May 06, 2007
Rough and (Not Quite) Ready
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I'm on what should really just be a pleasurable IFR-in-VMC flight to Monterey and back in the 04E, one of the club's G1000-equipped 172s. And for the most part it is a pleasurable flight, in beautiful weather over rugged and familiar landscapes. But two things stand out this time: the turbulence (it hit me once more on the way back in almost identical ways, but at a much higher altitude this time), and the mortifying realisation of just how quickly you lose a lot of the IFR "edge" skills when you don't fly IFR very often. I don't mean the basic keep-the-plane-upright or keep-a-decent-heading things (both of which I do roughly but robustly), I mean the sort of thing that happens when you look at the G1000 after twiddling a few knobs and sit there wondering "why the hell is it doing that ?" (without having the presence of mind to think "it doesn't bloody matter!"), or when you hesitate on the radio for a little too long. Nothing major, but it's good to do in-the-system IFR in VMC flights like this for precisely this reason: after a couple of hours doing it for real, but in good weather, the rust starts wearing off. By the time I'm back in Hayward I start feeling pretty good about my IFR flying again; I'll have to drag Boyan out for a decent workout under the Cone Of Stupidity sometime in the next few weeks if he's still around.
In any case, the offshore flow (a very mild version of SoCal's more famous Santa Ana wind) is a definite issue this flight, and not just because of the turbulence there's a strong gusty crosswind on landing back at Hayward, prompting one of the better crosswind landings I've done in years (a nice one-point landing on the right main and a gentle let-down from that), and on the return leg from Monterey, the crab angle during cruise is very obvious (at one stage near BUSHY intersection the G1000 tells me I have a 40 knot crosswind at almost exactly 90 degrees from the right).
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For the most part during this exercise, the NorCal controllers have been their normal rather pleasant and competent selves, so it's a bit of a shock when I'm given several bad vectors and instructions in a row on the final NorCal frequency for example, I'm vectored for (and told to join) Hayward's localizer after having requested and been told to expect the GPS 28L approach, and I'm told to descend to an altitude that's several thousand feet higher than I'm already at. At least three times I hear a second controller's voice immediately come on and say something like "04E disregard the previous altitude; descend 4,000" or "04E disregard; direct JOTLI; I'll have the approach clearance for you in a minute ". Trainees, doncha just love 'em?! :-).
I flew out of Hayward on Sunday also and I can confirm your story about the turbulence. There were a few moments of deviations +/-20 degree bank and +/-100 feet altitude until we were able to climb above the mountains. It was probably not the best day to be out and about in a 152.
On the positive side, the weather was clear all the way up to Shelter Cover.