Saturday, July 18, 2015

N162HG 2.5 Palo Alto to Byron

I tried to get my wife to go with me on this trip, but she was worried about leaving our son for a long time so I went solo. My plan was to go to Byron (C83), practice takeoffs and landings, and return.

The plane already had 3/4 tanks, so I was good to go. I took off uneventfully, and entered the Byron pattern on the 45 for right pattern Rwy 30 for my first landing. Meanwhile, there was a glider being towed into the pattern for landing practice (what a big pain in the butt for such a short flight!), and the constant stream of skydivers being dropped by a twin calling itself "Elevator 2".

On my first landing, the glider tow plane was like, "Skycatcher, you're waaay out there, guy!" I guess I was a bit far from the runway. I am usually too close on strange fields, so, oh well.

I did a total of 5 landings at Byron. They were uneventful but not artful; I ended up floating a lot due to the masses of thermals around the area (I think gliders call these "lift" -- I call them annoying bumps).

The big thing I learned today was how to hold my own in a busy pattern in an untowered airport. It's sort of a mess, with the glider folks calling out their launch procedure; Elevator 2 telling us what he's doing; people chatting about random b.s. that doesn't really belong on frequency; and the occasional hotshot coming in with a Bonanza and flying dramatic S-turns on final. The time available to get your few words in edgewise is not huge.

I did find myself more or less doing most of the pattern stuff automatically, without having to think about it. It was really nice to be able to get to that point....

I stopped for fuel at some point. I also tried to get water to drink; apparently the tap water at C83 is not technically potable, and it tasted like sh*t, but the dude at the airport said they added chlorine to it so it was fine, and I didn't want to fly dehydrated.

Part of stopping for fuel was having yet another experience with the infernal fuel credit card machines, which are the same everywhere, and which have totally busted and unreadable LCD displays, which is fine because you sort of get to know what to expect since they are the same everywhere.

At some point Elevator 2 wanted to come in for landing and said he was going to come in ahead of me. I offered to do a right 360; he said no then changed his mind. As I was turning, he was coming down in a dive into the pattern, which made for a very dramatic closure. He radioed "Exciting!" and I responded, "Woo hoo!"

On my trip back to KPAO, I was trying to get to VPALT by pilotage when I noticed the unmistakable burned grass in front of me, and with a quick GPS check confirmed that I was headed towards R-2531. Good to know. :) Subsequently, I used my GPS to navigate around KLVK's airspace (I was above them, but only barely). I guess it'd be nice to be able to navigate only by pilotage and paper charts, but in the busy Bay Area airspace, the GPS really does help.

I came home feeling tired and happy. But my only complaint is that this is just so damnably expensive. I wish I could find a really cheap plane to fly -- N162HG is nice, but it's fancier than I need. Then I would not feel guilty about long-ish adventures like this, and could afford to do them more often.

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