Friday, April 23, 2010

Landings: At Last

Today was a day of breakthroughs. A lot of the pilots I have talked to have told me that there comes a moment in time when suddenly, landings just "click." You grasp the mechanics of landing and suddenly you can put the plane on the ground, no problem. I was eagerly awaiting the click, as I'd been having massive difficulty with the landing process from power management to the deadly flare. It seemed that every landing was too slow, too low, or too fast. I had a scary tailstrike which struck fear into my heart.

On my last lesson, my instructor was tired of watching me struggle, so he took me out to the practice area and worked on rudder control with a series of exercises. He then had me fly the plane back to the airport using only rudder, and then we did a series of landings where we split responsibility of duties. He would do power while I did pitch, and then vice-versa. Those exercises solidified landing in my head, and I ended the day by squeaking out a fairly good landing.

Today, we preflighted the plane and Bryan briefed me. He told me that we'd go for a change of scenery and fly to Bartow, a mere seven miles from the Winter Haven airport. There we would do some touch-and-go's and then head back to Winter Haven for simulated power failures.

Normally, Bartow is a controlled airport, but it was after 5PM and the controller had gone home for the day, so the tower frequency on the radio became a CTAF. We called our position and entered the pattern at a 45-degree standard entry, then circled around to land. The runway at Bartow is much wider than the runway at Winter Haven, and the different sight picture helped me immensely.

I pulled the power, pushed the flaps, executed a passable flare, and squeaked down for the best landing I've made to date. It may not have been a perfect 10, but in MY book, it felt amazing: no bounce, no porpoise, no balloon, just a perfect greaser of a landing. I smiled ear to ear as I pulled the flaps up, pushed the carb heat to COLD and advanced the throttle. The plane soared into the sky and I executed five more successful landings (there was a bit of a crosswind, so they weren't perfect by any means, but they were my best landings yet) before we left Bartow for Winter Haven.

On our return to Winter Haven we entered the pattern, did one touch-and-go, and then Bryan demonstrated a perfect simulated engine failure. He pulled the throttle, pitched for our Cessna 150's best-glide speed of 70mph, and circled the plane in for a perfect landing. We took off again, and I made an attempt at the same procedure, which was scary but which went fairly well.

At the end of the day, I logged 9 landings and 1.2 hours of time. It was the first time I'd flown to another airport, and the first time I made what I felt to be good landings. I felt really good about myself coming home tonight, and I'm excited for the next time I get to go up!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sun N Fun

I haven't had much time to post here lately, but this news warrants reporting: The SUN N FUN started today!

I sat on the patio this morning with a cup of coffee and my binoculars and watched the planes come in. We live just off the holding pattern that the KLAL controllers hold the arrivals in, and so every few minutes a batch of planes would fly over...Cessnas, Pipers, a few Lakes, a Mooney, maybe a Grumman (not sure.) The classics flew over; an old Cub, what looked like a Taylorcraft, and even a Boeing Stearman. I'm pretty sure I saw a rare plane known as the OMF symphony. There were several twins flying over too, and what looked like a CitationJet.

We had business in Orlando, and so unfortunately I missed the arrival of the USAF Thunderbirds. But I will get to see them doing their airshow later this week!

Tomorrow, I will be at the airfield all day, wandering the rows of airplanes and watching the planes in the sky. Thursday I have an errand to run in the morning, and then in the afternoon I'll be going to the Splash-In at Fantasy of Flight. I have to work Friday and Saturday, and then Sunday I'll be at the show all day to see the planes off.

It will be sad to see the planes leave, but while they're here, I'll have a splendid time at the airshow.