Wow! What a great flight. A beautiful sunny day, not a cloud in the sky, light breeze out of the North as usual. I left work at 5pm for the drive down to Reid-Hillview, the traffic sucked. I got to the airport about 5:40pm and stopped at the Airport Shoppe (stupid name) and purchased a Lightspeed QFR Solo headset for $145 (is anyone adding the dollars up, I’m scared to). I spent a little time online and this headset seemed to be the best value – the lightest, quietest passive headset available. Passive means its doesn’t need batteries to drive fancy noise reduction electronics, the review I read said that this headset was as good as some of the medium priced NR headsets for a lot less money. I was sold anyway. I really am starting to look the part, got my headset in its bag along with my new log book and my medical cert. Next thing I need is the big f**k off watch I believe pilots are required to have. I read a joke somewhere online “What do you get if you cross a pilot with a monkey? A monkey with a big watch”.
I met Grainne just before 6pm and we got the computer setup to read in my floppy disk from the CPC kit. She went through the checklists for the first two flights I’ve done and we made sure we had covered everything we were supposed to do (actually only missed gliding which we’ll do today). Then it was out to the airplane and I started the preflight checks. Only bumped my head once today (I had made a habit of checking the strength of the wings with my head the last time). Grainne had me taxi down Zulu taxiway (which is the one closest to the plane parking spaces) and wonder of wonders I did a pretty good job. Got the plane turned into the wind and did the run-up checklist, then taxied over to the hold area in front of runway 30R. Again watched two Cessna’s land together . Grainne did all the radio work. Then out onto runway 30L and takeoff – all on my own. The plane wavered around a bit as we took off, but not the disaster I was expecting. Did a climbing turn to the left and then another to fly the downwind leg of the pattern (notice the pilot lingo creeping in) and a nice steady climb up to 5000’ heading more or less South to the training area. Grainne had me practice some easy turns on the way up to check for traffic. The air was unbelievably clear – we could see high mountains so far South that neither of new what they were and all the way over to the Monterey Peninsula. The marine layer fog was spread out like a gray carpet all the way from Monterey to the nearest hills where it was just spilling over the top. There was a light haze low down over San Jose which I guess is mostly pollution – though I never noticed it when I was on the ground. We started off with a couple of 360 turns, this time I was a lot less intimidated by the rudder (having got an understanding of what it was supposed to do in the ground classes). The plane turned nicely just like it was supposed to without much adverse yaw (the nose going the wrong way at the start of a turn). Then we tried some gliding – just reduce the power to idle and let the plane glide down while keeping the nose at a pitch to maintain the best glide speed (65 knots for the C172). We practiced some slow flying and then a simulated “Go-Around”. This is when you are descending to land and a dog runs out on the runway and you have to quickly change to a climb to go around and try to land again. This went pretty well. Then some more slow flying just to get the feel of the plane at that speed – it gets really sluggish and wants to bounce around. I even got to make the stall warning sound which is easy at the slow speed (my first stall – I’m all misty eyed). At this stage it became the crowded skies. I think we saw at least four other planes around us over the next 10minutes, two of which I spotted before Grainne. Then we turned North for RHV. The haze was very thick over the airport but Lake Cunningham is still pretty easy to pick out even when you can’t see the airport. Started descending a few miles out and got lined up for a straight in approach to 30L. The next call from the tower changed that to 30R without explanation. We were a little high (again) and I was still flying the airplane. I have a tendency to “dive to the ground” and she had to keep reminding me to keep the nose up. We were just passed Eastridge Mall and I expected Grainne to take over at some point, she didn’t. She told me to level off and bump we were down (I think she helped a little at the very end). My first landing was a great surprise to me – I had actually done just about everything on my own and we got down. The landing was a little hard but still reasonable. I think if she had told me I was going to land I would have been much more nervous. I managed to steer down the runway and off onto the taxiway then do the post-landing checklist and actually taxi back to the parking space. This flight really boosted my confidence. I was a little depressed after the last flight because my control of the plane was poor, I think this was mainly due to not understanding the rudder and exactly how to use the ailerons to make turns. This flight was much better. Grainne is off this weekend so my next lesson is Wednesday next week.