Tag Archives: risk management

Are we there yet?

Not including a few solo jaunts off to Capital City airport, I have 5 true Cross Country flights.

  1. A dual cross country from Carlisle to Martinsburg, VA.  My first so called navigational experience.
  2. A dual cross country from Carlisle to Reading, PA.  My night cross country.
  3. A solo cross country from Carlisle to Williamsport, PA.  My first 50NM+ solo cross country.
  4. A solo cross country from Carlisle to University Park, PA.  A “time builder” 50NM+ solo cross country.
  5. A solo cross country from Carlisle to University Park, PA, to Lancaster, PA,.  My long cross country.

In preparation for the dual cross countries, I had ground school coursework on flight planning as well as a 2 hour 1:1 session with my CFI. 1 hour of good instruction. 1 hour of me just running my mouth about everything else.

During these sessions the focus is on good route planning. Considerations are for terrain, airspace, navigational aids (e.g. VOR’s, prominent landmarks), backup airports, P-40!, winds, weather, and available runways.

Even though I was strictly VFR, I always tried to fly with reference to at least one radio NavAid. In that way, even if I had an issue with finding an expected visual reference, I had a “connection” to a known spot and could at least get to it and get reset. Of course, there was always the GPS but as my CFI would say…”ya never can trust those things…” Or at least the brightness knob which could somehow get turned to dim and stay there during the flight.

8-12 miles max between visual checkpoints.  8 miles was my minimum visibility for flight so, theoretically, I should always be able to “see” the next point. And, that seemed to be a good distance for managing checkpoint timings, calculating groundspeed, and adjusting ETA.

I also learned to fill out a navigation log with everything but the winds and photocopy it. This was a HUGE time saver. That way, on the day of the flight you just need to fill in the up to date wind information and calculate your headings, GS, fuel burn, and ETA . Well, that part is simple . The huge time saver comes when that flight you just filled out gets weathered out and you have to go through the same process 9 more times until the weather cooperates!

So with navigation log in hand, I’m off on the dual cross country flights. Navigationally, the first one was a bit of a disaster. I was task saturated from just flying and communicating. Trying to manage a precise location on a poorly folded sectional map with a penciled in set of checkpoints, while also reading numbers in the handwriting script the quality of which a 2nd grader would scoff at is next to impossible while also trying to hold a heading and altitude in an aircraft traversing the ground at 106 knots (or at least that was what was originally calculated!)

So, lessons learned:

  1. Binder clips are your friend. Get that sectional chart folded exactly how you want it before the flight.  Make sure it will fit on your kneeboard properly and then clip that thing in place. 3 clips minimum.
  2. While that thing is on your kneeboard, you won’t be able to see your navigation log (2 kneeboards???) So, when it comes time to update a timing, you’re out of space. Not easy to shuffle paperwork in a 172. It’s a bit goofy but along with binder clips, Post It notes can be your friend. Put everything you can on that sectional to minimize the back and forth.
  3. A C-172 has an analog clock in it.  Now, that’s nice and “classic” but it sucks for leg timing. A digital wristwatch is helpful but it would probably be better to have a timer within easy reach.
  4. You’re paying your CFI…as part of the lesson, feel free to use them as a storage facility for a reasonable amount of this material. Reasonable must be stressed though lest they decide to test you out on distractions by dropping a chart at your feet and then pulling the engine while you go reaching for it.

Handwriting…I’ve got a terminal case of bad handwriting.  The only thing for that is technology. Printed flight plans from iflightplanner.com or on the iPad with ForeFlight are MUCH more readable and arguably in my case safer.

In preparation for my solo cross country, I had to cover lost procedures and diversions. I knew I was going to get overloaded on that one as well but I definitely tried to prepare for everything. While I didn’t get “lost”, I was NOT happy with my ability to get myself to the “found” place including the calculation of time / distance.

For diversions, on a sectional chart, from a known position, it is not hard to quickly estimate a course and distance with a pocket ruler.

