I’m going on vacation soon so I decided to try and get as much flying in as possible before I go. Grainne is off next weekend so I scheduled an extra lesson today at the last minute. A Monday evening and nobody else seems to be flying. The parking lot at Tradewinds is almost empty. The weather is good, it seems cooler than the weekend, but ATIS says its 30C. Wind is 10knots from 300 which is almost parallel to the runway. Normal preflight on a plane that I haven’t flown before. We go from riches to rags, yesterday’s plane was only a couple of years old, today’s seems to be the oldest and most worn so far. A real problem is that the cockpit doesn’t have pockets where I can put my checklist, pen and paper. Grainne, suggests I get a kneeboard even though I won’t really need it until I start my cross-country flights. Still, I could have used it today. Also the plane is facing the opposite way in the parking area, so I’ll have to taxi out the long way round the ramp. I call ground control and they don’t seem to hear me (again!), the Grainne says that she can’t hear herself in her headphones, and she starts turning knobs and buttons all over the place. A comedy of “can you hear me now?, no, and now I can’t hear myself” conversation followed as we twisted and turned everything in sight. Finally, it seemed to work and I said “I can hear you”, followed by ground control on the radio saying “we all can hear you”. Somehow we got a mic button stuck open in the process and broadcast our conversation to the whole world. This was funny in an embarrassing sort of way, we couldn’t work out how we got an open mic, both buttons appeared to be working. We tested it a few times just to make sure. Good taxiing down to the run-up area, got the last couple of checklists done and taxied over to 31R hold line and called the tower. They cleared us for takeoff and I got onto the runway and did a passable job of taking off. Much less serving compared to yesterday. Started the climb out and I had some trouble achieving the best rate of climb speed (73knots) then plane just didn’t seem to want to accelerate. Then Grainne noticed that I didn’t have the throttle in all the way. I had had my hand on it until 500’ so she didn’t see until I took my hand off. You keep your hand on the throttle up to 500’ in case it try’s to slip out in the critical climb off the ground. Right turn onto the crosswind leg and another onto the downwind and a climb up to 3500’. Today we are heading down to Hollister to do some ground maneuvers. It is quite a long way, but we will be flying in circles at 1000’ so we have to find an area without much population to do it. I guess we are both in a lazy frame of mind so we just enjoyed the flight down. The only event along the way was another plan flying towards us at the same altitude. He passed us about 3 miles on the left. We were flying Southeast at 3500’, so technically he was at the wrong altitude. Planes flying VFR on courses north to south (0~179 degrees) are supposed to fly at old thousands of feet +500 (eg. 1500,3500,5500 etc). Planes flying 180~359 degrees should fly even thousands +500 (2500,4500,6500 etc). A few miles north of Frazier Lake airstrip (a grass strip along side a water strip for sea planes), we started descending in a glide to try and work out the surface wind direction. You look for smoke or dust blowing in the wind, or the surface of a lake, the windward side has a calm area along the shore. In the end we cheated and over-flew the windsock at Frazier Lake. The wind was more or less blowing from the Southeast. We found a useful railway line about 3 miles east of Frazier Lake and Grainne showed me flying S-turns along the track. The whole trick here is compensating for the crosswind. Another trick is finding a straight line on the ground that is perpendicular to the wind. Its all about varying the bank angle as you turn to account for the wind. Shallow banks when you fly into the wind, steep banks when you fly with the wind. No violent maneuvers, just fun turns trying to finely control the airplane. Grainne did a couple of turns and then I took over. Not very neat, but not totally bad either. The we went a little North and found some tanks laying in a field. Grainne circled it once and then I tried to circle it twice. The circling is easy, keeping a constant radius on the circle is the hard bit. You can checkout the GPS ground track to see how I did. Then a climb back up and back home to RHV. I did the radio, no problems this time. We started descending at the right rate and the right time and actually made a pretty good landing just as the sun was falling below the horizon. I felt that I was mostly in control with Grainne just helping a little bit. As we pulled off the runway the tower cleared us to taxi back to the parking area.
This was a nice easy flight. Plenty of time to enjoy the view and just enjoy flying without stressing out doing stalls or instrument work. The kind of flight that reminds you how much fun this can be and why you doing all the hard work. I think you need one of these flights every so often. Its also amazing how quickly you get better at things. Only yesterday I was swerving all over the runway during take off with way too much right rudder. Today it was almost passable. Yesterday we had to do a go-around on the landing, today was great. This is the third day in a row that I have flown and it really helps you see the progress you make. Looking forward to Thursday night.