Saturday, June 27, 2015

N162HG 1.3 Sightseeing with Melissa

My wife Melissa and I went out for a quick jaunt: KPAO right Dumbarton departure, over the Sunol hills South of KLVK, out to the Clifton Court Forebay near Byron Airport, and back again.

The hills had their normal share of up- and downdrafts, which was fine. The air over the Bay was quite bumpy though, which made for a bit of a less stable approach and less greasy landing than I would have liked to see, but it was okay.

The moment I started talking on the radio, Melissa started giggling at the radio jargon, and was having a hard time not giggling all the way through the takeoff! She later told me that everyone talks with this weird monotone on the radio, which is true and I don't know why we do that -- is it just the culture, or is it something fundamental to trying to get your information out quickly so as not to take up airtime on frequency?

In any case, she said she loved it, and lamented the fact that I'm a Sport Pilot and so can take only one of my family members at a time when it is now clear that they both love flying!

Today is my birthday, and I could not ask for a better birthday present!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

N162HG 1.7 Sightseeing to KLVK with Aden

This was my first-ever "real" flight with a passenger. Fittingly, that passenger was my son Aden.

We went to the airport early in the afternoon. There were some hiccups. For example, the LOW VOLTS annunciator would not show up during preflight on the G300. I flipped through the manual and checklists -- does it mean some important component which should be pulling down the voltage is not connected? No -- according to the checklist, that's normal. I asked for 3/4 tanks, and the fuel truck dude overfilled a little, which was fine -- we had weight margin to spare. (The convenient thing about the Flycatcher is that fuel and pax weight does not affect the CG. If it's fuel or pax, you can do the "W" part of your W&B and pretty much skip the "B" part.)

But the wind was getting up beyond 15 knots with a strong crosswind, exceeding my 7 knot xwind / 15 knot total solo limitations. I decided to scrub for the moment. Aden was a good sport about it.

After a family feast of Mexican food (#protip: all y'all stop reading this and have some birria de chivo right away, preferably at Taqueria Gonzalez in Redwood City), we went home and chillaxed. I noticed that the winds were starting to die down. I asked Aden if he was up for another try, and he was!

We drove to the airport, where I preflighted without event.

We took off with a right Dumbarton departure, went to the Sunol golf course (VPSUN) point, then basically flew around at 3500' sightseeing wherever Aden was curious. We went most of the way across the Altamont pass and back, went over the Del Valle reservoir and circled looking at the little recreational areas, and overall just checked things out.

I then needed to take a leak ;) so I called into Livermore for a landing. Tower said, "Say parking." I was like, um um. The FBO? The controller sent me to 25R. When we landed, it was clear the Ground folks knew that we had no idea where to go, and very nicely directed us towards the guest parking area.

We tried to push the airplane into the parking but it was difficult since we had not brought our towbar with us. We ended up sort of managing, but next time I'll just taxi in or bring the damned thing. We used the bathroom, ate some energy bars, then buttoned in and started up again.

While in the runup, KLVK winds were like 30015KT -- the crosswind was above my solo limits! Gefplatz! I could easily fly if I was desperate, but why risk it, and anyway, I have to have some limits. We sat in the runup for 5 minutes or so, and the wind became more gentle and more aligned with the runway, so we departed 25L with a left crosswind departure.

Our arrival at KPAO was uneventful. We were invited to make a right base for Rwy 31, and I was happy to see the red and white PAPI lights just so as I turned final.

Aden helped me push the plane back into parking, and we packed up and were off.

After so much training, the fact of flying with some person in the right seat -- even my son -- seems pretty routine. I guess the way the system works, we are not allowed to cart members of the general public around till we get to this point. So in some sense, this was pretty momentous in being a confirmation of a process I went through, but it did not feel momentous because -- well, I mean, it was a routine and relaxing flight. What of it?

I'm still very, very happy though!

Friday, June 19, 2015

N162HG SP-ASEL Checkride 0.7

This checkride was to address deficiencies from my previous attempt.

I filled out the IACRA paperwork again and showed the DPE my passport. According to my marriage certificate and passport, my middle name is "Abd-El-Hamid". That settles that.

