Learning to fly

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Flight #19
July 24, 1999, 7am
(.9 Dual, .4 Solo) 26.0 total

Very hot, very hazy and very humid today. We were scheduled to head south for the Class D airspace at McCollum to satisfy the requirement for 3 full stop landings under tower control again this morning, but the dewpoint and temperature were 1 degree apart at McCollum, creating fog with visibility of only 2 miles. No good and no go. At Cherokee the conditions were pretty much the same until about 8:30. Then it burned off enough to let Randall fly in the pattern with me for the first time, while Karen went for McDonald's sausage and biscuits.

I concentrated on doing everything right on the numbers and did a pretty good job of it too. My takeoff roll was good, airspeeds good, lineups good. But because of the fog, I was taking a bit longer looking for traffic at the crosswind turn to downwind. That put me farther away from the runway than I should have been on downwind and Randall pointed it out. So I edged back in and showed him that I was able to do it right the next time. My landings weren’t too bad with him in there. We did three and I only screwed up a bit on the last one with the approach a bit too high and I cut the power a bit farther than usual from the end of the runway. I made it down with no problem and he didn’t say anything to me or Karen so I have to assume he didn’t have any concerns.

Then Karen jumped in and showed me a short field landing or “how to land over a 50ft obstacle”. Instead of a 70kt airspeed final, extend the downwind a bit, turn base, then final, full flaps and pin the airspeed at 50 kts. Cut the power when you estimate the current glide will get you to the numbers and stand on the brakes when you’re down. She hopped out after that and I did a few laps by myself. But my concentration seemed to be a bit less than what I was comfortable with so I called it quits. McCollum will have to wait some more.

Flight #20
July 29, 1999, 7pm
(1.4 Dual) 27.4 total

Extremely hot and humid all day until 5pm when thunderstorms popped up and cooled everything off a little. April, Candy and I drove back from Savannah this morning after a 3 day mini-vacation at Tybee Island. My lesson was at 7 pm so we wanted to be back in time for me to be rested, and we were. It was pretty overcast, but the clouds were at about 5,000’. Plenty of room to fly under, but Karen said she wanted to get in a few go-rounds with me first.

As she climbed in, she spotted a pair of foggles in the back seat and asked if I had had any instrument training yet. I said no and realized I was about to. She took off while I attached the foggles to my headset. As soon as they were attached, she gave me the plane and with the foggles in place, she told me to keep the climb at 80 kts and maintain the heading. This wasn't too much problem until she gave me a new heading of 60 degrees to fly. I had a heck of a time getting it to, and staying on, 60 degrees. It also took awhile to get used to keeping wings level with no outside references. But a lot of concentration and constant correction works.

She tuned in the Foothills VOR and we tried to track it, but for some reason kept losing the signal until finally we lost it completely. So we tuned in the Rome VOR and tracked it instead. The directional gyro was in need of repair also so we had to us the whiskey compass mostly.

After a bit of VOR tracking, she took the plane and had me fold my hands and look at my feet while she put us in unusual attitudes. Then she gave the plane back to me with the mission of putting us straight and level as soon as I could. It didn’t seem to be much of a problem as long as I focused on the attitude indicator first, then the vertical speed indicator. We did this a couple of times, then a little slowflight, constant altitude turns, all done with the foggles blocking my view of the world outside, then she vectored me back to the active runway at Cherokee with instructions to descend to pattern altitude. Just as I was a half mile from the runway threshold, she had me lift the foggles and land. From that point on it was VFR and soft field and short field landing practice, neither of which were anything to brag about.

Flight #21
July 30, 1999, 5pm
(.6 Dual, .4 Solo) 28.4 total

Very hot with clear skies. The lifting thermals and a bit of crosswind made Karen decide to go up with me for a few circuits. We did a few laps and I kept it under control and even earned a “very good” on my first landing which was pretty smooth. After awhile, she hopped out and let me go around on my own. The few solo landings were not too bad except that I found I need to put the nose down sooner after touchdown for better control during rollout. I’ve been keeping it up to eliminate the high speed shimmy of the nosewheel, but it’s also been causing me to fishtail too much on rollout. Control is priority and the shimmy will disappear soon after anyway when the speed drops off.

Flight #22
Aug 5, 1999, 5pm
(2.1 Dual) 30.5 total

Hot and a bit hazy with scattered clouds at 5,000’. I left work early to get to the airport early in preparation for a dual x-country to Toccoa Airport. I preflighted the plane and had to notify WX Brief of the change in planes to 78T since 019 had an oil leak that was too big to leave the area for long.

We took off from runway 4 and kept climbing through pattern altitude to 3,500’. I set the radios to ask Atlanta Center for flight following and rehearsed what to say to them. Then everything seemed to be happening at once. I was on the radio and trying to maintain heading and altitude, watch for my first checkpoint, write down the time, listen to Karen, answer Atlanta Center and tune the transponder correctly. I kept it under control, but it sure seemed like a lot to remember and do all at once.

