I finally managed to get out flying in the Santa Cruz area. It wasn’t how I expected — I didn’t go as pilot-in-command, but instead was invited to fly in the right seat with another local pilot. He owns a few local coffee shops, frankly one of the area’s best where I can frequently be found tasting his many fine espresso offerings.
We took a quick(ish) flight from Watsonville CA north along the coast, past Alcatraz, over the Golden Gate Bridge, then over the Bay Bridge, into SFO’s class B with radar flight following, over the west end of SFO’s runways and followed US-101 more-or-less until west of SJC. A slight right turn with a pop over Loma Prieta took us back into the Watsonville area where we joined the down wind leg of the pattern and landed just as the sun was setting. I was able to fly all but a few minutes around take-off and landing and it was really, really nice to be at the controls again.
Given that I used to fly in class-D and class-C airspace almost exclusively, it was interesting to see what it is like to fly from an non-towered field and then run into class-B airspace fairly quickly. Radio work is key if you want to fit in and leverage the system. The local pilot tells me that most folks based in Watsonville really like the fact that the airspace isn’t under positive control.
That’s all fine and well, I even understand, but it is no excuse for poor airmanship. While we were joining downwind to land, we were very confused to see someone cross in front, and slightly above us, only 100′ above pattern altitude. They did a 360 in the pattern and then ended up about 50′ above and 100′ left of us headed in the same direction. I got the sense that they didn’t see us and really didn’t appreciate that the Bonanza was trucking along at 120 KIAS vs their 80 or so. It made for very tight quarters and we managed to get a hold of them on the CTAF and sequence ourselves ahead of them, but it was a close call that didn’t need to be. They really should NOT have joined the pattern the way they did. Good thing we were both always watching for traffic and saw this coming.
More photos in my flickr stream.