Get a general idea of the course. Measure the distance right off the scale.  Then, without changing the angle of the ruler, move it towards the compass rose of a VOR.  You can estimate your magnetic heading from there.

So, you’ve got a course, and a distance. HOW LONG UNTIL YOU GET THERE?

And that’s where I would begin the mental lock up. If you’ve got the GPS on you’ve got a groundspeed but we all know how unreliable at least mine is. So, you’ve hopefully been taking your leg times between checkpoints and calculating your groundspeed, right? RIGHT?

I already said I barely had room for the sectional chart and navigation log.  Now I need to manage either of these things as well?

Even if I could find a place for it…not going to be able to use it efficiently.

Slightly better but still…BULKY.

There are some rule of thumb estimates, but I like to be a little more precise than that. While I haven’t used it yet, I’ve come up with what I hope will be a useful tool.


Fits right on the kneeboard. Won’t always have the exact information but should have enough to make a PTS level estimate.

Confession: On my Williamsport trip I used the sectional chart and the navigation log as faithfully as possible. I took some leg times, tried to calculate my groundspeed and updated my ETA. But, of course, the GPS was working fine, I was following a major river the whole way, AND I had ForeFlight running on the iPad with the exact same flight plan loaded….which, incidentally was automatically calculating my leg times, my groundspeed and updating my ETA…which allowed me to keep my eyes outside.

On my subsequent trips, the iPad got attached to the yoke via my Christmas gift and, while there was always the paper and GPS backup, it became my primary inside navigation tool (I still did update the paperlog after each leg with the new groundspeed and ETA!). Is that a bad thing? I think you should always have a backup AND be able to do it the old fashioned way but realistically, if technology is there to help you fly and keep your eyes in the sky, why wouldn’t you take advantage of it?

On a checkride, I’m pretty sure the only thing I’ll be able to use is the charts and timer so I’ve got some practice ahead of me.  I’m definitely up for the challenge but also happy I took some of the time to work out a good balance between straight up pilotage and using all available resources to ensure a good outcome for the flight.



142 Days

On November 15, 2013, after a few weeks of business travel delay,  I was officially certified to begin my Solo Cross Country flights.

What does that mean?

FAR 61.109

b. 10 hours of solo time in an airplane, including:
i. 5 hours of cross-country flights
ii. One solo cross-country flight of at least 150nm total distance, with full-stop
landings at a minimum of three points and with one segment of the flight
consisting of a straight-line distance of at least 50nm between takeoff and
landing locations
iii. Three solo takeoffs and landings to a full stop at an airport with an operating
control tower

That’s what I needed to accumulate.

It was still autumn, albeit late autumn but surely the above would be the proverbial walk in the park.

The plan was 3 flights:

  1. N94-KIPT-N94 (Williamsport, PA).  This would be the “short” cross country.  
  2. N94-KUNV-N94 (Penn State), This would be a another “short” cross country.  Essentially a time builder.
  3. N94-KUNV (Penn State) -KLNS (Lancaster, PA)-N94.  The “BIG” one.  The last one.

In November, facing the onset of winter with dismay, my CFI stated, “There are often more VFR days in the Winter time than any other season.” While that may have been a historically accurate statement, this year, not so.

To say that this Winter has been an aviation “challenge” is an understatement.  To say that the weather has been downright horrible, consistently craptastic, and generally VFR Not Recommended is perfectly accurate.

I don’t know if I have the record of planned and cancelled flights but I’ve got to be close. Perfect marketing for getting one to consider an Instrument Rating. Of course, I’ve still got this PPL thing in the works so first things first.

It took 10 times to get the initial flight in. 7 tries (minimum ’cause I stopped keeping track lest I get a severe case of seasonal affective disorder) for the time builder (which will be detailed later) and at least 10 for the Long XC.

