Learning to fly

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Flight #13
June 17, 1999, 7pm
(1.2 hrs dual) 15.3 total

Hot, hazy and a few puffy clouds with a stiff breeze. Too much of a breeze to solo again, so we stayed in the pattern mostly and worked on crosswind landings. Getting a lot of practice in that lately. I need it too. Only had a couple of landings anywhere near as smooth as last Sunday’s. After awhile, we headed to Pickens for a few touch and go’s there. Not too bad, but about the same quality as those at Cherokee. My radio calls are terrible when I’m trying to tell anyone who is listening where I’m at and where I’m going, but I hope that once I start talking to someone on the other end, that will improve. After a couple of laps at Pickens we headed back to Cherokee for two more touch and go’s and were done for the day.

Flight #14
June 19, 1999, 7pm
(.4 hrs dual, 1.6 Solo) 17.3 total

Almost completely clear skies all day but very gusty and breezy. It died down enough this evening to let me solo though. We did three circuits around the pattern and then Karen got out and flew with another student to Pickens, leaving me to do touch and go’s in the pattern at Cherokee. A little bit of a breeze left to make the final approaches interesting, but nothing to worry about. Of all the landings, 3 were full stops during the entire 1.6 hr solo after I botched the rollouts. At one point the pattern was very busy with planes on the hold line and four in the air. I was stuck on one long downwind behind someone for no good reason that I could see, but I had to follow him to keep separation, as did those behind me. A few landings were greasers but most could have been better. So could the turns and airspeed maintenance. But the very last landing, when I was the most tired and getting hungry, was the best. A chirp and stall horn at the same time.

Flight #15
July 1, 1999, 7pm
(.5 hrs dual, 1.5 Solo) 19.3 total

Hazy, humid conditions today with occasional storms in the area and a light breeze from the north. Weather has put off my last two lessons and threatened to do it again today. But it cleared enough and the clouds stayed at 2,500’ so we flew.

I finally have my own headset today and it really is a lot better than the one's that the flight school provides. More comfortable and blocks out so much more of the engine noise that it took me a while to realize what was different when we got in the air.

We left the pattern immediately and did a touch and go at Pickens for familiarization and then back to Cherokee to drop off Karen. She signed me off to go back to Pickens on my own and hopped out at the hold line. I took off and headed there. No problems at all, no other traffic, so I did a touch and go and flew back to Cherokee for an hour of touch and go’s. I could see a little rust, especially since my first landing was aborted into a go-round, but it went away quickly. I dropped a couple of landings in and greased a few, but most could have been a little bit better. Turns to final could have been much better too.

The breeze was stronger than I anticipated and I sometimes ended up too far past the final approach course, forcing me to turn back in. But overall, a fun day and tiring, and I only ended it when it became too dark to see the gauges clearly and I realized that I couldn’t find the switch to turn on the cockpit lights.

Flight #16
July 3, 1999, 9am
(1.4 Solo) 20.7 total

It was a very hot, humid and overcast morning so we had to wait a couple of hours to fly. Karen was teaching ground school to another student so I sat in to listen and ask a few questions. At 11am the clouds and haze had burned off enough to let everyone fly, and they did.

It seemed as if everyone at the airport climbed into their cockpits at the same time. It was still too hazy for Randall to let me head over to Pickens so I stayed in the pattern again. Karen didn’t even go up with me to check on how I would do today, she just said go.

I climbed into 78T and after I got settled in and was going through the checklist, I realized that I had no real idea how to turn on the radio. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Tango so it took me about 3 minutes to find it. For some reason the switch isn’t attached to the radio itself, but far below it, on the center console underneath the panel. Oh well.

I took off and with all of the clouds still left over it was a bit bumpy, but not too bad. A little breeze blowing south to contend with on my final lineups and force me to anticipate my turns better. I stayed in the pattern the whole time, but I wish I had departed out a few miles to practice re-entering the pattern upwind and downwind. Maybe I’ll do that Thursday if I don’t go to Pickens. Most of my landings were OK, and even a few greasers. After one very bouncy touchdown, I decided that I was getting too hot, tired and sloppy, so I made one more circuit determined to concentrate totally and end the day with a smooth landing. It was.

