I woke up this morning and the weather was cold and gray. The marine layer fog was firmly over San Jose. When I called RHV ATIS about 9am the visibility was just 2 miles with a overcast ceiling at 1300’. This is not VFR flying weather. I was even unsure if I should go to the airport, I thought I’d look pretty silly turning up expecting to fly when the weather was so obviously bad. However, I figured it might burn off by the time I got there, it didn’t. I was early and waiting for Grainne and the clouds were unchanged. Grainne arrived just before 10:30am and told me that we wouldn’t be able to do the planned stalls, slow flight and hood work we had intended, but that we could do some more pattern work because this was low and close to the airport. I got the key book and headed out to the plane which was parked beside the Tradewinds maintenance shop (first time I’ll drive a plane from this part of the airport). Sure enough as I was doing the pre-flight checks the clouds started to break and by the time Grainne came out the sky was mostly blue. By the time we got to the runway it was almost all blue, but still hazy so we kept with the plan to do the pattern work. That’s summer weather in the Bay Area, if you could just predict exactly when the burn-off will happen it would be perfect.
This time I took off from 31R so we would be using the right traffic pattern. The turns are a little more difficult because you can’t see out that side of the plane as well and you really need to use the right rudder to make the plane turn (the plane will turn left if you just take your feet of the rudder). The first landing attempt was terrible, we were way too high and had to do a go around. I think I got a little ground shy on final and was going too fast anyway. Again, everything became a blur of takeoffs, checklists, turns and landings. I got better with the checklists and I didn’t forget the carb heat or transponder as much. Again it started to get busy with a lot of planes landing and flying the pattern. We did more landings to a full stop today rather than touch and goes this really helps slow the pace and helps you keep up with the plane. At one point we were told to line up and hold while a plane took off directly in front of us. He was climbing away when we were cleared to takeoff. So we took off following right on the guys tail. It was the first time I have been so close behind an another plane flying the same way. We had to wait for him to pass us on the downwind before we could turn to the crosswind and we were nearly over I680 before we were cleared to turn (I680 is the boundary of Class C airspace for San Jose International). At this point two (count them – two) planes joined the downwind leg at its mid point so now there were four planes all flying the downwind leg, the first guy was just turning onto base, the other two spaced along the field and us having just turned from crosswind. The GPS track that goes way outside the others was this trip through the pattern. We were told to extend our downwind to allow all three planes to land. So this time we did not start to descend until we turned onto final.
All in all today was not a stressful as last Thursday, I was more ahead of the plane and there was some incremental improvement in the landings and the control on final. Sill a long long way to go, buts it nice to see something change flight to flight. I’m scheduled to fly tomorrow at 9am, but if the weather is like today, there is no way the fog will have cleared by them. Grainne has my phone number and she’s going to call if it looks like we have to scrub the flight.