I pre-briefed the DPE on how this was going to go. I said --
  1. This is a briefing more for myself than for you.
  2. I will fly this like a training flight, which means interrupting any demonstrations if I deem them to be unsafe, since I am a new pilot. If that affects the results of the test, then so be it. (He shook his head "no" at that point.)
  3. I would like to do a normal landing as a warmup first. (He said ok.)
He asked me, so what about last time made it not like a regular training flight? I replied that I should have called a go-around in the bounced landing rather than trying to stick it out for test purposes. He seemed happy with my answer.

On my first takeoff, my stall horn pipped just a little bit as I rotated, and I sort of mumbled in acknowledgement of that. My first landing was a greaser, stall horn squeaking and sliding in on ice. The DPE was like, "Wow! You must be happy with that one!"

The DPE then said, go ahead and demonstrate whatever you want to demonstrate.

I said I would do a short field landing. My second takeoff was uneventful. I was sent out on a slightly long downwind for traffic, but I established a stable final approach, more or less on speed if maybe just a tiny bit fast. My flare was just a little bit high but not unacceptably so. My nose waggled in yaw a little bit -- again, not unacceptably, but this is the sort of stuff I want to work on in my future flying. The DPE said "Ok".

I then said we should do our short approach. The DPE said I could cut power any time I liked, and we agreed I would do it about midfield. I had an uneventful takeoff, upwind to the auto bridge for traffic, then back again, and cut power. I established best glide at 70 kias, let us glide for a second, then turned and made for the runway. Landing assured, flaps down, slip like a madman, recover just barely over the runway, then hold it and be patient and float off the speed ... until chirp! I touched down very softly with the stall horn squeaking. I was talking to myself all the way down, in the third person, for every step. #whateverworks

I asked the DPE what we should do next. He said, taxi back to parking without hitting anything. I succeeded in that task, fortunately, and shut down, and he said "Congratulations!"

Thursday, June 18, 2015

N162HG 2.0 Bob

This was a final training flight to address checkride deficiencies.

We took off from KPAO and went to KLVK, where we flew a bunch of short approaches and takeoffs and landings. In summary, I was able to "make" all my landings and short approaches; there were no undershoots or overshoots, and no approaches were so bad as to require a go-around. One short approach looked like it might undershoot, but I just held my glide speed and made it, which sort of put me at ease about the whole scene -- between extending my glide time and slipping like hell, I figured I could, with pretty high confidence, make successful short approaches.

My first 2 landings on KLVK 25L were with a tiny bit of high flare, and Bob tells me this is because 25L is surprisingly wide (or, rather, that KPAO 31 is surprisingly narrow). I adjusted, however, and did fine.

We came back to KPAO for more landings and I again, I did fine.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

N162HG 1.0 Bob

This was the first of my remedial training sessions with Bob. First, he made me calculate what 75 pounds (say) of weight do to the stall speed. We know Vs0 is 37 kias at gross, 1320 pounds. At 75 pounds less, we have:
Vs0 = sqrt((1320 - 75) / 1320) * 37 = 35.9 kias
So I am accustomed to flying it with a stall speed of 35.9 kias, and it was 37 kias during my checkride. A difference of 1.1 kias in stall speed is not enough to noticeably change the characteristics and flyability of the aircraft.

Math doesn't lie. I am convinced.

So what else happened? I know I failed because of the bounce, and specifically because the DPE had to take the controls to save us from disaster. Bob discussed with me how it would have been the right thing under these circumstances to execute a decisive go-around. If the DPE says this was a simulated pattern emergency, where we simulate loss of power, I could reply that a true power loss situation would have been survivable with (possibly minor) damage to the aircraft. If at this time the DPE still wants to fail me, then fine, but at least I'll have a fighting chance. :)

Well anyway, all that is behind us. We took off with half tanks to do pattern work at Palo Alto.

And I failed ... to reproduce any of the bad patterns I had the day of my checkride. I wondered if I was having trouble judging HAT (Height Above Touchdown) correctly. I did that fine. I wondered if I could actually execute a short field landing with the "closer" aiming point the DPE asked for. I did. I wondered if I could execute a simulated emergency short approach. I did (but see below).

I had Bob demonstrate a short field landing, from which I learned a lot (keep more power in on downwind and base, aim for the spot, fly low then stall in). I also had him demonstrate a bounce and a recovery.

