Today we did my first cross country. We hopped up to Cheyenne (CYS) using a flight plan I created a few weeks ago as homework and flew back on the reverse. Most of the flight was flown with a combination of pilotage (visual landmarks) and dead reckoning (using time, course and speed to calculate fixes), but we had the VOR tuned in both ways as a backup. The way up was pretty uneventful. Moderate turbulence was forecast, but we had a smooth ride both ways. For a holiday weekend both airports and the airspace between seemed pretty deserted. I had a hard time keeping my altitude steady for the first half of the way up, but realized the throttle lock wasn’t holding quite as well as it good. I’d noticed it on trips around the pattern, but it’s not usually a huge issue when you’ve constantly got a hand on it. Once up in Cheyenne we had lunch at a Mexican place attached to the terminal. They were only serving breakfast, but it worked out as they have a pretty good machaca. The trip home we did a few what-ifs, consisting of being diverted to Greeley when were just past Carr, and a pair of “if the engine went out here would you make it there” scenarios. I was complimented on having things pretty well planned, and now I just need to get used to some of the differences of a cross country flight. I usually don’t include things like oil and exhaust temp when we go out the practice area and perform maneuvers, but I need to get used to doing it in cruise flight. Next up my instructor would like to get me checked out to solo outside of the pattern at our local airspace. Not sure how far along we’ll get on Tuesday, but it’s very exciting indeed.
Today (yesterday, I forgot to publish this last night) I got nine more landings and 1.5 hours in my log book. .6 of those hours and four landings were all on my lonesome. This time around I made some of my finest landings, I even compensated for being alone right off the bat. BJC has nice long runways so I was able to do touch and goes instead of full stop landings. We almost weren’t able to get even that in, as there was an odd extension to the temporary flight restriction from the Democratic National Convention. For some reason VFR aircraft in the normal TFR, and the Delta airspace surrounding Metro needed an ATC assigned squawk code, similar to an instrument flight. This was taking a good deal of time, so initially we thought we’d head up to Fort Collins to practice. As we were waiting for our code and taxiing out to the runway there were a pair of Colorado National Guard CH-60s. This was my first up close look at one, and boy are they big. After we finished our run-up we asked ground about our code, right when the TFR lifted. What ever big wig was coming in or out of the airport had gone, so we decided to stay in our home pattern and make the best use of the time we had left. What normally takes us 15 to 20 minutes took nearly 40. All the same, I got in 5 landings with my instructor and 4 solo! Turns out I really am a pilot, and safely landing a plane on my son’s birthday wasn’t a fluke!
Sunday we’re planning to do my first cross country flight. A cross country is defined as any flight where you land at any airport other than the one you took off from, but for it to qualify for most certifications that airport must be at least 50 nautical miles away. Further for some of them. We’re going to use a flight plan I put together to Cheyenne a few weeks ago, and I’ll just plug in the weather numbers. This week I gleaned a bit of good information from the AOPA news feed that calculates best speed and fuel economy, which I’m going to post about tomorrow or Saturday.
I’m hoping I can keep this rate up and get my ticket while 2008 is still in session. In the mean time I’ll follow the advice of my friend Mariko and what CFI Jason Miller say a lot (in their respective languages), “do your best”.
AKA Precision Landings. This is where your goal is to put the plane down on the ground (safely). Mine were pretty close to the mother-in-law approach, but after 11 landings in the book, the last three were pretty darn close. Due to weather it’s been three weeks since I’ve gotten up, so the first three landings weren’t as close, or smooth as they could have been. A lot of that was getting back in to the hang of things, and by the third landing my pattern and approach were a lot better, I just wasn’t in the box. A few more tries later and my instructor had me try dragging it in, which helped a lot but may not be the preferred method (having spare altitude is always nice). This involves coming in low and then using power to keep the plane aloft, but usually under the glide slope. As you near your touchdown point you make subtle power changes to increase or decrease your float time before you touch down.
It was fun trying to put the plane right where you want it, but I’d like to practice until I can use a technique that actually keeps me on the glide slope. That’s preferred for obstacle avoidance, and having enough altitude to glide to the runway should there be an engine problem. No dead stick (engine out) landings this time, though I was kind of expecting one. We’ll probably do some next time. My instructor also said I’m back to where I was pre-wrist hardware, so if the weather agrees next week I’ll be soloing again. I’m looking forward to that as I haven’t soloed at my home air port yet, and I wasn’t with my primary instructor up at Longmont. I’m going to have to charge up my camera and clear up the memory stick this time around.
My last lesson was almost a week ago, but the schedule’s been pretty full so I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write about it yet. Only just now had a chance to get the flight from paper to Zululog, and thought I should get this out while it’s still in my head. Last time up we did about four approach stalls, and got in one touch and go back at BJC. The north runway was closed for painting, so we had to sneak in what we could. We had to forgo one of the touch and goes for a low approach pass. Those are always fun, as you don’t get to fly that close to the ground without landing all that often. It really enhances the sense of speed when everything is that low and close.
It sounds like I’m going to solo again in the next lesson or two, and after that we’re going to do a cross-country. I was given a choice to plan a flight to either Cheyenne or Akron. I think I’m going to do Cheyenne, as we planned a flight to Akron in ground school. We’re going to focus on pilotage, so I’ll have to find some good landmarks to navigate by. I picked up the latest charts and A/FD this weekend, as mine expired while recovering from surgery. I have a check up and x-ray on Wednesday, and with any luck flying on Thursday will be much easier. I’ll let you all know then.