Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ups and Downs - The Ups

Many have heard the old saw about flight training... "It has its Ups and Downs". Today was a great example of how flying has its ups and downs, and not just in altitude.

Today's plan was for me to get practice normal landings, then go to the practice area and practice steep turns and stall recovery. Then after up to two hours of me flying, Jeff and I were going to fly the Bonanza up to Chico or somewhere else far away as a bit of a "shakedown" flight, figuring out how we will log fuel burn, switching tanks, etc. when we fly to Denver later this week. Well, half of the day went as planned.

Idiot Convention at Redding Airport

After a rocky morning Jeff and I flew the Bonanza, N9777Y, or "niner seven seven seven yankee" (say that five times fast!), to Redding in far Northern California. Redding is at the northern tip of the central valley, just below the foot of the mountain range with Mt. Shasta as its peak. This pic is of Mt. Shasta. Awesome! Jeff was pilot, I was flying right seat this time.. which was just as well because I was still rather shaken from my morning experience. That and I'm no where near ready to pilot a complex airplane like a P35 V-Tail Bonanza! My job on this trip was to monitor fuel burn on each tank and do some radio work as needed. The main purpose of this run was to get me used to the Bonanza and practice monitoring fuel and switching tanks.

On the outbound trip I just monitored the fuel burn. I didn't really feel like trying to talk to ATC at the time. The flight to Redding was relatively mellow and MUCH quicker than it would have been in a Cessna 172. We had flight following on the way to Redding which is always nice. When we started our descent Jeff called out to Oakland Center that we were starting our descent, but they didn't hear us. Then as we got closer and closer to Redding we tried calling several times with no response.

We were getting within 11 miles of Redding so we contacted Redding tower. Well... Jeff contacted Redding Tower, but he called for "RedBluff Tower" (because we just passed over RedBluff - one of our waypoints), Redding Tower responded saying they were Redding Tower and asking why we weren't responding to Oakland Center. Jeff explained the situation and we got cleared to enter their airspace and report on midfield downwind for Runway 16.

We got closer to the airport and both of us thought the tower told us to report on downwind... so we did. The tower corrected us say we were told to report MIDFIELD downwind. We said we would. By now we're feeling pretty stupid. The tower spotted us and cleared us to land before we could report again. The downwind was OK but the base and final turns became one basefinal turn. Either way, Jeff landed the plane well and the tower instructed us to exit at the first turn and contact ground.

We exited, taxied clear of the runway, did the after landing checklist and contacted ground. Ground cleared us to taxi to transient (and the restaurant!) via Delta, Bravo, Cross Runway 12 to parking south of the tower. We did that OK, but taxied right past the transient parking ... ground called out to us that we passed it and we turned before taxiing right in front of the commercial terminal! .. Now we were feeling REALLY stupid. We heard on the radio another plane contact ground for taxi and the pilot of that plane did it wrong too. By this time we figured the good people of Redding thought there was an idiot convention in town.

The Restaurant is Closed but the Lounge is Open

In any case, we parked at transient, shut down and secured the plane (noting the time of course) and headed for the restaurant. We were both starving. As we walked to the restaurant we both waved to the tower, sort of sheepishly... but hopefully they saw us and saw we were grateful for their help.

We walked into the glorious A/C of the commercial terminal and happily headed up stairs to Peter Chu's Skyroom. The place was supposed to be good Chinese food. But, as we went up the stairs to the Skyroom we found the actual restaurant was closed for the afternoon. Only the cocktail lounge was open. Oh No! We are so hungry.

We went into the lounge and it was empty aside from an older Chinese gentleman sitting in the corner. He assured us he was open. We ordered two cokes, we ordered just about every appetizer he had available. He said, "that's too much". But we had him go ahead and bring it. We ate it all. He ran out of coke syrup so he gave us a 2 liter bottle of Pepsi to pour for ourselves as we ate. All in all, it was a nice, if strange, experience to scarf down Chinese appetizers with a 2 liter bottle of Pepsi in the airport terminal for Redding, CA. It hit the spot.

Helicopters Have Idiots Too

As we returned to the plane we stopped to watch a helicopter do his run up and take off from the helipad near transient. The rotors started to whine louder and louder, then all of the sudden they spun down a bit. The right door of the helicopter popped open and out comes the pilot. He walked around to the left door and closed it(!) He got back in without looking at us, then completed his run up and taxied down the taxiway for a straight out departure, from the taxiway.. Helicopters operate under different rules.

Bonanza Flying at 11 Thousand 5 Hundred

Jeff and I agreed he would talk to Redding Ground and Tower since they knew him so well and I would take over on the radio work when we contacted Oakland Center for flight following. With only a few minor radio missteps and a sincere thank you to the good folk of Redding Airport for their help, we exited Redding Airspace and headed towards Mt. Shasta to take a quick look at the lakes before turning south to home.

We continued to climb up to 11,500 feet MSL and leveled off for cruise. I contacted Oakland Center for flight following. I have to admit, it was a little unnerving to be cruising at 11,500 feet. Some part of me was saying, "are we supposed to be up here, in a plane?!" *laugh* After a while Jeff wanted to look at the fuel performance charts so he gave me the controls and I got to fly a Bonanza for the first time. While I was flying Jeff took this picture.

We cruised along and both of us noticed how we were suddenly yawning. Jeff said if he moved his head too fast or had to think too hard he recognized his thought process didn't work very well. He also had mild tingling in his fingers... these were the first signs of hypoxia. I was yawning, but felt no other ill effects. While I flew the plane I worked on my calculations for fuel burn and helped Jeff switch tanks at good times to ensure equal weight/fuel in each tank as we went as well as possible. Eventually Jeff said he wanted to go down to 9,500 feet to get more oxygen. I contacted ATC and requested a descent to 9,500 which they approved of course. It was good to know what Jeff's reasonable limits were. We determined we should fly no higher than 10,500 pressure altitude without oxygen based on the limitations of our particular bodies. For our flight to Denver we will be carrying oxygen and using it when needed!

Jeff took the controls for the descent to 9,500 and the rest of the flight. I continued to manage the comm work and the fuel. I also worked out when we should switch tanks "on the fly" to end up with a close to an equal fuel load in each wing when landing as we could get. This picture shows my "fuel logs":

In the end, my fuel calculations were only 2.4 gallons off from what we actually burned based on the fill up we had done when we returned to RHV. Not too bad considering my high tech methods for calculating and tracking fuel burn!

Back at Macho Grande

I handled the radio calls until we were handed back to RHV tower. Then Jeff took over again. We came in for landing and Jeff landed very well, VERY well. I was nervous on the approach but the great landing helped. We taxied back to the shelter where N9777Y was stored. Before we parked the plane completely I took this picture of N9777Y and his Pilot, Jeff (don't know why but 9777Y is a boy).

In the end this was a cool trip, I got to get a bit more familiar with the Bonanza, I got to FLY a Bonanza (pretty easy actually - yeah, just straight and level but it seemed to do that easier than niner three kilo does) and practiced fuel monitoring. And it reminded me why I want to fly. Days like today. With the ups and the downs, this is why I fly.

1 comment:

  1. Pilot note here (Jeff): The plan into Redding was pretty simple, but the difference between WRITING the plan down as you study it -vs- understanding it fully in your mind, makes a difference. Lesson was taught long ago..and _now_ it is lesson learned.