Learning to fly

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Flight #5
May 22, 1999, 4pm
(1.2 hrs) 4.1 total

I got to the airport with the sky overcast and thunderstorms rumbling in the north. But they were far enough away and moving to the east so we were able to fly the pattern alone. After 3 touch and go’s and 2 go arounds due to my high final (remember to maintain airspeed on final and turn to base far enough out to get down to runway!), we did a simulated engine failure. Maintain best glide speed (70kts) and slip left to the runway on short base and final, when I have the runway made, throw in some flaps to slow down for landing. After that we climbed to 4,000’ using the pattern and pulled the throttle for a second simulated engine failure.I spiraled down at 70kts, keeping the left wing over the numbers, or at least in the general vicinity, and rolled out at pattern altitude after two 360’s to set up for a short base and final. But this landing was a bit high, long and bumpy since the wind was now starting to kick in. We taxied off the runway for another takeoff from runway 4 for a few more touch and go’s. I’m now starting to realize that I need to mentally fly ahead of the plane and anticipate more. Pilot the plane rather than being a passenger. I still need to watch my airspeed on base and final. Keep the wind drift in mind too, on the downwind leg and on stuff like the engine-out spirals.

Flight #6
May 27, 1999, 6pm
(.8 hrs) 4.9 total

A sunny day with high wispy clouds and fair breeze. We would be flying N5478T today and took off from runway 22. Immediately I realized the wind was a lot stronger than I've flown in before with some pretty strong gusts tossed in for good measure. It took a fairly acute crab angle to hold the extended centerline on our climbout. After we left the pattern we headed north and up to 4,000’ to practice power-on stalls and minimum controllable airspeed. I’m gradually getting better at holding my altitude in minimum controllable airspeed, but need to add power more aggressively and watch inadvertent banks. After a few of those, we headed back to the airport for a touch and go...with a lineup that wasn’t too bad considering the crosswind, but it was very gusty and I ballooned it back up before touching down.

Climbing back into the pattern, we were joined by another plane ahead of us. It was an intro flight and we aborted our final into a go-around since they had not cleared the active runway. Then more planes began to call that they were joining the downwind with us and it took a bit of anxious scanning to find them all. I spotted them first (and a few others before) which is good for me. Usually I’m looking in the wrong direction or don’t see them at all until Karen points them out. I must be getting better if I can spot them before her.

Our last landing was up, down and sideways, but yet still under control for the most part. Just let the wind do what it is going to do, even if that means boucing us around, let the plane fly and stay focused on the lineup and landing. One more big gust just before touchdown kicked us up 10 feet and caused us to float down the runway a little further.

Flight #7
May 29, 1999, 4pm
(1.6 hrs) 6.5 total

It was a usual summer day, partly cloudy with a lot of haze and steady breeze most of the day. I guess it’s official now. I seem to be eating, drinking and sleeping flying. I dreamt all night long about flying the pattern. Across from the numbers, carb heat on, throttle back to 1700RPM, at Vfe throw in 10 degrees of flaps, watch the airspeed, lineup and land,...do it again. And that’s the way it was. A new plane to play with today: N065WB. Just like 78T except with electric flaps instead of that big Johnson bar on the floor.With a storm threatening to move overhead, we stayed in the pattern for most of the day. Consistency is starting to creep into my piloting skills. My altitude management is becoming much better today in the pattern, with less tendency to overbank past 30 degrees, but the wind still throws me off my lineup in the turn from base to final. Think ahead of the plane...

After nearly an hour of touch and go’s at Cherokee, the wind had died down and we took a break of sorts by heading north to Pickens County, another small strip with no tower.Once we arrived there, we threatened to buzz a car that was on the runway as we flew our final approach to 16, but he turned off in time for us to touch and go. Up and around again for another touch and go, a great lineup and a perfect descent rate, but then I blew it all to hell by not flaring quite soon enough and touching down nosewheel first. Quite a jolt and it was very quiet on the climb back up to pattern altitude.I think she was kicking herself while I was taking a mental beating for patting myself on the back before we were on terra firma. Then we headed east for some 2,000’ sight seeing around the foothills and then turned back home. We entered from the upwind side and I began to put carb heat on as we turned and crossed over the numbers, but caught myself. She said yes then caught herself and said “no, you’re right” and we had a laugh as we confused each other. A decent landing to end the longest lesson so far.

June 2, 1999
Not much to a 3rd Class Medical exam. An eye test, pee in a cup, check my blood pressure and a subtle test to be sure I can hear, as the doctor carried on a quiet conversation facing away me so I can’t read his lips. Nothing invasive or traumatic. He found nothing wrong, so I walked out with a medical permission slip to fly.

Flight #8
June 3, 1999, 7pm
(1.6 hrs) 8.1 total

It was raining as I got to the airport, with a dark thundercloud hanging over Pickens County just to the north. We had ground school for about an hour and by then the sky had cleared up enough to fly. A quick preflight and taxi to runway 4 for another hour or so of touch and go’s. Another simulated engine failure at pattern altitude across from the numbers on downwind. I think she's trying to tell me something about engine failures.I’m getting better at the flare but still have to watch the turns from downwind to base to final. Round it out if the wind is pushing toward the runway. A slight bit better today on my airspeed awareness on landings. Karen commented after I greased a landing that it was a good thing I had my medical. Misunderstanding momentarily, I thought she meant medical insurance. But what she really meant that she would probably step out and send me into the sky solo very soon.

After a lot of touch and go’s, we headed for Pickens for some more with a relatively different wind direction. Same song, second verse. Pattern altitude is 2,300’ there and I even remembered to turn crosswind at 2,000’. Pretty good since I seem to forget just about everything else, like what leg of the pattern I’m currently on and where I am outside of the pattern. I know where I’m at, but the incredibly complicated task of getting it to come out of my mouth in coherent fashion on the radio is another story. She tells me what to tell the "tower" but it leaks out the sieve called my brain the very next moment. More concentration or more relaxation, I’m not sure what will help.After 2 touch and go’s on runway 34, we came to a full stop, turned around and took off from 16. At pattern altitude when we started the turn to downwind, she cut throttle and we tried to teardrop approach back to runway 34 for a simulated emergency landing. I didn’t get us to Vy, best glide speed, fast enough and we wouldn’t have made it if it was for real. Close, but not quite.Once more in the pattern to answer an earlier question about landing with no flaps. We touched down with no flaps on 34 and found it's very hard to get the speed down to 70kts. We floated over too much runway before touchdown, even with a strong headwind. Then we took off from 16 and made our way back to Cherokee where we entered the pattern just behind traffic and I made a decent landing.

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