Thursday, January 19, 2012

First Visit to a Different Airport!

January 1, 2012
Paine Field- Arlington- Pain Field
Cessna 152
1.6 hours, 5 landings

How fitting that I welcome the New Year with a flight when all my resolutions are about it. Can you tell I’m obsessed yet? As usual my nerves got the best of me on the way to my flight school. I’m not sure why, but even to this day I get those butterflies of excitement that I’ve learned to accept. That is right until I start my preflight, and then it’s like I’m a different person. How could I be nervous when I’ve got to inspect the plane to make sure it’s suitable to fly? I’ve heard about how a lot of students just breeze through the preflight, but I pay careful attention. The whole point of preflighting is to make sure that the plane is safe to fly. If you don’t pay attention, then you’re at fault for your own idiocy. And becoming a pilot is all about being safe, everything in aviation is about being safe. I take my preflighting serious, I take my time. It’s not like I’m being charged for it, and even if I was, I’d still take my time. Why compromise your life for a few extra dollars?
So, I walk into the flight school, and wait until my CFI is done talking to some other student. He approaches me afterwards and tells me we’ll be doing touch and goes at the Arlington airport. How exciting! I’ve wanted to go to different airports for a while, I don’t want to just get used to Paine and be useless at other airports. He then proceeded to ask me if there was anything I wanted to do. Sadly, I said I wanted to work on my slow flight. I’m not at all comfortable with it so I wanted to get it out of the way. It’s the one thing I dread. He sends me off to preflight the plane, which I’ve got down. And even inside the cockpit it’s all coming together wonderfully. No longer do I sit there with a confused look on my face waiting for him to point it out, instead, I say each item on the checklist and perform them all easily.

I get the ATIS and talk to ground like a pro. Quickly taxi to the runway and perform the rest of the checklist. It’s all a piece of cake. Finally, I approach the hold short line, call up tower to get my clearance for takeoff, then off I go. My second takeoff in crosswinds! Horrible! I did horrible! The plane would not stay straight for the life of me. I’ll need to work on that a little more. It’s hard trying to find the right amount of rudder and aileron correction. But, otherwise up until that point all was smooth.

My instructor told me to point us towards baker, and if I remembered the steps to doing slow flight. I remembered the basics. Clearing turns first! Then we’re going to be slowing the engine down, and carb heat out! Second, reduce the rpms, it is slow flight after all, don’t let the nose drop though! So I set myself up, using power to adjust my altitude, if I was dropping, more power, rising, less power. Trying to find the equilibrium between the two. Once I was set up, with the annoying stall horn going off in the background, he had me turn to a heading of north. My first turn I did better than I ever had! What was my cure? Right rudder! Right rudder is your friend let me tell you! Without it the plane doesn’t want to stop turning left! At least that was my problem. Now back to east, trying to figure out the right rudder correction for that was a little trickier, the turn wasn’t as smooth and my first had been. Back to the left, and then the right, and left again. I learned a lot more this time around. And that was, can you guess it? RIGHT RUDDER! Even when you’re just nose up, trying to adjust you need right rudder otherwise the plane turns to the left. I never noticed it the first time I had done slow flight because I didn’t pay attention to my heading (weird a student pilot not staring at their instrument!) that was because my instructor every five seconds “eyes outside.” Simply looking outside it’s hard to tell you’re moving because its ever so slight and I hadn’t yet developed the skills to know. Even when I did my reading on slow flight and knew I needed right rudder, it’s hard to remember the little things when you’re actually up there. That was my main problem for my first few flights after all, trying not to freeze up in the middle of performing a maneuver. And trying to keep the information from slipping from my mind.

After we did slow flight we headed to the Arlington airport. Wow, was the radio busy. I’m sure the radios are always busy, but whenever we’d go out my CFI would switch the radio so he could walk me through the maneuvers. It was crazy cool listening to everyone talking. my instructor would point out which airplanes had just spoken, which I was thankful for because I had no idea who was saying what. Okay great, someone is over some river thing and another is on downwind. Where’s the airport again? And there are two rivers that go into one… what part of the river is he at?! It was hard trying to keep up. my CFI took control of the radio and just let me fly, at first I entered downwind and was confused to which runway we were landing on. I had to keep looking for the numbers, it wasn’t that I couldn’t find them, I just kept looking to where I was used to looking at Paine Field. First mistake, it’s a different airport. It felt awkward doing the traffic pattern here after having done it numerous times at Pain Field. But, I quickly fell into the pattern. Carb heat out on downwind, reduce rpms abeam point, start my flaps once we hit white arc, turn base, power at 70 flaps to 20, turn final power at 80 flaps full, work on power adjustment, was I coming in too high? Or too low? Two white lights, okay too high. The landings were apparently all me, which I hadn’t noticed until after he had told me so. My first one, I landed too fast. We taxied around the airport so I could get a feel for it, then back to the hold short line. My CFI had told me something in a way to help remember it. Camera, lights, action. I remember laughing at him. It was supposed to help me, but all I can remember is laughing. I think it was something along the lines of carb heat, lights, mixture or flaps? I have no idea.

After a few more touch and goes we headed back. I was happy with my progress up until my instructor told me I would be calling tower. My heart sank. I was definitely not ready to talk to tower yet when heading back. I did anyways; I had to write it down. “Paine tower, cenna 12345, over north Everett in bound for landing.” Okay, I had that down, now to repeat almost word by word what was to be said back to me. “ Cessna 12345 something something something something…… (long pause) 2 miles out” Are you kidding me? He paused! I couldn’t remember the first half, I still don’t. My flight instructor came to the rescue and repeated whatever it was back to him. I felt like such an idiot, but I can only remember something for so long, and the guy paused! They never pause! But they’re just people too. And I needed to get over my mike fright. Next time I’m writing it down! Fly the airplane and talk to tower while writing what they say down simultaneously. I got this! Next time I will report back with success! Well probably not, but hey, I'm trying.

So we got back to the airport and man were crosswinds bad! They were so bad my instructor didn’t even attempt to have me land, instead he had me feel the controls as he talked through it and landed the plane. He said that was one of the strongest crosswind he had ever seen when out with a student pilot. Let me tell you, it was the most awkward landing I’ve ever felt. It just didn’t feel natural going in for landing tilted so much and facing off the runway. I was jealous though. Even in crosswind landings my instructor landed the plane smoothly. He does have a few hundred hours over me though..

Total cost invested thus far: $2432

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