A Valiant Effort

Low, thick, gray clouds.

Just hanging there. Never really raining but serving up this omnipresent and heavy “damp” from which relief will seemingly never come.

The forecast said clear skies in the morning and, well, I wasn’t buying into it.  4 consecutive days of slop and you are conditioned for more of the same.

Saturday morning arrives and the clouds are still there but noticeably thinner.  A diligent breeze slowly working to clear the rest out.

Time to fly? I sent the obligatory text to my instructor including what could be dicey wind information and the hopeful query “Thoughts?”

Response: “Come”.  Finally.

Plan for the weekend (technically it was supposed to start Friday but that was already bagged due to weather) was to take a dual flight and get my re-solo certification…essentially I must fly dual once every 2 weeks to remain certified for solo flight. Assuming success with that, I would try to get the Solo X-Country off on Sunday.

Saturday was definitely windy but in this case a very good thing.  While I wouldn’t get any major airwork done, nor would I work on soft field landings, we would be doing a bunch of x-wind work. Not yet fun to do solo but I love to work on them with the CFI on board.

Cold day but sun coming out for the lesson.  Winds 11 gusting 18 from the Northwest which gave about a 8 headwind and 8 cross wind before any gusting.

I got a tenth of an hour “free” today so we could let the plane warm up as well as wait a few minutes for my CFI to call the renter taking out the Piper and admonish him for doing his pre-flight with the Master switch on.  While it’s entertaining to see her “correct” someone else there was a lesson there.  After the call she said, “That’s why we always leave the beacon light switch on.” When you walk away from the aircraft you will see the light flashing (or not) and know the status of the Master switch.

With crosswind corrections properly applied during runup,  and taxi, we were ready for departure.  First significant crosswind takeoff. Each airfield has it’s terrain features and N94 is no different.  In this case, there is a terrain to the Northwest and the hangars on that side of the field.  Where there are breaks in the hangars you get a compression and strengthening of the wind at that point in the runway. This, obviously, is an after the fact description.  I learned that on the fly…so to speak.

Coming down the runway, airspeed alive. 50 knots so craft is getting light.  That funneled wind hits and IAS jumps to 65.  Plane gets really light.  Not the best moment for that to happen but with proper cross wind aileron in, it was a simple matter of getting the aircraft off the ground, a slight pause in ground effect to build up a stable speed and lift off.  So, already a good learning experience.

Great tracking of runway centerline on departure.

I’d like to say it was a standard pattern but with the winds, I had to make some new adjustments. I had the correction in for downwind so I didn’t get blown away from the field but I can say failed to appreciate the strength of wind on the downwind.  Ground speed was quite a bit faster.  So, my turn to base was quite a bit further.  Of course, the opposite was true on Base and Final, where ground speed was WAY slower than normal. Almost comical.

Still a good opportunity to work with more variables than the standard “calm” days.

Tracking on final for the 7 landings was reasonably good. Same as the landing flare, the amount of rudder required demands a level of “assertive finesse” I don’t yet have.  That’s why I was really excited about the tasks for the day.

That little wind funneling…did you forget about it??? So did I. It impacts the landing as well.  Also, at a not so great time in the landing process.  Just need to be patient, absorb the jostle and let the plane land.  Some were ok, some were not the best. All were passable.

We discussed the landings and I said that I tended to always land left of center.  She said that, considering the winds, that made sense.  I corrected and said…no, my landings, when they are not on center seem to be ALWAYS left of center, regardless of wind. Interesting.  She said, it may be your “picture” being off.  Have to think about that a little but. Technically, even on a perfect landing “I” will always be left of center. The plane must be on the centerline. Maybe I’m trying to put the CFI on the centerline??? Who knows…but definitely something to be aware of and work on.

I had really thought the Sunday X-Country flight was going to be pre-bagged but my CFI said to keep it on.  Finish the flight planning, check the weather around 8pm Saturday and we should have a good idea.  In the meantime she would get the 100′ extension cord to plug in the plane’s new block heater so things would be ready to go in the morning.

Cool.

So, planning was completed and everything prepped.  At 8pm the forecast looked good for the beginning of the flight.  With snow and ice forecasted later in the day though it could get dicey. Flight was supposed to start at 9AM Sunday. Dicey weather to be around N94 around 10AM.  Based on that, well, I could go off early but probably not going to happen.

Up at 6AM…weather check.  Marginal weather still coming but now not until 2pm.  Skies clear, wind calm. It’s on!

7AM…new weather….Marginal now coming at 11am.  Hmm…maybe???

Then the current radar image.

InBoundSnow

No doubt I would be able to get off in time but quite likely would have to get a hotel room in Williamsport. They’ve got a Wegmans but other than the Little League Hall of Fame…not much else going on.

Spoke to my CFI and we agreed it was a Valiant Effort but…Cancelled.

Let the weather watch begin anew.

 

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