Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bay Tour for Mom

This is my 70th post in this blog, surpassing the 69 posts in my original flight training blog, Learning To Fly. And I can think of no better way to commemorate such an event, especially on Mothers' Day, than to write about the flight I took yesterday: A bay tour on a beautiful day, taking my mom up for the first time.

I reserved 739TW at Palo Alto, a nice plane with the avionics suite that I've grown used to through my instrument training (the timer doesn't work and the #2 radio has been flaky in the past; hence my reluctance to use this aircraft on my checkride). My mom got to the airport well before I did and got a coffee at the Abundant Air Cafe while she waited for me. When I got there, we ran into my friend Terry at West Valley, who wished my mom a good flight and gave her a good impression of the club. We also ran into Sergey, my PPL CFI, which was awesome -- I think he impressed my mom with his professionalism and friendliness even in a short conversation.

It was a little hazy out, but still greater than 10SM visibility, so nothing to worry about. So we took off northbound off of 31, and contacted San Carlos tower and requested a bay tour. Bad news: SFO Tower informed SQL tower (just then, apparently) that they weren't authorizing bay tours or B transitions. Perfect. I asked for a higher altitude and SQL told me to circle left and climb to 3000' and contact Norcal up there. So that's what I did, and Norcal cleared me through Class B at 3500 -- a higher view than is customary, but still spectacular.

We ended up being vectored west of San Francisco city on our way up to the Golden Gate, so we didn't get the close up view of downtown like we might've on another day, but again, still not bad. As we crossed Golden Gate Park, Norcal asked if I wanted to stay at 3500' and I asked for "as low as we could go." He gave me "at or above 2500'" so I dropped to 2500 and stayed there. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge from west to east, and circled Angel Island, giving my mom a good view of the City's amazing skyline and the Bay Bridge in the distance. We circled back and crossed back westbound over the Golden Gate, with a couple of traffic alerts along the way. We checked out Stinson Beach, and then back over the Golden Gate once more to head up the north bay toward the Carquinez Bridge.

Norcal asked at this point whether I was going to Napa; I told him negative, we'd head east and follow 680 down. So he discontinued flight following and we were on our way. Once reaching the Carquinez, I climbed back up to 3500 to get more clearance over the hills. On the way down to 680, I quickly showed my mom the GPS and autopilot operations because she was curious. As we followed the freeway down, she was very interested in the distribution of houses around there -- it was a lot less crowded there than in Fremont or San Jose, where she and I live, respectively.

We never did get back on flight following, but we did encounter some traffic to the west of Livermore, at the same altitude. We maneuvered around them and made our way back over Fremont (we think she saw her house) and back to Palo Alto. Interestingly, I got knocked off centerline pretty good as I crossed the numbers, but recovered alright and landed smoothly.

All in all, it was a great flight in that it was totally unremarkable, other than the views, which are always remarkable. It was really nice to just cruise around and be looking out the window.

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