Sunday, November 5, 2017

N712MF 2.0 Flight to Byron with Caryn

I took my friend Caryn on a flight today.

I was watching the Wx all week and there was a cold front that predictably passed over us leaving some high clouds by last night. This morning they were gone, but in their place a surprising amount of cumulus clouds, as much as a broken ceiling in some places, around 4,000' MSL. It seemed like a bad day to try to go to the coast, so I planned a trip to Byron instead.

We took off and snuck under the clouds, remaining well clear, up to and through the Altamont Pass. The day was bumpy, but Caryn was a good sport. Then I curved over to make my landing at Byron.

That's where I realized that I'm way out of practice in xwind operations, because there is hardly ever an xwind at KRHV!

My first landing was an attempt at a power-off 180. I was flying a right pattern with a 9-ish knot left crosswind, so I ended up misjudging and having way less energy at the end than I expected. I ended up adding power towards the end. But meanwhile I'd forgotten my xwind landing technique and ended up being blown aside and landing with a bump. I should really have gone around. Lesson 1: Learn to go around more often when things are iffy.

We stopped and used the bathroom, then took off again. My takeoff was really weird because, again, I had apparently forgotten what I knew as a 30 hour pre-solo student. :) My landing was a bit better, but still rather shuddery.

Finally, I took off again with real crosswind technique, and came around and did one more landing which was a bit of a bump-down but I did land in proper configuration, putting down one wheel before the other. It was not beautiful, but it was workmanlike. That said, I almost ran out of right rudder -- I've been told about that regarding the SportStar, but never experienced it till today!

While in the pattern there were two interesting things.

First there was someone on final, looking like they were quite a ways away. I took the active to take off, and he was like, "Blue and white SportStar, I'm on final!" I had already taken the active so decided I should just take off and get out of his way, and I apologized to him over the radio. He didn't answer, and I felt a bit bad about tht. But really I don't know that I was that close. It's a judgement thing I guess. He had just turned final seemingly quite some distance away. But I certainly don't want any other pilots to feel like I'm cutting them off, and would happily have waited had I known he'd want me to.

Second, there was a jump plane, "Elevator One", that called in with a "high downwind" and"high base". He was way above pattern altitude and I honestly had no idea where he was. I turned final but it turns out I turned inside him and he called me on that. I was like, wait are you the Cessna? (I expected a twin.) He was like yeah. So I asked if he'd be willing to make a 360 for me, and he was, and later I thanked him and he said "You're welcome", so no hard feelings. I wonder how I could have dealt with that better. With all the workload of trying to land and making sure not to crash into anything, someone flying a "high" pattern was a bit hard. On the other hand, these folks are finding ways to make GA pay, so I have no problem getting out of their way ... if I see them.

We came back the same way we went, and this time I opted to call into Norcal and get flight following starting from Altamont. They did warn me about this Bonanza that was coming straight at me about 500 feet above me, so I guess that was a good thing.

My landing at KRHV was a total greaser. I slid onto the runway and had the nosewheel off the pavement until the last possible moment, when it plopped down ever so gently. No crosswind, good landings.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

N188EV 2.4 Flight to Byron with Aden

Quick flight to Byron and back with Aden.

I got VFR flight following there and back all the way to the Altamont Pass.

I did a total of 2 landings -- a short approach full stop and shutdown to use the bathroom, then another long downwind for traffic.

My landing at KRHV was another short approach, which went well except that I flared too early (too twitchy on the stick), bumped a bit, and bounced.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

N188EV 1.7 Flight to KLVK with Torsten

Flew from KRHV to KLVK and back with my friend Torsten. At KLVK I did 2 or 3 landings.

One lowlight ;) -- I overflew the Del Valle dam and called into KLVK. All good so far. They gave me left traffic runway 25 left. I for some reason got confused about which direction 250 magnetic was, and instead started making this really weird maneuver to get into position for what would have been left traffic runway 7 left. Torsten was like, what are you doing? :) This sort of rattled me and my landings were far from perfect (but completely safe).

Sunday, July 23, 2017

N188EV 1.8 Sightseeing flight with Aden

After working really hard on Airball for the past few weeks it was time to have some fun. I went out with Aden for a flight to sightsee over the hills South of San Jose, and do a few landings at E16.

