February 08, 2005

By George, I've Got It!

Well, almost. After several weeks of cancelled flights and iffy flying, everything comes together this evening and I seem to fly the best I've flown in months. I nail the ILS back into Oakland to ATP standards, and the two approaches and associated holds at Tracy (KTCY) also go well. I feel on top of the plane and the procedures, and keep the stupid mistakes to a gratifying minimum.

The difference? Firstly, I got off work early, spent some time preparing, and we started an hour earlier than usual. Normally I can't even turn up at the airport much before 7pm, meaning we're often still at it at 10pm, which dulls the mind for me if I've spent the previous eight or more hours down in Silicon Valley then driven for two hours to get back to Oaktown just in time to fly. Things were much more leisurely this time. I'm trying to arrange for the earlier exit from the Silicon Valley job on Tuesday to become permanent. We shall see.

Mostly, though, I suspect the improvement came because I cheated. Well, not so much cheated, as used the autopilot strategically during the early part of the flight to keep headings under control automatically while I concentrated on altitude, power, airspeed, and the procedures. This worked a dream -- I'm hoping the lesson will stick so the next time I do it all uncoupled I'll be more savvy about control -- and since I have fewer problems with headings than the other aspects, it's not such a bad strategy (it was John's idea, actually). I did the Oakland ILS and the last GPS approach uncoupled, but it was a good lesson learning how to get George to drive us around a hold or intercept the VOR-A inbound with a bit of knob-turning and situational awareness. It's magic.

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