More practice to try and banish the cobwebs after Christmas. The wind was from the south today, so it was one of those rare occasions when you get to use runway 13 in RHV. The sky was blue with some clouds at about 3000’. Flying south, the winter green California landscape below us, over and around the white clouds with visibility clear across to the Sierra Nevada mountains was truly magical. I did some steep turns over Anderson Reservoir. These were ok, all more or less within PTS (Practical Test Standards). Then I had fun doing a long forward slip to get down to 1000’ for some ground reference turns around a point. Believe it or not this is only the second time I’ve ever practiced these, it was just as well as I had forgotten some of the basic stuff (like enter on downwind and always make the first turn to the left), while remembering the relatively complicated stuff like how much to bank the plane depending on wind direction. The GPS ground track looked reasonably like a circle, but truthfully there wasn’t a lot of wind.
We headed to Hollister to practice a few landings. There wasn’t anybody answering when I asked for a traffic advisory on the CTAF so I was just setting up to over fly the windsock when Grainne pulled the power. The wind was calm so I as I was already more or less on the left downwind for 31, that was where I decided to land. This time I made the runway with power and without problem. We did a touch and go and came back around in the pattern for soft field landing. Another touch and go and headed back to RHV under the hood. I’ve never really had any problem with hood work, but I wanted to get some practice in to make sure I wasn’t getting rusty. We did some turns and climbs with no problems.
I got the ATIS as usual and then called the tower. I was told to make right traffic for 13R and report at 2 miles. There was another plane to my right who called in just after us and he was given left traffic for 13L. There was also a great big cloud right in front of me that I had to fly around. With all these (real world) distractions I mixed up the left/right traffic instructions. So I happily flew around the cloud and started to get lined up on Lake Cunningham (which is fine if I was supposed to be entering left traffic for 13L!). About 4 miles out Grainne asked me where I thought I was going and I realized my mistake. I was just turning to get lined up on the other side of the airport when the tower asked me if I understood what right traffic was (smart ass), I lied and told him I did and was just getting lined up. About this time the tower started to get confused about who was who (probably because I wasn’t where he expected me to be). So I’m trying to get myself back where I’m supposed to be, the tower is asking folks to change transponder codes and Ident when Grainne decides its a good time to pull the power again. So the tower is asking both of us (me and the guy on left traffic) our positions, another plane is ahead of me on right base, I’m calling in the 2 mile mark and getting a clearance to land (for the wrong runway, the tower gets confused when the wind shifts as well, he quickly corrected). All this is going on, oh and by the way your engine just quit a minute ago hadn’t you better think about how to land this thing without it. By this time, I was abeam the near end of the runway already below pattern altitude. There was just no way I was going to make it all the way around without an engine. I guess in a real emergency I would have just made a quick 180, told everyone to get the hell out of the way and gotten lined up with most of 31L and gotten down. However, your not really allowed to do that at a busy class D airport just for practice. So the engine magically restarted and we made another somewhat messy crosswind landing on 13R. I’m not happy about the dumb mistake with the pattern entry instructions – just the kind of thing that would ruin your checkride day.