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18
Apr 15
Sat

Flight 11: PAO-PAO

6.30am Friday 4/17 (1.2 hours) – 501SC – Winds Calm – Sky Clear – Visibility 10 SM – 10°C

I don’t normally fly on Fridays, but John had a student that had a Thursday check ride so we had to push. Apparently the student had been trying to schedule a check ride since February but it kept getting cancelled due to weather. He finally got to take it and passed.

We started a half hour earlier than usual today because I needed to get to work to take care of a transaction that was signing.

The airport is pretty quiet at dawn, so much so that I was cleared to taxi to runway 31 “at my discretion”. There are two routes to the runway from the flying club – via the hangar side (left) and via the terminal side (right). I got to pick today as it seemed there wasn’t any ground traffic.

Today was landing practice. John let me do 8 of them – I think all but one or two were unassisted. I had a string of decent ones, then a couple of terrible ones, then finished with a couple of ok ones.

PAO is doing runway maintenance works over the next couple weeks and also refreshing the paintwork. They are halfway through the repainting because it looked like a lot of the markings had been wiped off, including the demarcation line on 31, which threw me off on the first couple of landings. They also had switched the VASI lights off so I only had my eyes to rely on to figure out if I was on glide path.

I know what a good landing feels like now but, on average, I’m still hunting around a bit at each stage — timing when to idle and glide in (I keep thinking I’m too low when I’m not), when to start the round out (I kind of get this) and, most of all, how quickly to flare. I have a tendency to balloon after yanking back too quickly after the round out (especially when I see the plane’s shadow swoop in). Then, after the plane settles, I don’t flare enough and bump down hard.

Also, on my final landing, for some reason I pushed the yoke forward after the back wheels had touched down, which is always a no-no when landing.

I’ve gotten the hang of pattern work mostly now. Need to work on stabilizing the cruise downwind when levelling off at the 800′ pattern altitude — I get a bit confused when I’m turning into the crosswind or downwind leg, I hit the pattern altitude, and then I need to respond to the tower if they clear me for the option at the same time. The sequence is: hit pattern altitude, use yoke to set level pitch attitude, wait until speed picks up, reduce power to 2200rpm and trim. Steer the plane while doing it and monitor comms.

There wasn’t any traffic in the pattern today, but John said if there was, we’d extend downwind by slowing down – reducing power to 1600rpm, applying full flaps at under 85 knots, adjusting pitch to hold altitude, and then bumping the power back up to ~1900rpm to maintain pattern altitude at 65 knots. We’d then maintain that speed through the rest of the pattern.

This weekend John wants to teach me the last two maneuvers — power on stalls and emergency descents, then we can head out to Central Valley to do some ground reference maneuvers.

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