Learning to fly, but I ain't got wings

Month: February 2016

High Winds and a Road, err Flying Trip! Sort of…

Lessons have been cancelled for about a week due to high winds in the area.  We had a few tornado warnings… yuck.

That did not spoil my day today!  My family and I are going on vacation for a week and I really wanted to get a solo flight in before we departed.  The weather cooperated and I put together my flight plan for a Round Robin trip from KTTA -> KSOP.  Not quite a cross country trip, as a cross country trip is defined as a flight to another airport with a distance greater than 50nm.  The trip from KTTA to KSOP even via the SDZ VOR is only about 43 nm.   It’s baby steps leading up to my real cross country solos and I happen to be taking these trips solo in the order in which I took them with my instructor.

I arrive at the airfield and go over my flight plan with my instructor.  Everything checks out and I get her advice on using the engine preheater.  It is around 36F outside so not cold cold but still chilly.  She advised that I try to give it a shot and if it doesn’t start right away, grab the heater.  As I was preflighting, I listened to two other students having a hard time starting their planes, so… I grabbed the heater. I think it helped because I had no issues starting my ride.

As I perform my run up, for some reason everyone is in the pattern landing with a 6 kt tailwind.  Even when there was a pretty decent break in traffic, the next incoming aircraft still landed with a tailwind.  This led the two planes in front of me to take off on said runway.  I’m still new to the pilot game but this was annoying.

I takeoff and get setup on course with no troubles.  As I climb I tried to radio Fayetteville approach on 125.17.  No response.  I try again.  No response.  I then hear another try with out getting a response.  I am just a lowly student and not really prepped in this area.  I decide to try the southern Fayetteville approach frequency 127.8 to see if I can talk to them.  If not, then I am turning around because I have radio issues or something.  I called up approach on 127.8 and got a response, so I requested a flight following.  Once I was in the system, I hear another pilot say, “Do you guys know that something seems wrong with 125.17?”  Approach answers that they were unaware.  I was asked by approach to do a radio check on 125.17 and get back to them.  I complied and after trying a few times I returned to 127.8 and told them negative results.

The rest of the flight to and from SOP was pretty uneventful.  The flight back was quite bumpy.  I wasn’t able to take pictures as I planned.  I did get off a few but not any good ones.

Returning to TTA, I call for an advisory.  There was one plane that had landed, none in the pattern.  Awesome, let’s land on the right runway!  As I was getting ready to make my 5 mile radio call, I hear a freaking Cirrus taking off on the runway with a tailwind again.  WTF!!!  Windsock, AWOS, Common freaking sense!!!! aghh!  Then I hear two other approaching aircraft chime in that they will be landing on said runway.  I mean, the AWOS clearly indicates around 5-7kts of tailwind on that runway.

I don’t like landing with a tailwind, I tend to float and that is exactly what I did today.  Great trip, crappy landing.  At least I got this trip in before my vacation.  I had a lot of fun and felt like a pilot.  Next, my instructor advised me to plan a real cross country to KRCZ and also try to get some time scheduled for a night cross country to KVUJ.  Sounds like fun, can’t wait!

Watch my flight on CloudAhoy -> Clicky Clicky!


A Cross-Country Flight? Yes Please

Last time, I flubbed the flight plan due to a miscommunication between my instructor and I.  She wanted me to plan direct but I didn’t get the memo and planned it through a VOR that happened to be out.  No worries, still stoked for a cross-country flight!

This time, I have everything planned, checked over and signed off.  So we prep to fly direct from TTA to EXX.  As I was walking out to the plane I chatted with one of the other instructors who said it was beautiful up there, smooth as glass.  We would learn that it was smooth no longer.

As we departed TTA and turned on course, I felt a little bit of overload.  We didn’t think we could trust the DG (Squawk said so), so I was bouncing all around, trying to fly by the magnetic compass and at the same time open up my flight plan and dialing up Raleigh approach for a flight following.  I flubbed the frequency at first by calling Fayetteville approach thinking it was Raleigh approach… ugh. Need to make sure that my frequencies are correct.

.  After flying in the wrong direction for a few minutes after my goof, I got us back on course.

The bumps smoothed out as we reached our cruising altitude of 4500.  Didn’t last long as we were handed off to Greensboro approach and was immediately directed to descend to 4000.  500 feet was a huge difference because we bounced around the rest of the flight to Lexington.

As I approached the halfway point, I had the Greensboro VOR dialed in because I knew that I should be on the 162 radial dead smack over the city of Asheboro.  My instructor pulled out her portable GPS and I felt good since I was right on the magenta line.  She seemed quite pleased.

