Saturday, January 31, 2015

N162HG 2.8 Bob XC

Our second XC dual flight.

Bob asked me to plan KPAO KMOD E16 KPAO, which I did. I think I have a bit more of a handle now on how much to be "precise" with the calculations -- it's possible to make them really difficult with every possible interpolation and wind correction.

Some of the planning has to be done the day of, to get the right winds aloft forecast. I allocated 1/2 hour at the flying club to do it, but that ended up not being enough so I had to work while Bob waited, which I sort of don't like to do. Also, I thought I had had a decent lunch, but it was a sort of BBQ chicken thingey, which ended up not sticking to my ribs, so I was hungry for the entire flight. And I had failed to make sure my flight bag contained energy bars, which are usually the rescue ingredient. Oh well. More coffee, and off we went.

Our trip to KMOD was uneventful. I ended up having a bit of an overly long leg in my plan from VPALT to KMOD, so my dead reckoning and my GPS ground track did not agree exactly. But I got there eventually, called in and landed.

They asked me where I wanted to exit, the "terminal side" or the other side. I was like, the terminal side of course. I needed to go pee (recall the coffee). Bob tried to speak but I was like, no, I got this. I'm Pilot In Command [tm] and I'm like all over this baby. We ambled over to the terminal side, at which point he pointed out to me that it was actually the other side that had facilities; the "terminal" was defunct and closed. So we ended up going through the gate to find a place to pee, and failed. I told Bob to just go back to the plane while I found a happy tree to make happier. Eventually, we strapped back in and taxied off.

The ground controllers were bored and asked me about the Flycatcher; was it my plane?

We took off and departed for E16 according to my well-laid-out plan. Then Bob was like, divert to Gustine! Umm, okay. I sort of fumbled with a heading and sort of got there. Me: Oh look at the hangars! Bob: These are the chicken coops. The hangars are these little things over there.

We did an overhead approach but, as I turned, I sort of lost track of where the danged runway was. Eventually, I found it, and landed without event. Wow, what a tiny little hole in the wall. It had a "Pilot's Lounge" somewhere. Crazy.

We took off again and headed towards what I imagined would be E16. My next waypoint was a bunch of warehouses at the Southern tip of Gilroy, right around Highway 101. We ambled over the top of the San Luis Reservoir and I was about to turn towards the next waypoint, when Bob was like, let's go to Frasier Lake Airpark!

We motored along in the general direction of the place, and eventually found it. There's an anchor icon ("seaplane base") on the chart. Bob was like, that's a hint! I did not get the hint ... until he pointed out the large ditch of water running parallel to the runway. And there was a grass runway and an asphalt taxiway -- go figure. This was my day to visit weird airports.

We flew overhead then swung out very wide and came back in on the 45 for right pattern Runway 23. On final, the sun was in my eyes, reflecting off the silly ditch of water (and since the ditch was parallel to the runway, the point of reflection "followed" me wherever I went). I managed to do some semblance of a soft field landing with Bob warning me that I was off centerline and was about to hit the sprinklers by the side of the runway.

I learned to hold the nose up while going over the bump from the grass to the asphalt, and taxied back for a soft field takeoff. No stopping, stick back, lift off asap then build up speed. I am not sure I did it massively precisely but I did okay, I think.

Now Bob said, let's just overfly E16 and make direct VFR into KPAO with flight following. I called into Norcal Approach uneventfully, and they gave me a squawk code and everything. I decided to make for the Pruneyards, VPPRU. Then at some point Norcal asked me whether I was going East over Reid-Hillview or West. I was confused, till Bob pointed out to me that my ground track was nowhere near VPPRU. I had just sort of guessed the direction and went, without looking at my chart or correlating with intermediate waypoints. Bob pointed out the Calero Reservoir, which is very distinctive and on my chart and could have been a good waypoint. He helped me find the Pruneyards, which are a couple of whacky dark colored buildings.

KPAO runway 13 was active, so they asked me to join right downwind (the city side, 1000' pattern altitude) to land. Landing was normal (not short or soft field) and uneventful. I have acquired the habit of landing at 50 kias, the short field approach speed. Bob reminded me that, unless deliberately doing a short field landing, I should be at the recommended 55 kias normal approach speed.

In the debrief, Bob noted that I have acquired a nasty habit of dragging the brakes on my takeoff roll. I need to deal with this. He also noted that I can use a nearby VOR to get an approximate magnetic heading off my paper chart. He said this was a pretty high workload flight, all things considered, with all the diversions, so I did more or less okay. He thought our next XC could be solo -- w00t!

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