Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dave Pre-checkride phase check

Phase check for my SP-ASEL checkride with Dave.

We met to discuss theory a couple of days ago, but our flight was scrubbed due to Wx. We met today to try to do the flight, but Wx was not ideal. As it turned out, after talking, we decided I was not ready anyway, so we decided to postpone the flight.


I did fine on that. The test was more of a discussion than a straight rapid-fire Q&A, and Dave said that would be the case on the actual checkride as well.

Flight discussion

On our first attempt to fly, I looked at the Wx and noted a 13 knot xwind. Dave asked, so can we fly? I figured hey, I have a CFI with me, so sure. Dave hinted about what the aircraft's crosswind capability is. I looked in the POH and it had only 12 knots demonstrated. Oh. So I guess no. (On further reflection, flying in even a 12 knot xwind in a Flycatcher would be challenging, to say the absolute very least.)

On our second attempt, today, I had sort of prepared and briefed a flight plan the previous day, but did not update it, thinking oh well, we're just going to fly around. The plan was to KSNS via the Woodside VOR, and Dave had said we'd be diverting as soon as we got to Woodside. Dave asked me if we could fly today. I said oh, the bottoms are reported around 3000' so sure why not? He asked me what altitude we needed to be at to overfly Woodside. Hm, at least 3500'. Oh. So I guess no.

So right away, one of my deficiencies is being absolutely 100% clear about Wx issues.  I need to be much clearer and more deliberate about this.

Another thing I did not understand, but now do, is that for my checkride, I am flying solo (with a specific exemption to carry 1 passenger, the examiner) and so I still need to be within my solo limitations. This actually simplifies things a lot -- I can just do all the planning as I normally do.

We then discussed the actual flying. I noted to Dave right away that I felt I was inadequately trained in slow flight and ground reference maneuvers. I could fly slowly, and I could fly around the ground, but the specific PTS "airshow" maneuvers were still pretty new to me, both in the "theory" of how they are done and the practice of flying them.

I had a checkride planned in a couple of days; we decided to postpone that. I've been sick for the past couple of weeks and the Wx has not cooperated. I have not had the practice that I needed to be truly ready.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

N162HG 2.2 Solo

I ignored Bob's (and others') advice to keep my lessons short, and did 2.2 of solid short takeoffs and landings -- 16 of them to be specific -- in the pattern at KPAO. It was early-ish morning and rather quiet. My checkride is coming up in a few days and I'm really eager to drill the last deficiencies out of myself come hell or high water.

Early in the day, there was no wind but it was bumpy. I got into a habit of flying at 55 kias for a "normal" approach, cutting power and slowing to 50 kias when "over the obstacle", and aiming for my spot. With no wind, aiming for the beginning of the runway grassy area was probably the best, and would get me a touchdown just beyond the numbers. I ended up getting a "Nice landing, Skycatcher" from a waiting Cirrus. Nice!

Later, the wind started picking up. I had one landing where I didn't realize I was in an xwind, corrected a bit too late, and over-corrected back, and came down on one wheel. I got an "Ooh!" from someone on the parallel.

Good to know there's a peanut gallery. :)

Towards the end of my day, there was a pretty steady 6-ish knot headwind, and I was able to target the runway threshold and touch down, again, just beyond the numbers.

So I think these are my no-wind and moderate-wind setpoints for executing the maneuver for my checkride, and hopefully as I progress post-checkride I can move on to being able to make my judgements for more varied conditions and with greater precision.

As I was leaving, the CFI who looked at my paperwork asked me how it went. And ... reminded me that part of short landings is ditching flaps and braking after landing, not just floating down. I've done this before, but for some reason it escaped my mind today. In the next couple of days I have some more flights, and I'll try to do this "ritual" once or twice and I think that should be it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

N162HG 2.2 Solo XC

I did my solo XC today. My route was KPAO KSNS E16 KPAO


The Sport Pilot student life is the life of a thousand endorsements. My CFI had to write up two full 8.5x11" pages of endorsements, for each Class C and D, each airport, each everything so that I could do my XC. And everything has to be renewed every 90 days. Finally, we got all the paperwork done.

I filed a VFR flight plan via, prepared my routes and drew them on my charts, and calculated fuel.


Route was KPAO KSNS OSI VPLEX KWVI KSNS. I planned on 3500'. My CFI warned me that the OSI VPLEX leg was over forested high terrain and suggested I climb to 5500' as soon as clear of the KSFO Class B shelf.

I took on full fuel at KPAO as planned. I also entered my flight plan into my GPS (one of my goals prior to my checkride being to know how to operate all the aircraft's gewgaws).

Runway 13 was active. I asked for a right crosswind departure, but was told to expect a left 270. I departed without incident, and doing a climbing turn high over the airport with everything spread out below was a very beautiful experience.

I flew to OSI, climbing to 3500' when appropriate, and successfully called Oakland Radio to open my flight plan. I then switched to Flight Watch 122.0 and turned towards VPLEX.

Flight Watch was quiet except for someone calling and being told that they should be contacting a FSS instead.

My CFI was right -- the terrain under me was forested and not friendly to emergency landings. I looked on my GPS and chart and could tell I'd be clear of the Class B when abeam KNUQ, but where exactly I was not 100% sure, especially since my GPS didn't seem to have the Clas B circles annotated with heights, so I delayed a bit. I ended up climbing only when under the 8000' shelf when I could have climbed earlier under the 6000' shelf. In any case, I climbed to 5500'.

At VPLEX I turned towards KWVI. It seemed like my wind correction angles from my flight plan were always too much, and I was getting to my waypoints faster than planned. I think the aircraft's performance charts are written for gross weight, so 2550 rpm in a lightly loaded plane makes for zipping along. I was reading 100+ knots IAS at altitude, and I had planned on 100 knots TAS, so no wonder I was zipping.

