Wednesday, March 25, 2015

N162HG 1.8 Solo

Training flight to practice air work based on tips learned from previous flight with CFI.

Was watching the Wx all day, noting that KPAO had a straight-on Rwy 31 headwind that seemed to increase by about one knot per hour. For some reason the Internet feed for the ATIS was intermittent, and I'd forgotten the AWOS phone number, so I had to go to the airplane and listen to the ATIS on the radio to get the latest. It was 11 knots direct headwind. But the KSJC TAF kept predicting things like 12G19KT, which would be out of my solo limitations. I decided that:

a. If it were my checkride, I would scrub based on the nearby TAF; but
b. I would confer with a club CFI to decide whether to fly today.

It was already after 5pm, so the CFI agreed with my assessment that, practically speaking, the wind was not likely to pick up massively, and that it would be safe to launch. The CFI confirmed what I would have decided for the checkride as appropriately conservative.

I took on 3/4 tanks and departed towards the coast. There were clouds over the Southern part of the coast, but the area from Half Moon Bay down to most of the way to San Gregorio was clear. I decided to practice there, and keep my eye on the pass Crystal Springs Reservoir, since that would be my route back home. The cloud pattern remained stable throughout the flight.

Slow flight with and without flaps. Doing better at maintaining altitude. The trick seems to be not to dawdle too much with slowing down. Add carb heat, kill power, and get into the slow flight regime asap. I was able to turn 90° left and right without stalling.

Steep turns. Doing better -- was able to be easily within PTS using mostly visual maneuvering. I think I'm getting over my test anxiety a little bit now, and returning to my usual happiness.

Power off stalls. These were pretty easy. I did not have any secondary stalls.

Power on stalls. I did these at 2100 rpm, which is plenty of power for the PTS required 65%. Things were much more gentle. I got lots of wing drops, but I trained myself to counter these with rudder (rather than whacking the stick back and forth and wondering why nothing happened).

Ground reference. I tried to find a field South of the Half Moon Bay golf course, and descended to it, but realized it would be too close to houses -- there was not enough space between the field and the houses. I climbed back up and decided I'd practice ground reference maneuvers at Leslie Salt like I'm used to.

I flew by pilotage following the highway, up to the Crystal Springs Reservoir. Then I plotted a course (120° magnetic) that would take me to SLAC. Unfortunately, I used the sectional, rather than the TAC, side of my plotting ruler, so it told me I'd take 10 minutes to get there, which seemed too long. En route, I got the KPAO ATIS. In any case, 5 minutes later (!!), I was over SLAC, and I called in to KPAO for closed traffic.

The wind was still a straight headwind down Rwy 31. I did a total of 5 landings, including short field, soft field and normal. I felt like I didn't have any problem with any of them. I was still reading 48-49 kias intermittently on my short field approach. I did not try a no-flaps landing -- I should try to practice that once or twice on my next practice flight, when I do my ground reference maneuvers.

I tried to pay attention to how I flew the traffic pattern with the winds. I do not usually correct for the wind on my crosswind, but only because at KPAO this is usually all of one second to raise the right wing, look underneath it, then turn downwind. I had a good wind to use to practice crabbing during base. For my turns to final, I was undershooting all the time. I reminded myself that I was much slower and so needed to actually fly a base. For my last base of the day, I ended up overshooting the centerline by maybe ten feet or so, which I think is better in that I was at least trying to judge the turn rather than turning early then sort of ovalizing and wallowing.

After shutdown, I realized that the Mx folks had forgotten to put the towbar back in the plane. #protip: It is impossible to push back an airplane that has a castering nosewheel without a towbar. I heaved and pushed and tried, and realized that it is just un-possible. I went in and found a club CFI who got me into the hangar where I found my towbar, and the rest of the evening proceeded normally.


  1. Warning: uninformed non-pilot armchair internet commenting follows.

    > For some reason the Internet feed for the ATIS was intermittent, and I'd forgotten the AWOS phone number, so I had to go to the airplane and listen to the ATIS on the radio to get the latest.

    Reading this, it seems to me that a portable (or at least not-installed-in-the-airplane) airband-capable radio would be a way to get the information promptly without relying on any intermediaries (outside of a charged battery).

    And I've heard of pilots carrying handheld transceivers onto the plane as backup, which would fit in nicely with the above use (testing your emergency equipment regularly).

    1. You are completely correct. I've had a Yaesu FTA-230 on my xmas list for a couple xmases now, but I chicken out at the end. Might be time to go for it.