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Look out below! - MtnVwPilot

Jan. 5th, 2006 05:16 pm Look out below!

My log book now has a shiny new sticker in the back, which says

Flight Review §61.56(a) and(c)
I certify that Mr. Brent Chapman, # NNNNNNNNN has satisfactorily completed a flight review of §61.56(a) on 1-5-06
CFI:Carmen D'Agostino
CFI Number/Exp: NNNNNNNNN CFII 08/07

What this means is, I'm now legal to fly again for another 2 years (barring any screwups or medical issues that arise, of course). Yippee!

It was a gorgeous midwinter day here in Silicon Valley, and we took a 1999 (nearly new by civilian aviation standards) Cessna 182 out to Half Moon Bay to play... Slow flight, power-on stall, power-off stall, steep turns to the left, steep turns to the right, and so forth out over the coast near Pigeon Point, then up to Half Moon Bay for takeoffs and landings; regular landing, short-field takeoff, short-field landing, soft-field takeoff, soft-field landing, simulated engine failure on downwind, unanticipated go-around (the engine magically resurrected itself! ;-) ), then fly down the coast for a while experimenting with the autopilot, and finally home to Palo Alto.

Approaching Palo Alto, after I called in for landing clearance: "Cessna Seven Victor Tango, you're number 5 for landing, enter left downwind, extend downwind to the blimp hangar at Moffett, I'll call your base". Ah, it's good to be home... ;-) (for those non-locals and non-pilots who don't get the joke, you normally turn from downwind to base about a half-mile from the airport, and the blimp hanger at Moffett is a good several miles away...)

11 comments - Leave a commentPrevious Entry Share Next Entry


Date:January 6th, 2006 01:24 am (UTC)


Many congratulations! Hardly rusty at all are ya!
Date:January 6th, 2006 05:29 pm (UTC)

Re: Congratulations!

No... Less so than I thought/feared, anyway. I felt like I was wandering all over the place, not doing a particularly good job of nailing heading, altitude, and airspeed, but tight control/coordination of all of that should come back quickly. I had it well enough under control, but it wasn't as effortless as it used to be; I was working at it (though not as hard as when I first started taking instrument flight lessons many years ago). I was good enough to satisfy the instructor, anyway. I'm just slightly frustrated with my diminished skill level now compared to my peak several years ago, when I was flying much more frequently (yeah, I know it's unreasonable to expect that skill level to just magically reappear after a 4-year layoff; I didn't say that it was a reasonable frustration!).

Date:January 6th, 2006 02:04 am (UTC)

Well Done!

Let's all sing, "Up in the air, junior birdmen..."
Date:January 6th, 2006 02:10 am (UTC)
Date:January 6th, 2006 05:13 am (UTC)
So, I suppose I'll be seeing you at TRK soon? After all, it's only 145.2 nautical miles from PAO, and I know some nice places to eat...
Date:January 6th, 2006 08:53 am (UTC)
While it is true that TRK is only a relatively short flight from the Bay Area, especially in my friend's Mooney, this time of year landings at TRK can be very tricky. When we flew in last November, the gusting crosswinds made for the most difficult landing I've ever seen him face. He managed to bring us down smoothly, but only by crabbing hard after a violent gust blew us far sideways at the last moment. He has been a frequently-flying pilot for about 10 years, is instrument-rated, and deliberately goes up in the near proximity to nasty weather in order to practice flying in bad weather/bumps, and he said it was either the first or second most difficult landing ever for him.

In the winter at least, not an airport for the fate of heart or the inexperienced/rusty.

Coincidentally, the most, um, ?fun? experience I've ever had in a small plane as a passenger was in the same plane taking off from Reno. The 737s were reporting "moderate turbulence" in clear air, so we knew we were going to get bounced hard, and we were right. The only saving grace was the unbelievable updraft -- at one point we were climbing at roughly twice the maximum climb rate for the Mooney while being tossed around like a toy. But that allowed us to get very safely above the mountains and get out over the lake and into smoother air via the shortest possible route, rather than having to screw around while we gained enough altitude, and get pounded the whole time. So it was very intense, but for only a few minutes, and darned fun in retrospect.

Of course, there was that time we were in his former plane, a Cessna Centurion, with his co-owner, flying from Mulege to Loreto in Baja to get fuel, and as we were crossing a non-descript patch of desert the plane acted like it had just hit a moose -- we were all thrown hard forward against the straps. My buddy used the provided forward momentum on his arm to whack the air brakes switch on the way down to push in the throttle, and had us slowed down pretty quickly, but man did we get slammed hard and suddenly!
Date:January 6th, 2006 05:35 pm (UTC)
Yeah... Even at my peak instrument skills, I was loath to tackle winter flights to Truckee/Tahoe/Reno in the type of non-turbocharged, non-pressurized equipment that I fly... Between the weather and the high rocks, there's just a lot less margin than I like. But, a day trip up and back would definitely be fun, if a relatively clear/calm day comes up. And my club has a couple of turbocharged aircraft of the type I fly (Cessna 182 and 206); I suppose I could get checked out in those... Well, we'll see how it goes; I'm going to spend some time flying on clear days and nights at sea level first.
Date:January 6th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC)
Ask Brent to tell you the tale of our trip from PAO to LAS in a Cessna 182 one March many years ago; we shot through Mammoth Pass outbound, and it was bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce all the way down the backside of the Sierras. We were very happy to be back on terra firma after landing.

