Learning to fly

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Flight #41
Oct. 17, 1999, 6pm
(.7 Solo) 62.3 total

Blue skies and a stiff wind from the northwest right across the runway. I took off from 22 and headed over by the house again because there is an abandoned runway nearby that will become a subdivision in a few years, and it makes me feel a bit safer to know I have an emergency landing spot already picked out.

Slow flight and stalls into the wind are the object of this flight. I remembered to use carb heat and do clearing turns and turn my ailerons correctly while taxiing, thank you very much. I just know I’ll forget those important items when the checkride comes.

When the sun got real low I headed back to the airport and watched the sunset on the way. It was one of those moments that bring to mind just why you want to do this. I turned on all my lights and even my landing light so a plane on crosswind leg could find me. It was Karen with another student and they extended to let me in ahead of them. I landed a little rough and did a touch and go to come back around and do better. Soft field and short fields weren’t practical with the crosswind. Just getting down smoothly was enough.

Another touch and go and then I brought it in. As I parked the plane I turned it in front of the hanger and inadvertently blew dirt and dust into the hanger, and since the door to the office was open, I also blew Randall’s papers all over the place. He wasn’t real happy and reminded me to turn the other way next time.

Flight #42
Oct. 21, 1999, 6pm
(1.0 Dual) 63.3 total

Clear blue skies and a light breeze from the northwest. I climbed into the pattern with Karen and practiced short field landings and simulated engine failures. I need a few more hours work on the simulated engine failures. Getting into the habit of pushing the nose down to maintain airspeed before adding flaps is still extremely difficult for me to do. I’m already close to the ground and pointing the nose further in that direction is just insane according to my survival instinct. Simulated engine failures are fun to do, but to do it just right is gonna take a few more flights.

Flight #43
Oct. 24, 1999, 10am
(.5 Solo) 63.8 total

Very blue skies and a strong crosswind from the north coupled with pretty rough turbulence. On the ground it didn’t seem too bad, it felt just like other days that I had no problem with. But this day would not be just like those other days.

I took off and immediately the wind had me turned pretty well sideways just to hold the extended centerline. I was planning on doing short field landings but I could tell that this would be a day for extreme crosswind practice instead. As I lined up for final with a lot more power than usual I was looking at the runway at a very acute angle and the turbulence was playing havoc with my airspeed. But I held it and with much difficulty, lined it up and bounced it onto the runway where I had a bit of trouble keeping the upwind wing down. No touch and go here, so I taxied back for another lap thinking that I’d do better this time.

Into the air again and back around on final with the power pretty high and airspeed under pretty good control. But as soon as I crossed the threshold and cut the power, the breeze decided to kick me sideways and not let go. I couldn’t get it lined up with the runway at all and my wings refused to come level regardless of what I did, so I gave it full power and did a go-around. My first time solo that I’ve ever done a go-around for reasons of immediate safety. Karen and I have had to do a few, but I never felt anything like that by myself.

Karen was in the air with another student on the downwind by now. I climbed back to pattern altitude with a bit of trepidation now. I was wondering if I would have to divert to Pickens with their runway aligned nearly with the wind and have Karen and Randall come fly me back. I decided that if I was forced to initiate another go-around, that’s what I would do.

As I lined up on final Karen and her student had landed and radioed that they would be out of my way in a moment. I radioed back “Roger, I just hope I can get this thing down.” That alerted her (and everyone else listening) that I wasn’t real comfortable up there at the moment. Again, power in during final and cut it at the last second, and once again the crosswind just wouldn’t let up. But I was able to rudder it a bit better this time I guess and at least put it down aligned with the runway. The rollout was still terrible; I was all over the place and my right wingtip felt like it was going to carve a deep furrow in the pavement at any moment, but I held onto it and kept it under control. Back at the FBO, I shut it down and left the cockpit on very shaky legs.

Flight #44
Oct 28, 1999 7pm
(.7 Solo) 64.5 total

Blue skies all day with hardly a breeze. A little ground school and oral prep before I got in 78T for some short field/soft field landings. A soft field takeoff first. Next came a short field but I landed a bit long and although I could have stopped in time, rather than clamp down on the brakes and burn all the rubber off the tires, I took off and tried again. This time was much better with a touchdown on the numbers and easily had the first turnoff made. Then I taxied back for another takeoff followed by another soft field landing. No problem again so I’ll concentrate on the short field practice.

Flight #45
Oct. 29, 1999 7pm
(.4 Solo) 64.9 total

Blue skies again with a little haze and a slight breeze. 75E looks like the checkride plane now that 78T is down for it’s 100 hour inspection. That’s better for me because I like the electric flap operation better. I stayed in the pattern and worked on my short field and soft field takeoffs. Soft fields are a piece of cake and the short fields are ok if I drop my airspeed a bit below 70 knots for some insurance on staying within standards. Still plenty of room above stall speed. One short field wasn’t quite short enough and the other was well within limits. I need to remember to give myself plenty of final approach to correctly judge the glide.

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