Wednesday, February 28, 2007

First Passenger

Took my first passenger a couple of weekends ago. The flight was relatively uneventful. The air was smooth and we spent about an hour just flying along the Pacific Coast near Half Moon Bay and over Woodside, seeing the sights and flying over places that we've known all our life but never really observed from the air.

After a week or two of mulling it over, a couple of things stand out in my mind from that flight.

After flying around mostly straight-and-level with all turns much less than 30 degrees, I asked my passenger if he would like to see something more interesting -- a steep turn. I said that if, at any time, he wasn't comfortable, I could roll out and stop the maneuver. He said that was OK and, after doing a clearing turn, I proceeded to roll into a steep turn. After about 90 degrees, he said, "OK, that's enough", so I rolled out and all was "normal" again. The G-forces in the steep turn made him a bit uncomfortable, but once we rolled out, he felt fine.

Most of my learning experiences seem to be about things I did wrong, but this is one of the things I think I did right. It seems like I've read many articles on newsgroups about people scaring their passengers, so I've decided to do my best to keep my passengers at ease by flying smoothly and not doing any maneuvers that would make them uncomfortable. I think it worked this time.

I've always liked soft-field takeoffs -- flying a couple of feet above the runway at high speeds has always been exciting for me. I decided to do one with my passenger, so I explained the maneuver before we took the runway (again making sure that this was OK with him) and explained what was going on while I was doing it. Unfortunately, something wasn't quite right -- I wasn't climbing as quickly as usual, and I didn't have to keep nearly as much forward pressure on the elevator as I'm used to. After climbing out, I realized I had forgotten to add flaps before takeoff. This really unnerved me -- fortunately SQL has a long enough runway, but if the runway had been any shorter, things could have turned out a bit badly. I've done soft-field takeoffs dozens and dozens of times, and I've never done that before. Lesson learned: passengers can be a distraction -- keep focused on the flying at hand.

During the aforementioned soft-field takeoff mistake, I uttered "Oh crap" or something like that. He asked what was wrong, I explained, and he said that he wouldn't have noticed anything wrong if I hadn't said anything. He also mentioned that there were several times when I said something like, "Rats, or "Crap," or "Darn" and it made him wonder what was wrong. In all cases, it was something small (harder than usual landing, altitude drifting more than I'd like, etc.), that wasn't up to my standards, but that my passenger didn't even notice. Lesson learned: keep my mouth shut unless something really is wrong.