“There is no sport equal to that which aviators enjoy while being carried through the air on great white wings.” – Wilbur Wright
As you guessed from the title or maybe not. Today they let me take an airplane up by myself, again. Second of three supervised solos! Today was a little different from my first solo but I’ll get into that as we go through today’s adventure.
I arrived to cold temperatures and a pretty stiff 8 kt wind. Luckily for me, it was straight down runway 3. Today I was either going to go up for my second solo or we were going on a cross country trip to KRCZ. The night before, I thoroughly planned for the cross country trip at the behest of my instructor. Today, however, would not pose very good weather for travelling. Ceilings were around 3500 ft and dropping. Fantastic for pattern work though and with the wind right down the runway, there was minimal crosswind so 2nd solo it is!
We were nearly thwarted at the beginning of today’s flight by a cold airplane that did not really want to start. Even though I had it on the engine heater before our attempts, it just didn’t want to start. I asked one of the mechanics to come out and give us a hand and he was able to use a few tricks that got us up and running.
We take off and bounce around the pattern… literally, the wind made it pretty bumpy. I make 3 pretty decent landings and then comes the question. “Do you want to solo today or do something else?” Do something else? Something else? Of course I want to solo! Of course, I didn’t say that. I indicated that I felt good to solo. I understand why she asked, she didn’t want me to feel pressured into doing it. So I dropped her off near Taxiway Alpha 1 and performed a run up. Taxi’d to the hold short line for runway 3 and waited on two incoming aircraft… one on short final and another on base.
Once the runway was clear, I made the call “Raleigh Exec, N89333 departing runway 3 left closed traffic, Raleigh Exec” You have to read that in your inner pilot voice because I was totally using my pilot voice.
I lined up on the runway, heels to the floor and throttle in. Green, green, green, airspeed alive and away we, err, I go. Again like my first solo, this thing took off really fast and I was at 900 ft before the end of the runway. The low density altitude caused by the cold air definitely helped but also less weight added up for a rocket of a ride.
First landing was pretty uneventful. I did notice that the bumps around the pattern kept me on my toes. No big deal though I did think to myself how during my first flight these kind of bumps did make me nervous. Now, they are an annoyance.
Second time around the pattern was filled with more interesting events. As I was climbing off the runway, I heard a garbled message about landing on runway 3. I only saw the other plane that took off in front of me and was in the pattern. I thought for a second it might have been them. Either way, I went ahead and announced that I was on the departure leg of runway 3 staying in the pattern in case it was an unknown entity. I turned crosswind and heard another call. “Raleigh Exec, Cherokee is on a 6 mile final on the ILS for runway 3”. Great, one in front of me, one probably coming in to cut him off and there may be a ghost somewhere in the pattern. I make my radio call and turn downwind. Then yet again, I hear “Raleigh Exec, Cessna 69012 is 3 miles for the 45 downwind for runway 3” Welp, it is getting crowded real fast. At this point I am being bumped around quite a bit and stabilizing on my downwind. It was here that I thought to myself. “Are you really doing this, you are alone with some chaos. What do you do captain?” It was then that I focused on what I needed to do. Before landing checklist and constant scan. By now the Cherokee declared missed and said would fly the missed approach. The Cessna in front of me was turning final and then I notice to my right and about 300 ft low… that ghost Cessna. Never did hear another radio call and put them out of my mind. Sigh. ” I made a radio call that I had the crossing Cessna and that I would extend my base. At the same time I hear N69012 is now entered right behind me. I extend my base and notice the Cessna in front of me is at a weird angle and way low for landing. They overshot center line on base leg and came back around to finally line up and land. I turn base then final, going through my procedures. I touch down nicely and it all turned out uneventful. It did g
As I taxi’d back, my instructor asked if I wanted to go again or if I have had enough. I make a quick assessment and it seems like the traffic is settling down so I said I want one more.
Third trip around the pattern was pretty uneventful. I did notice that the windsock was blowing crosswind for a second so I did perform a crosswind takeoff. By the time I turned final, the windsock was showing straight down the runway.
I taxi’d back for the last time with quite a feeling of accomplishment. Later, I would comment to my instructor that this time felt more real because of the roughness of the air/wind and the crowded pattern. It really felt like I was flying this time. I was nervous for only a second as I thought how nervous I was on the first flight. These feelings quickly vanished and I focused on what I needed to do. After all, I got to fly and airplane today…. all by myself. Again!