We took off uneventfully and flew over Anderson Lake and Coyote Lake. I did some steeply banked turns with the excuse of having Aden check out some of the scenery below; little did he know that I was actually practicing my 45-degree steep turns! :)

We then turned towards E16. The AWOS was not working so I waited while another pilot flew in tentatively to check what direction the pattern was. It ended up being Rwy 14, so from 3500' over the Southern tip of Coyote Lake, I barreled down in a slip and ended up at pattern altitude in plenty of time to come in on the 45.

I did one landing which my compatriot called "smooth". It was a power-off 180.

I then did two low passes, to get the feel of moving around the runway. On my first pass I was a bit wobbly because I was trying to practice sliding left and right over the runway while keeping the nose pointed forward, and I slid a little too much to the left. On my next pass I just concentrated on staying straight and centered and it went fine.

I then did one more landing, also a power-off 180, and there I landed a little flat but it was ok.

We took off again and headed for the hills once more, then from there back to KRHV.

I was given straight in Rwy 31R while a Cessna was given a parallel straight in on Rwy 31L, and ADS-B showed them to be a few hundred feet lower than me! I had visions in my mind of my low wing airplane settling on top of their high wing one, so I offset waaaay out till I could see them, and then kept them in my sight. All went well.

For my landing, I again judged when to start my approach, then cut my engine and did the rest of it power off. It went well but again my landing was a bit too flat with a bit too much energy. Better than too little energy, I guess, but still. I would like to acquire the skill of better judgement.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

N188EV 2.0 50th birthday flight to coast with Melissa

It's my 50th birthday today! :) I decided to go for a flight with my lovely wife Melissa. We were a little bit squished for time because our son Aden was in camp and we had to drop him off and pick him up, so we opted for a short flight from KRHV to the coast.

During climbout, I wanted to look at the map and asked Melissa where the iPad was. Neither of us could find it. Then all of a sudden I was like, wait. Here it is on the left wing walk, where I had forgotten it. It was sitting there on top of the wing, plastered down by the airflow, just fine and dandy.

So this was a practice "emergency" drill. What to do?

I grabbed my Android phone, which has a freeware EFB app that I use as my backup to iPad Foreflight. We figured out the frequencies for E16 and planned a landing there. It was very turbulent, and on my first try, I did a go-around. The second time around, I ballooned back up a bit during my flare and the result was a gentle bump down and, I'm sure, an unworkmanlike appearance. I'll chalk that up to the really challenging gusts, but I would like to do better next time.

We brought the iPad in and took off again.

We flew basically to the Elkhorn Slough, then up the coast as far as the Southern-most reaches of Santa Cruz, then retraced our route back to KRHV. There was of course lots of pretty scenery. And we identified the Monterey Bay Academy airport and Frasier Lake Airpark, two fun dirt/grass fields where unfortunately, due to FBO's rules, I can't land the plane.

Our return was uneventful. I got a straight in landing on 31L. I flew to a point where I believed I was within glide range, then cut the engine and glided down all the way, adding flaps as necessary. I ended up under-estimating my energy so I had to slip quite a bit on short final (Melissa said the nose-down angle was scary and she closed her eyes! I did not mean to scare her!). But the landing was soft.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

N188EV 2.0 Flight with Bill

Took my friend Bill for a flight. Flew over KSJC, and tried to go towards the coast through OSI, but found it too cloudy. Came back and flew into E16, did a couple takeoffs and landings, and came home to KRHV.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

N188EV 0.7 Irene Attempt at BFR

Flight with CFI to attempt BFR. My landings were really bad, and the intercom in the plane was almost unusable. We called it off.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

N712MF 3.4 XC to Rio Linda (L36) for Sonex fly-in

I've always wanted to fly into a Sonex fly-in at Rio Linda (L36). With my wife and son off for the weekend at a camping retreat, this was my chance.

I booked one of the Evektor SportStars, N188EV. I also made a mount for my iPad to a RAM suction cup (yes I know they sell these but I didn't have the time and I like to build stuff), and prepared to take my Airball demo with me to show people.

I got up early and had breakfast (huevos rancheros) at a local taqueria on the way. I got to the airport, calculated W&B (N188EV is not a SportStar MAX so its max gross weight is below the LSA limit), preflighted the plane, packed everything, and got ready to tow.

Oops, the right wheel was dragging.

Out came our A&P, who clicked something and fixed it.

I continued on to fuel the plane, get in, start up, taxi, and do my runup.

On the way to hold short, the right wheel seemed heavy again. By the time I was near the hold short line, it was all seized up so good and proper that the airplane would not budge even at full throttle.

