After a long week of entirely fogged in mornings, and therefore no flying, today was just about as perfect as it could possibly be. Unfortunately my instructor was all booked, but that didn't prevent me from going for a flight by myself.
The "twist" for today's lesson was that I would be departing the pattern above Hayward and flying around in the Mt. Diablo practice area commonly used by the flight school.
After hanging around the school for a bit, eating my lunch and shooting the shit for a bit, I drove through the gate and down to pre-flight.
My current pre-flight procedure includes checking the fuel before anything else, today this pattern finally paid off. While the fuel truck filled up Ugly Duckling, I finished up my inspection.
Instead of heading towards 28L, I taxied towards 28R and took off heading east towards Mount Diablo.
Passing Lake Chabot, I climb to 3000ft, go through my climb checklist and start to ponder how I'm going to perform the manuevers I set out to perform. As I crossed the hills, I see a plane turning about 20 miles straight ahead. "Damnit" I think to myself, traffic means more stress in my head while I practice.
I performed a few clearing 360 turns to double-check for more traffic, and started setting up for some slow flight manuevers over I-680. As I slowed to around 60 knots, I became a bit uneasy with my situation. Hadn't flown in a week, was by myself and things felt slow. I decided that I'd get to slow-flight later after I got more comfortable by myself.
Generally I found myself "playing around" more than not. Ground reference manuevers, climbing and descending turns, forward slips, side-slips, and of course slow flight.
With a good 10-15 knot wind at altitude, taking advantage of the situation I started to perform practice patterns, and approaches to runways which didn't exist. On previous lessons I had trouble with cross-wind approaches. I was determined to get the cowl lined up on my fake centerline, and get a feel for how much drift and rudder stomping was necessary to perform a good cross-wind landing.
Satisfied with my hour's worth of work, I started picking out landmarks to make sure I took the right track towards Hayward. I could see Livermore, Mount Diablo, and I-680 from the cockpit. "But which cities are these stupid ones down here?" I grumble to myself, glancing back and forth between the windshield and my chart. Gazing westward and I was able to pick out the San Mateo Bridge, and start pointing the nose towards Hayward.
My approach and entry to Hayward's airspace was near flawless, and I entered a right base approach for 28R. All my solo work has been on 28L, the giant mile long runway, I haven't actually landed on the puny 28R in a while.
Carb heat on, gas on both, undercarriage present, mixture rich, prop is there, seatbealts on, landing clearance received.
Lined up, speed looking good, flaps lowered to 20 degrees. I fly over the grass speeding towards 28R, start my flare, my airspeed slows, I keep pulling back, staring at the end of the runway, I keep pulling back and the wheels gently touch down shortly past the numbers, right on the centerline.
On previous lessons, I felt excited about the pattern work and the plethora of landings performed. On this lesson, I felt excited about one landing, it was exhilarating.
Flying is fun, I can't recommend it enough. Tomorrow I'll be going up again, for the first time in almost two weeks, I won't be alone.