I then executed a sort of gentle bounce, which I recovered from and landed, and a huge teeth-grinding bounce, from which I immediately did a go-around safely.

The one problem I had was one simulated pattern emergency where I was coming up short of the runway and had to go-around. The reason was that we had 18 knots of wind down the runway and I failed to account for that -- I did the normal thing I do when there's no wind and allowed myself to glide downwind for a while before turning. So -- check, keep that in mind for the future.

Other than that, the other simulated pattern emergency was fine; I slipped aggressively and came in at the runway threshold, and for what it's worth, the subsequent landing was a valid "short" landing in its own right. That should tell me that, in the future, if I carry a slip to the ground and recover properly, I can land pretty short.

We go to KLVK for our next lesson to see if we can repeat the performance. Wish me luck.

Friday, June 12, 2015

N162HG SP-ASEL Checkride Attempt 1.6

I took my checkride today. To make a long story short, I failed:
Below is a narrative of what happened.

Preparation the afternoon / evening before

I completed the IACRA form paperwork, and collated all my forms in one place. I also went through my logbook, totaled all my hours, then wrote up a document describing item by item how my logged training meets the 61.311 and 61.313 requirements.

I completed an XC flight plan from KPAO to KMER as requested, writing up very detailed top-of-climb and top-of-descent calculations based on the aircraft performance, estimating gph based on forecast temperature, etc. I got an outlook briefing and filed a VFR flight plan at I computed a W&B -- it was tight because the DPE is a big guy and the Flycatcher is tiny, but we were able to squeeze in, barely.

I made sure I knew the PAVE and IMSAFE acronyms.

My CFI gave me only two assignments for that night: (a) get a good night's sleep; and (b) avoid stress. Things were going really well until there was a family crisis which required me being on the phone and lots of angst; my wife and I had insomnia as a result; and the upstairs neighbors were clomping around until very late.

Preparation in the morning

My wife made me a hearty breakfast and made extra, and I packed some scrambled egg sandwiches.

Paperwork with DPE

My middle name is "Abd el-Hamid" (عبد الحميد), a common Muslim name meaning, basically, "servant of Allah". My driver license spells it as "ABD ELHAMID" which is fairly reasonable. My student pilot certificate spells it "ABDELHAMID" because apparently the US government doesn't do names with spaces in them. The DPE had to call around to make sure the relevant discrepancies would not scupper the whole effort. I actually had a rather entertaining time at my FSDO earlier, for that same reason. Yeesh.

I got a full briefing for my XC flight plan on

My CFI and the DPE then went over more paperwork, got the IACRA forms filled out, and my CFI left.

Oral exam

The DPE gave me hints when he felt like I was almost at an answer but didn't quite get it. Overall, things were very friendly and congenial. I would assure anyone taking a checkride to not be worried about this part -- if you have been trained, and assuming your DPE is like mine, you will do fine. The following were the major areas of questions:

* Choose between a set of questions by color code -- I chose the "middle of the road" set.

* A middle of the road METAR to decipher; I had to look up one little bit of it but was able to figure it out.

* Inoperative equipment and how they affect the airworthiness of the aircraft. My advice here is be sure you know the "TOMATO FLAMES" FAR 91.205 and its limitations, and how equipment is marked inoperative and by whom and under what circumstances, and how that relates to regulations about maintenance in FAR Part 43, but do not waste your time memorizing what TOMATO FLAMES stands for. :) Much better to spend the time talking through all the various ramifications with your CFI for 10 minutes, which is what I did and it worked out for me!

* Point out locations on the chart with particular airspace visibility, and digging into my answers and making sure I knew the set of possible other correct answers.

* Show in the airplane Mx logs where important work was done. Basically, I had already filled out my club's maintenance checklist, and the DPE seemed mostly interested to know that I could point to actual log entries for the checklist items -- in other words, that I had filled it out myself and was aware of why these items were all in order.

* Questions about engine performance and aerodynamics, where the "right" answer sort of had to be teased out of me even though I knew the theory. On the other hand, this is one of the things where I know the theory very well and the answers still had to be teased out of me, so I guess the moral is, if you know your stuff, and can discuss it, you'll do fine.

* He asked me about how to recover from a spin. This, he said, was the one question where there was no leeway -- I had to know this, no hints or help. Fortunately, I did.

