Wednesday, March 08, 2006

SFO Flightseeing

The IFR Pilot finally finds a bit of free time and can write about the flightseeting trip with the Freight Dog (who was kind enough to correct me that he was referring to the 172RG as the "Super Chicken," not the "Chicken Hawk," as previously written).

Anyway, the day began with a quick trip on the BART from downtown San Fran to Oakland. Switching trains at the West Oakland stop, in and of itself, was an eye-opening experience. Just keep a low profile and hope that the next train shows up promptly.

John picked me up, and we made our way to Oakland Flyers to retrieve a nice little 172 he had rented. We moseyed on over to Kaiser Air, where we initially stopped so that he could return some materials to the cockpit of his Caravan. This wasn't the first time seeing one (indeed, having been inside the factory where they are built), but it had been several years, so I was again stuck but the size of the 'Van. For those that don't know, the Caravan sits so high off the ramp that when you open the pilot-side door, there's a little fold down ladder to climb when entering the cockpit. Almost like a fighter. Well, maybe vaguely like a fighter, except that you can't go supersonic in a Caravan!

We then grabbed a table at Kaiser, opened up the sectional and TAC, and planned our route. Initially, it was going to be the mid-span San Mateo VFR departure, then over to Half Moon Bay. The IFR Pilot's original plan of trying to visit Monterey was scrapped due to time constrains. John then indicated that after Half Moon Bay, we could go north, over the Golden Gate, then do a 180 and fly the "Bayshore Transition" to San Carlos, where he was dropping me off. The plan quickly morphed into a takeoff from Oakland, northwest to the bridge, then the Bayshore Transition to HAF, and the SQL after that.

Out we went to preflight the 172 (as John couldn't be persuaded to help steal a nice looking Columbia 350 on the ramp). The IFR Pilot was just starting the preflight when John said, "Take a look at this," pointing at the front nose strut.

Which was totally compressed.

And which meant that we weren't going anywhere in that particular plane.

Indeed, this problem had been written up in the squawk sheet and had supposedly been resolved a couple of weeks previously. Clearly, it hadn't, or some other problem had cropped up. John theorized that the seal that had been replaced had been damaged during the repair and had allow the strut to deflate.

So, we pile back into John's car and drive back to Oakland Flyers to negotiate the rental of an alternative aircraft. The board shows that there's a 172RG available at only $5 more an hour, and since the commercial requires 10 hours complex, I jump at the opportunity to get some complex time logged as part of the flightseeing tour. We prepare the necessary paperwork and head back to the Kaiser Air parking lot. John is forced to demonstrate the top-secret procedures that facilitate one's admission to the Kaiser parking lot -- but he made the IFR Pilot pinky swear not to divulge the contents of that Masonic-like ritual, so no further comment can be made here about that....

Here's what our faithful "Super Chicken" looked like before takeoff:

A quick preflight and we launched off runway 27R. This was just the least big disconcerting, as it meant that we were taking off with a slight tailwind. With a 5400' runway, however, we had plenty of concrete available to us.

The takeoff was not too shabby, if I say so myself. Retracted the gear after establishing a positive rate of climb and ensuring that there wasn't sufficient runway available to make an emergency landing. A quick turn to the right for noise abatement, and we were switched off to Norcal Approach.

We quickly headed west, and John pointed out the former Alameda Naval Air station, visible in this photo:

Then, there was another nice-looking island, though I can't recall what it's called now:

Soon enough, we were over the Bay, and had a great view of Alcatraz. This picture doesn't do it justice, obviously, but that's due more to the IFR Pilot's crappy skills as a photographer more than anything else.

Next up was an absolutely breathtaking view of the Golden Gate bridge itself. Kids, take the IFR Pilot's word for it: If you're in the Bay Area, you simply have to rent a plane and see the bridge from up above!

We crossed over the bridge and went out over the water. We then turned back to the east and flew just north of Golden Gate park. Norcal approved our request for the Bayshore Transition and we got to take in some absolutely breathtaking views of downtown San Francisco.

Keeping west of the 101 freeway, we were then treated to the most amazing view of San Francisco International itself!

From here, we hopped over the hills and did a stop and go at HAF. Then, it was a flight along the coast and the opportunity to see the spectacular cliffs along the west coast.

Before long, it was time to head back to SQL. The exchange went like this:

IFR Pilot (being lazy and not wanting to do any navigation): "We should probably head back to San Carlos. Where do I go from here?"

Freight Dog (continuing to make the IFR Pilot be the PIC): "Well, where are we."

IFR Pilot (silently cursing the Freight Dog for making him fly and navigate, reviews chart, determines position with a doubtful degree of accuracy): "Ummm, OK, we're here." (pointing)

Freight Dog: "Are there any navaids we can use?"

IFR Pilot (more silent cursing): "Yeah, there's one." Tunes in, identifies, sets OBS. Considers firing Freight Dog by pushing him out, but determines this will not be advisable.

Freight Dog: "Good. Now see those clouds over the ridges? Think we're gonna get a smooth ride?"

IFR Pilot: "Not likely."

Freight Dog: "So parallel the mountains, then cross over the Crystal Reservoir, and then call San Carlos."

Before long, we were talking to SQL tower. The IFR Pilot had some trouble spotting the airport amid all the urban clutter, but eventually I picked it out. We flew the pattern as requested for noise abatement purposes, and landed without incident. Some cash changed hands, the Freight Dog filled out my log book, and the final picture was taken:

And that's the details on how I accomplished Goal #3. I strongly recommend John as an aerial guide and a CFI (this, based on his complimentary review of the IFR Pilot's procedures. I believe the assessment was "Very smooth. I usually worry about doctors and lawyers." Go figure.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post!

The second island is "Coast Guard Island", home to the United States 11th District (D11) Coast Guard cutters based out of Alameda.

John said...

A great post and a great flight, too. It was my pleasure to fly with IFR Pilot. Maybe the next time I'm in his neck of the woods ...

Don said...

Great story, and pics!
One of these days Ill make it over the Golden Gate :)

My radio skills are getting better, but I cant imagine the class B airspace.