My checkpoints all came into view with no problems, even with a crosswind from the north pushing me sideways. I had my crab angle pretty well under control and when my final checkpoint, Foothills VOR, appeared, it was only a few degrees left of the nose. A quick look out the right window and there was Toccoa airport just 6 miles away, where it was supposed to be.

A short radio call to get any available info on the active runway and a traffic advisory but no one answered. After a minute or two, another plane called that he was going to taxi to runway 2, so we headed for that downwind leg. By the time we called base and final, he was climbing above us and out of the pattern. I landed a bit faster than I liked but everything was fairly normal. It was just a bit odd looking down at a completely new and different airport in front of me. After we landed and went into the FBO, I canceled my flight plan and filed a return plan.

We took off and climbed to 4,500’, but there would be no flight following since we couldn’t get Atlanta Center to answer. Again, my checkpoints were coming up fine, but the reverse setting of the Foothills VOR that should have guided us home wasn’t working right. It kept trying to lead me south of my intended course. For the most part, I disregarded the VOR needle and kept to my flight plan since the checkpoints were visible, but after the final checkpoint Karen had me turn to follow the needle. After 5 minutes of comparing her GPS to what the misbehaving VOR told us to fly, she told me to turn back toward Cherokee.

We called in to Unicom and after maneuvering to avoid a bit of traffic, landed back on runway 4. Driving home, I remembered that I hadn’t closed my flight plan for the return trip, so I pulled over and used my cell phone. Unfortunately, I was cut off in the middle of the call and couldn’t be sure that it had been done. So I called at Jim and Nettie’s house when I picked up April.

Flight #23
Aug 8, 1999, 7am
(1.0 Dual, .5 Solo) 32.0 total

A warm and somewhat hazy morning, but mostly blue skies and only a hint of a breeze. I preflighted N1975E (Karen’s plane) and we flew out to McCollum for the required 3 full-stop landings under tower control. 75E has more power than my usual 019 and climbs to altitude a lot faster.

We took off from runway 22 and using the GPS turned toward McCollum, about 25 miles to the SW. I rehearsed what the tower would say and what I would need to say and do and what to expect overall. We called the tower about 10 miles out and he cleared us for a right base entry into the pattern for runway 27. I was hoping for 27 since it has a left hand pattern. Runway 9 is right traffic and I wasn't sure I'd be comforatble with that.

No one else was in the pattern or even moving on the ground yet, so I had plenty of room in the air and not much to watch for. But as we approached the end of the runway 27, I saw that there was an enormous mining operation going on right next to the airport, with an huge hole nearly wide enough and deep enough to fly the pattern in. Just a bit distracting...

We did a couple of full stop circuits for familiarization and to get the hang of understanding the controller’s thick Southern accent, and then taxied off the runway to the FBO to let Karen out so I could solo. She headed up to the tower to watch as I flew and be available in case I needed assistance.

I radioed the tower for permission to taxi and then it was back to the end of Runway 27. Hold short of the runway, check the instruments and gauges and radio the tower that I’m ready for departure. He cleared me for takeoff, so I rolled out onto the centerline and pushed in full power. Up into the pattern with no problem and halfway through the downwind the tower radioed that I was cleared for landing. And so it went for two more laps.

With no wind to speak of, each of the landings were a breeze. Only on the last one did I wobble a bit to line up better with the centerline, but the touchdown was still real smooth. Then a quick taxi back to the tower to pick up Karen and the return hop to Cherokee.

Flight #24
Aug 12, 1999, 5pm
(1.6 Dual) 33.6 total

Warm thermals and pretty hazy with some puffy clouds in a mostly blue sky. But WX Brief reported thunderstorms over Birmingham and Gadsden so our long dual cross-country to Gadsden, Alabama was put on hold until another day. We climbed into 78T and took off from runway 4 and did a few touch and go’s in the thermals before Karen told me to lower the foggles and depart the pattern while climbing to 4,500. She tuned in the Rome VOR and had me track it.

I wasn’t doing too bad, but just after we passed over the station and the needle reversed on us, Karen quickly took the plane and had me lift my foggles while she quickly dove to the right about 500’. She told me that a jet was aimed right for us at our altitude in the opposite direction. I turned to look for it but never saw it since it had already disappeared in the haze. Since he was headed east, he should have been at an odd altitude +500’ but apparently wasn’t. We thought he might be descending through our altitude for a landing somewhere, but couldn’t be sure where he was headed.

After a bit of level flight to settle down a bit and look for more traffic that might be following the jet, I lowered the foggles again and she turned me towards Cartersville airport. She vectored me into and around the pattern with instructions like “left 10 degrees, stop. left to 360 degrees, stop” until I was lined up with the runway and about a half mile out, then said lift the hood and land. I did a touch and go on a very long runway lined with jets parked on the left side, none of them our recent close companion in the sky apparently. We came back around to do one more, then the foggles went back down and she had me track the reverse course from the Rome VOR and talked me through to the final approach at Cherokee for a full stop landing.

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