engine).

* KLVK: Went okay.

* No-flaps landing at KPAO: Over-estimated how much the plane would glide, and pointed the nose down and flew at 90 kias, so I was far too low (300') on most of my base leg and on to final. Incorrect crosswind correction at the end led to a skewed landing, and there was a bit of a bump due to a slightly high flare.

Monday, May 4, 2015

N162HG 1.9 Bob

Flight to practice checkride techniques.

We departed KPAO towards VPSUN as though this were a checkride XC. Around the Eastern edge of Fremont, Bob asked me to divert to KLVK. I circled, found the heading and distance, and flew in. We then did some closed traffic with short and soft field takeoffs and landings, and a simulated emergency short approach. We departed left crosswind to do some air work. We did some steep turns, then Bob simulated an engine out over Meadowlark airport. I picked a green striped field, but Bob said this was probably vineyards; pick another. I picked a yellow field, but was unable to make it. I then pushed on to another field, and in trying to slip, I busted flap speed momentarily. We then did rectangular patterns and turns about a point. I did mostly okay, though in one case I got the wind direction 180 degrees out and had to be reminded where the wind was blowing from. We then returned to KPAO. We encountered some clouds, with bottoms below our level, and Bob asked me what I was going to do. I had assumed I would sneak under them, but Bob noted it would not be optimal to go through the Sunol pass around 1500' MSL. I climbed to 3000' MSL then was able to burn off the altitude before landing at KPAO while still approaching the pattern at pattern altitude.

* Takeoffs and landings were okay. Tend to hold the nose a bit high and flare a bit too suddenly but okay.

* FAIL: forgot the flaps down on the short-field takeoff, and had to be reminded.

* Leveling off is shaky. Remember the procedure: anticipate and accelerate.

* Pattern emergency was okay.

* FAIL: emergency away from the airport. Failed to establish correct pattern (1500' AGL on downwind abeam landing point; 1000' AGL when turning base; 500' AGL when turning final). Said I did not have time to do engine restart, but actually I did have time. Failed to switch frequencies and transponder and broadcast Mayday. Failed to consult my GPS and recognize that I was over Meadowlark airport and could have landed there. Failed to make my intended field.

* FAIL: did not use pattern checklist. Need to show that I am using it.

* Also did not use post-landing checklist. Again, need to show that I am using it.

* During the diversion, I called into KLVK before entering their airspace so I was okay, but remember the AIM recommends calling into a Class D when 10 nm out. I could have called in as soon as I was asked to divert.

* Remember that, for emergency landings, yellow (dry grass) is best; brown (plowed) is second best; green is worst.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

N162HG 1.6 Solo

Closed traffic, 12 takeoffs and landings, just to brush up on basic landing and flaring techniques. I tried to work on the following basic "good habits" today:

* Being aware of the wind and flying a "correct" rectangular pattern with crab and awareness of the different turns.

* Consciously looking forwards for pitch even when "busy" in the pattern.

* Being aware of speed on takeoff roll, and rotating at 50 kias rather than waiting on the ground.

* Holding 55 kias on final, not allowing speed to decay.

* Paying attention to eye position on flare, looking at the horizon.

* Flaring less early, and when I do flare, not ballooning.

* During taxi, keeping both feet on the pedals, heels on the hinge and toes on the brakes, and using "taps" to turn rather than dragging the brakes.

* Remembering "lights, camera, action!" checklist prior to taking the active every time.

* Using proper wind correction during taxi.

I managed to do most of these things.

The flares got better as time progressed, but were not perfect. It was a bumpy day so there was a tendency to over-control as the wind shifted during my descent. I'd say my last 2 landings were pretty okay.

Due to traffic, almost every pattern was "weird" in some way, so I came in high or low lots of times. I managed to get good landings out of all of them, but on several of them, I did not have a stable 55 kias approach established early enough. On a couple of the approaches, I had to slip to burn energy.

Overall, I'd say I did okay and [re]gained useful skills. It was a quiet, warm day, with very little to no crosswind, so things were fairly relaxing and I could concentrate on just getting better.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

N162HG 1.2 Bob

More pre-checkride practice, this time a VFR flight to Hayward, followed by a bunch of closed traffic there, then return to Palo Alto.

It was a very, very, very bumpy and windy day. There was no way I would have flown by myself, but I figured so long as Bob was there, I'd use it as an opportunity to push my limits with wind.

I did better at finding the airport this time, noticing the pattern of built-up areas in relation to the coastline.

