Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hey, hey, where ya goin'?

Last TuesdayI met up with Sergey to get checked out in the Piper Warrior, mostly to try to save some money. It's the same plane as the Archer, but less powerful and cheaper. The 172SPs are much more expensive than either one; for that reason I'm thinking of doing my IFR training in a Warrior.

At my request we landed at San Jose, which is in Class C airspace. I just wanted to go over the operations and takeoff clearance stuff; it had been a long time since we'd done that in lessons. That lesson was totally great; I made two excellent landings (no winds in a Warrior means about as easy a landing as there could be), and it was great to see Sergey again.

So today, I put my refreshed knowledge to the test, and went on a trip to Monterey. Monterey is a Class C airport, about 60NM from San Carlos. I wanted to build on everything I have been doing: Flight following, cross countries, all that good stuff. I originally wanted to do the transition through Palo Alto, Moffett and San Jose, but the route over the hills seemed much more direct.

I took a Woodside departure out of SQL and after crossing the 280 freeway made a left. Over SLAC, I hesitated: I was not sure about which of my three route options were the best (over the hills, through San Jose, or coastal). So I circled twice and had a look around. There were a few clouds over the hills, so I wanted to avoid the most direct route (despite the fact that it was almost certainly not a problem; I just finished reading about standing lenticular clouds over mountains meaning heavy turbulence and I got paranoid). The San Jose route at this point would've been strange, since I'd have to fly toward Palo Alto, get transition clearance, make a right turn and then continue the flight. Not impossible, just unconventional. Meanwhile, the coast looked absolutely beautiful, so I turned and headed west for the ocean.

Once on the coastline, I called Norcal Approach for flight following, and set my altitude at 5500. I had a really easy time holding my altitude today; I was on the button with it. I was told at some point early on to make right traffic runway 28R, so I kept that in mind as I followed the coast. As I passed abeam Watsonville, I began my descent, and a few minutes later was told to fly heading 150 to intersect the right base for 28L. Cool, I get to land on the BIG runway!

I descended to TPA just as I entered what would've been a normal base leg. Unfortunately the TPA was 1500' AGL (above ground level), which is not something I'd dealt with before -- usually it's 800' to 1000'. So I had to make a pretty rapid descent on final; I even employed a forward slip for the first time. But I wasn't too worried since I had a gigantic runway in front of me and a decent headwind. My landing, after the somewhat abrupt leveling off process, was smooth and centered.

I taxied back and got my takeoff clearance, and flew back up the coast at 4500'. I stayed with Norcal Approach, but I think they lost me at some point. I heard, "Cessna 610SP, Norcal Approach." I answered: "Approach, Cessna 610SP." That happened twice, then a third time with a different controller. After the third time, I called them: "Norcal Approach, Cessna 610SP." They responded: "Cessna 610SP, go ahead." I didn't know what to say. "0SP, Making contact, I think I lost radio contact a few minutes ago." They responded with "Radar service terminated, squawk VFR." Um...OK, apparently I blew it, but I'm not really sure how (if anyone reading this has a clue for me, I'd gladly take it).

I tuned my VOR to Woodside and chose radial 240 after consulting the charts and seeing that crossing that radial put me under the 4000' shelf of SFO's class B airspace. I turned inward and crossed the hills just in time to put me at the south tip of the Crystal Springs Reservoir. I called up SQL tower, came in and landed...decently. There was a bit of a crosswind, which I corrected for well, but leveled off high at first. But I corrected and touched down pretty softly.

All in all, it was a good flight. What I didn't do was plan out checkpoints and time my progress, as I should be doing. It was a short enough flight that it didn't really matter, but I need more practice doing that. I guess it's time to take some longer flights where it does matter!

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