Thursday, July 10, 2008

Back Flying

It's been a little while since my last update, I apologize. Between working, visiting people on weekends and other random tasks after work I simply haven't had the time. Let's remedy that now:

Ok, so the lesson I was supposed to have right after my test never happened: weather. Last week I was back at the airport on Thursday night with bad weather coming in. Chris and I decided to try to squeeze in two landings before the weather hit.

We get into the 152 and I call up ground: "Oxford ground this is Cessna 48984 with information Whiskey, request taxi to runway 18 for closed pattern." Then comes the call "984, I suggest you wait this out a few minutes." Chris seemed to have mixed emotions about it but we turned the plane around and taxied back. We got out and walked back inside when he got a call on his cell phone. It was Ben, the lone ATC in the tower apologizing. Apparently ATC isn't supposed to tell you not to fly -- it's your call as the pilot in command, which is why Chris was a little annoyed.

About 60 seconds after the phone call the clouds opened and it started POURING. That explained Chris's other emotion: appreciation. "I think Ben just did us a favor," he said. That was shortly followed by a strong gust of wind and, "let's go tie up the plane!" We ran outside and did just that. I'm sure we would have been able to land the plane in that weather, but I would have let Chris do it (though knowing him he'd have made me land and just saved us from any potential mistakes). I told him before we even decided to taxi out that I wouldn't go up in that without him or Melanie, my original flight instructor.

The rain passed fast, but ominous clouds lingered on so we didn't go up then either. My last lesson was on Tuesday, and that's where I'll continue...

Tuesday morning I call Chris from work. The visibility looks bad, and I'm almost certain Chris is going to cancel. I call ATIS and hear that visibility is 10 miles. "Bullshit" I thought. I check (a great weather site for pilots!). It tells me visibility is 7 miles. I'm still not buying it. When Chris calls me back he says we're still on for 6:30. Alright!

When I get to the airport visibility isn't any better, but I see Chris taking off with someone for a quick trip in the 152. He better not say we can't fly today after all this! Sure enough, when he gets back down he says "we can't go anywhere, but we'll practice landings in the pattern." Sounds great to me! I always enjoy working on my landings; I'd like to make them so smooth that a sleeping baby wouldn't wake up -- it's not easy in a plane this small.

When we taxi out Chris comes up with a new plan:

"I've got a better idea. I want you to land short and do an entire touch-and-go without letting your nose-wheel touch down."
"Uhh... what?"
"You can do it! Just don't let the nose-wheel touch the runway."
"At all?"

Chris really liked this idea. I wasn't so sure. Normally I touch-down with my mains (the two wheels under the wings are referred to as the "mains") first, as you're supposed to and hold the nose off as long as I can until the plane slows down to a nice taxi speed. But holding it off that long, then giving it power as I balance holding the nose off... I told him "I'll do my best."

When we got up the visibility was HORRIBLE. I could see the airport alright, but Waterbury (which was only a few miles to the East) was hard to see and fading fast. It wasn't bad enough to effect my landings though, so the terrible first landing was my fault. I started landing sideways on the gear. Chris jammed the rudder in and saved it. We wouldn't have crashed, but it wouldn't have been comfy on the plane -- or us.

After that the landings just got better -- slowly. The 2nd to last landing I didn't let the nose touch at all, and both the landing and take-off were smooth. I nailed it! The final landing (full-stop, not a touch-and-go) Chris told me to "do a regular landing." I wasn't sure how well I'd be able to after practicing so many of those, but I responded the same "I'll do my best."

Coming in everything looked good. I thought I flaired a little too late and a little too hard, but was surprised when I felt the mains touch down in one of the smoothest landings I'd ever had. Chris told me that I would have passed my check ride with that one. I was pleased.

"Well, that was short and soft fields" Chris commented when we got back inside. "I wanted to surprise you." Apparently we practiced the skills of short and soft fields and Chris didn't want to waste too much time repeated it.

"I'd still like to land and take off on a short soft field at least once, to see how the landing gear feels on grass," I pointed out.

"Oh yeah, we'll still do some of that."

Chris and I planned for lessons the rest of the week, but yesterday's got cancelled (weather). Today the sky is blue, the humidity and haze have finally broken and the temps dropped a good 10 degrees and the wind seems to have died down. PERFECT flying weather! Hopefully tonight we make a cross country -- or at least start it and practice diversions. Tonight should be fun!

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