After I landed safely back at PAO and began to reflect on the whole situation, I realized that I could have foreseen the situation ahead of time if I had put a couple pieces of information together:
1) When I called WXBRIEF to listen to the recorded briefing for the San Francisco Bay Area, winds aloft were reported to be from the West at 14-22 kts, depending on altitude. The wind flowing over the mountains between the coast and the Bay Area will probably always create an interesting ride.
2) I talked briefly with another pilot (the DPE who had given me my checkride a week before, no less) who mentioned that things were a little bumpy to the West.
So what did I learn from this flight?
- Pay attention to winds aloft forecasts, even for local flights. In the past, I haven't really paid much attention to the winds aloft when flying locally. We're trained to look at winds aloft for cross-countries, but not for local flights. In the future, I'll definitely pay more attention to the winds and think about what they'll be doing over the mountains before I launch.
- Reports from other pilots are priceless bits information and I really need to pay more attention to them.
- When you're in an updraft, you can't just point the nose down. You may need to reduce the throttle, just like a regular descent, to avoid excess speed, especially because . . .
- If you're in a strong updraft (or downdraft I suppose), it could very well be followed by some turbulence.