Last Saturday my instructor and I decided to head out to Livermore for our work on approaches and landings. With temperatures in the triple digits (38+ for the non-Americans) around the Bay Area today, we decided to look for cooler air this weekend towards Napa County’s Airport (KAPC).

Napa was cooler than it would have been out at Livermore or elsewhere in the Bay Area, but it still wasn’t cool. Not that it would have mattered since, like an idiot, I wore pants for some reason.

The route from Hayward to Napa offered up another new experience: transitioning through Oakland’s Class C airspace. For the unfamilar, airspace around busy airports is typically class A, B, or C. San Francisco Internationl (KSFO) for example is class B, and there’s not a high probability that I will be flying through it any time soon. Oakland International is under class C airspace, which is less busy, but still requires clearance and additional radio work to fly through it.

Before we left our parking spot, I was talking to Hayward Ground control and requesting a transition to Napa. We taxi to 28R, perform run-up area checks, everything looking good, taxi to the hold short line, and call Hayward Tower with our request, tower responds “737 Golf Mike, hold short”. Crap, now we’re waiting for somebody on approach to land; either way it’s a good time to double-check some things and notice that it’s definitely heating up.

We finally get clearance for our departure, so I taxi onto the runway and then we get going. I don’t want to brag, but I’m getting pretty good at taking off. Landing the Ugly Duckling is another story though.

As we fly towards Lake Chabot, my headset is killing me, the volume is totally wrong. My voice feedback is far louder than the controller, and I’m having enough trouble to where my instructor takes some of the radio calls while I figure out what the hell is going wrong with my headset.

Near the lake, my issues are sorted out, we’re squawking the code they’ve given us (our transponder is emitting the right code so they can identify us on their scope), and we’re heading up the 580.

As we approach Napa Co., we call and get clearance for 18L. Napa Co. has three runways, and if you compare 18L to the others you might mistake it for a road or a taxiway. It’s narrower than the others, shorter than the others and generally looks puny. In hindsight however it is the same width as the runway I’m used to at Hayward (28R), and only 500ft shorter.

Either way, the relative “dinkiness” of 18L was definitely in my head. After a rough landing, I’m told to clean up the plane for a touch-and-go by my instructor. I start to feel overwhelmed, bringing the flaps up (we’re going to run off the end!), carb heat off (I’m not on the centerline! we’re going to run off the end!) and then finally he says “terminate, terminate, terminate.” The airplane was getting away from me, we go to idle power, and taxi off the end of the runway.

He decided we would stick to 18R (a big runway) for the rest of our approaches, one less thing for me to worry about for today.

Currently, my approaches are generally looking fine, my landings are still too flat and I have had some amount of trouble keeping a constant nose-up attitude when within 50 feet of the runway. Not that you care, but it’s important for me to know.

I clocked another 7 landings, 6 at KAPC (Napa Co.) and 1 at KHWD (Hayward) on our flight back.

This might be one of the hardest parts of learning to fly because when it comes down to it, I’m still the one mentally processing everything, feeling the speed of the airplane, and planning the touchdown. My instructor can’t directly help with that, in his words “I can give you all the tools, but at the end of the day, you sort of need to teach yourself how to land.”

I’ll be going back up, bright and early Tuesday morning, to teach myself how to land.