Tuesday, March 17, 2015

N162HG 1.9 Solo

My intention today was to practice my non-emergency air work for check ride prep.

When I arrived, the METAR was reporting winds 34010G19KT, which I cannot fly in. I waited till the next update, when they became 33015KT, which seemed fine. I looked at nearby METARs and the KSJC TAF and predicted the wind would die down, so I decided to go. I then talked to a club CFI who confirmed my choice.

The club's online system said the plane was overdue for its 100-hour inspection. I got worried and asked the folks; they said oh never mind, we do inspections every 50 hours anyway. Hm. Oh well. :/

I preflighted and took on 3/4 tanks.

I departed Left Dumbarton, went out to OSI and then continued towards San Gregorio. There were scattered clouds over the land West of the mountains.

I then went up and down the coast doing a bunch of practice, all at 3500' nominal starting altitude:
  • Steep turns. I was doing this within PTS most of the time, but still with more zooms and dives than I would have preferred. I did lots and lots and lots of turns, ending up rather sick to my stomach from all the rolling.
  • Departure stalls. These were fairly easy to do, though a bit scary given the crazy deck angle I had to maintain.
  • Arrival stalls. These scared the crap out of me, especially because, for some reason, today, N162HG kept dropping its left wing. Being a Cessna, it would drop its left wing then mush, and sort of politely wait for me to do something about it. But in that wing drop, the ailerons were not at all effective, which was the scary part. I assume the right thing to do would be to use rudder to correct, as in the "falling leaf" maneuver, but I have not tried that yet (and have no plans to without a CFI).
  • Slow flight without flaps. I ended up losing up to 120 feet in the entry to slow flight, and once lost, it was really hard to gain it back. Otherwise, I was able to buzz around fine with my stall horn squeaking intermittently. I stalled once or twice and, again, dropped the left wing, which was again scary, but again nothing bad happened.
  • Slow flight with flaps. Much easier; I don't think I stalled on those. But otherwise not hugely eventful.
By that time I was over the Pigeon Point lighthouse, and I headed back for OSI. Some clouds had gotten in the way, so I climbed to 3800' (Class B shelf is 4000') to clear them by a wide margin. In any case, neither my solo nor my Sport Pilot license allows me to fly "VFR on top", so I looked for paths through where I could fly with reference to the ground. By the time I crossed the hills, I was quite a bit South of OSI, and honestly was not exactly sure where I was, though I could see both KPAO and KNUQ hangars. At that point, I should probably have gotten a bearing to one of them, plotted on my chart, and noted that I was at the intersection of that line with the hills!

I called in to KPAO and was eventually told to just make a left base for Rwy 31. Winds were around 26010KT, if I recall correctly, so there was a noticeable left crosswind and a bunch of bumpiness on the way down. I did a normal (not short-field) landing. I ended up touching down a little bit left of centerline, and I was still being a bit wobbly rather than rock-solid as I'd like to be, but I think I actually put the left wheel down first like I'm supposed to.

Overall, this was a rather hard slog. Lots of rolls, back and forth, and lots of high pucker factor stuff with the stalls and the wing drops. I felt pretty tired. I also feel sort of afloat and at sea regarding whether I actually meet PTS, on average, in my maneuvers. I think I really want to go ahead and have at least a pre-checkride "phase check" as soon as humanly possible.

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