Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Santa Paula - Big Bear City - Santa Paula / Piper Dakota (N9704W) / VFR

I'm still getting used to Piper's answer to the Cessna 182. I have a better avionics suite in this Dakota than I have in the 182, but in many ways they do seem to be similar. This was my first logged flight online, after a number of test flights conducted offline.

I did pretty well. I've been spoiled by that nice Sandel EHSI in the Baron and Bonanza, and while the Dakota has a Garmin 430, too, it doesn't have the EHSI, so I'm still trying to get used to using a more traditional instrument to fly with a GPS.

The trip over to Big Bear was pretty easy. After a short break up in the mountains, around sunset, I set back out to return to Santa Paula.

That, too, was moderately successful, except for one mystery: Somehow, my DG got off—way off—during this leg.

I first noticed it coming out of the mountains. I knew I was heading west, but the DG said 330. Hmm. It's the kind of DG that doesn't need to be corrected by hand constantly, supposedly. I double checked the magnetic compass, and it said 221, which sounded right and was nowhere near where the DG was. I couldn't figure out what was going on.

Finally I switched the DG to FREE and aligned it myself, then switched it back. It seemed okay for the rest of the flight, but I really need to find out what happened. While I was fooling with it, I was all over the place in terms of heading and altitude. Fortunately I was VFR and didn't really stray into any airspace that would get me into trouble—and that's not easy in SoCal. When I finally realigned the DG, I was way south of Pomona, way off course, and I had to turn northeast to get back to POM and over to V186.

After that, things went smoothly. Some questionable visibility descending towards FIM, but I did okay. The landing was problematic, and I came in too fast and floating in ground effect for a long time, and ran off the end of the runway slightly. No harm done to the aircraft, but quite embarrassing.

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