Yay, I was officially a "disabled aircraft".

The authorities were called, and our A&P came out again, and once more clicked whatever he clicked, but now there was no flying this thing. He taxied it back to the shop and I rode back to the FBO with the airport crew.

While on the runup area, a 6-seater Cherokee was coming towards us. I was like, oh, they are going around so they are offsetting to the right. But they were not moving in my line of sight. But they were growing bigger. I was like, O. M. G. They are going to land on the taxiway. OMG OMG OMG. The plane whizzed above our heads at an incredibly close distance, sailed off down the taxiway, touched down for a second, then lifted off again. Later on the radio, I could hear the pilot being told, "possible pilot deviation", and given a number to call. Yikes. :(

The other SportStar, N712MF, had been booked today, but I noticed the reservation had been canceled. Wow. I booked it for the day and did some thinking....

By that time, it was almost noon, and the huevos rancheros were pretty well digested. I was very tired, it was extremely hot, and the SportStar canopy on the ground is basically a greenhouse.Was I ready to do an XC? Really?

I had some coffee, lots of cold water, and a granola bar. I felt better. Good, even. But something still worried me. The gods of aviation demanded a sacrifice, lest "mission mentality" -- the insistence on sticking to the original plan come hell or high water -- be my downfall. I would not be the first pilot to fall prey to this, unfortunately. But what could go?

I decided the Airball demo was going to stay home. No demonstrating of flakey electronics to people. no searching for a place to plug in my equipment. No extra stuff rattling around in the back of the plane. Nothing to think about except getting to L36 and back without hitting anything. That seemed like a reasonable simplification, and so I preflighted N712MF and off I went.

To start with, I asked for closed traffic and did two landings for practice. It's been a while since I've flown, and I would hate to flub a landing in front of the crew of onlookers at a fly-in -- or be worried about it. My first landing was a bit of a bump because I flared a tiny bit too high; the second was silky smooth. Nice. I asked for my departure and flight following, and off I went.

The trip was uneventful. Except for the behavior of my electronics. My iPad (with Foreflight on it) would cut out randomly due to overheating. It failed to charge from my USB adapter. It was hard to read in the sunlight. My Android phone, which had Avare on it as a backup EFB, ran out of battery unexpectedly and died. I really really wished I were just using paper charts and VORs.

The Central Valley was very bumpy, and near Sacramento it was even more so. I made a pretty okay landing though. Again, this was the same technique I've been practicing: fly to the point where I can cut power, trying to estimate where that is, then cut power and fly an idle (or near-idle) glideslope. Keep approach speed until just before the runway, then fly down the runway at zero feet and flare, flare flare flare, ..., scritch! and land. It works really really well.

Of course there was a whole line of hangar flyers with their chairs set up in a row, drinking beer. I was glad that I had practiced these landings!

Everyone was, as usual, very nice. I was too late for lunch but had some excellent ribs that were left over. I checked out some really cool planes.

The way back was again uneventful, save for the unreliability of my electronics. This time my iPad was failing to connect to the Wi-Fi from my Stratux, so I had to reboot the iPad to get things to work. Yeesh.

My landing at KRHV was pretty good.

Overall, I'd say this was a pretty cool adventure. For my first XC in a long, long time, it was pretty awesome actually. But my EFB (iPad, ...) situation left something to be desired.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

N188EV 2.7 Practice flight to KLVK

Bad weather and Mx issues have kept me out of the planes so today was a day to get out there and fly like hell. :)

I'd been out as a pax with my CFI friend Lisa a couple weeks ago to KLVK and she showed me her landing technique of staying within glide distance of the field and coming in steep at, or almost at, idle power. She also gave me a hint as to when to start my roundout, and it was way later than I had been doing it before: Basically she flew the approach almost to the ground, then rounded out and flared. It all "clicked" for me in a way that has not clicked before, and it seemed like a really well-thought-out technique. I was excited to try it out.

Last time I flew the SportStar, I topped up the plane to the brim, flew for a while, then came home. The CFI and student after me -- both good friends of mine -- were then unable to fly because they were right at the limit of the aircraft gross weight! Yikes! So this time I stuck the tanks, decided how much gas to add, and added it carefully, planning to return with no more than 1/2 tanks.

