Getting the Hang of It

Another nine days have past since my last flight.  I tried to go this week but the weather was truly uncooperative and I had a vacation to the beach that was waiting for my arrival.  I didn’t want it to be this long between flights but sometimes you just can’t help what happens.

I spent my time at the beach watching flying videos and trying to figure out how to perfect my landings.  I love the cockpit views that I found of landings and they really helped me get a better perspective of how it should look from my point of view.  I have not been flaring properly each time and that’s been my hold up with landings.

It rained like we were in a monsoon season this week but it did cool things off.  The weather was in the 70’s and low 80’s most of the week.  Of course, my first day back and flying it’s supposed to be 97 degrees, but I got lucky and it topped out at 90 for my 5:30 flight and the humidity is only at 50%.

As I finished up my pre-flight inspection, Robert came up and was ready for my training flight today.  Sky is partly cloudy, winds are around 7 knots, and visibility is 10 miles. I took off on runway 17 today and kept it south bound for Monroe.  Seven miles out today I saw Monroe on my own and radioed my position, “Monroe traffic, this is Cherokee eight, niner, seven, Mike Bravo.  Six miles north, inbound for landing, Monroe.”   I was watching my compass heading and keeping my eyes open today.  It’s the first time I saw it without Robert’s guidance.  I begin pulling the power back to start my descent to pattern altitude which is 1700 feet.  I haven’t heard anyone else on the radio and I’m scouting around for traffic just to be safe.

I asked Robert if it looks good to do a midfield crossing to him because that was the intent I had but wanted to make sure it was the right decision and he agreed with me.  No other traffic around and as I turn, I make the radio announcement, “Monroe traffic, this is Cherokee, eight, niner, seven, Mike Bravo crossing midfield for a downwind approach, landing runway 23.  Monroe.”  I’m at pattern altitude and make my way straight across the middle of the runway.  I see a plane on the taxiway moving into position for a takeoff.  I haven’t heard them on the radio yet but I keep an eye on them as I make my downwind turn parallel to the runway.  I radio again my position and I see the plane pull up to the edge of the runway.  I look at Robert and he says we’re good and just keep an eye on them.  Just before I get to the end of the runway, I put on my first notch of flaps and adjust my trim.  I look over my left shoulder and see the plane still sitting, so Robert says go ahead and make your turn, we have the right away.  I turn base leg and make my position announcement, pull my throttle back to get to about 1500 rpms, put on my second notch of flaps, two turns of trim, look to my right to check for traffic and now it’s time to turn for final.  Here we go, radio my position, turn towards the runway, adjust my trim, check my speed and it’s looking good.  I can see the runway coming up to meet me, I pull power all the way back, keep it lined up with my rudders, change my focal point and start flaring the nose gently, keep easing it back and keep it from landing too soon.  The flare is good this time, just like I’ve been watching on the videos and it’s down.  A very nice landing indeed. Robert annouces that we are still rolling and staying in the pattern, so flaps to one, trim reversed, I start pushing the throttle in smoothly all the way for full power and we are up to speed very quickly.  I pull back on the yoke and we are airborne again.  That was awesome!

I’m climbing out and get to about 1000 feet and Robert pulls the power and says, “Now what are you going to do?”  I lower the nose and start looking around as I’m in the middle of farmland central and in front of me is a big freshly mowed field.  He nods and says, “Yes, you see you can make it to there to land if your engine fails right?”  I reply, “Got it.”  He says don’t land on roads except as a last resort, too many power lines to deal with, you should look for an open field, it’s your best bet.

Well, that threw me out a bit and I still need to climb up and get back in the pattern altitude and get turned.  We still aren’t hearing any other planes but I know that one was still on the taxiway when I took off a few minutes ago.  I turn downwind and mention to Robert that I still haven’t heard them but I see them.  He calls the tower and asks for a radio check to make sure we are broadcasting.  They confirm that we are transmitting.  It must be the other plane.  I continue downwind for another landing and finally I hear the other plane radio but he has decided that he’s departing in the direction that I’m landing.  So, I look at Robert and he tells me to keep going as I still have the right away and just keep an eye on the other plane.  As I come in for my second landing, I hear the other pilot say something like, “Oh, there’s a plane on the runway.”  I look at Robert and I say, “Did he not hear me?”  It’s not like I wasn’t announcing my position for the last two go rounds.  At least he finally figured out that I was there before he moved into position.

I’m still rolling, so 4 more landings later, we finish at Monroe and take off, climb past pattern altitude to 2200 feet and I turn north for Wilgrove.  I had some good landings today.  Robert got quiet for a couple of them so I know that means that I’m doing what I need to be doing right when I need to do it.

I climb to an altitude of 2500 feet for the ride back home and I asked Robert how to determine my distance from up here to different places.  I figured out on my own that we are about 10 miles from Monroe and he said that was correct.  So, he pointed out several different landmarks around and gave me an idea of how far away we are from them.  That water tower in front of us is about 5 miles away from our current air position.  The building there to the right with the white top is about 2.5 miles from us.  The water tower to my left in the distance is about 8 miles away.  He also told me that as your altitude goes up, your visual distance gets more compact too.  So the same distances would appear smaller as I’m higher from the ground.

I didn’t need any directional guidance today to get us to Monroe or to get us home to Wilgrove.  It’s very exciting to me that I can find my way between the two now without his help.  I change my frequency back to the Wilgrove channel and radio that I’m five miles southeast, inbound for landing.  It’s exciting that I can see the runway, unlike the first few times when I couldn’t have found Wilgrove unless it was lite up by fire.

Back in the pattern at Wilgrove, I line everything up great and have to add a little power to clear the trees and then pull it all the way back and ease it down, nose up for the flare, gently, keep pulling, almost there and it settles nicely on the runway.  A great ending to my first day back in 9 days!  Another 1.1 hours on the logbook for a total of 14.8 hours to date.

I’m so glad that I took the time at the beach to review landings, even if they weren’t mine.  Watching other peoples videos really makes me want my own camera so that I can see what it looks like from my view and see where I’m making mistakes to figure out how to get it more consistent.  I think it’s a great tool and one that is easily shared with others.

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