After KWVI, I got the KSNS ATIS. Abeam the Moss Landing powerplant, I wondered how far I was exactly when calling in to KWVI. I decided not to futz with it and just say the reasonable thing: approaching from the North abeam the powerplant (I forgot its name!). That seemed adequate for them. I was cleared for a straight-in and warned of some opposite traffic that was doing a missed IFR approach. I landed without event.

On the ground, I asked, "2HG would like to change frequency to close a VFR flight plan." I was told, "Approved as requested." I talked to the FSS via the frequency on the Salinas VOR; the FSS folks were like, "I take it you are on the ground at Salinas?" Yes, thank you. :) I got back on frequency with Salinas tower.


Route was KSNS VPGIL E16, with a checkpoint crossing Highway 101.

The flight up to VPGIL was uneventful. I got the E16 AWOS and needed to call in to South County Traffic. I looked at my flight plan, which had a distance for the last leg, and reported with that distance. I then descended to pattern altitude and flew towards the hills, expecting to make a 45 entry. The G300 kept caterwauling about "terrain terrain, caution caution!" -- I need to make sure to disable that before having passengers, otherwise it would probably seriously freak them out.

Runway 14 was active even though there was a tailwind. The pattern was pretty busy, and folks were all pretty confident and cutting it fairly close in terms of takeoff and landing sequencing. I joined the pattern and made one approach, but unfortunately ended up very far to the right, so I decided to go around. Keeping track of everyone in the pattern while flying was very challenging: On my first base leg, I noticed my speed went down a little bit -- not below my final approach speed, but still not what I usually carry on base. My second pass was successful and I made an uneventful landing. I could sense that people were feeling a little sorry for me after my go-around and were being extra nice. :)

I went to the Southern parking lot (eschewing the "transient parking" sign) -- that's where we went when I was there with my CFI. I shut down.

I ate a cheese sandwich my wife packed with me, took some selfies and posted them on Facebook, used the Port-a-Pottie, and drank some water from the hose in the airplane wash station.


Route was E16 (Calero Reservoir) VPPRU KPAO, 2500'.

By that time, the collective wisdom of the E16 pilot hivemind had determined that the active runway was 32. I was hesitant on the taxiways, always erring on the side of caution, till I figured out where was the proper place to taxi to and do my runup. Of use in that regard is the ability to hold one brake and spin the Flycatcher around pretty tightly. It helped me get into and out of the runup area, then position myself to see the final approach.

After takeoff, I called into Approach and got a squawk code. The flight was uneventful through and past VPPRU.

KNUQ Tower said they had parachute jump ops and asked me to stay 1 mile West and South of Hwy 101, which was easy. At some point, they gave me some direction about a flyway or something. I know what a VFR flyway is, but I had no idea where any nearby ones might be or what they wanted me to do, so I just confessed, told them I did not understand, and asked for vectors. They said, fly 270 for 2 miles. Roger, that I can do. I turned, judged that 2 miles was just over a minute or so, and set my stopwatch. Eventually they asked me to locate Hwy 85 and follow that into KPAO, which was easy to do.

KPAO gave me straight in to Rwy 31, as expected. There was a crosswind, and I feel like my crosswind landing was a bit sloppy (definitely 100% safe but did not look or feel solid to me). I started flaring a bit early, which I corrected using the "ratchet stick" idea of just holding the stick and waiting. I landed quite short and exited on taxiway Bravo. Except ...

PAO Twr: [slightly annoyed] Skycatcher 2HG continue all the way on to Zulu, you're still on the runway, and start your taxi via right turn on Kilo and monitor ground, good day.

N162HG: Roger 2HG, I was trying not to squish a ground squirrel, sorry.

PAO Twr: [long sigh off frequency....]

I taxied and shut down.

General notes

Overall, during cruise, my altitude station keeping was okay but not great. I'd say +/-150' or so. I "took immediate action" when I noticed a deviation, but any time spent looking at charts or plans or whatever would cause immediate float.

I had trouble trimming for cruise. Partly, there were lots of hills with updrafts and downdrafts. But also, I tended to "hunt" for my setpoint with RPM and trim. I will need to work on that.

Leaning to max per the POH was hard given the constant working of the throttle. I think I did okay but I can do far better.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

N162HG 1.3 Bob

Took off from KPAO, practiced emergencies South of Half Moon Bay, diverted to KSQL, then returned to KPAO.

Did several practice engine-out emergencies, including selection of a landing spot. All were deemed okay except for one where I would have undershot the field and landed on a bit of a berm.

Rehearsed the procedure for an engine-out, which should be 100% second nature without ever having to think about it, and is just purely logical:
  1. Slow to Vglide
  2. Select a spot to land
  3. Turn towards landing spot
  4. Debug the engine
    1. Mixture rich?
    2. Fuel on?
    3. Mags left? right? both?
  5. Secure the engine
    1. Mixture cutoff
    2. Fuel cutoff
    3. Mags off
  6. Guard 121.5, Mayday
  7. Now STOP messing with crap, concentrate on flying
  8. Land the plane like you were trained to do and have done a million times
The procedure for electrical failure, which in the Flycatcher kills all the instruments, is also something that must be committed to memory:
  1. Fly the plane

Saturday, February 7, 2015

N162HG 1.1 Bob

Local training at KPAO to brush up on soft-field, short-field and no-flaps landings.

Now able to do soft-field takeoffs without scraping the tail.

Short-field landings were okay; basically determined that there is nothing magically wrong or right about my technique. I should determine where my touchdown and aiming points are, then just plan on adjusting my aiming point. I need to practice this.