September 25, 2005

Artist 3

Artist 3A nice VFR flight up the coast in perfect California VMC with Artist 3, a friend with a sculpture studio near my own studio in Oaktown, and with whom I'm collaborating on some arty-farty photo and web projects. We'd originally planned to fly to Crescent City (KCEC) together from Hayward (KHWD) in 8TA to pick up one of her glass castings from a foundry up there, but that flight -- which would probably have involved a fair bit of real IFR in IMC, with an ILS to near minimums in the persistent coastal stratus at Crescent City -- has to be postponed because the foundry isn't ready, so instead we potter up the Marin and Sonoma coasts past the Golden Gate, Bolinas, Point Reyes, and Jenner, then inland to Santa Rosa (KSTS) for a break. The weather's perfect, Artist 3 discovers that she enjoys flying, and we spend an or hour two gossipping about (amongst other things) Artists 1 and 2 (and Artist 4, who hates flying, and Artist 5, who I think I've offended, and who'll probably never fly with me). Yes, it's a small, inbred world I inhabit.

We stop again at Napa (KAPC) on the way back and discover that the apron's chock-a-block full of shiny business jets, expensive-looking piston twins, and a fleet of aerobatic Yaks. We never find out what the occasion was, but I've never seen the ramp at Napa that full before. We grab the last available transient parking spot after a mad dash across several lanes -- just like parking in The City, including successfully heading off a likely competitor in a Cherokee with some deft shortcuts -- and park between a couple of Bonanzas. Inside the terminal's airport shop we browse the kitschy flying toys and knicknacks, and debate whether to buy anything; in the end we just sit around in the cool air for a few minutes and watch the people come and go at Jonesy's (not quite our cup of tea, but never mind, it's famous, dammit!). Then it's back over the beautiful colours and shapes of the lower Delta to Hayward.

Not the 600 NM IFR trip I'd obsessively planned all week, but a nice flight anyway.

* * *

During pre-flight I somehow manage to slip while checking the seatbelts, and bash my forehead against the door frame. It's painful, but I don't think much more about it until Artist 3 looks at me a little oddly and says I have blood all over my forehead. Hmmmm. I wander back into Cal Air's office and get a similar (but rather less blase) response from Linda behind the desk. Turns out I've cut my forehead fairly impressively, and a couple of bandages later I look like some sort of beaten up homeless guy (especially since I'm limping slightly from an earlier injury and am wearing my Worst Clothes Ever). I spend the rest of the day making up stories about how it happened. It's amazing how much a small almost-painless shallow cut on the forehead can bleed...

September 22, 2005


Connielingus Corrosion Blowout!!Nah, not me or the tires or anything, just "A[n airplane corrosion] blowout of such epic proportions it could make an inspector weak at the knees..." (Kewl!) from Connie's Connielingus blog (warning: Connielingus may contain thoughts and images hazardous to conservative moral health). I've had a soft spot in my intellectual heart for Connie's older Corrosion Of The Week (now part of her main blog) for quite a while because it's the sort of thing pilots don't often see up close, and because who can resist things like the "The Great Canadian Corrosion Experiment!!!!" ("Coffee, Cola, Urine and Vomit -- The Silent Airplane Killers"). Finally, a blog that treats aircraft corrosion, Rush, the L-Word, and The Pina Colada Song with the seriousness and dedication they deserve.

September 20, 2005


A short flight out of Hayward (KHWD) through Yet Another Boring Bay Area Sunset to get used to the two-axis autopilot on 8TA out of California Airways. This thing's magic, and after 30 minutes of climbing, turning, and generally playing around over San Pablo Bay in the dark with the autopilot engaged the entire time, I think I'm confident enough to use it in IMC on real approaches. It's the two-axis / alerter version of the KAP 140 AP, and I have to admit it takes me a few minutes to get used to using the vertical speed / altitude feature and the whole thing about commanding a computer to command the plane, but in reality the whole process is "obvious". Yes, I read the manual, but not until after I've worked out most of it on my own (I stop at Napa -- KAPC -- for some night landing practice and a quick read of the manual to confirm my suspicions).

I'm initially stumped that there doesn't seem to be any way to decouple only the vertical axis parts of the AP -- I find altitude easier to control than heading on IMC approaches and I'm not sure I want to have to dial in floor altitudes or work out required vertical speeds on the fly during an approach -- but I quickly get used to that, too. It really just isn't that hard to work out how to use this, and I do the LOC / DME 28L back into Hawyard fully-coupled, basically just sitting there watching for traffic, keeping the throttle and trim appropriate to the approach, dialing in the new floor altitudes, and making damn sure the AP is doing what I ask it to do. Magic, as I keep saying.

I'm also confused about how to use the AP for an ILS -- while it's obvious how to use it for non-precision approaches, I don't want to be vertically-coupled on an ILS if all I've got to control the AP is vertical speed or desired altitude. I feel I'm missing something really obvious here, so I call John and see if he's got any advice. The answer's pretty obvious in retrospect -- if the unit's in approach mode and vertical guidance (i.e. the glideslope) is operational out of the HSI or ILS, it'll use it. I need to practice this on a real ILS sometime soon. And read the manual properly this time.