April 29, 2008

(Yet Another) Just Another Boring Bay Area Sunset

No big bumps today, but for a while before the flight I wonder what things are going to be like Up There, given that Down Here there's what feels like a minor gale blowing leaves and dust and small animals all over the place…. A couple of hours later, I'm sitting in the left seat of Cessna 051, the club's G1000-equipped Cessna 172, watching Just Another Boring Bay Area Sunset again over Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the Golden Gate on the Bay Tour. The air's mildly bumpy, but it's nothing that's going to spoil the flight. Which is a good thing: a friend of mine, A., is sitting in the right seat, enjoying her first GA flight, and a lot of bumps and roughness would have really spoiled this.

In any event, there's not a lot to say about this flight beyond the fact that A. appears to enjoy it a lot, and although the flight was short (less than an hour total Hobbs time), it's really refreshing just to potter around VFR over the Bay with flight following from NorCal Approach. So much of my flying is IFR nowadays, I tend to forget that I can just point the damn plane anywhere (within reason) locally and just … fly. It's fun. And with today's clear VFR weather, it's also scenic, and deeply relaxing. Perfect!

At one point while we're circling the Golden Gate, NorCal calls traffic at about 1 o'clock, distance 2 miles, "type and altitude unknown, appears to be maneuvering". I can't see any planes anywhere within about five miles of us in that general direction at any altitude, and reply with the usual "negative contact". But suspiciously enough, there's a small bulker heading briskly towards the bridge from the Pacific side with a pilot boat next to it, at my 1 o'clock and two miles away (and at sea level, surprisingly enough). A few moments later NorCal calls "traffic no factor" and we circle on. It wouldn't be the first time I've had ships on the Bay or on the approaches called as traffic….

* * *

051's been moved. It's still in one of the Port-A-Ports, but it's now a row closer to Hangar 7, and this Port-A-Port has a decidedly different way to open and close the hangar door (bits of old rope and springs rather than the thumb-crunching portcullis), and of getting the plane in and out. Just opening the main door almost proves beyond me: in the fading light I can see where the door is supposed to latch on each side when fully open, but nothing I do seems to be able to get the latches to actually latch. I'm not dragging an expensive plane out of the hangar with unlatched doors, that's for sure, especially not in the still rather blustery wind blowing around the apron. But after a bunch of attempts (and a lot of swearing), a combination of a long broom handle and help from A. gets it done. The whole thing feels like an intelligence test I fail — I can loop and roll and fly an airplane upside down, I can hand-fly an ILS to minimums in IMC, but I can't get a simple hangar door open. Humph. And in front of a GA novice, too :-).

* * *

My old nemesis, the combination lock on the paperwork lockbox outside the club, proves to be the one irritating blot on the evening. It opens first go on the way in to the apron, but when I have to return the book and fill out the paperwork, nothing I do over a ten minute span opens the damn thing again. Since A.'s sitting there getting cold in the wind (and she's cut her finger on the plane door earlier), I decide I'll just have to leave it and come back early tomorrow morning. So I drive off with A. and drop her off at her place, intending to go home and get up early next day to drop the books off. But on the spur of the moment I decide to go straight back out to the airport (it's very close to where I live), and try again. This time, of course, the bloody thing opens first try. Oh well.