January 16, 2006

Around and Around...

I used to hate pattern work when I was a raw student — all those variants on the same theme, again and again, with Dave sitting there trying to distract me, with me sitting there trying not to land too long or too short or too hard, with all those other planes in the pattern trying to kill me, and a poor overworked tower controller trying to keep the whole circus afloat (just to mix metaphors)….

Nowadays it all just seems like light relief, and I'm in the pattern at Livermore (KLVK) just going round and round watching the world go by for an hour. It's hypnotic, and I get a lot of fun out of doing endless variations of landings — full flaps, no flaps, short approaches, etc. — on Livermore's little 25L in 8SA (one of our 172SP's). It's such a change from being under the hood or from endlessly following the charts in IMC…

Yes, I should be continuing on with the whole G1000 glass cockpit thing, but a new job (and a short vacation) is making that difficult to schedule (thanks to John for his patience with this…). So I decide to take a couple of hours to try to improve my VFR flying skills, especially my landings. And the first landing is pretty rough, but after an hour in the pattern dodging Livermore's usual busy mix of Citations, Cubs, Cherokees, 172's, and experimentals, my landings seem a lot smoother again, and I depart back to Hayward (KWHD) feeling relaxed and fairly pleased with myself. A good lesson.

* * *

OK, one of my generic pet peeves: wide patterns. I used to do much of my pattern work on Oakland's 27L, where you have to keep things tight to avoid the heavies and such on the neighbouring runway 29. And at most airports around here, there are similar reasons (or terrain or noise abatement procedures) that keep you in close. So when, several times around the pattern today, I end up way inside the plane ahead of me in the pattern, I wonder what they're thinking — they're too far out laterally to return to the airport if their engine fails even abeam the numbers, and they're making downwind legs so long I (once again) contemplate facetiously asking tower if I'm cleared to TRACY or something just to be snarky. Especially since tower has already gently chided the guys ahead of me at least twice for the size of their pattern…. Oh well. All mild rants start sounding the same after a while, no? So I'll shut up now.

EVERYBODY hates wide patterns. So how in the world are there so many Cessnas buzzing around flying two-mile-wide downwinds!?
Beats me :-). Not just wide, but wide and low, in this case... urgh. I sound like an old-timer...
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I confess I am one of those that fly wide patterns. Long time ago I didn't but too many years of pax and bigger airplanes did it. Now I feel like a less than two hour flight is really rushed and when we are below 10,000 agl we are too darn low. First it was the pax that didn't like tight patterns and steep turns and now it is the airplanes that don't like it (the boxes don't complain much about anything). Make up for it by seeing SKBO, OKBK, PGUA, EBOS, CYYR and a few other senic spots mostly at night (and a few of them are better at night since you don't see all that high terrain)and got to see some fun places and drink a lot of good beer. Brazil for example has great beer.

So in some cases it is poor instructing or being used to flying in one area that uses geographic points on the ground for the pattern, always seems to be wide since they try to make it fit everyone. Or it might be some poor guy that is used to flying a big plane and has a problem making the change.
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