When I got to the airport today, the windsock was hanging straight down--the first time since I've been taking lessons this fall that there's been no wind. Inside the terminal, Adam asked me what I wanted to do. I was a bit surprised--or more interested, really, because Adam had started to ask a somewhat similar question last week. This time he was adamant--asked several times. He said said that landings or ground reference maneuvers would both be good. I said that because there was no wind it might be better to do landings and save the ground reference maneuvers for where there was more wind to make them harder. He just said, "Uh huh.," and handed me the dispatch box for N4725B and said he'd be out in a few minutes.
I felt really stupid during the preflight--was still slow and logy after driving to Hendersonville, NC, and back over the weekend. Several times I forgot to follow the checklist and had to go back and re-do portions of it. But eventually I got it done, although it wasn't exactly a propitious start to the day.
When Adam came out, he asked, "So what are you going to do? Have you decided?"
I said "Landings," and so that's what we did. I still don't know whether he cared which I chose, or not, but it was clear that he wanted me to make the decision. Interesting development. I'm glad I had an answer and a clear reason for it.
So landings it was--touch-and-goes--eleven of them by Adam's count. Most were pretty ragged, partly because of turbulence over the highway on final approach but mostly because I was still feeling slow in the head. After a while they began to go better, and the last two or three went fairly well, and Adam kept off the controls and didn't offer any suggestions at all on the last ones. I didn't break the plane, although I didn't manage to land a few feet off the ground several times--which of course causes that unpleasant BAWMP sound
There were several other planes in the pattern, which was sometimes a little confusing, but they didn't particularly bother me, so I guess that must mean I'm getting adjusted to the pattern and traffic.
One time, just as I was about to turn base and was looking to the left to be sure no one was ahead of us, something dark caught the corner of my eye and I looked straight ahead to see--a big hawk, just doing a 180 to get out of our way. We probably would have missed it in any case, but it did startle me a bit, and I had to wonder what would happen if we had hit it.
What I had most trouble with today was keeping the pattern tight. I turned downwind a little late three or four times, and several times went so wide before turning final that I had to angle back to the left to get lined up with the runway. Also, I was often too high on final, although it didn't seem that way until close to the runway, and had to add full flaps early and cut the power over the road instead of over the numbers. All the same, I feel more confident each time, and today I managed to do everything right at least once. Someday I'll get them all right on the same landing! It'd better be soon, too. Adam's been talking solo lately and today seemed apologetic that he hasn't made me solo yet. I was amused--told him that I'm enjoying the flying and am not in any hurry, but he's going to have to force the issue soon enough. I used to think, back in the Dim Ages, that flying solo was the thing, but these days I'm enjoying the company and glad not to have to burn all that extra adrenelin.
Next time: ground reference maneuvers, stalls, and (ulp) emergencies. I reckon Adam's planning on chopping the power at awkward times, so I'd better bone up on emergency procedures. This is part of the before take-off checklist, which I've now got pretty much memorized. We were talking about it again today, and on one take off, when we were at about 700 feet AGL he asked me what I'd do if we lost power. I said I'd pitch for 60 knots and try to miss the hi-lines ahead and pick out a big backyard. (It's mostly woods north of runway 33, with some ponds and houses. The hi-lines are in a nice grassy corridor that would be a good landing strip, except for those towers and wires.) He said we were high enough to circle back to the airfield and land there. It didn't seem that way to me, so he said to do it--pull the throttle to idle and turn around. By that time we were up to about 900 feet and I was already turning crosswind. I throttled back and finished turning toward the field. Pitched for 60--which requires a fair amount of hauling back, with the engine idling and the trim still set to take off position. We glided parallel with the runway, and I could see that he was right: we'd have plenty of altitude to get back to the field. At the very least we could land on the grass beside the runway. I was nervous about landing against the normal runway traffic, but of course you could just call final for 15 and hope that no one would try to land 33 at the same time. I suppose that would be a good time to try out "Mayday" on the radio. We got down to about 300 or 400 feet about a factory roof, and I was glad to hear Adam say to go back up.
Here's how a logical reason makes it easier to remember a procedure: In a touch-and-go, you want to push the carb heat to cold before throttling up, so that the intake air is filtered, in case there's any debris on the runway. Until Adam mentioned the reason, the order of doing things seemed arbitrary, and therefore hard to remember.
Gotta learn the regulations for the next test! The flying is fun, but the regs are murder.
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