On the positive side, I am now a certified Jedi Master ADM as it relates to finding reasons that a XC flight can’t be made. Despite lets say a round 30 scheduled attempts, some of which got all the way up to the point where I had the plane loaded and ready to go, I don’t think there was ever a time where we decided I shouldn’t go when I could have and clearly some which, where I was given the go/no go decision and I said no, it turned out to be the right choice.

But then came April 6, 2014.  The 5th was sunny but horribly windy. Both the Dual Lesson as well as the XC were cancelled. The forecast for the 6th looked VERY promising but as the sun set on the 5th the wind continued to blow.

Sunday morning, bright (well I should say dark) and early, the sky was clear, the air crisp but calm. The forecast was right….and the flight was on.

A little frost to wait out as the sun came up but some time to get everything in order, one last checkout and then off on the journey.

4.5 hours later, I was back in Carlisle, mentally and physically exhausted but also finally done.

Only 142 days from start to finish! Walk in the park.  Well sort of.

Text to CFI to let her know I finally did it.

“Great!! Now the work begins.”

More details on the more “interesting” aspects of the Long XC later including a debatable radio instruction inbound to KLNS.

For now…it’s clear this student can get the plane from A->B->C->A safely.

Now, I have to prove I can really fly…like a pilot.


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.


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.


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.


Night Requirements COMPLETE!

3rd time’s the charm right? In this case, thankfully yes.  The morning skies were crystal clear, made brighter by the fact that daylight savings time is now over.  Winds were calm to variable with the promise and smell of winter.  It was cold outside but cold is just fine.

My CFI had a fully loaded schedule for the day but our discussion during the Saturday lesson (Short Field / Soft Field…a post for another time) raised hope that she “might” be available for the dual night on Monday.  I booked the plane but not the CFI.

The good weather Monday morning gave way to a high overcast but still perfectly good flying weather.  Around 2pm I sent the hopeful text to see if the flight was still on.  30 minute delay but YES!  This would give me time to do the preflight, fuel the plane, and, most importantly get myself organized first for flying the plane but also for the normal barrage of queries, quizzes, interrogations, and distractions offered by my CFI during these flights. Now that I know this is the “norm” I am prepared.

Preflight was routine with the two happy exceptions that the cover was already off and the prior pilot had fully fueled.  That hadn’t happened for at least the last 8 flights. So, a little more time to try out some different cockpit organization methods.

For night cross country flight you are obviously juggling an extra variable in that you can’t see everything directly inside the cockpit.  So, the red flashlight comes in very handy.  But…where to put it in relation to the kneeboard, prefolded / highlighted sectional chart? I was originally going to try 2 kneeboards (I bought one and a colleague gave me an extra) but that seemed like overkill. The kneeboard was the primary writing surface and the place to store the flight plan, runway information, and checklist. I just kept the sectional off to the left side for the flight.  This method seemed to work well.  Watch with easy to use, lighted stop watch for timing segments was also a very good piece of equipment to have as the analog clock in the dashboard is, to me, altogether useless.

This time, I also pre-marked my sectional with the checkpoints so I didn’t have to keep flipping back and forth from the flight plan.

My cheat sheet

My cheat sheet

Once I got my weather briefing / winds aloft, I added the segment times to the post it notes.  That, turned out to be the game changer.  Side note though…Orange highlighter on a sectional looks great in the day time.  At night, under a red flashlight…well, it’s the same as the analog clock…altogether useless!

Departure review: Route was fine.  I was told I would do all the radio calls except for one she would do as we got to Reading.  I was ready for this and had even rehearsed a few of them in advance.  Though light, the winds were out of the East so I was planning for a 10 departure from Calisle and a 13 arrival into Reading.

We departed Carlisle in to the night sky direct to Harrisburg VOR.  I had the VOR tuned and the GPS flight plan loaded but focused on flying the plane, watching for my visuals, and checking the times.  Great practice and I am sure something I will have to demonstrate going forward since, with my CFI, things always seem to “break” while flying.

