Friday, August 1, 2008

Danbury, but Not Groton

I still haven't been able to do my solo to Groton; the weather has been hazy or rainy every night that Chris and I have free. (Tonight actually looks good, but neither of us can make it -- go figure.)

On Wednesday we tried again (as I mentioned in the last post). When I got to the airport it was clearly too hazy for me to go solo, so Chris brought me inside and proposed two options: we could fly to New Haven or Danbury to get experience flying to other airports, or we could stay here and do test prep ground work. I'm always weary about Chris testing me - baiting me to want to fly in weather I shouldn't in order to teach me a lesson. I certainly wouldn't have gone solo in this, I noted, but I couldn't turn down the chance to fly, especially to a new airport.

So we went! As we got in the plane, Chris said "I'm just here so you're legal," indicating I was [mostly] on my own for the flight. Before take-off Chris had me find Danbury on the map and request the proper turn-out (west) of Oxford. This also gave me a chance to find ATIS and the tower codes for Danbury on the sectional, since I hadn't prepared a flight plan prior. Good things to do for a flight to another airport -- I made a mental note.

Everything went fine. I had a minor mistake on the radios (when calling Oxford Ground I forgot to actually request the taxi to runway 18) but other than that it was a good flight. On the climb out, Chris and I saw a hot air balloon off the right wing, but we climbed above it, then lost it in the thick haze. We suspect it landed, but were careful not to get too close to where we last saw it, since it has the right-of-way. (The less manuverable aircraft always has the right of way.)

On the way Danbury I saw the city, but started worrying because I couldn't see the airport (and the "digital VOR" I'd talked about previously said it was 5 miles directly in front of me). Finally I saw it (double-checking my sectional helped a lot) about a mile PAST the city. We already had clearence for a straight-in landing (my favorite!), so when tower said we were now #1 to land, we flew right in for a touch-and-go.

I came in high and fast, but managed to slow it down and get low. It looked like a very short runway, but I checked the sectional after the flight: 4400 feet. I can land on half that. I think the hills we flew over on the climb out made it feel shorter. Either way, we did just fine on the touch-and-go and Chris congradulated me on it. (Again I made a minor mistake on the radios though, originally requesting a south-east departure; Chris revised it to north-east during climb out.)

On the way back I made a few minor mistakes (though overall it was a great flight). They were: creeping into the runway at Danbury as we flew back to Oxford, imperfect navigation in the pattern at Oxford (we had to land fast since a solo pilot was coming in for a landing too) and a slightly tail-left landing. I do that landing way too often. I need to ask Chris how to fix it (left rudder??).

Overall it was a great flight. The 0.8 hours put me from 39.8 to 40.6, breaking the 40-hour barrier. (For those who don't know, 40 hours is the legal minimum for a private pilot's license, though I still have more stuff to do.) I got to see a new airport, fly without a flight plan, found it myself, did radios [almost] completely alone and had decent landings all-around. I wish I could do that kind of flight every day!

Chris and I planned for me to come back on Thursday for the solo to Groton, but rain and haze kept me from even wasting a drive to the airport. I'm hoping to go up Saturday afternoon - let's just hope mother nature cooperates this time.

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