It was next on the list and now it is done.
With a high pressure system coming through this week and the promise of clear skies / favorable winds, I had to sneak a flight onto the schedule this week in order to get my mini solo (Solo flight to towered airport within 25NM) in.
As forecasted, Tuesday was Carolina blue skies with a little breeze out of the North. Whereas my last planned attempt for this flight got personally called due to a combination of factors, this time I was ready to go.
Turns out I was the last to fly the plane out of this sleepy airport and, since during that flight I had fueled up beforehand I was not obligated to fuel up for the next person….of course, in this case, I was the next person! Karma.
Pre-flight was fine. I spoke briefly to my instructor and was cleared for the flight while she went to work with another student.
Fueling station is quite like this.
With fueling finished I was off to the run up area. As I was going through the checklist I noticed an odd sound from the prop. Nothing mechanical, per se, only a change in the sound pitch (not angle) or speed. Being a fixed pitch prop…that’s not supposed to happen. Engine was still warming up so I decided to go through the rest of checklist and then reevaluate. I did notice that the breeze had strengthened and was effectively now behind me. Wondering if that was “pushing” on the prop. In either case it leveled out and I made the decision all was good to go.
N94 goes from nothing to active quite quickly and that was what happened when I was ready to leave. My instructor was up in the pattern with her student, another pilot was inbound and then Life Lion reports inbound. I’m in the way for Life Lion’s hangar so I re-position…and WAIT. Try not to look at the Hobbs meter ticking up expense idling on the ground. On the plus side, it gave me a few minutes to re-check all my radios, GPS, and kind of rehearse the flight in my head.
My CFI landed and radioed to ask if I was ready to go. “YES!” So she pulls off and I taxi out for departure. First time solo off to the East as opposed to West. Climb to 1200MSL, make my left turn to the South. Looking for traffic I climb through pattern altitude and turn back towards the East well South of the normal traffic pattern and radio in my departure.
Switch to Harrisburg approach and make my call. Harrisburg approach is not generally a busy airspace but can be(including Air Force 1) . Always prepared, the controllers are brisk and concise in their communications. I remembered the magic words…Student Pilot. It’s still brisk and concise but they most definitely work with you to ensure you don’t miss anything.
I was going to Capital City (KCXY) so this was just inbound coordination before going over to Capital City Tower in their Class D. Left traffic for 30 which was what I was used to. I was prepared for anything but happy that that was in use. I was instructed to switch to Tower and made my call. I was confirmed left traffic for 30, report downwind, and was already cleared to land. I forgot to inform him I wanted to stay in the pattern for landing practice.
Aviate…first things first. Get the plane into approach mode and on the right heading. Then I make my request. He acknowledged but confirmed Touch and Goes. I corrected and said Full Stop. Ok…no problem.
The ATIS I received prior to contacting Approach had the wind 360/6. I wrote it down but didn’t really process it yet. I glanced at my runway diagram and drew a line while on downwind. Crosswind landings are still a work in progress for me but hey, you’ve got to keep practicing. Today was another opportunity.
My approach was initially a little high and a little slow (actually I still like 65 vs 70) but I got that corrected quickly. Wind was definitely from the right to RW30 (307.8 to be precise) so I put in the crab. The picture looked great. Red over White…that looked good. Runway made, pulled power, crab to forward slip to keep plan aligned with runway and help with the rest of the airspeed. Flare was nice and smooth and the touchdown…beautiful. I’m not calling anything a greaser but this was pretty close.
FLY THE AIRPLANE ALL THE WAY TO THE TIEDOWNS…That’s much more relevant in a tail wheel but, as I found out, perfectly applicable here.
Upon touchdown I knew to hold the nose wheel off…but I typically do that with the yoke neutral. That’s exactly how you do it when there is little or no wind. That’s exactly NOT how you do it when you have a X-wind. So, bad things started happening really quickly. A gust of wind hit the aircraft from the right. With the wheels on the ground and neutral ailerons, that starts a weather vane.
Car instincts take over (again..WRONG). Vehicle going to right unwanted…brain says, go left. Hands turn left (REALLY WRONG) and now I am just helping the whole process get worse. Plane continuing to go right and now feeling a little side loaded and tipsy.
It wasn’t panic because I didn’t freeze up but my brain definitely went into total overload. Through a quick aileron correction and a little bit of very delicate differential braking. I got the plane, still rolling quickly back down the runway.
I LOVE Cloud Ahoy. The event lasted about 4 seconds but it seemed like a lot longer. In either case, with Cloud Ahoy I get to see it, analyze it, and learn from it.
So, from this…new personal landing checklist item.
CHECK WIND AND HOLD WIND CORRECTION
Under normal circumstances, one would be able to do a 180 and back taxi 30 for departure. Tower’s request was an Immediate 180 or continue to end (incoming traffic on opposing runway). I opted to go to the end.
Taxi practice for me and time to re-group my thoughts. Turns out this was the first taxi real solo practice I had as well at a controlled field. I have to learn some good shorthand!
Long taxi back to 30 with multiple taxi ways, hold shorts, etc. I didn’t violate any rules but I did have to use “Say Again”. Good practice.
On 2nd circuit I was flying with a Diamond. Tower request was left closed traffic, report midfield on downwind. I got to the point and Tower said I was number 2 behind the Diamond on final. I acknowledged but can’t, for the life of me recall hearing the words “Cleared to Land”. I did my base leg and turned final. The Diamond did a touch and go and was clear. Tower…silent. So, to cover my bases, I reverted to non-towered lingo and announced my position on final. Tower then cleared me for Touch and Go. Uh…no, Full Stop. Last second correction on the clearance and I was just about over the threshold. You better believe I held that wind correction. Boy, was I breathing heavy on that one because I didn’t want to go through that roller coaster ride again. It was normal as it could be. 🙂
I had to taxi to the end again at which point Tower asked if I was going to go out again. I originally wanted to do 3 landings but I was spent and time was getting short. I said I would head back. I was told I could go out on 26 (more direct) and accepted. Got to the end, got my clearance…waited for a little traffic to clear and was cleared for departure.
Off into the sunset(literally). After a minute or so of climb out I was being handed off to Harrisburg Departure. As I acknowledged I added a “Thank you very much for all your help” to Tower. He was quite appreciative (as was I) and that’s always good. I’ll be back there soon.
Flight back to Carlisle was uneventful. I cheated a little north of my direct course line so I could fly near my house and then got back into the traffic pattern. Sun beginning to go down putting the angled, orange glow across the tops of the mountains. I would take a picture but still…trying to focus on flying the plane.
Landing was cross wind but again…really good.
I pulled in, secured the plane, and walked back to the hangar. My CFI was still there with another student and looked a little surprised.
She said…”Wow, I didn’t see or hear you come back….must have been a really good landing!”
Well, that one was. 🙂
I’ll probably do a few more little solo flights to the practice area, some pattern work, and to KCXY but the next dual flights begin my Night work.