Thursday, September 17, 2015

N162HG 2.0 Trip to Petaluma with Lisa

I've been meaning to fly with Lisa since I got my SP-ASEL. She's a CFII friend who has been informally mentoring me through many, many things regarding aviation. Today, we finally got to have a flight where I could show off my new-found skills. Um, such as they are....

The plan was to go from KPAO to Petaluma (O69) and back. I hoped to get a KSFO Class B transition on the way up, and return via a Easterly route passing between Oakland and Mount Diablo. If we didn't get the Class B on the way up, we would try again on the way down.

I had planned pretty thoroughly, with route leg headings and estimated times written down, Google Maps views of the destination airport, and all that. Lisa seemed to approve.

We called in to ground at KPAO, and it turns out KSFO was not giving Class B transitions at that time. Well schmell. We went the Easterly route then. Our route was KPAO VPSUN VPDUB VPWAL O69, with the plan being to cross VPSUN at 4500' and remain at that altitude for the rest of the trip. However, when we called in at KPAO, they gave us flight following, and NorCal told us to remain below 4000' for a while. Otherwise, they were fine with our route.

On the VPWAL O69 leg, there were a bit of mountains before crossing the San Pablo Bay. These were not clear from the chart. They looked "high" from far away, but were less than 1000' and looked really low when we passed them at 4500'. Interesting how terrain can look misleadingly high from far away. Lisa flew quite a bit to get a feel for the Flycatcher and also so I could spend time futzing with my charts and comparing to what I was seeing out the window.

We arrived at O69 without event. It was hard making out the runway as usual -- the main problem is figuring out, given where we are right now, how big should the runway look? There was a Cessna Caravan taking off who was very nice and diligent on the radio about making sure we didn't crash. I did a nice smooth landing.

We got fuel after much futzing with the stupid half-broken gas pump, took care of natural liquid elimination needs in ... um ... nature, then got in the plane and puttered off to the runup.

At the runup, I realized I had failed to test the fuel! Eek! I shut down right there, tested and came back in. Then we restarted and took off.

We made for the Golden Gate Bridge, hoping to try again for a Class B transition. As we got closer, I saw there was a thick layer of fog over the bridge and San Francisco. As a Sport Pilot, I am required to fly with reference to the ground, which I take to mean I cannot fly "VFR on top" over a layer, so no Class B transition that way either. No problem. We turned to retrace our Easterly route, back to KPAO.

Then we realized it was getting late. As a Sport Pilot, I am not allowed to fly after the end of evening civil twilight. We were right at the middle of San Pablo Bay, and Lisa suggested I just call NorCal and ask for a direct route. I did, and they gave me a squawk code.

We were routed direct to the Oakland Coliseum (hard to find without knowing where to look, but hard to miss once you see it) at 2000', then direct midspan San Mateo bridge at 1400', then released to talk to Palo Alto.

On the return flight, Lisa helped with the flying a bit, and also helped with getting our waypoints entered into the GPS.

At Palo Alto, things were quiet, and I made a pretty smooth twilight landing.

Overall, I think having a GPS is a pretty important thing for flying around the Bay Area. Maybe if everyone used paper charts, then the controllers would have different expectations, but I get the feeling that basically everyone expects everyone else to have the precision and situational awareness of a GPS. This means I should consider, at some point, switching to an EFB.

When we landed, there was a meeting of the Ninety Nines at Advantage Aviation, so Lisa just joined right in. By the time I had packed up, they were all listening with rapt attention as she held forth about some flying story or the other!

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