Stranded In The Southland

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ride Along On A Cross-Country To RHV

My buddy from work, T., first gave me a ride in his plane a little over a year ago, convincing me that flying was not just for the rich and crazy. Well, at least, not just for the rich. This weekend, I got a chance to ride along with him on a flight from LA up to the Bay Area (I'm up here all week for a conference -- give me a ring if you haven't heard from me already).

After putting in many hours learning to fly, it was wonderful to get a chance to see someone else fly a light plane, doing all of the stuff I've been studying. I got to listen in on ATC again, and this time I could actually make heads or tails of it, and spot some of the traffic that was pointed out to us.

T. is a careful and serious pilot, and watching him at work reminded me of all of the sloppiness of my own flying, like remembering to turn off the fuel pump once I get high enough to be safe, or sloppily specifying my airplane type as a PA28/A, rather than P28A/A. Plus, he had a few new tricks that I hadn't picked up yet, like turning on the fuel pump briefly whenever switching tanks.

On the last leg of the flight, into Ried Hillview airport in San Jose, ATC vectored us around (straight into the hills) until T. asked 'em to let him resume his own navigation, and then handed us off to approach at the last minute. T. finally raised approach, then had to do a quick 360 because he hadn't contacted the tower yet for permission to enter the airport airspace. Then he slid neatly down into the airport, following a couple other planes.

It didn't end there -- we got some crazy progressive taxi instructions that put us into a totally different part of the airport ("Did she say right?" "Uh, yeah." "This sure doesn't look like transient parking to me!"), and then finally got it all set up.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I was so happy to be able to see how somebody besides my instructor flew, and to pick up a few tips. I think that this'll definitely improve my flying. And it was certainly big fun. Seeing how crazy the ATC was coming in to Ried Hillview, I was shocked. It might be that I need some more practice at busy airports, but hopefully I'll get some more soon!