Wednesday, January 7, 2015

N162HG 1.6 Bob

I have asked Bob to give me some night and hood time before I allow myself to carry innocent passengers. This is not required for Sport Pilot, and I have no intention of taking my Flycatcher out at night or into IMC. But in case the need arises for whatever weird reason, I don't want the time I have to do it in an emergency to be my first ever.

Tonight was my night practice. We went from KPAO to KHAF, did 4 landings at KHAF, and returned for 2 landings at KPAO.

It was really, really different. I mean super different.

I realized that I really needed a headlight if I were to do this often. My fancy machined aluminum red/white Smith and Wesson Captain's Flashlight, while fancy and made of aluminum (did I mention it's machined?), is inconvenient to pick up and point every which way while in the cockpit. And by the way, pencil on paper is not easy to read by the light of a dim red LED. Now you know.

We did an overhead entry to the Rwy 30 right pattern at KHAF, to avoid having to fly close to the mountains at night. Oh the mountains. Did I mention Betty? My Garmin 300 companion, ever faithful, kept saying "Caution caution, terrain terrain, pull up pull up!" She does that all the time at KHAF, but this time it was doubly disconcerting because I could not see anything. Well, I could see the ground underneath me, but there was a lot of "I've been here in the daytime and I know I'm very far away from any obstacles" going on.

It was fun to click the radio PTT and turn on the lights at KHAF!

Apart from one approach at KHAF where I flubbed my pattern and overshot so much that there was no way I could land, and one landing where I seem to have fixated on my landing light lighting up the runway and forgotten to flare, I did sort of okay. The various and sundry illusions that are supposed to plague landing pilots did not seem to hurt me that much. But then again, I was at least fairly familiar with the airports where I landed.

We came back to KPAO via the Crystal Springs Reservoir. Bob noted to me that, if I can see lights ahead, it means I'm not going to hit anything between them and me. Check. I also noted that, had I not known better, Menlo Park looked like a lake, and there was this little light somewhere that I would have sworn was a boat. The marshes South of KPAO looked just pitch black and indistinguishable from the Bay proper, of course.

One illusion I did get to experience is the false horizon. For some reason, I had this idée fixe that the various shorelines around me were just so, and would line up my "horizon" to match. But I was not level. Bob kept reminding me to use my instruments.

I got to experience the surpassing dimness of runway lighting -- as Bob noted, the airport is the darkest spot in any given city!

It gave me a chance to also do some dual with Bob, and for Bob to renew my solo endorsement. Apart from various critiques (not being trimmed at some point, overshooting altitudes a bit), Bob said my flying was okay for someone with my experience. He even complimented me on my nice smooth flying and one of my landings!

I am also planning to do a cross-country (KPAO KSNS KCVH KPAO) on Saturday with Bob. For that, I need to prepare. Some notes about what I need to do --
  1. We will plan as follows --
    1. KPAO OSI KSNS, fill out a complete VFR flight log.
    2. KSNS KCVH will probably not require flight following.
    3. KCVH KPAO will be with VFR flight following and will transition KSJC Charlie.
  2. Either carry an A/FD or print out information for all possible alternates.
  3. Draw the route on both the sectional and TAC.
  4. Highlight checkpoints on the charts. Plan for 10-15 minutes between checkpoints.
  5. On the route, draw in 2-minute tic marks.
  6. Remember there are 3 kinds of navigation:
    1. Pilotage
    2. Dead reckoning
    3. Navigational aids -- we do not have VORs in the Flycatcher!
  7. Bodies of water, railroads and roads are good landmarks, but remember you cannot tell which ones they are.
  8. You will only recognize an airport if you're on top of it or on extended final. Otherwise, it's hard to see!
  9. Plan to be at pattern altitude a couple miles away from an airport.
  10. Mark start of descent -- assume (say) 500 ft/min descent.
  11. Need a DUAT[S] account, to get a briefing.
  12. Remember FSS is available on the Mountain View RCO.

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