Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nighttime In Modesto

I returned to Modesto for the first time since the Satanis....I mean, Stanislaus County Fair last August, in 610SP, a nice 172SP out of San Carlos. I thought I'd kill several birds with one stone by stopping at Palo Alto on my way back to San Carlos.

Things went well! I took off from SQL with a left crosswind departure off of runway 12, and proceeded over the mountains. I decided I really wanted to try to fly headings that I'd precalculated and not rely on the GPS, as much as possible. Once I got clear of Sunol Golf Course, my first waypoint, I tuned the VOR to Modesto, and went straight for it. Well...almost. Turns out hills are kind of scary at night, and even though I was at 5500 feet, and knew for a fact that I was not anywhere near any of the hills, I still kind of veered around the hills.

My landing in Modesto was good; I did need the GPS to track my distance from the airport on my way in, though, since either there was no DME or I couldn't figure out where it was. One mystery yet to be solved. I taxied back and took off on a straight out departure, and this time at 4500 feet decided I would fly directly to Sunol (using the GPS). I looked at my chart and saw that the minimum safe altitude was 4200, so I was safe by at least 600 feet including the 300 built into the MSA. So I did it, flew straight to Sunol, uneventfully, and then made for Palo Alto.

That landing was pretty crunchy. Nothing too bad, I just hit a little hard. No bouncing, though, so it couldn't have been too bad. I taxied back and made straight out for San Carlos, where I got a straight-in for 30. Decent landing there.

So, I'm now night current for 90 more days, I've added some cross country time to my total, and I think I've bumped my Cessna 172 currency as well. A good night!


Colin said...

I'm not a CFI, but I keep more than 600ft between me and any sort of terrain feature. There are 200ft towers that don't need to be reported as obstacles, so you are down to 400ft. An altimeter error can put you down to 300ft, and then a slight downdraft...

I guess it would depend on the winds. If you can measure those onboard and they are less to 10kts, then I would feel okay, but I don't know why you wouldn't climb another 2k (4min) and cruise over at 6500.

MKT said...

Hi Colin -- Thanks for the comment. I did not mean to say that I was 600 feet over terrain; that would make me pretty uncomfortable too. What I meant was that even if I were way off course, I would still have at least 600 feet over the highest point anywhere in the sector. Realistically the highest terrain I went over was probably in the neighborhood of 2200 feet. I am just THAT paranoid.

Climbing the extra 2000 feet is just unnecessary and I'd have to begin my descent pretty much immediately to get under SFO Class B anyway.