Solo Close But Yet Solo Far…

John HurlbutFlying2 Comments

Amazing flight lesson today!  I had booked the plane (N84823) from 5PM – 8PM for a good long lesson.  Unfortunately my two other scheduled lessons this week were cancelled due to weather.  Tuesday and Thursday were no gos, but the sun was shining brightly today and even though it was hot, we were gonna fly!

I arrived at the airport at 4:30, checked the gas and the oil in the plane, and did my preflight calculations for weight and balance.  Final check of the weather and headed back out to the plane for my preflight check.  My instructor was still debriefing with her last student, but that’s quite alright.  I like doing the preflight on my own, taking my time to double check everything is just right.  At about 5:15 she arrived at the plane and we saddled up and got ready to head out.  She originally said we were going to the south practice area, but I mentioned that I thought we were going out to Tacoma Narrows (KTIW).  She said we could head out there instead.  I wanted to demonstrate that I could handle talking to the tower, etc.

We took off out of KPLU and departed the pattern to the Northwest.  Skirted just between the Class D airspace of McChord and the Class B airspace of SeaTac.  Once we were over the Tacoma dome, I called the Tacoma Tower:

“Tacoma Tower, Cessna 84823 over the Tacoma Dome at 2,000 feet with information Quebec requesting permission to transition your airspace east to west”

“Cessna 84823, transition approved”

“823 Roger”

We crossed over KTIW at mid field and I had 2,000 feet nailed.  After we were just west of their airspace I began a climb to 3,500 feet.  On the way up, my instructor had me continue my climb while turning to a specific heading.  Once at altitude, she had me do some steep turns first at 30 degrees and then at 45 degrees.  I have to say I take some sick pride in doing 45 degree turns.  On my first intro flight MANY years ago, I got sick doing steep turns.  Now, I love them!  I guess it’s all about knowing what the plane is going to do before it happens that lets my brain register and not get sick.

We followed the turns with a power on stall and followed that with a power off stall.  I think I handled all of that pretty darn well.  After that we pointed our nose towards Anderson Island and began a descent down to 2,000 feet.  As we go to Anderson Island I called the tower again:

“Tacoma tower, Cessna 84823 8 miles to the south at 2,000 with information Quebec requesting permission to do a touch and go.”

“Cessna 84823 Ident, you are clear for a straight in for runway 35, report on a 2 mile final”

“84823 Roger, straight in for runway 35, report on 2 mile final”

We turned toward Tacoma Narrows and began our descent down to pattern altitude, 1,300 feet.  This was my first straight in landing.  It also would be my first touch and go.  I came in a little high and a little fast, had a little whoop de doo as I was flaring for landing, but overall the landing was good.  My instructor got my flaps while I got the carburetor heat and the throttle and just as soon as we were down, we were airborne again.

The tower told us to turn right closed traffic and we went around again for another touch and go.  This time because I was in the pattern, I had a better idea of where to do things.  For the most part I got everything correct and in the right order.  I was still just a little fast, but I landed just past the numbers.  Again my instructor got the flaps, I got the carb heat and the throttle and we were off again.  We asked the tower which way they wanted us to go and he gave us the option to go either way.  So since I had just done right traffic, I decided we’d stick with that. My third landing at Narrows was my best and we were off again.

This time we departed to the East, headed back to Thun field.  I flew along the Puyallup river to the sand pit off Pioneer and Canyon Road, then turned toward Thun.  The whole way back I was thinking in my head “Could this be the day? We still have a good hour and a half left in my scheduled time.  Maybe she’s going to solo me!  Nail this landing John!  Today COULD be the day!  I feel great!”

“Pierce Traffic, Cessna 823 at 2,000 feet on an 8 mile 45 for runway 34, Pierce”

I was reminded that on the first call up to say your entire tail number.  Noted.  I let everyone know when I was on a 3 mile 45, then when I was turning Downwind.  I was a little close to the runway, so we scooted out west a bit.  I was probably getting tired, but for the most part, I had everything down.  1,500 feet on downwind, carb heat on, reduce power to 2,000 RPM.  90 kts. Twist of nose up trim, reduce power to 1,500 RPM, white arc confirmed, drop first notch of flaps.  Turning base, call it then do it.  Drop 200 feet, 80 kts, another notch of flaps.  Turning Final, call it then do it, 70 kts, still a little high, drop another notch of flaps, pitch for 65 kts.  Line up on the centerline.  Think “6 inches above the runway”.  Add a squeeze of power to get you over Sunrise blvd, power all the way out now, runway is made.  Own the centerline, 6″ above the runway, flair . . . wait for the runway to come to you . . . touchdown!  Let the nose wheel touch down when she’s ready.  Let it roll out . . . apply brakes evenly . . . turn off the runway and call that you’re clear.

Clean up the airplane, carb heat cold, flaps up, elevator trim neutral.  

My instructor wanted to call it a day, but I wanted one more takeoff and landing.  So we taxied back to Runway 34 and we were off again!  At 1,200 feet I turned crosswind, at 1,500 feet I brought the power back a bit and turned onto downwind.  I was lined up better this time and was holding 1,500 feet pretty well.  A little delay in turning on carb heat and bringing my power back.  Too steep on my turn to base.  Late dropping flaps.  (OK, I get it, I was getting tired)  My turn to final was abysmal, way too early and I had to do some last minute course correction to get us on the centerline so we didn’t land in the grass to the left of the runway, but my landing was actually pretty good.

So, I did NOT solo today.  I think if she had asked “Are you ready?”  I would have most assuredly said “Yes!”  But I’m actually pretty glad she didn’t ask.  Because in hindsight, I was getting tired.  My brain was full.  I’ve got two more lessons scheduled this week, then I’m gone for a week.  So while I’m hopeful that Tuesday or Thursday will be the day.  I’m not holding my breath.  It’ll happen when it happens.

But this was an AWESOME flight lesson!!  I’m really getting the hang of this landing thing.  Which I’m pretty sure is a pretty important part of being a pilot?  I’d bet Colton Harris-Moore would agree.

2 Comments on “Solo Close But Yet Solo Far…”

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