Monday, August 4, 2008

165 pounds lighter.

Well ok, I was nervous this morning. As I got closer and closer to my 12:00 flight reservation, I could see that the weather conditions were within the parameters for my solo flight. I was getting worried that I might actually be able to fly.

I got to the airport and Jimmy wasn't there yet so I preflighted the plane. When he showed up he quizzed me on fuel, weather, and weight and balance. He's definitely expecting a lot more out of me, and for good reason.

So, I told him that the wind was 7 knots and the cloud ceilings were 2500 feet, within the school rules of 8 knots and 2000 feet. We saddled up and taxied over to the runway.

The first two landings were, well, a bit hard. My flares were just a bit late and my throttle pulled a little too early. Nothing bent, but I really wanted a good third landing to make sure Jimmy was confident that I could land the plane by myself. So, I flew a nice square pattern, lined up for landing, and set that bird down just as smooth as you'd like. Jimmy said "Ok that landing was pretty much text book". So you see, even a blind squirrel gets an acorn every now and again.

Jimmy then tells me to taxi back to the school because he "wants out". We pulled up to the school and he endorsed my logbook for solo flight. Then I shook his hand and walked out to the plane. Wow. It was weird. But you get used to procedures and I just dove into the checklists and decided that I needed to be all business. I taxied out to the active runway, did my runup checklist, and said the magic words: "Flying Cloud tower, this is student pilot Cessna 46953 ready for takeoff on runway 36 for full stop taxi backs".

The airplane jumped off the runway as I was missing 165 lbs of instructor and I made a long upwind to make room for a King Air on final. I told the tower I had the King Air in sight and they let me turn for crosswind. The rest of the pattern was uneventful, and I paid SUPER close attention to my airspeeds (I let them get too slow in my stage check flight and I knew I couldn't get into that habit). The approach was good but flying into Runway 36 is tricky because you fly over this gulley - and there is some weird wind stuff happening there all the time. But I kept it under control and the landing was straight but...I flared a bit to early, floated a bit, pulled out too much throttle and the plane touched down a bit hard. Sigh. Well, it wasn't alarming but it wasn't my best work. So the next landing I flew another standard pattern, flared too late and bumped down a little hard.

On the approach to landing number 2, the tower announced that wind was now "360 at 20", meaning 20 knots out of the north. Yikes! 12 knots more than the minimum. I sat at the taxi turn off for a minute and considered calling the school and asking advice. But I'd just done two landings with the wind not really being a factor and I figured with the wind straight down the runway, my ground speed would be slower and I'd actually have more time to get the landing right. So I taxied up to the runway and took off again. This time, the landing was great. Maybe not a greaser but nice and smooth and maybe a little crooked but nothing to get in a twist about. I taxied back to the school and my instructor met me outside, shook my hand, and took my picture with the plane. We chatted a bit about the flight, and he asked me about my landings. I told him the first two were a bit hard but the third seemed good. He said "yeah that's kinda what I saw through the binoculors". Good thing I didn't lie.

Next flight: Solo takeoff, fly to practice area, practice, land by myself.

Google Earth Track: FCM Pattern
Online Logbook: Logshare


Steve said...

Congrats!! I told ya you were going to solo next time the weather was right. :)

Sure is a great feeling, ain't it?

When are you going up next alone? For me, it's this Thursday.

Keith K. said...

The plan is tomorrow if the weather is right.

Do you have weather minimums that you have to abide by as a solo student?

Steve said...

Other than the standard FAR limits for VFR flight, I don't know of any specifics regarding ceilings and visibility. My personal minimums are likely much higher than they would set anyway - we went up in serious morning haze a week or so ago and yea, I couldn't see too much.

Anyway, aside from that the only real limit is a maximum of 10 knots wind to fly w/out an instructor in any of the tailwheel planes.

And once again, serious congrats... still grinning?

Keith K. said...

Heck yeah, though it's still hard to believe. Doing a landing without any safety net really makes you think about your training.

Rob said...

"Nothing will ever equal that moment of exhilaration which filled my whole being when I felt myself flying away from the earth. It was not mere pleasure; it was perfect bliss... All was glorious — a cloudless sky above, a most delicious view around. . . . How great is our good fortune! I care not what may be the condition of the earth; it is the sky that is for me now." - Prof. Jacques Alexandre Cesare Charles

Extraordinary job. You are a pilot!

Steve said...

I definitely have never felt as sharp and focused, no matter how good the lesson, as I did after Dave stepped out of the plane. Without knowing there's someone that can step in, it really elevates things to another level.

Gary said...


Nothing like kicking that instructor to the curb! What a great feeling when you take off then thinking hey, it's on me to land this bird.

On to the cross country fun!

Jock said...

Congrats, I guess...

Keith K. said...

Thanks everyone for the kind words - I really enjoyed the quote, Rob. It kinda sums up the whole experience.