Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Beautiful Weekend Day

Smiles all around as we enjoyed our flight!
Today my friend, Roy, and I flew up to Petaluma airport for breakfast at the 29er Diner. He was very interested in how to fly through Bravo airspace. So I suggested we go up the East Bay route (avoiding Bravo) there, then go south through Bravo over San Francisco Airport on the way back because I knew it would be busier later in the day. I didn't know how much busier it would be!

On the way there we took off on a Calaveras departure and got an un-asked-for Bravo clearance direct to Petaluma within 5 minutes of contacting NorCal. Nice! We flew direct past Oakland airport and directly over the water from Oakland to Petaluma. It was very quiet with almost no traffic on the radios or in the air. Roy had fun taking pictures. Eventually I gave him the controls to fly straight and level and talked him through using the default nav page on a Garmin 430W to maintain a precise ground track. I also practiced staying out of the way in a crowded cockpit. A skill every good CFI has to learn.

Things changed on the way back! We took off from Petaluma and climbed to 5500 feet towards the Sausalito VOR. We listened to NorCal's approach frequency which was very busy with a bunch of planes doing Bay Tours and getting traffic call outs. It took a while to get a word in and request a Bravo transition. I was given a squawk code and told to stay clear of Bravo for now.

We continued towards SFO. I was monitoring the distance to SFO airspace and preparing to circle rather than enter the airspace without a clearance. For the first time I was denied my Bravo clearance. ATC said they weren't accepting any transitions due to traffic at SFO. They asked if I'd like to fly at 2500 feet over Oakland Colosseum instead. Sure! Just a 3000 foot rapid descent required to get below the Bravo shelf before heading towards Oakland and finding the colosseum. At least this time I had an idea of where it was!

We were switched to Oakland tower who sent us to Lake Chabot - we didn't know where that was so we requested vectors. After that we were offered the option to fly along the 880 towards Hayward at 1500 feet. We took that and were switched to Hayward tower and told to remain north of the extended runway centerline. Eventually the tower told us we could fly south of the runway centerline and maintain VFR below 4500. I turned south and started to climb to a more comfortable altitude. The tower asked my altitude shortly thereafter. Told him it was 1600 and he said we were supposed to stay below 1500. I apologized and said I thought it was 4500. He apologized too.

No harm done, we continued to Reid-Hillview at 1500 feet over some very populated areas. The whole time the radios were buzzing with planes talking with ATC and little planes were flying everywhere. Reid-Hillview as crazy busy too.

It was a beautiful fall, weekend, day, right before Thanksgiving and a perfect day to fly. It seemed we weren't the only pilots who wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. We are so lucky to be able to live and fly where we do :)

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