One year ago today, my wife and I made the drive down to Hayward for the first time to take an introductory flight/bay tour with California Airways. My scheduled instructor for the flight was busy, and so another instructor picked up the flight.
In the past twelve months, I’ve received 50 flight hours of instruction from him, and racked up nearly 15 hours of solo time myself, all in the pursuit of a private pilot’s license.
Before our first flight
Running late this morning, I pushed my right foot, and my luck as I sped towards Hayward. The weather wasn’t flyable when I woke up, but it was clearing up fast, and I wanted to get as much work in as possible.
The plane, 733PV, that I had intended to take out went “off-roading” the day prior and was off the flight line until it could be inspected for non-obvious damage. This put me in 172CA for my morning work, and likely for my checkride. A year to the day, I would be taking the same plane into the air. Unlike last October 13th, this time I would be pre-flighting, taxiing, taking-off and landing, all by myself.
Pre-flight complete, I wiggle into the cockpit and start to adjust the seat. There’s a pit in my stomach, but not one of anxiety that has typically marked my solo flights, it is a pit of agitation. With only a few hours before my checkride, I was switching planes again, and thanks to the weather, I wouldn’t have enough time to head out to Livermore to practice.
With the engine cautiously coming to life, I’m almost immediately in better spirits. I’ve noticed that external stresses tend to melt away once I’m sitting behind the yoke. The engine running means it’s time to fly, and until I shutdown and tie-down the plane, none of the other bullshit matters.
“Hayward Tower, Skyhawk One-seven-two Charlie-alpha at the green ramp with November, request taxi to Two-eight rig..uh, two-eight left.”
Completing my run-up, I mosey towards the hold-short line for 28L, going over my departure review for my invisible instructor in the right seat.
“All right, we’ll be staying in the pattern today so any engine failure on the runway before rotation and we’ll go power to idle, maintain centerline, brake straight ahead and exit the runway once we’ve reached taxiing speed.
Any failure after rotation in the upwind or cross-wind legs and we’ll be landing within 30 degrees of the nose.
Any failure in downwind, base or final, and we’re landing back at the airport.”
I laugh at myself and the fake-airline-captain voice I found myself using for the departure review, and call up Tower.
Take-off clearance received, I push the flaps to 10, yank the yoke back and slowly roll onto the runway: soft-field take-off to start us out.
Once airborn, Tower informs me that until 10am touch-and-go’s are prohibited for noise abatement so I’ll need to perform full-stop landings. Fine by me! I need to practice short-field landings anyways.
Coping with the fast and low pattern at Hayward usually leads me to make circuits that look more like elongated ovals with straight sides as opposed to rectangles. By the time I’ve finished turning base, it’s already time to turn final! In order to stay ahead of the airplane, I find myself performing my CGUMPS checklist half at the very end of downwind, and half after completing the turn to base.
My headset has been very quiet for this first circuit as I turn final I click the radio
“Hayward Tower, 172CA, am I cleared for 28L?”
“172CA, Hayward Tower, 28L cleared to land.”
I must have caught somebody dozing off at the scope. I neglected to descend much, and less than a mile from the threshold I decide I’ll overfly the runway and just go around.
Next circuit, my headset is being quiet again, so I decide to politely nudge the Tower.
“One-seven-two Charlie-alpha, turning base”
“172CA, Hayward Tower, 28L cleared to land.”
On final I get my airspeed down, and continue my descent. Runway widens, the sound of air rushes past the windscreen, the stall warning horn starts crying and the mains gently touch down. Once the nose touches the pavement, my feet slide up to the brakes at the top of the pedals. If I’m going to have to make full-stop landings, I’m going to make sure I get the first taxiway every time around.
Taxiing back to the start of 28L, I look at my watch, 9:00am. I’ve got another 50 minutes before I’m done.
I alternate between short-field take-offs and landings, and soft-field take- offs and landings. I’m not sure if everything is up to my instructor’s requirements, but I’m quite pleased with my consistency and improvements in speed management.
On circuit five or six, a new controller’s voice comes on the radio while I’m in my downwind leg.
“2CA, 28L cleared for the options”
Being cleared for the options means you can perform full-stop landings or touch-and-go’s, I know it’s not 10am yet, so I ask “Hayward Tower, 172CA, just checking, you’re clearing me for the options?” “Affirmative.”
I debated whether or not I should ask about the noise abatement, but figured he must have cleared me for some reason, and besides, avgas is expensive and I’ve only got this bird for another 30 minutes.
Touch-and-go it is!
A soft-field landing later, I’m back in the air. In my downwind leg, the controller jumps back on the radio
“Two-charlie-alpha, 28L, cleared to land”
After the readback he explains “Sorry, I forgot about the noise-abatement, full-stop until 10am” “Roger” is the only reply I can let off before I start laughing in the cockpit.
Perhaps I should feel bad for those spoil-sports whose mornings I interrupted at the end of the runway, but the airport has been there over 60 years, so I think they knew what they were getting into.
Running out of time, I terminate and return to the green ramp to shutdown and secure the aircraft. My instructor’s words “be quick, but don’t rush” go through my head as I jog around the plane tying it down, only a couple minutes before the next scheduled flight in 172CA, and I still need to run the binder down to the office!
Despite my haste, I still stop to take a photo of the plane that started it all one year ago.
Charlie-Alpha after our morning exercises