Flight #17
July 8, 1999, 7pm
(2.2 Solo) 22.9 total

Another hot, humid and hazy day with a slight breeze from the east. Runway 22 in use today. Karen told me to stay close to the airport which I took to mean that if I wanted to I could depart the pattern, although not as far as Pickens. So I stayed in the pattern for awhile only ventured out to the south a bit for some ‘sightseeing’.

I climbed up to 2,500’ and just flew around aimlessly and practiced a couple of constant altitude 30 degree 360s. As the airspace around the airport seemed pretty busy today, I kept my head on a swivel. Back into the pattern, I started trying to keep the plane just off the runway and in the flare as long as I could which really seemed to smooth out my landings. More frequent touchdowns just as the stall horn is sounding. As it turns out, they are more like soft field landings, but I really enjoy the challenge.

Back into the air again and this time I departed the pattern north and decided to get a bit bolder. At 2,500’ I put on carb heat, pulled the power back to 1400 RPMs and practiced minimum controllable airspeed. Not too bad at all. I was able to maintain altitude and wings level even when my AI showed just above 40 knots. Stall horn blaring in my ear, but no stall until I pulled it back a bit more on purpose to stall it. It did and I recovered with no problem. Lots of fun and smiles were on all the faces in the cockpit. Back to the airport for more touch and go’s when Karen called me into a full stop so she could show me soft field takeoffs and a combo soft field landing/simulated engine failure. She frowned when I said I had done a power off stall. No more alone until she says so. Oops.

Accelerating down the runway configured for a soft field takeoff: 10 degree flaps and nose high takeoff roll, the plane wants to fly at 40 knots. Ease the nose down a bit after it leaves the ground to stay in ground effect and build up the airspeed to best climb. Then across from the numbers on downwind she pulled the power and had me slip all the way down to the runway sideways at best glide and at the last second, kick the rudder to align with the centerline, let the airspeed bleed off and touchdown. As we taxied off the runway, she hopped out and said do it.

On my first try I forgot flaps and ended up 5’ above the runway barreling along at 70 knots, no way to slow down and feeling like an idiot. So I gave it full power and did a go around. The next time, I remembered everything and landed in one piece. As I taxied off, Randall came up to the plane and said the pattern was getting too full for simulated engine failures, so no more of those. OK.

So I headed back up into the pattern, and as I turned from crosswind, a National Guard helicopter joined in the pattern for touch and go’s in front of me. Karen called me and reminded me to watch for wake turbulence as I landed behind him. There was a little, but I think I landed beyond most of it. At least I tried to. All in all, a very fun day and lots of very good landings coupled with sharp pattern work.

Flight #18
July 15, 1999, 7pm
(1.8 Solo) 24.7 total

Today was true to summer in the South, the three H’s: hazy, hot and humid, with wispy clouds at about 5,000’. I flew N65WB since 019 was taken. I preflighted the plane and for the first time since I’ve been flying, I found water in the tanks. Just about an inch or so in the fuel tester, but on the second draining, there was even a bit of dirt mixed in. So I drained and drained until nothing but clean fuel filled the cup.

Karen said I could head north toward Pickens and stay within reasonable distance of Cherokee. So I did a few touch and go’s then headed out. Pickens is closed because of work to lengthen it to about 4,000’. So I overflew it at 2,500’ to have a look at the new asphalt and continued north a little further to push the envelope. When I turned back, I remembered to climb up to 3500’ since I was now headed easterly. I eased back into the pattern at home for a couple of touch and go’s, then turned back north again for a few flight maneuvers: a few Turns Around A Point and 45 degree steep turns at constant altitude. Turns Around A Point were better of the two maneuvers, but I thought they were passable since I haven’t had much practice in either. Back home once again to Cherokee for a few more touch and go’s and then I called it a day.

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