Learning from my mistakes

3:34 PM Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tuesday I went on a stage 1 checkride with another instructor. Basically we just went up and did a few maneuvers and a landing to make sure I was on track. All went well, in fact I felt awesome up there. I dropped Elwyn off and went back up by myself for a while. I went out and worked on my stalls and steep turns trying to make sure I was within standards on all of them. Those went pretty well. I came back and wanted to practice a few more landings before I was due in class for ground school. My first landing was a bit shaky, I was not pleased with it at all. As I was climbing on departure, I heard a radio call that a bonanza was 2 miles out entering a left downwind. I scanned and didn't see him so I turned cross, scanned again and still didn't see him. I assumed he must have been further out than he thought, so I turned downwind. Just as I am turning downwind, I see him off my nose and slightly above me. Now I don't really know what to do, I radioed that I turned and he was behind me. The bonanza was quite understanding and extended his downwind to allow me to land. Now I know that I should have diverted to line up behind him when I saw him, but it was a bit unnerving to know that I had made such a mistake that could have been quite bad, since the bonanza didn't have me in sight at the time. I am now being much more diligent in finding aircraft before making any movements of my own. Next time I will stay on departure until I have him in sight or I know he is far enough on downwind that we will be separated.

Total Hours Logged: 32.8

Today was pretty sad but very exciting at the same time. I haven't had much time to fly recently so it was my first time back up in about 5 days. We were supposed to work on short and soft field take-offs and landings. After going over the ground information I pre-flighted and we taxied to runway 15. The weather was questionable today, but our visual scan and the weather report led us to believe we would be able to get in a little bit of time. However, as Tim was demonstrating the first maneuver (soft field take-off) we were climbing and when we hit 1200 feet we were in a cloud. This was very disappointing because I knew we were going to stop. Tim demonstrated a soft field landing and we stopped in the middle of runway. We evaluated the weather and Tim said it would be ok if I tried one take-off and landing. So I did a short field take-off (because we were in the middle of the runway). It went pretty well. It could have been a bit better. I didn't quite hold 65kts long enough, but not bad for the first one. We flew a modified pattern (to avoid the clouds) and set-up for a soft field landing. During a soft-field landing you keep the weight of the plane on wings as much as possible. To do this you rev the engine as the mains touch down and keep the planes nose wheel off the ground (basically looks like a wheelie down the runway). Now this is the exciting part of today. I have traditionally struggled with getting the nose up on the plane. So I wasn't sure how this was going to go. But on my very first (and only) try I came pretty close. The nose touched for a second but I had it right back up, so I just needed to get that power in a little bit sooner and i would have had it. I felt pretty good about it and wanted to go again, but the weather wasn't going to have it. We quit for the day, which sucks. I rescheduled for Friday, but I really want to go now.

Total Hours Logged: 28

Solo Outside the Pattern

8:18 AM Friday, September 17, 2010

After my solo on Monday I was so excited to go again that I scheduled my next session for Tuesday (even though I had work I should be doing). When I arrived Tim told me that we would go up together and practice some performance maneuvers (stalls, slow flight and steep turns) then I would bring him back and I would go do them by myself. WooHoo!!! Not only was I excited to be leaving the pattern, I would get to leave the pattern by myself! So we went up and discussed the maneuvers as well as distances from the airport I needed to be (basically stay between the town of Eldridge and the wapsi river) how high I needed to stay and the radio calls I needed to be diligent about making.

A few stalls and steep turns later we were on our way back to the airport. I was uncomfortable on my first landing so I went around. Second one was really pretty good though. I dropped Tim off at alpha-bravo and taxied back out to 15. Flipped my transponder and fuel pump back on and radioed for take-off.

On the climb I was grinning like a fool again. I absolutely love this flying thing. I turned cross wind and radioed that I was departing the pattern to the north. Flying out to the practice area seemed very calming. I had the river in sight so I was almost there. I made my radio call (Davenport Traffic, Cherokee 545 Charlie Alpha maneuvering 8 miles to the north at 2500 feet, davenport). I did a clearing turn and did a power-off stall. During the stall something didn't seem quite right, when I recovered I realized I didn't do a prelanding checklist. Ok, prelanding check done, now for a power on stall. And again, and again and again. Next up steep turns, my favorite. My steep turn to the left was pretty good, I held altitude and rolled out within standards. My turn to the right however was not so good. I lost about 200 feet of altitude so I need to work on that next time.

Time to head back to the airport. I turn south toward the airport, I have it in sight. As I am headed there I radio that I am about 6 miles out, I decide to cross mid field for left downwind, although at the time I wasn't sure if that was the correct choice (I later confirmed with Tim that it was). I cross over the airport and set-up for landing on 15. As I am turning base I am wondering if I can do more than one landing. Then I think, why the hell not, I am paying for it. So I get my approach stabilized and make a pretty decent landing. Flaps up and full throttle, climbing for a second round at the pattern. This landing is also pretty good and I quit for the day feeling pretty good about my second solo flight.

Total hours logged: 27.4

My First Solo

8:33 AM Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It has been quite a while since I have written. Lots of things have kept me out of the air recently. I only logged a few hours in the past couple of weeks, but one of those hours was one of the greatest moments of my life. I FINALLY GOT TO SOLO!!!

Yesterday I went to the airport with no expectations because I didn't want to be devastated if I didn't get to solo. So I pre-flighted and Tim joined me in the airplane. We went up and on the first landing, I ballooned and did a go around. I felt like it was a bad omen, but I chose to shake it off and do well on the next one. Three more landings and I was feeling good. Tim said go ahead and exit on delta. WHAT!!! FOR REAL????? I pulled off on delta and did my post landing checklist. He started filling out paper work and said taxi to alpha-bravo and hold. When I got to alpha-bravo he said "have fun" and got out. Holy hell I was going up alone. I took a couple of deep breaths, turned around and taxied back to 33. I flipped my transponder and fuel pump back on, checked for traffic and radioed that I was taking off.

Climb out on the first take-off was surreal. Tim is a pretty small guy but I noticed the weight difference in the plane in take-off and climb. The cabin is also a lot roomier when you are by yourself. I am pretty sure I was talking to myself while climbing. I think it went a bit like this. Holy shit, you now two choices, fly around until you run out of gas and crash or land this thing, what are you going to do. Then I turned cross wind and a huge smile broke out across my face, I am flying an airplane! I turned downwind and did my checklist and everything fell back into routine. That first landing wasn't my best, but it was a good landing. While I was turning final for my second landing Tim radioed that I should make it a touch and go and do a third landing because I had plenty of time. I said ok, but I forgot an important factor, he wasn't in the plane to hear me, I probably should have answered him via radio, but I was quite focused on landing. My second landing was good, I was pretty proud of it and kind of wished Tim was in the plane to see it. The third one was good as well. I exited on delta and taxied back to Carver. I parked (which I suck at, but am getting better). Put the chocks in and Tim was there to congratulate me!!! I think I might have been in a bit of shock because I wasn't as excited as I thought I would be.

When I left the airport I could not stop grinning. I grinned like an idiot for the next 10 hours until I went to bed. The first thing I thought when I woke up this morning was OMG I flew a plane yesterday. I am still grinning. I am practically bouncing off the walls just thinking about it. I can't wait to get up there again today. My first solo was amazing and I won't forget it for a very long time. September 13th will always hold a special place in my heart! My first solo ranks up there with some of the greatest days of my life.

Total Hours Logged: 26