Another hot and sunny California day. It was about 30C and a little hazy, a “spare the air day” in the Bay Area. Winds were variable 6knots. We started by reviewing my progress on the CPC classes and updating the database with my last flight. Then it was out to the plane where I did the standard pre-flight check, everything looked good. Grainne had being coaching me on the radio calls and I made my first call (that worked) to Reid Hillview Ground to request permission to taxi, “Reid Hillview Ground, Cessna 739YE, at Discovery, ready to taxi , downwind departure, with alpha”. I messed up when I repeated the instructions back, I said “39L” for the runway when it is actually 31L, I guess I confused it with the 39 in the aircraft call-sign. I completed the start-up checklist and nervously eased the plane out of its parking space. This time I used some left brakes and the plane turned more or less correctly. No problems taxing in a straight line. And I turned into the run-up area reasonably well. During the run-up the engine tachometer bounced around a lot, jumping a couple of hundred RPM up and down. The check of the magneto’s was difficult, but Grainne got the tachometer to settle down and we completed the check. The throttle would not really pull all the way back to idle, it wanted to pull back in about 1/8” after you pulled it out. This meant that the RPM was high for idle (about 1000rmp rather than 750). I was not really happy about the way it was behaving, but Grainne believed that plane was safe to fly. The engine itself sounded fine, it was only the tachometer and the throttle that seemed to be the problem. Either way, I taxied over to the hold line for runway 31R. I was about the radio the tower for take-off clearance when he told us to make an expedited departure (just takeoff right now). Grainne took over and taxied us onto 31L (I would have been much slower) and we took off. No problems, climbed to 500’ , turned left, left again before freeway 101 and flew the downwind leg. We climbed up to 5000’ and leveled off. Grainne had brought along a pair of “foggles”. These are like clear plastic wrap around sunglasses with the top half gray and opaque. When you put the on you can see the instruments but not outside the plane, except for a little peripheral vision on the left side. They are used to simulate what it would be like if you mistakenly flew into a cloud or otherwise got into “non-visual” flying conditions. Grainne took over the plane and I put on the foggles. Then it was my first try at instrument flying. Grainne, just told me to keep constant airspeed and make various turns different headings. We did a 180 degree turn (to get out of the “cloud”), flew for a bit, did a couple of 90 degree turns, then climbed to 6000” doing a couple of turns on the way. None of this was as hard as I had believed it would be. I guess I’m somewhat used to looking at the instruments on FS2002 and as an Engineer I’m genetically inclined to believe gauges are telling me the truth. I didn’t experience any of the disorientation I was expecting when your body tells you one thing and the instruments tell you another. The only thing is to keep scanning all the instruments, rather than just fixing on one (an easy trap to fall into). Off came the foggles and we flew Southwest towards South County Airport to practice some pattern flying. I made the radio call to ask for a traffic advisory, but there was no answer. We decided to over-fly the airport and check the wind-sock. At this point two other planes also started calling and asking for a traffic advisory and things started to get real busy on the radio. Basically there were two other planes making for South County as the same time as us and we couldn’t see either of them. Grainne, took over the flying and we circled over the airport. I could see the windsock, but I couldn’t workout what wind direction that translated into. Grainne just asked me to tell here the right runway to us. This was easy, as there is just one so you only need to decide from what direction to land on it – and that is into whatever direction the wind is mostly coming from., the answer was runway 32. We started flying North away from the airport to setup for a 45 degree entry into a right traffic pattern. It was then that we saw the one of the two planes. He was flying Northeast and was more or less straight ahead of us. Grainne told him we would “follow him in” so we did a wide circle to the left that brought us onto a heading for the 45 degree pattern entry and behind that first plane. Grainne gave me back the plane and I flew onto the downwind leg, started descending abeam the numbers, turned onto the base leg and then went too far or turned too wide to get lined up with the runway on final. With all the planes in the air, the radio babble and the wind which had picked up a bit we were too high, too fast and offline. We decided to do a “go around” and set full power. I guess I didn’t give nearly enough right rudder when we applied the power because we veered off to the left quite badly as we climbed out. Having had enough of South County we headed North to practice some gliding on the way home. We never did see the third plane. Grainne had me flying above a valley just a little North of the UTC buildings when she pulled the engine to idle and asked me what I should do. There is an sequence called ABC for engine failure, its Airspeed, Best field and Cockpit. First, set the airspeed to the best glide speed for the plane, about 65 knots (a little less is the plane is not fully loaded). Then look for someplace to land. I was trying to work out if we could glide to Reid Hillview or South County (by trying to calculate the glide distance from our altitude of 4000’. At this point Grainne, put here hand over the altimeter and told me to just look outside for a spot to land. Remember, I said we were flying into a valley, so it was just mountains ahead and on both sides. However, as Grainne pointed out there was a nice flat plowed field right in from of us that I had not noticed, it would not be a nice landing but you would probably walk away from it. A good example of thinking too hard, and not looking for the obvious right under your nose (literally). I bet Grainne brings all her students into that valley for the same lesson. Then I radioed Reid Hillview Tower to tell them we were inbound to land and we headed back toward home. The straight in approach to 31L when without problem and I got lined up on the runway without problems. The landing was uneventful, taxied off 31L, across 31R and called Ground Control who told us to take the inner taxiway (a new one for me) to the parking space. All the taxi turns went well and I pretty much stayed on the yellow line. Grainne parked the plane.
All in all a good flight, other than the messed-up approach to South County. There were just too many things happening at the same time to keep concentration on all of them. I think, that as controlling the plane become more natural to me, my mind will have the bandwidth to focus on all the other stuff going on around the pattern. So I’m not too worried about it, it will just come with practice. I’m much happier about driving the plane on the ground and that was the real problem the last day. I think the radio work will be easy as well, I had a radio license in Ireland and used CB a lot when I was a teenager so I’m not mic-shy. Looking forward to flying tomorrow.