August 29, 2008

Big Bird, Part Two

Sometime a week or two ago I managed to get my high performance endorsement (and log a bit of actual IFR, a couple of approaches, and an ad hoc hold) from John in the club's G1000-equipped Cessna 182 that I've flown a couple of times now (thanks John!).

I think the only thing that struck me as unfamiliar was the use of flaps 10 (degrees) at the beginning of a cruise or approach descent, i.e. miles from anywhere, and at a relatively high speed and altitude. In all the planes I've flown so far (well, those that had flaps, anyway), flaps typically didn't get used until well into the final approach or even only once you'd joined the pattern — mostly, in the case of the older planes, because the flaps could only be used at relatively low airspeeds (from memory, the Arrow allowed you to lower flaps at a fairly high airspeed, but I seem to remember lowering gear first before the flaps in that plane). The cowl flaps were also novel, but hardly complex or conceptually difficult; and the increased attention to leaning was predictable and fairly easily done with the G1000's engine analyzer display.

Landing was initially a little odd — the plane felt predictably nose-heavy — but it didn't take more than a handful of landings to get a feeling for the stabilized final approach and the various sight lines and to round out and flare at the right altitude for some nice smooth landings.

In any case, the club's 182 is a joy to fly: very stable, very predictable, and the engine has that same smooth powerful operation I remember from the Cirrus SR22; the G1000 and associated autopilot also make things more manageable. But hell it's expensive to rent and refuel, and it's difficult to believe it'll stay on-line at the club much longer unless more members see it as a way to do longer trips fairly economically with passengers. I'm unlikely to fly it much if at all myself unless it's to Santa Monica or Corvalis or somewhere like distant like that, with The Artists or someone who's willing to help defray the costs.

* * *

Oh, and I know I mentioned this in a comment elsewhere, but sometime safety pilot and instrument student Evan H. got his instrument rating first try with Rich Batchelder, DPE. Congratulations to Evan (and of course John, his instructor).

August 17, 2008

Captain Dan

Short final, KOAK 27L

I was roughly nine or ten when I first flew in the front seat of an aeroplane (it was Australia, so it was spelt that way), a Cherokee piloted by a friend of my father's. We flew out of Belmont airport (usually known as Aeropelican by the locals in those days), and I spent about half the flight in the right seat propped up on top of a cushion manipulating the yoke as we flew down and around my then home-town of Woy Woy and back around the lower Hunter Valley. I loved it, but then my parents and my father's friend knew I would.

So when Stephen, a long-time friend of mine from Australia, and his seven-year-old kid Dan visited me for the day we just had to go flying. I wasn't sure, but I sort of suspected Dan would enjoy it a lot, and if nothing else, Stephen would get to see a lot of the Bay Area from a perspective most people never get to see it from. I'd informally planned the flight a week or so in advance as an extended Bay Tour, but unfortunately the weather didn't quite cooperate, and rather than circling the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, and the City, and doing the 101 transition south (east) to Palo Alto, we had to step over a coastal stratus layer and concentrate on Napa (KAPC), the Delta, Mount Diablo, the Diablo Valley (landing at Livermore, KLVK), and just generally pottering around VFR under the benign oversight of various bits of NorCal approach and sundry towers. Dan, of course, spent about half the flight in the right seat, propped up on a couple of cushions, flying the plane along with me or on his own. Cool!

As far as I can tell they both enjoyed it; Dan said several times later that he really wanted to fly again and (maybe) be a pilot. Stephen — who has a lot of experience being flown around in GA planes taking photos over Sydney — while probably not wanting to be a pilot quite as much as me or Dan, at least got to see the sights from an unusual perspective. All in all, a lot of fun, and a really welcome break from the rush of the rest of my life at the moment.

Oh, and since Stephen's also a photographer, there's some great snapshots from the flight done with his little point-and-shoot; here's a tiny handful from the back seat….


The Maze

Richmond Bridge

Suisun Bay


Mt. Diablo

August 10, 2008

Catching Up

I know I'm not the only blogger in the neighbourhood playing catchup, but sometimes in comparison to the usual suspects like Cockpit Conversation, Blogging at FL250, or Flight Level 390 (just to pick some obvious examples from my daily reading list of blogs that have been going roughly the same length of time as this one), I feel positively lazy. It's not that I haven't flown lately, it's that I haven't been able to sit down at my leisure and edit up anything compelling (or otherwise) about my flying, so the blog stays bare. So, instead, a few telegraphic lines before I have to run out and do something else….

First news is that John's student Evan and I went flying together again a few weeks ago, alternating PIC / safety pilot duties for a really enjoyable long flight to and around Napa (KAPC), Sacramento (KSAC), Rio Vista (O88), and Oakland (KOAK, home base). Lots of real-world IFR work under the hood (and just enough actual IMC for me to have to do the flying in and out of Oakland to get through the unexpectedly-persistent stratus), including being slammed onto Napa's localizer some two thousand feet too high and way too close-in, being vectored around and around (and back again) while being sent to Oakland's ILS 27R for an IMC approach (I don't think I've done that approach straightforwardly now for several years — it's always one damn thing or another nowadays, usually the result of traffic spacing issues by the sound of things), my forgetting to cancel IFR on the missed at Napa and unintentionally tying up the airspace for billions of nautical miles around us (or so the Oakland Center controller rather testily implied when he finally got around to asking whether we really intended to stay IFR; usually I cancel on the missed and tell the controller we'll do the rest as practice approaches, which is essential at Napa but not so essential at Sacramento or Stockton or places directly under NorCal's control rather than Oakland Center's), and landing straight into the teeth of a steady 30 knot headwind at Rio Vista (Evan did the landing after a perfect VOR approach from Sacramento VOR under the hood; I remember looking out and thinking we could as well be walking at that speed). Evan's booked for his instrument checkride sometime soon, and unless he makes a silly mistake, he'll pass it with better flying and instrument work than I'm capable of.

Second news is that the other E, "E." (another of John's students and an occasional safety pilot for me), got her instrument rating last week on her first attempt. Cool! Congratulations...