Friday, March 13, 2009

Flying? Do we do that?

It's been a long time. I've been in the air only twice since my awesome trip to Santa Barbara last November, in large part because of financial constraints and worries about my job and the economy. I'm sure you've never heard that before; it may not be original, but it's true.

So I could not resist when my friend Tim asked me to be his safety pilot for a few approaches. I was especially thrilled when he asked me to take care of all the radio work!

Tim picked me up from PAO in N7UB, his Cessna Turbo Centurion. This is a nice airplane; I won't go into details because I'm tired, but it's about 10 steps up from the 172SPs that I generally fly. I hopped in, and we went over the plan: OAK ILS 27R, then a few at CCR, then LVK ILS 25R, then the VOR DME 31 at PAO. We took off on a right Dumbarton, and as we headed for Sunol, called Norcal to request the ILS at Oakland. We got it, and from that point forward, were basically too slow for everyone around us (good thing we weren't in a 172!). We were still full speed ahead, but I guess even a T210 is slow compared to commercial jets.

My radio work was awful. I was so rusty, lots of ums and uhs, not asking for everything at once, and missing some of the controller's instructions. But I hadn't flown in nearly two months, so, there you have it. We went over toward CCR and called up Travis Approach. This went more smoothly, and after the third approach, we headed over to Livermore.

The ILS 25R is a great approach, taking the pilot just over a ridge of hills on the approach. Tim flew it partially coupled, then we did a low pass and took off toward Palo Alto. As we made our way toward PAO, we noticed that a low cloud layer was forming. We called up Norcal and requested a VOR DME into PAO. It's an unusual request, so we weren't sure what to expect, but we got it.

Shortly thereafter, a different controller came on the air and asked us if we wanted to go all the way out to SAPID, or if we could take it just outside DOCAL. I responded that DOCAL was fine, and we got a favorable turn. But then we realized that these were GPS waypoints, which were not helpful in the VOR approach structure, so I informed Norcal that we were actually requesting the VOR DME. He seemed slightly miffed, and sent us out toward San Jose (I could see my house). But a couple of turns later, we were pointed back in, and Tim landed and dropped me off.

It was a great workout for me, and a good flight to get me motivated to get back into things!

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