February 21, 2005

Kicking The Doldrums...

...or some such mixed metaphor. A 10am flight in 2SP (I'm not even sure I can fly that early -- I'm still unused to being able to do a preflight without a flashlight, and I've done so few daylight landings in the last few months that I keep making bad jokes about not being day current...). Another interesting sky with moderate turbulence and some serious windshear at all altitudes (I have trouble holding altitude within 200' for significant portions of the flight; headings suffer similarly). A quick semi-VFR jaunt over to Concord (KCCR), then the Buchanan 7 departure (REJOY transition) from Concord for the GPS RWY 20 approach at Vacaville / Nut Tree (KVCB), with a rather iffy circle-to-land on Vacaville's runway 2 in a stiff breeze (I'm learning a healthy distrust of circle-to-land procedures), then the SOKOY 2 departure back to not-so-sunny Oakland and another bash at the Oaktown VOR/DME RWY 15 approach. The most galling part of an otherwise pretty reasonable flight was getting a lot of the plain VFR bits wrong -- forgetting to report a 2 mile final for Concord tower on the VFR approach, bungling the base-to-final turn at Vacaville, forgetting to check the transponder and lights before takeoff, etc. Luckily I got most of the IFR stuff right(ish).

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An interesting lesson in the limits of 2SP's autopilot: on being told to head direct Concord VOR (CCR), I engage it in NAV mode and watch as it struggles over the next ten miles or so with the wind shear and turbulence. At one stage it's several dots out, and not looking like it's going to recover any time soon. I take over and fly manually. The good thing is that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing: keeping a paranoid eye on the heading indicator, OBS, etc., and seeing what's going wrong as it happens. It's got to be a rough old day when I can actually fly the plane under the Cone Of Stupidity more accurately than the autopilot....

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John's started talking seriously again about the checkride -- the whole trip-to-Concord thing is to get me familiar with the place, as it's where the likely DE, Richard Batchelder, is based (Lou Fields is unfortunately out of the picture at the moment due to medical problems). This sounds appropriate -- I feel like I'm flying as well now as I was before I had to go to Australia and before I lost the momentum; and I also feel like I actually know quite a bit more (especially about GPS units and autopilot usage) than I did back then too. We shall see.

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As I'm leaving the airport for home after the lesson, yet another thunderstorm breaks out, with torrential rain, lightning, etc. As the breathless reports in the local media never let us forget, this is the third thunderstorm of the year -- we're already running at 150% of normal annual storms!!!!!!! (Urgh. Sorry. But if I see one more damn self-dramatising and self-absorbed report on the local TV news reports about the "immense storms" bearing down on the Bay Area, I think I'll scream...).

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