Flight following was all set up and with Harrisburg VOR being my only non visual checkpoint made, I altered course for Reading.

The clouds were still above us but visibility was outstanding.  Aside from being able to see all my landmarks, it also led to a few moments of quiet in the cockpit as we both just happily looked around.

Jay Rossignol & Arnold Offner - ILS 13 Approach - KMDT

Jay Rossignol & Arnold Offner – ILS 13 Aproach – KMDT

We passed north of the city but it’s quite a landmark.  Normally we look for lights at night but the river (one of my checkpoints) is equally good for its distinct lack of lights.

Each checkpoint came in within a minute of plan which was good given the variable winds. We noted a few interesting lights, not indicated on the sectional.

Hershey Park at Night!

Hershey Park at Night!

No, we weren’t that close or that low to Hershey but I wanted to give an idea of just how the scene could create an interesting light combination from 10 miles away.

We picked up the Reading ATIS and I was wrong, 31 was in use.  So, it would be a standard left downwind entry.  We were both looking for the beacon and once located began a standard, smooth descent from 3,500 to 1,400.

So, the beacon is often hard to locate. There is terrain off the approach end of 31 with, what turned out to be a very distinctive feature.

View FROM the feature

View FROM the feature

Photo Credit

The Feature

We agreed that is WAY better than a beacon.

Landing at Reading was extremely smooth. Of course, as I was congratulating myself, the full taxi instructions came through (this was that one radio call my CFI had made) and I missed most of it.  I got the turn off of the active which was the most important and then called back for the rest.  I was a bit embarrassed but was told I did the right thing.

Taxied back to 31 and took a few minutes to reconfigure airplane and paperwork for the return. For fun, I planned a different route back.  This would be Southwest then West crossing directly over Lancaster airport and then off to Carlisle.

Again, the first leg was to a VOR.  Got to fly an actual airway, be quizzed and properly responded that I was not going to bust Class D and even get a scenic overflight of Three Mile Island.  Again. ALL very good landmarks.

Flight back had 3 “learning” experiences.

1) On departure from Reading I turned onto the runway as cleared but, not realizing the width of the runway I lined up on the left side.  Not a big deal, more of a laugh than anything else. Recentered myself and took off.  That wasn’t the learning experience. When I departed and altered course towards Lancaster my CFI asked what the planned heading was.  I looked at my flight log and gave her the number I read.  I didn’t question what I said before I said it but she certainly did afterwards.  I read the wrong number and, had I flown it I would have ended up in Philly…well, pointed that way but I would have hit the mountain first! Fortunately I was flying the plane based on the initial GPS line and not to the heading I said. I definitely have to get all that information straight in advance.  Basically, I had the flight plan folded a little differently than the previous one and I just looked at the wrong column. Like I said, it’s different in the dark.

2) I was really good at altitude control…except for 2 times during the flight where I went up (never down) 150′. During both of those times I was either working a radio or adjusting the GPS. As I would reach for those instruments with my right hand, my left hand remained on the yoke.  Since the seats essentially suck and wobble a little, my left hand also became a bit of a brace…meaning…I pulled back ever so slightly for support.  Result….150′ of altitude, 50′ of which are outside the PTS.  So, I got that one figured out.

3) Landing at Carlisle was not great.  Probably tried to do the pattern too tight and came in high.  I called my own go around.  Next one was a great pattern but a sloppy landing. Keep flying until the plane is off and tied down.

A long day but a great lesson!

And with that, the night requirements are complete.  I got my solo endorsement renewed and we’re moving on to Diversions and Lost Procedures.

With those done, it will be on, finally, to the solo x-country.  Here’s to fair skies and zero business trips!


Solo Cross “Town”

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.

Wish I could fly to this fueling station

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.

Feels about how it looks.

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.

My own de-brief

My own de-brief

So, from this…new personal landing checklist item.


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. 

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? ‘Cause..it 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.

And..it 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.