Takeoffs and landings were very difficult. I ended up flaring early most of the time. I was also slow on one of the approaches. I think I was very, very freaked out (in the sense of not wanting to screw up, not in the sense of being truly scared -- I actually enjoyed myself quite gleefully!) by the bumps and wind.

Overall, though, I think this was good practice for maintaining control under difficult conditions.

Friday, April 24, 2015

N162HG 1.4 Bob

Flew from PAO, Right Dumbarton, towards Sunol, then back to RHV, did some closed traffic there, then flew with VFR flight following through San Jose's class C back to PAO. In the process, got my first taste of hood time. 0.5 of simulated instrument time.

Bumpy day, but the instrument flying seemed easy enough.

Some trouble finding RHV. Need to continue working on more sophisticated pilotage than just "the airport should be in this direction, where is it?" Need to work more on noticing patterns of built-up areas, roads, etc.

4 landings total.

Friday, April 3, 2015

N162HG 1.1 Solo

My intention was to practice ground reference maneuvers this morning.

A CFI at the club advised me to go to NUQ to do them, so I did. PAO gave me a squawk code, and NUQ told me to maneuver North of their airport. When done, I got a straight in back to PAO.

There was basically no wind, which was a bit confusing. Plus I had hoped NUQ would allow me to maneuver over the airport, but they didn't, and the patterns of paths and power lines on the marshes to their North was jumbled and confusing. Well in any case, I did my best.

Rectangular patterns, such as they were, were okay. I was finally able to start my rolls when abeam the corner of my intended pattern, and roll out when abeam the corner in the next direction. Otherwise, with practically no wind and a jumbled pattern of schmoo on the ground, it was sort of hard to figure out.

Turns around a point were, I think, okay. I identified 4 points around my chosen most favorite power pole ever, and flew from one point to the next around the circle. It was hard to figure out whether I was judging distances from the pole correctly. I'd really like to demonstrate this with a CFI and actual wind and see how I'm doing.

Finally, my S-turns were educational, but I was not very happy with my performance. I was having trouble crossing the line in a proper wings-level attitude. It seemed like I would turn on the downwind side, when presumably I have to open out my turn to compensate for the wind, but then I would end up having not finished the turn by the time I got back to the line. I think I must just have been turning way too tight. I think one more practice session with a CFI would probably get me to PTS-survival levels.

I think I was doing fairly well coordinating my rolls.

I had a couple of instances where I caught myself "convincing" my turns with rudder, which I never thought I would do, but it's my destiny to commit every n00b mistake in the world, so now I know I can do that and I need to be on the alert to never, never, ever do it again.

I tried this time to focus on visual habits: Look forwards to get pitch and roll correct, then glance to the side for ground reference, and just relax and let the plane "fly itself" around the corners; there's no need to fight. I think I stayed within PTS altitude limits of ±100 ft throughout the exercise, and was mostly doing much better than that. I also learned to take my hand off the throttle and, when I do get into a slight dive, let it turn into a zoom and gain back the energy gently, and just ride the airplane's natural tendencies rather than trying to fight. I'm not by any means "good" at this yet, but it was certainly better than before.

On my landing, I tried to do a soft field landing (again). Once again, I flared a bit too high, though once again, it was not a nosewheel slam since I still had barely enough energy to arrest the nosewheel. I think my months and months of short-field landings must have taught me that this is the only way to land....

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

N162HG 0.9 Solo

Went out this morning specifically to practice soft-field technique. Early in my training, I had been consistently scraping my tailskid on the soft field takeoffs, so Bob advised me to not practice these solo. As a result, I got lots of experience with short field technique, but not soft field. This was a chance to remedy that.

The wind was nonexistent at the start becoming about 5 knots straight down Rwy 31, but it was very bumpy aloft. After a three-egg breakfast, my stomach was not pleased, but I was okay.

I did 5 takeoffs and landings:
  1. Shaky takeoff where for some reason I applied too much right rudder. Ok landing.
  2. Good takeoff, good landing.
  3. Good takeoff, slight tail scrape on landing (!!) due to excessive up elevator during rollout.
  4. Another shaky takeoff, pitch control in ground effect not as good as I would have liked to see, ok landing.
  5. Good takeoff, smooth landing (finally!).
At this point I was bingo fuel so I terminated.

In general, I think my takeoffs are okay -- they can be improved but I think, based on previous CFI feedback, that they would be a pass on the test.

All my landings involved a soft nosewheel touchdown even though some were harder on the mains than I would have liked to see. I would expect the tail scrape to be a fail, but it was a fluke and I don't think it will happen again.

