Saturday, January 26, 2013

First Flight in MY Airplane

I flew an airplane that I can consider "mine" for the first time today. And what a thrill it was!  Such a thrill, in fact, that I forgot the airplane keys at home, and had to call one of the other partners to borrow his!  Hey, I've never had to worry about bringing airplane keys to an airport with me before..

I met our designated CFI at the airport, and while we waited for my partner to bring keys, we went over emergency procedures and high altitude operations.  One issue right now is that checklists are all over the place - for preflight, there's a preflight checklist but then you have to refer to the book for parts of it. For startup, there's a startup checklist in the manual, but it's not quite right so you have to refer to the separate checklist, but that checklist doesn't have lists for cruise and descent, so you have to look in the's confusing.  One of the most instructive things I did with the Piper Arrow was to make my own checklist, and right after I finish writing this blog entry, I'm going to do the same for 24R.

As for the flight itself, it was awesome.  On the takeoff roll, it took me WAY too long to remember where the airspeed indicator was.  We took off on a "Livermore departure" from SJC, flew over the hills toward Livermore, and as I slalomed some clouds, I realized something: This airplane is not the truck I thought it was. It may look like one, but it handles beautifully, and is fun to fly! It does require more rudder input than I'm accustomed to.

We hung out and did some slow flight, stalls, steep turns - my worst steep turns in a very long time! But, new airplane and all that.  Then back to SJC for some normal landings - I greased 2 of 3, and the other was not bad - but I had a LOT of guidance from the CFI.  He basically handled the radio and the cowl flaps, which I really need to work into my flow.

As a nice bonus, I discovered today that the hourly cost is per tach hour, not per Hobbs hour - that will save me some money!

Another flight is scheduled with one of the partners, who is a CFI, for tomorrow evening. Hopefully I'll have a draft of my checklist done by then. I can't wait!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A New Adventure: Partial Ownership

I've spent a lot of time wondering how to make flying safer, easier, and cheaper; some on this blog, some otherwise. We've talked about experimentals and homebuilts, about joining different clubs, making my home base RHV instead of PAO, and getting my CFI rating.  I've talked about how much I love Mooneys (in the certified world) and Vans and others (in the experimental world) because of their speed and efficiency.

So as of Friday, I'm officially a part owner of N6824R, a 1967 Cessna Turbo 210G based at SJC.  While 24R does not fulfill all of my dreams, it is a very good airplane, has a very good partnership around it, and will make my flying safer, easier, and cheaper, in a way that works with my goals.

What are these goals?

1. Have a reliable IFR platform to plan and take trips around the west coast.  24R is a great machine for this - while it's not nearly as efficient as a Mooney or an experimental, it's got much greater capacity than a Mooney and is a much more stable IFR platform than many experimentals.

2. Buy into an established partnership, if I'm going to buy. 24R's 5-way partnership is very well established, and I have been able to buy in without having to think about all the logistics and legality of creating a business entity, recruiting co-owners, finding a home base for an aircraft, etc.

3. Home base closer to home. I simply don't go near PAO any more.  24R is based at SJC, which is easy to get to, and nicer (to me) than RHV.

4. Save money flying.  This depends on how you count it, and how much I fly.  The hourly costs on 24R, even with its significant fuel burn, are lower by about $20/hr than what I was paying for (albeit very nicely equipped) 172s at Advantage Aviation at PAO.  And that's assuming say 65% power for about 160 KTAS, vs. the 110 KTAS in the 172.  G1000s don't make your plane go faster.  So if I fly enough, it'll be enough to offset the monthly fees (which aren't that much) and the maintenance costs.  Generally, though, flying will still be expensive.

5. Fly safer.  Getting to know one airplane really, really well has its advantages.  Also, when that airplane has the ability to fly into the flight levels, that also has its advantages.  A few times, when I've taken a 172 out on a longer trip, I've felt like I'm not giving myself much margin - for example, flying over a cloud layer all the way over Oregon, tops at about 10,000, maintaining an altitude of 11,000, outside temps below freezing, service ceiling 12,500 and no O2 on board anyway.  What if the tops went up to 11,000, or 12,000?  Not much in the way of options - I don't remember the MEA on that particular route, but it would've had to have been below 8000 if I needed to descend below freezing level.  The T210 is an extremely capable aircraft.

6.  Learn. The T210 is a more complex aircraft than anything I've flown before, with greater pilot demands in terms of engine management in particular, but also with its increased speed, staying ahead of the airplane will be much harder (though I can always slow down).  Also, its avionics are dated.  So I will have to learn (again) to get good at tracking VOR radials, and hopefully also learn about avionics options so we can upgrade at some point.  I will also have the opportunity to learn how partnerships are run, from people who have run a good one for a while.

I'm very, very excited for this new adventure, and the adventures to come!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Pasadena and Back

As you know, I haven't been flying that much lately, for a variety of factors.  It really hit me when, on the day before Thanksgiving, we were on our way to San Diego, and got caught in nasty traffic on "the" 405 on the way down.  It was infuriating, but even more maddening to realize that this was exactly a time we should've been flying instead of driving.

So when we found ourselves with the opportunity to go to Pasadena to watch Stanford WIN the Rose Bowl, we jumped at it! And when the weather turned out to be sunny all the way, I rented the only thing I could get my hands on: an overly cushy (read: expensive) 172.

I'm now at the point where I would trade cushiness for flight performance any day.

The flight down was fine, but it took us a while to get up to 9,500.  The LA airspace was busy as expected, and I did a very good job of being on top of things.

The way back was worse; we took off after the parade, the game and a nice dinner on New Year's Day, about 9pm. Several mistakes: I didn't put my flight plan into my GPS before taking off (duh); I underestimated the terror of flying not that far over high mountains at night; I underestimated the difficulty of climbing to 10,500.  So...let's just say things weren't going smoothly.  But in the end, we ended up overflying I-5 on the way out (far more comfortable than the original plan), my awesome wife was on top of things with the charts enough that I sounded relatively competent with ATC, and we made it home safely.

Before midnight - in time to toast to 2013!