Bouncing over to Concord

After a completely stressful week filled with project deadlines and a summons for jury duty, this past Saturday I finally managed to get back up into the air. Like the weekend before it, which I neglected to blog about, I was flying in yet another plane in the California Airways fleet. With a couple planes of the fleet in for annual maintenance, the only bird available was 733PV

Superficially the plane looks like 172CA, the first plane I ever flew in, but underneath the hood (literally) is a different engine. The cockpit was largely the same as well, except for my view out the front windshield, probably 3-4 inches shorter than what I'm accustomed to.

While I preflight, my instructor and I notice the anomalous number of Bonanzas flying in and out of Hayward. There are plenty of general aviation aircraft that fly in and out of the field on the weekends, but it's uncommon to see more of one type in a 10 minute time span, other than a Cessna 172.

I've fantasized about owning a Bonanza, they're spacious and fast, but drink avgas at a rate that scares the hell out of me.

Hopping in the cockpit, everything is laid out largely the same, I go through my engine start checklist and start the engine. "Three Papa ViC" springs alive, I continue through the before taxi checklist, call up Ground, making damned sure I'm on the right frequency, and I hear nothing.

I notice some flickering text on the Garmin 430, think nothing of it, and start to tune my secondary radios when the right seat reaches over, and turns up the volume on Comm 1.

"Sorry about that Ground, had my volume low, say again?"


Taxi clearance received, we putter off towards 28R.

As we meander up to the hold short line for 28R, my instructor says "give me a short field take-off." Okie doke I say, and then slowly mosey over the numbers, and he reiterates "short field." Oh right, I was lining up for a soft field take-off, I just burned about 50 feet on my short field runway. Feet on the brakes, I cram the throttle, release, and we're accelerating as fast as Three-Papa-Vic can.

Around 06 knots we lift off, and I hold the nose as high as I think I can without stalling until about 300 feet, turn right, and start climbing in the direction of Byron.

Climbing over the hills I notice a glint of sunlight in the sky straight ahead. A plane, but the glint was all I saw of it. My instructor points out traffic off our left wing a few thousand feet flying the other direction, I didn't see him until he was abeam us. My traffic scanning abilities are definitely not as sharp as my instructor's.

As we close in on Byron, we talk about navigaton using GPS, but primarily VORs. VOR stations broadcast a special directional signal in a circle, like spokes on a bike spreading out from a fixed point (the station). Using these you can triangulate your position and navigate.

Tuned-in to Concord's VOR, we start heading northward on the eastern side of Mount Diablo when my instructor spots more traffic. Another 172 up and to the left of us, and a lot closer than I'm comfortable with. "Uhh...I should turn right..right?" "Yeah, why don't you make a full 360 and we'll just let him get ahead of us." Technically we had the right of way, but the only way he could have seen us is if he had a glass-bottomed 172. It was a perfect blindspot, he was hidden by my high left wing, and I was hidden by his fuselage below, our paths slowly converging.

Continuing northward, we stop by to see the actual VOR station. In Concord's case, it's sitting in a field or a marsh of some sort, and is pretty easy to spot, a white Chess pawn jutting up from the surrounding green.

Spotting the reserve fleet, I ask if we can check it out, and I practice turns on a point while I inspect the collection of naval supply ships, mothballed for future use. Satisfied with my sight-seeing diversion, the right seat requests a landing at Concord.

After making my request to enter their airspace, I start negotiating the right way to enter the pattern for runway 32R. Not thinking we would possibly go to Concord, I didn't have any of airport details with me, just the frequencies for radios that I could read from my sectional charts.

As I come around for approach number one, I'm both fast and high, staring down a long runway. The right seat's requested a soft field landing, the left seat was planning a landing. Flaps all the way in, power out, I cross the runway threshold somewhere between 300 and 400 feet, descent continues, I contemplate going around but this runway is enormous. The wheels chirp further down than the halfway point on the runway and we exit the runway and contact ground.

Concord's taxiways suck. Not only did I not have my plates with me for the airport, I've nveer studied it too much, and Concord is "alphabet soup" according to my instructor. He advises me to write to my taxi clearance when they call it over the radio.

After waiting for plenty of landing traffic, we get clearance to take-off from 32R again.

Another circuit around, a lower approach, but too much speed. The wheels chirp, and we bounce up, then settle back down onto the runway. I bounced. Damnit.

Heading back to Hayward wasn't terrifically eventful, other than I my subpar landing back at "home" was actually on the right side of centerline for once. Tired from a nigh two hour lesson, I taxi back to parking, putting the hose wheel perfectly on the "T" that denotes the parking spot.

"See! You can find a centerline!"

Another lesson down, another list of things to work on.

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