On the northbound return, we flew over the southern end of the Sierras, and then skirted the leading edge of a large weather front coming into California from the Pacific. IFR all the way, in and out of clouds, and fun icing on the wings for a few minutes as we dropped through the cloud deck into the bay area on approach to PAO.

But the worst flight I was ever on was a United DC-8 from KOA to SFO; two of the five hours were nothing but turbulence, with everyone strapped into their seats (including the cabin crew), holding on for dear life.
Date:January 6th, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC)
"I'd rather be down here wishing I was up there, than up there wishing I was down here."

Yeah, the trip to Las Vegas was fun; after finally getting on the ground at LAS, we got the literal red carpet treatment from the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) there.. Of course, they're more used to giving that treatment to arriving bizjets, not little old Cessna 182s... ;-)

The trip back from Las Vegas was challenging, but real IFR in a piston single usually is. We picked up just the slightest trace of ice as we descended through the clouds, just enough to make me sit up and pay attention to it, but I knew from recent reports by other aircraft that the icing layer was pretty thin and that there were several thousand feet of warm air underneath it, so it was best to just get down through it as quickly as possible. We California pilots don't have to deal with ice fairly often, but it's much more common across the northwest, midwest, and east coast; IFR pilots from those areas wouldn't have batted an eyebrow at what we encountered on this flight.
Date:January 6th, 2006 09:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Rob and I have been through those thin icing layers a few times. Once we delayed our takeoff for a while and had a leisurely breakfast first, because we would have been going up through such a layer into colder air, and Rob didn't want to take the chance. The old adage you quoted above is a very very good one.
Date:January 6th, 2006 09:55 pm (UTC)
Well, if we're going to extend to commercial aircraft... Mine is a tie:

1) Fokker overwing puddle-jumper (~40 capacity) from LAX to Santa Maria during a big winter storm coming in off the Pacific. During the short flight, every person on the plane threw up (including the co-pilot) except for me and the pilot, and I was about one more bump away. We did 2 go-arounds before they finally managed to land the plane, and they cancelled the further legs of the flight. And they lost my luggage for 2 days.

2) 1984-ish I was working for Bell Labs in North Carolina, managed out of New Jersey. Our group got a call for all of us to fly up for a meeting the next morning. We had just enough time to get coffee and slurp most of it down when we hit the big bumps. At one point the plane was pushed down so fast and for so long that empty and mostly-empty coffee cups and pencils and pens floated up to eye level and hung there for about 2 seconds. My boss, an Air Force vet and highly-traveled guy, was white as a sheet and said it was the worst turbulence he'd ever encountered. We landed on an iced runway at Newark and barely managed to stop the plane by using the entire runway, then taxied and waited 45 minutes for a gate. We finally got one, but the door leading to the jetway was iced shut, so the sprayed de-icer on the rear door and we deplaned there -- into ankle-deep de-icer fluid. We rented cars and drove to Whippany in about 4 inches of snow, where we had a 15-minute meeting to tell us of a management re-org, complete with org chart slides they could have just sent us, and then we were told to go home because the facility was shutting down due to snow. We drove back to Newark in a foot or more of snow, and the airport was closed (turns out our inbound flight was the last one allowed to land). I won't even go into the rest of the war story from there, as I've gone on too long on the non-flying stuff anyway.

Speaking of non-flying, honorable mention: Dorothy and I were on United connecting to the east coast via ORD, with storms all over the east coast, and we were held on the runway in the plane for a full 5 hours. To avoid a riot they quickly relented on the "remain seated and belted" rule and we saw 2 movies and had a meal, all on the runway, before finally turning back to the gate and giving up for the night. The next morning I got us on a Delta flight, and on final into Newark 5 people, including me, said, "Landing gear!" at the same time. Then we all looked at each other in horror -- each of us thought we had somehow missed hearing the gear come down, but with that many of us noticing, we knew it wasn't down. As the runway came up to smack the plane, suddenly the PIC put on full throttle and managed to do a go-around. I still don't know how s/he managed to do it without belly-scraping the runway. We subsequently heard the gear come down, go back up again as we were re-slotted into the pattern, and then come down again for landing. The co-pilot made some lame excuse over the intercom, but it was obvious from the demeanor of the flight crew later as we deplaned that they were pretty shaken up, and presumably dreading some nasty paperwork and scrutiny.