Friday evening has become my favorite day to fly each week. After a long week of work and life, it’s a great way to just unwind and have fun. I eagerly look forward to this all week, it’s the most fun I have and although it’s work since I’m still training, I’m always excited, relaxed and just happy to be flying.
The weather is incredible, 85 degrees, 69% humidity with scattered clouds and no haze today. I can see everything this evening. It’s amazing up with the clouds. I went up a little earlier than my normal time so I won’t be watching the sunset tonight but the view is still the best in town.
I pre-flight Juliet, give her a good go over and make sure she looks good. I noticed a new repair on her cowling and asked about it today. She got a crack in it that required repairing to keep it from getting worse but she’s in good shape.
I get buckled up, grab the checklist, start at the top and work my way down and then, master on, fuel boost pump on…I holler, “Clear Prop,” ignition to both, mash the starter, the engine hums, kicks in and vroom, we have power. I still love the vibration you feel when the engine starts and the prop turns. Time to check the gauges, turn on the radios, transponder, release the breaks and taxi out.
I pull up to the edge of the runway and take a look at the windsock to determine which runway I’ll be using. There is no wind to speak of so, it’s my call because there isn’t anyone else around and the airport is all mine this evening. I decide to take runway 17 and land coming across the trees as it’s good practice, if I can clear them, I believe I can land just about anywhere. I radio that I will be back taxiing down runway 17 so that anyone around will know that the runway is currently occupied. Once at the other end, I park it, set the brake and go through the run-up procedure checklist. It’s the last chance to make sure everything looks good before takeoff, and it all checks out. Time to make my departure radio announcement, pull the brake, look around and make sure we are still clear of traffic, push the throttle in and pull her out to the runway, full power and we are off!
With the temperature and humidity lower than it has been, I can feel a difference in the plane. She’s as anxious as I am to get in the air; I can feel her already catching lift before we are even up to liftoff speed. I wait patiently as our speed increases and once we cross the threshold, I pull back firmly but gently, and we are airborne. What a feeling when the plane leaves the ground, that first gentle lift that catches the air is amazing. Once I retract the flaps and check my heading, I get a good look around and check for any traffic. I can see all across the city because the air is so clear. It’s a beautiful, Carolina blue sky this evening and I smile to myself because I know that not everyone has the same view as me tonight, and I think they would feel the same way if they saw it too.
Climb to 1300 feet, it’s time to turn crosswind and make the annoucement. I take a quick look back over my shoulder, check for traffic to my right, and it’s time to turn downwind and radio my position again. I’m still climbing and as I finish my downwind turn, I ease back the power to start leveling off at pattern altitude which is 1600 feet. The plane needs a little trim as I push the nose down a bit to level out. I take a look around again and check for traffic. I glance out my left window and see how I’m lined up with the runway. I need to be parallel, not too close for when I make my turn and not too far away either. As I near the end of the runway, I put the first notch of flaps on, check my position and begin pulling power back to around 1600 or 1700 rpms. I give it two turns of trim and begin my turn on base leg, radio my position and as I roll out of my turn, I add another notch of flaps, give it some trim, check my speed, and take a look at the runway to see if it’s time to turn final. As I begin my turn to final, I radio, “Wilgrove traffic, this is Cherokee six, seven, niner, two, Juliet, turning final for runway one seven, Wilgrove.” I check the pitch of the nose as I turn so that I don’t pull it up and loose speed, I roll out and check my alignment with the runway, my height looks good, my speed looks good, third notch of flaps engaged, another trim adjustment and I can see that this landing is lined up perfectly. I’m descending and passing over the trees, no stress there any more. I see the numbers and as I come in closer, I move my focal point further down the runway and begin my roundout, gently she eases down, keep pulling back on the yoke, firm, steady, even pressure and the mains touch down and then the nosewheel. A beautiful first landing and a great way to start the evening lesson!
It was a good night of practice and everything felt great. Flying is therapy for my soul, especially after a long week. Another 1.2 hours on the logbook for a total of 22.3 hours.