I checked off the way points and setup for the approach at Davidson Co airport.  Pretty uneventful landing.  We taxi’d back and after flubbing the takeoff call (Saying Moore Co instead of Davidson Co.), we were back in the air.

Made the flight following radio call and feeling good about how I am managing the radio.   The rest of the way back was quite bumpy and tiring.  We chatted about our upcoming vacations.  It was nice.  Would have been nicer if it was smooth but you can’t have everything that you want.

When we got back to TTA it was pretty crazy.  Several inbound aircraft from different directions, a plane in the pattern, and a guy who stayed on the radio ranting about hearing someone say right traffic when the pattern was left traffic.  I mean, it wasn’t busy enough?

Made a pretty uneventful but ballooned landing due to giving a little power to stop sinking toward the end of the approach.

As we taxi’d back, my instructor commented on how I did.  She said I did really well with the planning and execution of the flight plan.  Only pointing out my initial flub to approach that got me off course at the beginning.  She then commented on how she noticed that even with all of the turbulence that I held my altitude with deviation no more that +- 75 ft and that she was really impressed.  It is odd because I was kind of upset that I didn’t hold it better, but it felt good.  It was pretty bumpy and I fought it most of the way there and the whole way back.

It was a good day flying.  Next I need to try to plan my night cross country and solo cross country.  Making progress!


Weirdly frustrating day…

It all started out innocently enough.  A simple cross country from TTA to EXX.  Last night I did the planning  TTA -> LIB -> EXX.  This morning, I got the weather and winds, and finished my wind drift calculations, Visual checkpoint times and fuel burn.  All was looking good, I was ready to go.  Then I hear from the briefer, “Looks like LIB Vortac is out of service today….”.  Damn it.  Also the weather was showing Few clouds all around hanging out at 4000 ft.  I wanted to cruise at 4500.  Not that big a deal because they are quickly moving out the area and will probably be no factor… but that Vortac being out of service puts a crimp in my plans. In a word, frustrating.

I arrive at the airfield and start my preflight while my instructor finished up with her current student.  Preflight went well and my instructor started going over my navigation log while I finished.  She asked me to do another quick weather profile as she finished with my calculations then I hear “Stop,  looks like you used LIB Vor.  I wanted you to plan direct.  I don’t think I told you that and with LIB out, this is no bueno.”  Welp, best laid plans….

Plan B, Advanced landing techniques which include soft field takeoffs and landings and short field takeoffs and landings.  And since we have the airplane for a good bit today, we will do some hood work.  I am still short 2.6 hours.  We spend the next 20 minutes going over the techniques that I need to employ for short field and soft field work.

As we taxi up to the runway, my instructor takes the controls and begins to demonstrate a soft field take off.  10 degrees flaps, yoke all the way back power smoothly input.  As the front wheel comes off the ground, she release a tiny bit of back pressure then the mains lift off the ground.  I notice the crosswind feels much greater than we had numbers for.  I shrug it away and pay attention as she takes me around the pattern. This in itself was a weird feeling, she hasn’t taken me for a ride in a long time.  It was kind of peaceful.

As previously reported by one of the other pilots, it was pretty bumpy.  I sit there as she completes the pattern and demonstrates a soft field touch down in a crosswind.  As expected, she did wonderfully.  I thought, ok, not so bad.

As I taxi on to the the runway, full swagger in place, reality comes crashing inward.  As I try to copy what I just saw, I had to have help on both the rudder and the yoke.  I haven’t had this much help in a long time.  It seemed like a lot went sideways, literally, very quickly.

As we turned onto final, I had everything setup nicely.  As we approached the runway, I added 1200 rpm like I was told and tried to hold the float.  As we plopped down on the runway in a less than graceful fashion, She commented that we probably just got stuck in the mud.  We discuss things as we taxi back and she remarks that with the gusting/variable winds it probably isn’t a good day to be starting this training for the first time but I convince her to let me try one more.

This time things went even worse.  Stall horn blaring, sliding quickly to the right side of the runway, trying to correct, feels like we are syncing and thoughts of ending up as a pile of aluminum were front and center on my mind.  My instructor quickly helped correct the situation and at that point we decided… let’s go do some hood work.  Normally I might groan, especially with the turbulence but I was all for it at this point.

