Rich's Quest For Flight

My father was a pilot. He died doing what he loved to do. It has been a goal of my life to become a pilot. Now I have chance to do so. Follow me as I pursue my dream.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

KRYV 071755Z AUTO 20009KT 10SM CLR A2999 RMK AO2

I am having a hard time trying to recall better weather than what we've had this weekend. Yesterday was a hard day only in that I wish I were flying. Instead, I attended the wedding of the girl across the street (more here).

Sorry to disappoint, but there were no near misses today, nor were there any moments of utter exasperation. A good, solid hour-and-a-half of further learning.

Runway 23 was the active at KRYV today, and we were up and on our way to a new practice field. Things were bumpy until we reached 4000'. On the way, some slow flight practice. This slow flight stuff is frustratingly hard to do. I've written about this before, the envelope that you're operating in and trying to attain is difficult to get to. It was slow flight clean that was kicking my butt. So there's plenty to work on there.

By the time Adam let me off the hook (this time) we were over Palmyra Municipal Airport (88C). I wouldn't have known it if he hadn't pointed it out. I was quite disoriented, and nearly openly wondering how I could possibly do a cross country flight on dead reckoning alone. So there it was, a bunch of buildings. You can't tell where the runway is, because it looks like a big open grass field from the air. It was busy, too. Three planes were in the pattern around this grass field airstrip; things were getting quite surreal. The pattern was 800' AGL as opposed to 1000' AGL, so that would take some adjustment as well. By the time I entered the downwind, the traffic was on the ground, so one less thing to worry about. As with the first time with the other airports I've landed at, I had no visual cues to work with; I only had the runway to judge my pattern by. And there would be no doubt this would be a soft field landing, so 40 degrees of flaps would be in order. We were landing on Runway 27, so the crosswind component was minimal. Good thing, too, this whole landing on green stuff was a counterintuitive feeling. All I had to tell me where the runway started were three white cones on either edge. Oh, by the way, there's a road passing across the field less than 200 yards from the threshold with actual vehicles, too!

So we get the plane down, and I admit Adam did most of the work. We held the nose up as long as possible until we were slow enough to turn off of the runway. It was quite a different sensation than landing on a hard surface. There was no "chirp" like you hear when the tire touches, and certainly no sense that the landing was hard or soft. Just a series of, well, lumps. There was a taxiway that ran parallel to the left edge of the runway, and it was nice to have something smooth to roll on after the lumpiness of the runway. We taxied back to the top of the runway, pushed the carb heat back in, and set the flaps for 10 degrees for a soft field take off. Off to the right it looked like they were having a picnic or something, perhaps some of the local pilots offering "Young Eagles" rides. That would explain all of the traffic.

Entering the runway from the top, it was quickly apparent why a pilot should apply power and keep the plane moving, because the field tends to slow the plane down very quickly. So I added extra power, turned so I was roughly on the center line, pulled back the yoke, pushed the throttle in, and we were moving. Once off the ground, I'm supposed to level the plane so that I can gain speed while still in ground effect. That is also a difficult thing to do since the plane wants to go up. And it's against instinct to point the plane anywhere close to the ground. So that will take some more practice until I'm used to it.

We went around the pattern one more time, and landed, then taxied back to the top, took off again, and then turned north out of the pattern back toward Watertown. By the time we were within three miles, there were three or so planes hovering around the airport. The CTAF frequency was crackling with traffic; pilots reporting their positions around the pattern, even some cross communication between planes. It's a bit difficult to explain here, but I am really gaining an appreciation for the importance of knowing where you are and reporting it concisely on the frequency. This is not something I experience during our weekday lessons.

So here was the hitch today. I'll be landing into a left crosswind component, so I need to turn final earlier than usual. Backing up a little bit, it becomes quickly apparent that a thermal has set up over the base leg that wants to push the plane up. That meant I turned final high every time (we made 3 landings on 23 today). But this time, Adam only mentioned anything about it the first time. And by the time he said anything, I was already compensating. Power almost to idle, pitch to slow to 65 kts, then some power back in and assume the proper glide slope. Straight down the centerline, except I leveled just a bit early and a puff of wind pushed the plane slightly to the right, causing me to correct to the left before letting the wheel touch the ground. Then it was back up again, two more times. Those last two landings, Adam said very little. Partly because, each time I turned final it said, "I'm high again, cutting power and pitching" before he could remind me. I wasn't trying to be annoying, I was speaking out loud so that he knew exactly what I was thinking. And it seemed to work.

After landing the last time, and completing the after landing checks, we parked in front of the FBO and deplaned. Back inside, Adam said we'll spend more time the next couple of lessons catching up on ground work. After that, it'll be solo time. Today's landings must have assured him that I'm very close. Those magic words. It's getting closer folks. Checking the logbook, I'm now up to 14.9 hours. Only one downside. After my lesson on Friday, which looks like a ground lesson, there will be a two week break while Adam gets married. Which is great for him, naturally.

Today felt good. Very good. More work needed on slow flight and soft field landings. Darn near proficient on landings, except I'm still leveling just a little early. Let's hope I don't get rusty over the break. So tune in Friday to see what happens next at Rich's Quest For Flight.


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