Discussion of XC preparation

Asked to see my route and asked why I had chosen it. I had chosen KPAO VPSUN VPALT O15 KMER. I explained that I wanted to stay away from "Desolation Wilderness" -- the hills to the East of San Jose -- since they are high and forested and do not afford good emergency landing locations. I also described how I was using small airports as waypoints but also "grazing" a larger Class D airport (KMOD) and setting a waypoint when abeam.

He seemed pleased with my choice to optimize for emergency landing locations, and said how much he hated it when people just draw a straight line from origin to destination.


I preflighted and verified fuel load. I was worried about running out of fuel, but the DPE said don't worry, we'll look at the fuel as we go. I indicated our likely practice area and used my chart ruler to show how much fuel we'd need to get back to KPAO, and I noted I would like to call Bingo at 1/4 tanks. With the DPE on board and with less than 1/2 tanks, we were at max gross.

I went inside, checked the METARs again just to be sure, drank some water, and ate one of my egg sandwiches for strength. My watch strap was broken so I failed to check what time it was; had I done so, I might have known it was getting late and anticipated I'd be more tired and hungry.

The actual checkride

It was a wicked hot day.

I started to enter my route into the GPS. He said we will not be using it since the PTS requires I use charts and pilotage. I was relieved -- I hate spending time being examined on the menus of arcane Garmin software. I flipped the knob so the right-hand MFD screen had the engine info on it, and kept it there for the rest of the flight. There, now we're a Piper Cub!

During taxi, he kept reminding me to taxi SLOWLY. This is a bad habit of mine -- being too heavy on the throttle while taxiing.

In my runup, he suggested I make a habit of (also) testing the engine idle with the carb heat on -- since that is a configuration I actually use and I want to make sure the engine does not cut out.

We departed Right Dumbarton without event, and I started timing my XC segments. At one point, I forgot to restart the stopwatch in my transponder, and he asked me, "how much time till VPSUN?" I did some quick mental math, adding up all my planned times so far and comparing to total flight time, and said "5 minutes". He was happy with that answer.

As we approached VPSUN, he asked me to plan a diversion to KSNS! That was way further than I expected a diversion to be, and I sputtered thinking, Salinas Salinas, where in the frack is Salinas? He was like, "It's not on your chart!" (I had my KSFO Bravo chart with me.) Ah, that Salinas. I've flown there before! I got out my sectional and with the chart ruler plotted the route -- surprisingly, it was pretty much a straight shot to Salinas from the vicinity of Fremont. Who knew? I gave him the numbers (fuel, heading) and he was satisfied with that.

Over VPSUN, he asked me to -- for-real now -- go to KLVK. I got the ATIS and entered the pattern for Rwy 25L without event. While on the way, he warned me to stay as high as possible over areas without good emergency landing spots, even if that meant dropping to pattern altitude a little bit late. No wonder he was so happy I routed around Desolation Wilderness! :)

He also kept asking me to fly slowly due to turbulence. He said he was worried the tail would snap off.

He called for a normal landing, but then on short final noted to me that there was a fire truck on the runway. I verbalized "Go around, go around!" and went around.

He called for another normal landing, and I did one -- but it was a BIG BUMP! I was rather frazzled by that but kept on keeping on. This was, it turns out, the beginning of the sadness.

He called for a soft-field takeoff and landing. I executed a good soft-field takeoff -- just the right amount of nose-up, no tail scrapes, accelerating just fine, remembering to establish climb and accelerate then ditch flaps, everything. Peachy keen.

On downwind, he asked me to pull to idle and pretend I had an engine failure. I verified with him that he was handling the radio for a short approach, which he did. I then started a slow turn towards final, which actually was a bit too early so I ended up rather high. I slipped like a mad devil to burn energy, keeping my speed down around 60-65 kias or thereabouts so I would not exceed flap speed and also so as not to be overspeeding once I got out of the slip. I must have exited the slip early, because I was floating quite a bit high over the runway and losing runway length fast.

I put the nose down a little to drop, but I must have done too much. (Later, he told me I should have just kept the nose where it was and been patient.) I ended up doing a bounce, then another, then ... he grabbed the controls and stabilized my bounce, just as I was saying "go around" and pushing full throttle. I ended up in a climb, but of course he had had to take the controls to save me from disaster. The damage was done. My shame was complete.

