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.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

KRYV 081237Z AUTO 20004KT 10SM CLR 17/17 A3019 RMK AO2
KSBM 081253Z AUTO 20008KT 10SM CLR 21/14 A3018 RMK AO2
KATW 081245Z 23010KT 10SM SCT080 21/12 A3016

It takes a pretty important event to get me out of bed at 6 o'clock in the morning. Flying definitely qualifies as one of them. Even if it did take until 11 last night just to do the flight planning. The route again: Watertown (RYV) to Sheboygan (SBM) to Appleton (ATW) to Dodge County (UNU) and back to Watertown. Several legs, lots of checkpoints. Checkpoints can be identifiable features on the ground, or they can be a fix from navigation aids. The best checkpoints are both. Checkpoints are necessary for two reasons. One is that they help you verify that you are still on course to your destination. Second, they help the pilot to track progress to the destination in terms of speed and time flown. Since a pilot has a finite amount of fuel on board, he needs to accurately predict that he has enough to get to his destination. If the plane is taking longer to get there, the pilot will need to adjust his plan to account for the extra fuel burn. Run out of gas on the road, you pull over and call AAA. Run out of gas in the air, and it's a bad landing.

I got to Wisconsin Aviation-Watertown at 7 o'clock sharp and finished my computations based on the weather. And the weather would be fine for flying today. Light surface winds, with stronger winds at 3000', then decreasing with altitude. We would fly to Sheboygan at 3500', then 4500' to Appleton and Dodge County. The last task on the ground would be to call Green Bay Flight Service for a weather briefing and flight plan filing.

Wheels were up at 7:55 and I turned for my calculated course heading to Sheboygan. Adam sprung a surprise, declaring that the VOR radios were inoperative. Naturally, I fell for it. But it only meant that I would be using pilotage as my primary navigation method. No worries. Whereas last week I was two miles east of course before I realized it, this time the inital heading was accurate and I was on course. In fact, I flew directly over my office in Hartford. A short time later, I was ready for descent into Sheboygan. Problem was, I couldn't see the airport, and by the time I found it, I was too high. Adam cautioned me about diving into the pattern, so I broke away from my approach and did a circle turn to lose some altitude. Then it was into the pattern for landing at Sheboygan.

The first landing was marginal, so we went back around and tried it again. Seems I've gotten a little rusty on crosswind landings, and practice is always good. Adam let me have my radios back, so we set them for our leg to Appleton, and took off. This leg worried me, since it would be my first experience with a towered airport. And sure enough, I was very intimidated. There's a certain pressure, as with every other aspect of flight training, to get it right the first time. Of course it's self inflicted; the only person concerned about it was me. Neither the guy in the tower nor my instructor were too concerned. After all, tower controllers deal with students all the time, and they really are there to help. Still, I was petrified. Since flying the airplane was the first priority, I eventually leaned on Adam to talk to the tower. I was slotted number 3 to land, behind a regional jet and a Beech King Air. I was placed in a long downwind until we had visual of the King Air. Once it passed by, I was cleared to land. We had also requested touch and go's, and the tower granted it. Landing on this runway was also a new experience in that it was 150' wide - it almost left the impression that you could land on it widthwise. Certainly a different sight picture, to be sure. It was a slightly clumsy landing, but nothing unusual. I cleaned up the plane, and we left the ground.

Tower directed me to maintain a one mile upwind then execute right pattern for Runway 21. That was easy enough, and I recovered my senses enough to read the instructions back. So the next thing to do was find a point that I thought was one mile away. But about 300 yards short of that target, tower comes on to ask me when I'm going to turn! So I ackowledge and begin my turn to crosswind. There was nothing else of note until late in the downwind when tower said, "N9002E, cleared for your option." This threw me off, until Adam said I just received clearance to either land and stop, or to land and take off again. So I read back the clearance to tower and said that this would also be a touch and go with departure to the south. So a landing, then up again and now we were headed for Dodge County.

I hadn't planned the navaids very well for this leg, but this would be a combination of pilotage and dead reckoning. I could see Oshkosh in the distance as soon as I was 1000' AGL and my course passed directly over the tower. The only concern there was that I was above the ceiling of the tower airspace, so I focused on climbing the airplane until we were above 3300' MSL. At about the same time Appleton tower gave approval to change frequencies, so we thanked them for their help and we moved on. Once over Oskosh, I tuned to their VOR and fixed on a radial leading me toward Dodge County. After that, things were pretty relaxed. We were flying into a moderate headwind, so there was time for a little sightseeing.

This is the view just to the south of Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH) in Oshkosh. You can see Runway 36 on the right. At about top and center is the Experimental Aircraft Association headquarters and museum. The museum is world class and a must see for any fan of aviation. In about two weeks those fields will be packed with airplanes and visitors in town for the largest airshow anywhere, the 2006 EAA AirVenture (commonly referred to as the "fly-in"). Wittman will be the busiest airport in the world during the seven day run. Special procedures are published (NOTAM) to handle the traffic that include dividing the runways into sections that handle multiple actions at the same time!

A couple of landings at Dodge County, including the best crosswind landing of the day (always need a confidence builder) and we were on our way back to Watertown. Three hours in the plane, and it was a lot of work. But it was also a rewarding feeling to get a plane around a large part of the state and without getting lost.

Next up is a solo practice session on Sunday, followed by a night cross country flight the following Saturday.


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