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One Thousand, One Hundred, Twenty-Two Days Later . . .

January 26, 2007

. . . I was one again in the air as the only PIC. I mentioned in a previous post that I had started back flying. Once you have your pilot’s certificate, the only thing you need to do to start back is get your medical certificate current and get a flight review. Flight reviews are required every two years, but if you haven’t flown for longer it’s still all that’s required to be legal again. However, having been so long since I had flown, I went out a couple more times with my instructor, Calm One, to do some instrument work (aiming for my instrument rating) and to get some more flying time. But I decided that, as today was a nice day, it was a good time to take a shot at going up and coming down, by myself, all in one piece.

First thing I want to do is to get back to my comfort zone with the landings. Prior to today, while I’ve made all the landings fine, I wasn’t happy with how the landing went. It wasn’t like strapping on a car and going around the block; if you aren’t a pilot, you may remember first learning to drive. Over-corrections, incorrect braking, not sure whether to go through the yellow or not . . . tons of things that are not even surface thoughts anymore. The same is true with flying, and with landings. When learning to fly, you do a lot of landings; prior to starting back, in sixty-four hours of flying I had logged 222 landings. By the time I stopped flying in 2002, the minor corrections you make while landing were automatic, everything felt right, it was a smooth operation. I’m not back to that point as of yet, and today was a day to move further in that direction.

So I drove over to KTUP, where the sky was clear and the winds were calm to variable (direction) at four knots. I’m flying a Skyhawk II, a Cessna 172 that’s seen a lot of rental hours but is a fun flyer. I’ll admit I prefer the Warrior I trained in, but sometime over the past few years the FBO sold it. I’m partial to low wings for a couple of reasons. But no matter, I’m flying the Skyhawk. I do the preflight, start her up, and request permission to taxi. Take off is on runway 18, which is the long haul from the FBO. I taxi out, do the run up, wait for an incoming plane from the other direction doing an ILS approach. After he/she is clear of the runway, I get permission to take off. First thing I notice when I apply full power is the significant right rudder required to keep it center-line, I expect due to my size and nobody riding left seat. At rotation, the thing seems to jump in the air without the extra weight of Calm One, even if he is a skinny fellow.

The picture at right, clickable for a larger version, shows my trips around the pattern. The color coding depicts direction, and the picture was created using GPS Visualizer from tracks made with my Garmin etrex VistaC GPS. As you can see, the circuits were a bit different. Instead of a nice, easy routine of round and round, I was directed on the first circuit to do left close traffic (all left turns), then after that touch-and-go, I was given right close traffic but halfway through the downwind was asked to do a 180 and re-enter the downwind for left traffic for runway 36. After a couple of left close for 36, I was asked to maneuver east and renter a left base for runway 18, then given the option of doing a teardrop to a straight-in final (an option I took). All of the preceding was to help synchronize my pattern flying with various incoming traffic coming from various directions at various times, including a T-37 from Columbus Air Force Base practicing an ILS to 36, a couple of twins, and a couple of light aircraft. All in all, a perfect test to keep me distracted — or, I should say, to test my ability to not become distracted.

The circuits weren’t as square as I’d like, though a couple were required extensions to follow other traffic in. I did two go-arounds; probably could have landed fine, but I’m going to do a go-around on anything the slightest bit squirrelly at the moment. I’d only call one a really decent landing, though none were horrific or even near-so. Altogether, I touched down six times and had one landing I’d be happy with; seventeen percent. I needed the practice, but I enjoyed the practice and I’ll be doing some more in the weeks to come. Landing is my favorite part of flying, because it’s a continuous challenge to make the perfect landing. Working the wind, the throttle, the controls to line it up and nail it. I’m planing to do another round of circuits like today some time in the near future, then plan a hop-fest, jumping from small airport to small airport to get some practice on shorter, narrower runways.

Man, I do love flying.

From → Ramblings

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