I did a run around the pattern and another landing, which actually turned out really nicely -- a greaser this time, perfect flare, chirp, rollout. He then suggested we go to the fuel island and fuel up.

I fueled up, feeling dismal and defeated. The fuel pump display was so hard to read, and the fuel nozzle seemed so heavy. The ramp at KLVK was baking hot. I went in and used the bathroom and drank a sip of water.

The DPE advised me to attach the grounding clip to the exhaust, not to the nose gear, for a more reliable ground connection, which was good to know. He also told me that, if you ever add 80 octane to 100LL, the result is transparent, at almost any mixture ratio! This ensures that mixing any gasoline in your tanks leads to a transparent "not right" color. Cool!

I noted this was the first time since 2014 that any CFI has had to grab the controls from me. I then said, let's go. He asked me if this officially meant I wanted to press on, and I said yes. He said this was good, to get back into the saddle.

At that time, I noted I was getting hungry, but the KLVK buildings didn't seem to have any food, and I'd failed to bring my second egg sandwich with me.... Bummer. But oh well.

He asked me to do a short field takeoff to a left crosswind departure, and we'd do a short field landing at KPAO, and air work in between. I called in and was given Rwy 25R. It seemed strange to get a left crosswind from the right runway, so I asked them to confirm. They were like, "You can get any departure you want!" :)

I turned to use maximum runway length, held brakes, and off we went. He called the "over the obstacle" point during my short field takeoff; I pushed over, accelerated, raised flaps and then established normal climb. I then turned crosswind at 1100' MSL, 300' below pattern altitude per the AIM, and we were off.

On the way, he again kept reminding me to fly slowly through the turbulence. He said he'd give me vectors, and we flew to VPSUN then turned out towards the Sunol pass and over Fremont.

He said, once we're over the hills, slow down a little. I did. A little more. I did. After a few rounds of this, I asked, is this slow flight? He said yes, I'm doing it bit by bit. At some slow speed -- nowhere near stall -- he asked me to do a turn, and using throttle to maintain altitude, I did it. He seemed happy. All that slow flight practice mad this "slow flite lite" exercise seem easy!

He then asked me to keep slowing down at constant altitude until stall, then recover. The resulting stall was very gentle, and I recovered fine.

He then asked me to go to KNUQ for ground reference maneuvers. He was handling the radio from that point on. Tower asked us to go North of the airport, where he pointed out a point and asked me to do a turn around it. Again, he wanted me to keep my altitude up till I was very close, in case the engine failed while we were over the Bay.

The point he chose was really close, so he suggested a power pole that was further away. I opened up from it a bit, picked my 4 reference points, and flew around it once without event. He then asked me to fly to the Shoreline Amphitheatre then do a short field landing at KPAO.

While I was approaching, he was pretty chatty. Throughout the checkride, I did not hesitate to merely smile and nod, but be quiet, whenever he was chatting and I needed to concentrate. This time I said something like, "Cool, maybe we can talk later and do the landing now," or something. I think (hope?) I convinced him that I was capable of maintaining a sterile cockpit.

He selected the landing point to be the end of the KPAO Rwy 31 displaced threshold. That threw me a bit since I usually put my short field touchdown point a bit more forward, but I tried for that anyway. As we came in, at 50 kias short field approach speed, I noted that we were amazingly close to stall! As I rounded out, my stall horn came on surprisingly early, and we bumped in rather violently. I was not happy with it.

We taxied back, with him again reminding me to taxi slowly.

When we shut down, he asked me what I thought of the soft field landing. I told him the aircraft was heavier than I've ever been used to it, and that although it's my responsibility as a pilot to account for that and adjust my speeds, I had failed to do that due to being unfamiliar and surprised with the feel of the aircraft. He said, "That works for me."

We finished the paperwork with him being on the whole encouraging.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

N162HG 0.8 Bob

Last flight before checkride attempt. Did some takeoffs and landings in the pattern at KPAO, and all went more or less well except for one soft field landing where I came down a little hard on the mains but still lowered the nose gear gently. Most of the lesson was on the ground, doing paperwork and endorsements, looking at the aircraft Mx records, and the like.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

N162HG 1.7 Solo

My goal today was (a) to practice some checkride maneuvers solo; and (b) to try to relax and feel proficient in flying, hoping that this carries through into my checkride.

