Another level….and that’s not always a good thing

Labor Day…

Weather was great and the plane was available. I succeeded in completing my first solo to the practice area and back. I had a little apprehension as this was the first time alone with no site of the field but, since I had been there several times before, it was all pretty routine.

Of course I was excited and totally on my game for it. This was the next step in the process and the main door opener which allows me to refine my skills…aka…keep drilling the basic maneuvers until they are up to PTS without boring my CFI to tears!

The primary objective of the flight was to get to the 3 primary boundaries of the practice area and back. In between it was my discretion but no stalls, slow flight, low flight, etc.  Ok, no problem.

So, I did a climb to 4000′. Level off on my heading and try and work on nailing down the cruise power settings and trim. What I originally thought was difficult becomes a lot easier when you have a few uninterrupted minutes to work on it.

Small freak out moment when, there was no “work” to do. A chance to take a breath and look outside for the purpose of looking outside.  Not, checking for level attitude, traffic, birds, coordinated flight.  Of course, that’s always being done but I got a chance to just look around. In the quiet my mind started back to work and said I should be looking for emergency landing points! So..break was over.

Flew to Shippensburg and made a right turn back towards Newville. Along the way, I descended to 3000 then 2500 feet. It was a throttle / trim controlled descent.  Just pull back a little throttle, let the nose drop until I had about 500 fpm and trim it for hands off.  Again…something I hadn’t been able to do before amongst the other work but not, pretty easy.

In Newville I approached the water towers we usually do turns around a point on. Didn’t plan on doing them that day but used it as a visual reference. Left 270 at standard rate to put me back towards the south. Start descent towards pattern altitude.

Entered the pattern and this time properly shifted my brain into landing mode. All went smoothly (used the sign trick) and the landing was really good. Had enough time so I went around the pattern again. This one wasn’t as good but I’ll definitely take it.

My Flight. I really like the “smoothness” of it.  The one little extra curve towards the approach side was me buying a little time to make the rest of my descent.

And then…

My CFI is on vacation.  A week off from flying right when things were really starting to move.

She’s back and I had 2 lessons planned. Weather Saturday was iffy but Sunday looked good. Instead of pushing my luck I asked if we could do the cross country planning on Saturday as a ground school lesson and on Sunday I would do my solo to Capital City.

Cross Country planning N94-KMRB.  I brought donuts (’cause I’m a suck up???). Nah, they had the pumpkin donuts and it’s that time of year.

Pumpkin Munchkins!

They were appreciated and the planning session went great. We had looked at this flight before during ground school so it wasn’t that hard.  The difference this time??? I actually understood 100% of what I was doing.

That flight is planned for next Saturday. It will obviously be dual and she said she will manage the radios…but I am going to see if I can get her to let me do them at least on the way back.

Today was the scheduled trip to Capital City.

Wind was calm but I saw something I had never seen before on the weather information.

Ceiling OVC 003.  003! Uh…that would be fog.  The airport is on the river so that wasn’t looking well.  8AM flight was pushed out until 10.  I was up early anyway (after a lot of planning the night before) and now had nothing to do. Why not close the pool? ‘ makes perfect sense to start a major project on a whim when you have 90 minutes to kill. Nope…I’m not that bright sometimes.

It was clearing up so I wrapped up project 1, got my weather briefing and headed off to the airport.

Plane hadn’t been used in a few days so I was going to give it a pretty thorough pre-flight. My CFI came out to talk over things and said the weather had cleared and I was good to go. Just…I should plan to put fuel in it before the flight. Ok.

Then, things started to go a bit odd. And off. And I still don’t know why.

I had the checklist which is crucial for me but I found myself jumping around on it. WHY? This doesn’t normally happen. I took my time checking and re-checking but now everything was out of flow. Satisfied that I got through everything I went for fueling. No big deal there but then it was time to start up and go to the run up area.

Closed the door but didn’t have the seatbelt on. It’s easier to get it first then close the door.  Open the door, grab the seatbelt and close the door. Put seatbelt on after securing kneeboard and organizing the cockpit. Then I am getting ready to start up and notice outside the door the pitot cover is on the ground. It

That part I got…

It must have fell out when I opened the door to get the seatbelt. So…reverse everything to go grab that. Then I notice there is another plane “waiting” for me to get out of there so he can get fuel. I know not to hurry but sure…you try to get things move along.

I get started and move off to the run up area. Same issue with the checklist.  I can’t seem to get my mind focused on the task at hand.

NOW I have to start thinking through the flight I am about to do. I hadn’t pictured it like this. A minute to get things re-organized and then I tune in Capital City ATIS.

Used to approaches on 30


As I am transcribing I notice that there is missing information (instruments not working on the field?) AND they had flipped the runways and to Right Traffic. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t have been an issue but it turned out to be that one extra variable I wasn’t prepared to handle.

I am chalking this up to good ADM.  I decided not to make the trip to Capital City this time and instead went back out to the practice area.

I am sure I will look back and say it was the right decision but I am NOT happy about NOT completing the flight as planned. I got some more air practice, 1 really good and 1 “normal for me” landing but I didn’t get to another airport. It will come but I am short on the patience and want to make sure I am not having a shortage of confidence.

On the ground with the plane secured I texted my CFI per instructions to let her know I was back. I told her I had not made the trip to KCXY.  On the way home she called and verified that was the case.  She was a little concerned…”I have another student I was ready to send out there and was interested to know why you didn’t make the trip.”  I explained the situation and said I wasn’t prepared for that approach (I must have looked up EVERYTHING else the night before). She explained it would have been a simple right base (which, in retrospect…duh!) entry but I had made the right decision.  She would talk to me about it later…’cause she was about to send another student out on that same flight!

NOT HAPPY. But, like I said, I will probably look back and say that I made the right decision. dawned on me later…I changed my flight plan and did not tell my CFI I had done so. She said if I went up and it looked at all dicey I could return but she never said I could change my mind and go out to the practice area. So..if something had happened, they would have been looking in the wrong place.

Of all the things….I can now say that slip is the one I am most upset about.

I know better than that and I will not let that happen again.


One thought on “Another level….and that’s not always a good thing

  1. Pingback: Solo Cross “Town” | Flight 40

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