February 02, 2011

The Workout

There's been an unusually cold, dry, and gusty northeasterly wind all day, and I suspect there'll be turbulence out over the hills as a result, but by the time I get to Oakland Flyers it's calm and clear. And dark — it's going to be a long evening's work with John to get club- and landings-current again, and get the BFR flying stuff out of the way (if I can). Oh, and to get proficient again, even if just for the basic VFR stuff; I'll leave the heavier IFR stuff for next time. At least this time I'm feeling fine, and despite the earlier wind there's not even a Center Advisory threatening severe turbulence to rough things up in annoying ways, just a bunch of the usual obstruction and airspace NOTAMs littering DUATS when I looked at it.

I preflight Cessna 051 in the dark, managing to bruise and cut my hand (again) on the hangar door. I don't really have any detailed idea of what John's got in mind for tonight's flight, but the whole point of this evening for me is not to plan beyond making damn sure there are no TFR's in the way or that I don't do anything stupid, and that I keep ahead of the plane.

And so it goes — the usual menageries of departure and power-off stalls, slow flight, precision flying, unusual attitude recovery (there has to be a punchline there somewhere), steep turns, etc., bits of it done under the hood, most of it out over San Pablo Bay. In general, I don't do too badly, and I quite enjoy this sort of stick-and-rudder workout — stuff I don't get to do very much nowadays.

On the first of the unusual attitude recovery exercises I look up when John tells me to and see a very dim and monochromatic G1000 display in front of me and unthinkingly use it to recover rather than the reverted right-side MFD or the backup steam gauges. I feel kinda dumb (I'd just assumed John had turned it down to almost invisibility to make the exercise a little harder; I guess I wasn't smart enough to work out what was really happening), so we do it twice more, once with the steam gauges, once with the reverted right-hand screen. No problems here, either.

After a while John springs a surprise on me by getting me to do the KAPC (Napa) LOC RWY 36L under the hood. I don't feel prepared for this at all — I generally like to internalise likely approaches on the ground before I do them in the air, and I don't have the plates handy (they're in the bottom of my flight bag somewhere). Never mind — John hands me his iPad with the approach plate loaded, and I use it to get us onto the ground successfully, if a little roughly in the last segment or so of the approach (my flying at this point of the approach is what in Australia we used to call "agricultural"). In any case, it's not like I've never flown this approach before…. The iPad certainly fits easily into my approach to approaches (with a couple of minor irritations), and if I weren't putting off buying an iPad until the iPad 2 comes out (at least), I'd already have one. Oh well, can't have everything.

We head back to Oakland for another practice approach followed by some landing practice, a bunch of stop-and-goes on 27L in various configurations and a couple of nice swooping short approaches (I love these…). John gets a nice short field landing and take off in there somewhere, and, overall, I feel OK with my performance.

Back in the clubhouse John signs me off for the BFR, and I guess I'm legal for another two years.

* * *

Before we clamber into Cessna 051, I mention to John that I'm idly thinking of buying new headsets — my old Lightspeeds are getting pretty ratty, and I need another headset in any case for visitors and passengers (I have some friends from Australia visiting in March who'll want to fly). John happens to have a spare set of Lightspeed Zulu's in his car, and I end up borrowing them for the flight (thanks John!). Not bad, not bad at all — both more comfortable and better-sounding than my old Lightspeeds; I may have to invest a bit of money in the next few weeks on some new headsets. Or not — it's not like I fly enough to really need anything much better than my clunky old passive (and very sturdy) Dave Clarks that my passengers usually get to use nowadays.

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