The winds were beyond my solo limits so I waited around the club until about 1800h local when they finally died down, then took on 3/4 tanks and went out. I departed towards VPSUN uneventfully.

My first thing was to descend to 1400' MSL (1000' AGL) and do ground reference maneuvers. There was a significant wind (10-14kt, if I recall correctly). I picked a field that Bob and I had used previously and did more or less okay with the rectangular pattern and turns around a point. I started out a bit too close to the downwind line with the rectangular pattern, but corrected later. I tried to do S-turns but there was not really a good road and anyway I was sort of right at the edge of my 25nm solo radius, so I didn't do much of that.

I climbed back to 3500' MSL, circling to look for traffic. Interestingly, there was traffic passing by -- an aircraft going through the Altamont Pass towards Sunol -- so I'm glad I looked.

I then tried steep turns. All were within PTS altitude maintenance near as I could tell. I don't know how well I kept my bank angle, since I was not glued to the artificial horizon. All involved zooms and dives that had to be corrected; I think this is my weakest maneuver at the moment, even though, frustratingly, if I go back in this very selfsame blog I can find instances months ago where I did them just fine even without looking at instruments. The difference is that, back then, I was doing them near Half Moon Bay where I had a good horizon through most of the turn.

One of the things I've been doing differently in my steep turns is trying to make them coordinated; I didn't bother with that previously. It so turns out that I need consistent inside rudder to do so. As a result, I also need to pull harder than I used to, and I feel more of the g forces in my butt rather than partly in my side. All in all, it's a cleaner maneuver, I think, but I need to get used to it. Anyway -- I think I'm making PTS at this point and I can just hope for good luck when I do it in the checkride.

On a whim, I tried doing left/right bank coordination exercises (commonly but incorrectly referred to as "Dutch rolls"). I got sick to my stomach after just a few of these, but I could tell that I was "out of phase" in my rudder input. I don't know how I can practice these if my stomach won't let me. That all said, for routine everyday turns, I seem to do adequately in coordinating rudder and aileron -- I at least make the effort -- so I should probably just focus on watching the nose carefully during turns in all my future flying and keeping things coordinated that way.

I did slow flight without flaps. Altitude loss/gain was within PTS. For some reason, without the weight of a CFI in the right seat, it was harder to get to stall -- I think I'm accustomed to the speed with CFI on board, and I freak out about reducing further, so my stall horn was sort of warbling between its low and high pitch states rather than solidly in its high pitch. 180 degree turns left and right were uneventful, and I recovered fine. I don't know if I'd pay to watch me in an airshow, but this is not a problem maneuver.

I then did slow flight with flaps, with similar results.

I did a departure stall at 2000 rpm and recovery was uneventful.

A landing configuration stall with flaps in a left bank was also uneventful. I did not note how much altitude I lost, but I was able to recover pretty quickly without secondary stalls. I think part of that may actually be that I tend to "recover" at the first hint of a stall, so in a future flight with Bob I'll have to do at least one stall where I really muscle it in all the way.

I then returned to KPAO and did a normal landing on Rwy 31 with very little to no crosswind. I flared properly for once (!) and was able to turn off at the first taxiway without trouble.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

N162HG 2.1 Bob

KPAO to practice area near KLVK, did some air work (steep turns, slow flight with and without flaps), then proceeded to C83 (Byron) for closed pattern. Brief rectangular ground reference work in the vicinity of C83, then returned to KPAO under the hood while attempting unusual attitude recovery and demonstrating spatial disorientation with eyes closed. Took off the hood just before KPAO pattern entry and landed.

Steep turns were okay; got better when I paid attention to keeping my bank angle accurate throughout the turn, and using my "feel" for the correct amount of g force expected.

Slow flight was also okay; I am a bit slow to add flaps on entry, and slow to remove them on recovery, but within tolerances.

Do not forget: In the checkride, clearing turns on every maneuver. That cannot be emphasized enough!

Diversion to C83 was successful but I need to be more aware of pilotage landmarks -- specifically, Byron is right beside a huge lake, so notice that, look for said lake, and go there.

While entering the C83 pattern, I remembered oh, I should set my heading bug to runway heading. This made me come in a bit too close since I was futzing with my instruments. It is indeed useful to have the heading bug -- just add it to my approach checklist and be done with it early, so I can concentrate on the pattern when I'm in it.