I discovered what my problem is with these landings, especially given that I'm so accustomed to the short-field technique:
  1. I set up for an approach happily.
  2. Over the fence, I cut power. And I do mean cut. I yank on that knob like I was hookin' some darned old fish!
  3. Knowing that it's not yet time to flare, I adjust to maintain airspeed.
  4. My descent becomes way steeper, since energy is conserved, because physics.
  5. I see the ground rushing up at me and think, "Holy buckets o' buttermilk Grandma! We're about to crash!"
  6. Thusly ground-shy, I start my flare too early.
  7. I apply the "ratchet technique" to correct for my mistake, holding the stick where it is and waiting, then pulling more.
  8. Due to the dynamics of the situation, as well as my overall lack of energy, I end up coming down too hard on the mains.
I think I have developed a sophisticated technique for mitigating this problem:
  1. #srsly, dude, don't do that?
On my last landing, I kept a small amount of power in and flew the plane on a shallow glide path, almost to the ground, and it really helped.

Monday, March 30, 2015

N162HG 1.8 Dave Pre-checkride phase check

Today I actually did the flight portion of the pre-checkride phase check with Dave.

Dave asked me to prepare an XC to Chico. I thought he was being very sneaky, since it is barely tempting but not advisable or safe to try to sneak to Chico on the half tanks that the W&B would allow. :) Turns out no, he just picked Chico. Well in any case, it was a challenge precisely because I had to decide to split the trip in two. I planned for a stop at Yolo County. I entered flight plans and got briefings using my account at

The actual Wx was okay for our trip except that KPAO was 15G26KT, blowing down the runway but way out of my solo limitations. I noted that to Dave and we agreed that, in a real checkride, that would be grounds to scrub. He made sure I knew why (in the checkride, the examiner is there as a passenger, not as an instructor, so I need to be within my own solo limitations). Then we agreed to go do the flight together anyway.

My plan was KPAO VPSUN KDWA. I took off and scooted off towards VPSUN, then turned, and in the process got to my target altitude of 4500'. Then Dave asked me to plan a diversion to Hayward.

I circled and plotted our course to Hayward. Dave said my numbers were good, then said ok, let's go do some air work.

We practiced slow flight, stalls, steep turns and a practice emergency approach. Then Dave asked me to go to Livermore.

I puttered around the San Antonio reservoir while I got the ATIS and called in.

We landed at Livermore then taxied back and did several takeoffs and landings.

We were sort of burning through our gas, so Dave said let's go back to KPAO. I asked for a left crosswind departure, found the Sunol golf course, then made for the KGO towers.

Dave gave me a choice of a no-flap landing or power-off short approach for our last landing of the day. I chose the short approach. He cut power on downwind. I tried to learn my lesson from previous such attempts and did a fairly wide turn towards the runway, because the Flycatcher sort of glides and glides. A slip and flaps later, I landed.

Afterwards, Dave made sure I knew about spins and spin recovery.

The following is the debrief of how things went:

Diversion. "Good job"

Approach to Livermore. I fumbled around a bit looking for the airport, but eventually all was good.

Steep turns.  I was very worried about these, but they turned out more or less okay. I guess I was mis-reading the bank indicator on the PFD and doing my turns at 50 degrees -- Dave pointed that out, then said if I'm doing okay at 50 degrees, I'll probably do okay at 45 degrees. :)

Slow flight. Good but lost altitude during the recovery -- remember it ain't over till it's over!

Power on stall. Remember to establish takeoff speed first, then climb, then enter stall.

Emergency landing. Forgot to squawk 7700.

Incorrect taxi. (Fail) I taxied off the runway and onto the parallel taxiway at Livermore. We do this at Palo Alto because the runway exits are very short, but in general, you taxi off till you clear the runway, then wait till told to go any further.

Parallel runway incursion. (Fail) I kept flying excessively tight patterns to Rwy 25L at Livermore and kept encroaching on 25R. On one pattern, I actually lined up for 25R by mistake. Things went better when I learned to fly a larger pattern, but I still need to pay attention to drift on upwind.

Soft field landings. (Fail) I kept flaring too high and so slammed my nosewheel down on my short field landing attempt.

Approach to KPAO. I absent mindedly kept my altitude at 2500' all the way to the KGO towers while inbound. Had my route been different, I could have busted the SFO Class B. Dave noted he reminds his students to be at 2000' over Lake Elizabeth in Fremont so there is no question of getting busy at the last minute.

Power off to landing / short approach. "Good job"

Suggested next steps:

1. Work on soft field landings.

2. Potentially, become more familiar with more area airports?