N7807S with Engine Showing
Originally uploaded by jzawodn.

This past weekend I had the chance to go flying with one of my glider pilot friends (Jonathon) in a Citabria (N7807S) based at the Watsonville Airport. The plane is co-owned by four glider pilots and has been getting a lot of use recently. My flying lessons have been less frequent recently due to scheduling problems and being very busy, so I jumped at the chance to go up.

Engine Work

First things first, we had to finish up after the previous day's oil change. The engine cowling was still removed so we had to make sure everything looked right (no leaks), the engine ran smoothly, and button the plane back up.

That ended up taking quite a bit longer than expected, mainly because of a slightly bent throttle control. The throttle was sticking when Jonathon tried to test the engine, so we spent time futzing with that. After a lot of minor adjustments, it loosened back up and the engine seemed to run nicely. We put the cowling back on and prepared to go flying.


We took off from runway 20 at roughly 3pm and flew one pattern Just In Case. We wanted to make sure that we'd be very near the airport if something was going to go wrong.

The pattern was uneventful, so we took off again and headed southward toward Salinas. From Salinas, we headed a bit more eastward toward King City and somewhat following US-101. It was around then that I got the controls and did most of the flying until we were 50 feet above the runway 3 hours later.

N7807S Engine Test
Originally uploaded by jzawodn.

En Route

We flew around the hills near Pinnacles National Monument and on toward Coalinga. At Coalinga I turned us northward to fly the typical return flight we'd use on a glider cross-country day, going back to Hollister.

A few times we managed to spot new landing strips. That information comes in incredibly useful when we're flying our gliders during the soaring season. If you know there's a good strip "just over that ridge" you're more likely to venture out into previously unexplored territory.


On the way back to Hollister the sun set and it started to get darker and darker. I had never been up in a single engine plane (let alone flying one) at night. The world really looks different at night. Most of the prominent geographic features vanish. And at the same time, previously sparse looking areas end up being sprinkled with the lights from the houses and cabins hidden in the hills.

I took us within a couple miles of the Hollister Airport and then made the left turn to head back to Watsonville. Once back, we flew along the beach for a little while. The moon was out and lighting up the Pacific Ocean nicely. But before long it was time to head into the landing pattern and call it a day.


I flew the pattern and gave the plane back to Jonathon just after we crossed the runway threshold. He landed the plane and taxied over to the fuel pump. We gassed up the plane, put it in the hanger, and began the ritual of cleaning up the plane and tucking it in for the night.

It was a fun day. I learned more than I expected to about the Citabria's engine, got to fly from the back seat for the first time, and finally got to try some night flying. Now I'm looking forward to the night training that I'll have to complete before getting my license early next year.

Posted by jzawodn at December 15, 2005 10:44 PM

Reader Comments
# dan isaacs said:

I was just watching an episode of Top Gear (very popular British Car show on BBC2) last night (thank you Bittorrent, fuck you Discovery Channel) where they were racinga small single engine craft similar to the one you were flying against Bugatti Veyron (worlds fastest supercar) from someplace in the middle of France to London. The gent that was flying the plane wasn't yet licenses to fly at night, so they had to land when before the Sun set.

I had no idea that flying at night was something you didn't have to know in order to get a license. Of course, it is the EU, not the USoA.

on December 16, 2005 07:16 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Actually, night training is an FAA requirement for license.

on December 16, 2005 09:44 AM
# James said:

Coincidentally, I did a night flight while I was on vacation in Honolulu earlier this month. Love the beautiful view at night. Had a nose wheel shimmy problem in the 172 so did my night currency 3 full-stop landings at PHNL and parked it.

Non-USA countries normally have separate ratings for night VFR and VFR-over-the-top. The reason is because of the well-publicized additional risks in night flying and the greater likelihood of flight into IMC conditions, whether clouds or lack of a discernible horizon.

on December 20, 2005 07:53 PM
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