Time in C83 pattern was stressful due to parachute jumper activity (call sign "Elevator"), lots of people coming in and out, and pilots using the CTAF frequency as a CB radio channel to chat with one another about their boats or whatever. I needed to be reminded to call out my pattern legs -- too much time at controlled airports where I don't have to! My patterns were all excessively close-in, which is a consistent problem for me. In the future, I think I will need to practice actually flying a crosswind and noticing landmarks around the airport for flying the pattern.

Today I learned that parachute drop zones are not always at airports. So the C83 drop zone icon on the sectional chart is right where it is relative to the two airport runways. The "Elevator" aircraft kept saying, "Jumpers away! Please do not overfly the airport!" -- that was confusing to me as I was still in the pattern and so presumably overflying said airport. Well it turns out the drop zone is sort of North-West of the two runways, and that's what they wanted us not to overfly. That stuff happens not to be detailed in the A/FD, so ... well ... consider it local knowledge gained.

There was basically no wind, so the rectangular pattern practice was sort of an exercise in nothing. :) The thing I noticed was that I had trouble visualizing where my entry was supposed to be given the prevailing wind. My goal now is to make some simple cardstock cheat sheets for my ground reference maneuvers, which I can hold up and re-orient as needed relative to the terrain to remind me where I need to be.

Returning under the hood, I had a tendency to fishtail around the magenta line -- generally because I did not have an integrated scan to maintain heading and course. Holding altitude and general course was not a problem.

Bob briefed me on unusual attitude recovery:
  • From a dive: (1) throttle idle; (2) level wings; (3) pull up.
  • From a zoom: (1) throttle full; (2) push down; (3) level wings.
He then demonstrated a nose-down unusual attitude and I was able to recover fine.

I then asked to try closing my eyes and demonstrating spatial disorientation. I ended up holding altitude quite well just by "feel" on the stick, but ended up in a 25-ish degree consistent left bank without knowing.

In the process, we also learned a bit more about the Garmin G300, including the ability to hit "Direct" and have it give you a direct course to your next flight plan waypoint.

The air was bumpy, and when landing at KPAO, I came in just a little bit slow and bumped down a little after the flare, but the landing was safe.

Friday, June 5, 2015

N162HG 1.3 Bob

Took off from KPAO and did a couple of landings, then did a right Dumbarton departure to KRHV. Flew along Hwy 680 and identified the VPNUM and VPEMB waypoints, as well as the technique to stay out of the KSJC class C airspace. Did short field takeoffs and landings at KRHV, then returned to KPAO via the KSJC and KNUQ airspaces.

This was a chance to remind myself of how the KRHV surface procedure works. Taxi off the runway, then tower says contact ground. Ground says taxi to runway; there is no holding T-bar: just go all the way to the hold short line and hold. Then switch to tower again and say where you are. You then eventually get your takeoff clearance.

My intention was to practice my landings at KPAO, remember "how" I did them, then repeat this at KRHV in an attempt to combat my ground shyness. By the end of a few circuits around, I had more or less gotten the hang of it -- not perfect by any means, but much better than before.

Protip: Remember to hold back the yoke while braking!

It's always fun to overfly KSJC at 1500' with Southwest 737s landing underneath us!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

N162HG 1.7 Bob

Flight from KPAO to the practice area near KLVK then back to KPAO.

2 off-airport emergencies. Remember: look for places to land while flying; the best place to land in an emergency may be that perfect field behind you that you just passed, rather than the desolate wilderness in front of you that you are stressing out about.

Slow flight: flaps late on entry, recovery good.

Rectangular pattern: first entry flubbed due to being way too close in. Went well when I flew far away from the field and entered cleanly. During the checkride, do not insist on finishing a badly started maneuver -- ask to go back and do it again! Second entry was good.

Turns around a point: 1st turn was a bit whacky but then did fine. Overall not a problem maneuver for me.

S-turns: was confused about where to turn steep versus shallow. I need to draw this out so I can remember it. Also my legs are not equal on either side of the road. I'm still doing this maneuver at least partly "by rote" rather than with reference to the ground.

In general, for cross countries, when passing an airport, tune the ATIS and get some data about winds and altimeter.