My CFI friend was flying the other Evektor SportStar at AeroDynamic Aviation with a student, taking the same departure as me, and right in front of me. Tower asked me to "follow company traffic"! Haha! :)

I took the Calaveras departure and flew out towards the Del Valle reservoir, in a constant VY climb. I'm getting pretty comfortable with the SportStars -- approaching (but not yet at) my level of comfort with the Flycatcher -- so I just trimmed for climb, and practiced holding the stick between my knees while I navigated using Foreflight. All went well.

I topped out at 9,750' MSL (recall as a Sport Pilot I'm only allowed to go up to 10,000 MSL or 2,000 AGL, whichever is higher). I then tried a series of descents, trying to learn the "gait" of the airplane in a power-off descent with the 2nd notch of flaps, and figuring out where the aiming point should be and what the nose attitude ought to look like.

I also did a few steep turns, which generally went pretty well, and a stall, which seemed uneventful. I felt pretty comfortable with the plane at that point. Now for some landings.

I called in to KLVK and entered the pattern, slipping to burn the remainder of my energy on the way there.

I did 7 landings at KLVK Rwy 25 Right. All were with the goal of (a) flying a more tight pattern than I usually do; (b) trying to gauge the point where I can cut power and trying to make my glide with minimal or no power; and (c) put as few dents as possible on the plane (always a good thing).

One of my problems with landing has been that the power "cut" over the fence is always a de-stabilizing factor, right when you sort of want to take advantage of a stable approach. It always threw me off. With the new low-or-no power approach technique, any power cut was very much less drastic, and so I held my approach to the ground much more nicely. I flared a tiny bit high a couple times, but not too high, and I plopped down gently enough without too much fuss. All the landings were actually pretty smooth.

I then departed and flew back to KRHV, and landed there. First test of the new technique! I gauged where the runway was by the position on my wing, turned final, came in with very little power, and greased it. Nothing to it. Wow!

Now of course the technique of maintaining VREF almost all the way to the ground means that I have a rather long flare to burn energy all the way down to VS0 before I finally plop down. With an Evektor SportStar and lots of runway, that is so totally not a problem. But once I'm happy with this technique and am judging my aiming point consistently, my next goal is going to be to figure out how to manage my energy even better so I can make accurate spot landings and nail my short-field landings.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

N188EV 1.4 Quick flight with Melissa

Melissa and I decided to go up today for a quick flight, for currency and fun. Wx was high overcast (140-150) becoming sunny.

We stopped by for banh mi on the way there, and ate it at the airport. We took off and did 4 landings back at at KRHV, then went South, did a couple steep turns, then came back and landed.

My first landing was a go-around because I was too high and I wanted to "train" the go-around button in my brain. Subsequently, Tower just "gave" me Rwy 31L to land on and back-taxi each time. I did 4 landings, becoming successively better each time. One of them was a high flare but I corrected that in later ones. They were all gentle flares to landing, with no attempt at a "spot" landing or soft-field technique.

We departed South, then after a while, I did a clearing turn then attempted a pair of rather steep steep turns (halfway between 45 and 60 degrees). I was trying to challenge myself so that PTS 45-degree turns would seem easy by comparison. I got them done within PTS, though I did oscillate in pitch a little bit during the sharp roll rate from left to right turn and had to correct. Adding power during the turns, as my last CFI taught me, ends up being super helpful.

We came back and had an uneventful landing, with a slightly high flare but acceptable.

Total was 5 landings today.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

N712MF 2.3 Flight to Hollister with Lisa

I went for a practice flight with my (CFII) friend Lisa flying right seat. We did some maneuvers there and back, and I did a total of 5 landings.

I was having a lot of trouble maintaining glide slope. It seemed like I was not catching on to my glide slope and speed and would end up "low and slow" and have to regain energy quickly a few times. My reflex in these cases is to lower the nose for speed, and add LOTS of power, which I think is good for safety but it throws off my approach. I should probably have gone around more often than I actually did.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

N188EV 2.0 Practice flight

We've been having a YUUGE amount of rain here in California lately, so it hasn't been flying weather. Today, though, it was nice. I rode my bike out to the airport, picking up some banh mi from the local Vietnamese place on the way.

I took off from KRHV with a downwind departure, flew around doing some air work, did 4 landings at E16, did a bit more air work, then came back. Pretty simple.

Of course I felt very "wobbly" at first -- as I usually do. I did some steep turns and was barely within PTS standards, and felt pretty weird doing stalls and slow flight. But eventually I got more confident and things got better.

E16 was pretty busy with people practicing, but it was not too bad.

On my way back my steep turns were much better and I was much more confident.