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 DUAT.com, 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.

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