|2005/11/13 Harris Ranch|
π 2005-11-13 23:43 by Merlin in Flying
This was actually my very first leisure flight with passengers since I got my private pilot license. However, this is not like it sounds, the passengers weren't at risk since I had racked up about 115 hours of flighing and more than 350 landings by then :)
Harris Ranch is a good restaurant in the middle of California by Hwy 5 (between L.A. and San Francisco), that is well known by pilots since it has a runway right next to it. Quite frankly, I would never have gone there had I had to drive (2.5 to 3H), but it was a 1H flight, bypassing cops and slow roads, so that was all right.
The runway is known for being very narrow, but we had perfect weather and no cross wind, so it wasn't a problem. You can see what it looks like on google maps
I ended up with a slightly crappy plane to go there (172 upgraded to 172SP with no MFD, and a GPS that was missing half the airports I needed), so it forced me to make use of the skills I learned to navigate and find the airport (it's small, in the middle of nowhere, with no nearby navigation aids, and along a very very long highway 5). I had planned the flight so that I would arrive there before sunset (well, during twilight, i.e. after sunset, but with still enough light to see).
I got slightly distracted by a strip along hwy 5 that looked a lot like the runway I was looking for, but since it didn't match what my VORs (navigation aid) said: even without a useful GPS, crosschecking my map seemed to indicate the runway was still further down. I did a quick call to ATC (air traffic controllers) who were tracking my flight, and they confirmed that the runway was indeed a bit further. It's always nice to be tracked on radar and have confirmation.
We landed at Harris with a little bit if daylight left, as planned, by 17:00 or so and went to the restaurant.
I was a little off course on the way back, mostly because of the wind, a heading indicator gyro that went way off, even after I reset it, and the difficulty of seeing landmarks on terrain at night when you're just along 5 and then crossing a big mountain, but the good news is that outside of having crossed from 5 to 101 a bit early, I was on track and only 3-5 minutes behind schedule when I landed in Palo Alto.
The landing at Palo Alto wasn't as flawless than Harris as it was a night landing and I flared just a tad early (small drop and one bounce), but it was safe (i.e. landed in the center of the runway, proper nose up attitude, and no multiple bounces or anything close to purpoising).
Night landing at Palo Alto Airport, courtesy of Markus and his great camera
The rest of the pictures are here