The hood work was the only thing I did well today.  Considering all of the turbulence, I kept us within standards for altitude and heading.  I was able to complete 360 degree turns and even VOR work.  I did slip up at first on tracking the inbound radial after tracking the outbound radial.  I understood what was going on in my head but didn’t actually change the VOR Dial to track the inbound.  As I got about a third of the way through the turn, I realized it and made the correction and got us turned and tracked.  My instructor commented on that part of the failure but seemed pleased with the rest of my hood work.  I did have to be prompted a few times about our airspeed getting close to the yellow mark.  With the turbulent air that we were flying in, that would be a no no.  The point was well received and overall felt pretty good and oddly comfortable under the hood.  Maybe that is a good sign for my instrument rating after I tame the PPL beast.

So we head back to TTA to make a couple of crosswind landings.  My first landing, the slip was terrible and needed help. The landing sucked.

The second approach was much better but as we touched down, I landing on the downwind wheel which could be disastrous under the right circumstances.

I learned a lot today, especially about my abilities.  Honestly, the short field takeoff scared me.  This means I have a lot to work on and hopefully we can try again with out the 10 to 15 kt gusts with nearly 12 kt crosswind.  Right now I am blaming the the wind.

Even though it was a relatively bad day of flying for my ego, I still got to fly.

Weather Can’t Keep Me Down Forever!

It has been two weeks since I last flew and during that flight, I went up for pattern work for the first time solo.  I figured I would have a few more dual lessons before my next solo flight but because of the weather, things didn’t work out.  Also, my instructor was on vacation most of last week so no chance during the week.  Today we got some decent weather, and I was able to complete my first solo flight to another airport.  Good thing too, because we have more snow coming tonight.  ugh…

I woke this morning hopeful for the weather but I needed to analyze the area forecasts.  My student solo limits are set at no greater than 15 kt winds, with a 6 kt crosswind component.  2000 ft ceilings in the pattern, 3000 ft ceilings in the practice area, and 4000 ft ceilings for cross countries.  Technically, this isn’t a cross country flight but I will be flying a bit further than the practice area so 4000 ft ceilings apply.

The winds are pretty variable all over the area but nothing breaking my crosswind maximums.  All checked out good, so I headed to the airfield.

I met with my instructor for a few minutes in between her lessons to go over a few things including, how will I navigate, what are the runway lengths, pattern altitudes, radio frequencies, the Five C’s of getting lost,  overall weather in the area.  Everything checked out and she signed my logbook to visit KSCR.  As I started to leave, I asked “You’re the best source of info on the current conditions, how is it up there?”  She replied, “Bumpy… really bumpy today”.  Great, two weeks without flying, even longer without dual.  Oh well, I can handle it or she wouldn’t let me go.

Preflight, run-up, everything went smoothly.  I taxi’d to runway 3, made my radio call and away I went.  As we gained speed, the wind cradled the wings and with one smooth motion, we lifted from the bonds of earth and climbed like a rocket.  Not only because I was solo but during my weather gathering, I noted that the area density altitude was -2500 ft.  The cold weather made the air really dense, thus better climb performance.  I was at 900 ft msl before I knew it, so I made my cross wind turn, made the radio call to depart the pattern and I locked in on my first visual waypoint, the 3M plant.

Just before I reached the 3M plant, I was at cruise altitude so I performed my cruise checklist.  Oh yeah, it was really bumpy.  I had a hard time keeping my altitude of 3000 ft and busted my planned altitude up to 3200 ft at one point. I could hear my instructor telling me about it.  I got it corrected and my deviation for the rest of the trip was around 50-100 ft.  It was not the easiest with all of the bumps but I think I did ok. Once I was passed the 3m plant, I setup between US 64 W and some power lines that would take me all the way to Siler City.

I made an advisory call when I was 10 miles away from Siler City and the nice gentleman at the FBO let me know that winds favored Runway 4 and no other traffic was inbound.  I set up for my descent and entered the pattern downwind.  Pretty uneventful, except on final, the FBO called and asked, “012, are you from the flight school?”  I replied, “Yes sir, I am”.  “I guess you’re not going to need anything then.”  I replied, “No sir, just a full stop and taxi back for takeoff”

Now this isn’t a big deal right?  But looking back on it, I was on final approach at an airport that I’ve only been to a few times, all by myself and I was able to handle the radio and keep a stable approach without having to really think about it.  I think that is pretty cool.  It almost seemed second nature.

Not going to bore you with the rest of the flight because it was pretty uneventful.  I returned to KTTA and talked briefly with my instructor on the ramp as she was headed out to fly with another student.  All in all, it was a successful flight.  Even after two weeks off and being my second time solo.

I captured my flight with cloud ahoy if you want to check it out here ->  Clicky Clicky!




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