Monday, May 5, 2008

Solo'd Again!

Wow, it's been a while since I've updated this, sorry. To be honest, I've forgotten about it with everything else I've been up to.

Anyway, an update is in order...

So after my first solo, I didn't fly again for about 3 weeks. Just between being busy on the weekends and weather, I had a hard time getting in the air again. Chris decided I needed a "non-training lesson" where we flew up in the Warrior through the valleys of North Western Connecticut -- literally below the hills on either side. It was such a wonderful flight, and gave me just one more reason to want to fly!

After that flight, I had another short stint without getting up much. Once Chris and I figured out that I had plenty of time to come directly after work (without leaving early), I was able to get up flying more often again. Last week into last weekend I flew 3 times in 4 days, soloing on last of those 3. I'll cover the solo in more detail in a minute.

Since that solo (now 9 days ago) I haven't been up again. Work, softball and Alli have kept me busy enough that, with some pretty bad weather last week, I've spent the week on the ground. Next flight will hopefully be a "lunch flight" tomorrow, or an after work one on Wednesday. Chris said I was 3/4ths of the way through my license the Wednesdsay before my last solo, but seeing as I STILL have less than 30 hours under my belt, I've got a lot of flying left, even if some of it is just bombing around to rack up the hours. Either way, it's going to be fun!

As for that solo, here's how it went...

Chris and I went up, as usual, on Saturday. The two previous days we'd been up (Wed. & Thur.) were GREAT! Chris had told me he would have sent me for my solo after Wednesday's lesson had it not gotten too late (the sun was going down fast), which tipped me off that it was coming soon. Thursday came and went, but he didn't send me solo. I wasn't surprised, since he was talking most of that flight. When he's considering sending me solo, he stops talking and starts watching me. That's what happened Saturday.

"Use your sectional (fancy word for 'flying map') and navigate to the practice area," he instructed me. That was easy: we've gone to the practice area (which is due north of the airport) for almost every lesson. I could find it blindfolded, nevermind with the help of a map. We got there quickly and I pointed out where things on the map were on the ground.

"Good, now turn 090 and tell me what you see."

"Due east? Hartford. Just to the right are the two blinking towers near Robertson (Airport)."

"Good, what side of the towers is Robertson on?"

"The side closer to us."

"Good. Use your sectional to find Waterbury (the grass-strip airport)."

"Umm... ok...."

That took me a minute, since it's a bit harder to find, but since I knew where it was from experience, and with the help of the map, I was able to find it. Once I did, Chris instructed me to head back to Oxford. At this point, we hadn't been flying for very long, and Chris was doing his "quieter than usual" routine. I was expecting to solo.

On the flight back, I stayed well north of the airport (instead of heading directly toward it) until I got ATIS (the weather briefing) and called up the tower to let them know I was 10nm north. Chris told me that if I'm 10nm out and don't have ATIS yet, turn around and get it before breaking the 10 mile range. We flew back and I landed, but it wasn't a good landing, I thought. The crosswind was strong. I taxied back to the terminal and we got out.

Chris told me I was ready as I was getting out of the plane. He signed off my logbook outside and told me to not take too long, since bad weather was supposed to come in.

"If it gets bad and you don't think you can land here, fly to Robertson (it's less windy there) and call my cell."
"If you need to reach me, I'll be on radio, channel 122.9"

I got in the plane and did everything I needed to. I was nervous, but more-so about the poor take-off and landing than the solo part. As I was performing my engine run-up, the left magneto (part of what keeps the engine spinning) was irregular. Running the engine on it gave a 300rpm drop, when only 100 is expected. I tried it again. Same thing.

I took a moment to decide what to do. I thought I knew how to clean the magneto (run the engine rich on high rpms for a minute or two), but I wanted to make sure by talking to Chris. I tuned in to 122.5 and called for him. No answer. Crap. Ok, I'm on my own. Now what? I knew what to do: try to clean the magneto the way I'd seen Chris do it before. If that didn't fix it, I'd call ground control and taxi back. There's no need to take off if you're not 100% comfortable with the situation, and I wasn't.

Running the engine mixture rich (that means: a high fuel-to-air ratio for the engine) on high rpms for a minute and the magneto was fine. I was still a little shaken, but I was ready to go. The tower gave me clearance and I took off. That take off sucked too: I veered to the left of the runway before taking off, and pulled a little too much back on the yoke. I was plenty fast that it was alright, but it still wasn't the right way to fly. Chris saw my take-off with his uncle (also a great pilot) and he said my climb looked very nice. Apparently he couldn't see the botched take-off, but that's fine.

I flew north to Bantam Lake, about 12nm due north of Oxford. On the way I took a few photos and a video to prove I was flying alone. I tried going weightless (0 G's), but I didn't feel safe descending that fast. I should've pulled up, then pushed the nose over, but didn't think of it. Maybe next time. On the way back from the lake I realized I was 10nm out and hadn't gotten ATIS, so I did a 360 and got the weather information. Strong crosswind. As I expected, but still unpleasant news. I called the tower and got cleared to land.

As I came in, the landing again sucked. The crosswind made me nervous and I ended up letting the nose down too early. I know better than that, and practice will be my best solution. I did it though! Solo'd away from the airport! I taxied back, thanked the ATC and saw Chris. He commented on my nice climb, asked how it was (I told him about forgetting ATIS and doing the 360) and he laughed.

"Well good job."

I told him about the problem with the magneto and asked why he wasn't on 122.5 like he said.

"I said 122.9!"
"Well, you fixed it yourself?"
"Yeah. Just remembered what you've done."
"Good. That's all there is to you."

Overall, it was a great flight, even if I was nervous. It showed me I can overcome the small problems, and I came fix my mistakes. A little bit of the unexpected now will better prepare me for it should I ever encounter it later.

Now I can't wait to get back up again.

No comments: