Swimming Laps with the Ugly Duckling
Due to some scheduling challenges, my instructor and I decided to move up our standing appointment from Saturday to Friday in order to ensure that I got two flights in this week.
Just like earlier, we stayed in the pattern at Hayward (KHWD) to practice the pattern, approaches and landings.
Today’s interesting complication/oddity was that there was a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) in place in at the airport because the Vice President is in town. I only heard about it when we listened to the ATIS after engine start. I probably wasted 3 minutes of engine time, next time I’ll make sure I listen to the full ATIS before engine start instead of tuning out after the altimeter information.
For the first time, I needed to deviate from the Controller/Pilot script and give Hayward Ground a call and ask them if the TFR will affect our desire to just fly the pattern. With the green light, I request taxi clearance and we start rolling towards 28L in the Ugly Duckling.
Run-up checks complete, I call Tower requesting 28L for closed traffic (pattern work), receive clearance, taxi onto runway and then my instructor calls tower to inform them we’ll be performing an aborted takeoff before properly taking off. I wasn’t terribly concerned, 28L is huge, so we had plenty of space to play with. I go full power, we gain some airspeed then abort and veer a bit too far to the right of center-line. Oops.
Single engine airplanes love to turn left, there are four major forces that try to turn the plane left. When you take-off, you’re putting in maximum power and the plane just wants to turn left. To stay centered when the plane wants to go left, you have to kick some right rudder in. Thing is, if you remove all that power, say on an aborted take-off, and don’t pick your big-ass right foot up, you’re going to veer right. Oops.
I straightened out and we proceeded with a normal take-off roll and rotation as per usual, and we were quickly back up in the 650ft pattern coming back around to touch-and-go on 28L.
Unlike previous lessons where we were working in the pattern, this was later in the day, and with about 11 knots of wind from about 265/275, a 15-20 degree cross-wind. Another new variable to add into the mix!
We perform a couple touch-and-go’s, some of which are pretty nice, some with more side-loading than I wanted. After we take-off again tower tells us to make right closed traffic for 28R, we’re being switched from the giant runway (28L) to the smaller runway.
No big deal, I’m feeling much more comfortable flying the plane, using trim more and more to control my airspeed, a big improvement from the last lesson. On one approach, I roundout my descent, the airspeed slows, I begin to flare, my upwind (side where the wind is coming from) wheel gently touches down, a couple seconds pass and then the downwind wheel gently touches down.
Greased it, except I’m about 5 feet left of centerline. Damn.
When landing in a cross-wind, it’s not uncommon to have one wheel touchdown first like that you would use a lower upwind wing to sideslip into the cross-wind to maintain center-line. As long as you have the plane’s momentum going in a straight line, you’re gold.
A few more approaches, some with flaps, some without flaps which required forward slipping into the crosswind to lose altitude and airspeed. Using the plane as an airbrake is pretty fun, and makes for a completely different sound than you’ll normally hear. I highly recommend them.
On one circuit, I rolled out on my final approach too early, started correcting and became too focused with my airspeed and power inside the airplane, that I let us line up on the left edge of the runway. Approaching from that far off centerline, at less than 100ft from the ground is a bad idea. It’s a sloppy approach, and an inexperienced pilot might try to save it, which can be dangerous. The right procedure is to go-around, which is exactly what my instructor said, and then asked the rhetorical question: “why did I have to call the go-around?”
An important lesson learned on my part, if I exercise poor judgement to the point that my instructor has to exercise his good judgement, that’s a Bad Thing™.
Another couple touch-and-gos and we’re done for the day. My side-loading has gone away (as far as I’ve perceived it), my roundout and landing flare have improved and I’m starting to get a feel for what looks and sounds like a good approach.
“Hey! You know how to land an airplane!” my instructor says as we slow to taxi speed and leave the runway.
I’m nearing another critical milestone in my flight training, the solo flight.
The solo flight is arguably one of the biggest milestones pilot will have. For the first time he or she will be alone in an airplane, flying around, without adult supervision.
Provided I continue to demonstrate that I can safely perform the necessary flight maneuvers and exercise good judgement on bad approaches, I should be making solo takeoffs/approaches/landings in the next couple lessons.
Hold onto your butts, next week could be amazing.