Saturday, November 12, 2016

N712MF 2.2 Flight over the coast with Melissa

This was my first passenger flight in a long, long time.We went South towards E16, turned West towards Watsonville, and flew up the coast to the Pigeon Point lighthouse. Melissa saw a pod of whales breaching! (We observed them from the safe 2000'-plus altitude over the ocean as required by the fact that this section of coastal sea is a national wildlife preserve.)

On our way back we passed over Bonny Doon airport (a private airfield tucked away in the mountains Northeast of Santa Cruz), then returned to KRHV via E16.

In this flight I tried a couple of things -- some okay, some which I could have done better.

I wanted to experience flying higher, so I climbed to 8500' on the Westbound leg and 7500' when coming back Eastbound (East is odd, West is even odder). The altitude on the return leg was also due to the fact that we flew over the mountains, so I wanted to give myself the glide range to get to the Watsonville lowlands or to the valley around Gilroy should my engine fail.

This meant that I crossed the approach corridor of the KSJC Rwy 30 approach at a rather high altitude, so I was not below all the heavy traffic. But I was aware of that, made sure to squawk VFR and listen to Norcal Approach, and watched for traffic very carefully. At one time I heard myself mentioned, but that was when they were talking to a parachute drop over San Martin (E16). I think I did fine, but next time I'm just going to save myself the workload and maybe cross lower. And maybe also next time I'll get actual flight following if I want to do this; it would add an extra margin of safety.

Another thing is that I wanted to experience the effect of a glide from high altitude both as an aerodynamic curiosity but also to get an intuitive feel for how far the plane can glide, for future reference when (not if! -- we who fly reciprocating engines are destined to become glider pilots some day!) my engine fails. I did not do any formal measurements. But at idle throttle, near the best glide speed, from 8500' over the hills just East of E16, I could have glided all the way to the coastline with a bit of altitude to spare -- I stopped at around 2500' for safe ground clearance and in anticipation of staying clear of the wildlife preserve floor.

What I did not do (and was pointed out to me by the admin dude at AeroDynamic, who's also a pilot) is that I should have "cleared" the engine with a burst of throttle every little while to keep it from sputtering on me. Point noted. I do remember that my CFIs would always do that for me when practicing engine-out ops.

I practiced some steep turns while watching the whales, and got just a tiny little bit better at them, though I'm still not fully happy with how I'm doing and I need to practice more. I long for the day when I can turn (steeply or otherwise) and maintain altitude just visually, without having to watch my VSI.

My landing could have been better. The sight picture of the SportStar is different from the Flycatcher -- the panel and cowling are much more curved on top, so it's harder to nail down a "straight ahead" direction. So I was practicing keeping the nose straight, and there was a slight crosswind, and I was too focused on straightening the nose and forgot to dip my upwind wing, and I ended up being blown sideways and getting a bit of the wiggles. We walked away, and the airplane could even be used again, so no disaster -- but it just highlights that I need to work on this more.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

N712MF 1.5 Solo pattern work

This was 8 landings, closed pattern around KRHV, and my first solo in a long time. I just wanted to get comfortable with the idea of (omg!!) flying a plane again! At the beginning I was noticeably nervous, but by the end, I was like, yeah, I got this. Even I can fly planes! Yay aviation!

I am trying to stick with N712MF (rather than alternating with N188EV) because, even though they are the same make/model, they have subtly different instruments. Probably not a huge deal, but I figure at my current experience level, learning to fly Just. One. Plane. with everything exactly the same from flight to flight could not hurt.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

N712MF 1.5 Irene

More practice, same as before. Irene was hoping a more established club CFI would give me the final SportStar checkout, but unfortunately that CFI was not available for like 20 days in the future! Fortunately enough folks were around hangar flying that the relevant authorities could be consulted and figured out that, yeah, go ahead and check him out. So I am now good to fly the SportStars! Woot!