Today was an exciting day for me! (Even though I still can’t talk much from the game yesterday). I had a flight lesson scheduled, polishing my skills before my check ride. We took off out of Thun field and headed to Crest Airpark (S36). Surrounded by trees, getting into Crest for my first time was a little nerve wracking especially the “dog leg” landing on runway 33 to skirt around the trees at the end of the runway. If you look at the image of Crest here, you’ll see the trees. Runway 33 is at the top of the image. You’ll notice it’s not advisable to come straight in on runway 33 because of the trees. You have to scootch over to the right (left as you’re flying in) and once you’re past the trees, scootch back over the runway and set it down. It was a little white knuckle moment for me. Especially since I have a tendency to not land on the centerline of the runway and this runway is quite a bit more narrow than the one I am used to landing on. After landing at Crest we headed off to Boeing Field (KBFI).
When we took off out of Crest, there were a number of clouds hanging around at about 2,000 feet. My instructor asked if I thought we should try for Boeing or not. I later realized she was checking my decision making skills, but I think I gave the correct answer anyway. (We are prepping for my check ride after all). I told her I thought we should check the weather at Boeing, and the weather back at Thun to be sure conditions were not deteriorating. They were not, so we pressed on to Boeing.
A little background, when I worked at Boeing in the early 90’s I used to sit out in a shack on the runway at Boeing field and study the materials for ground school. I always dreamed that one day I’d land there, and today was that day! We flew up the valley, staying low to avoid the class B airspace surrounding SeaTac, staying out of Renton’s airspace to the east. You really have to study the Terminal Area Chart (TAC) to know where Boeing’s class D airspace ends and Renton’s begins.
I called the tower to let them know where I was and that I had the ATIS.
“Boeing Tower, Cessna 8-4-8-2-3 over downtown Kent at One thousand seven hundred with information November”
They told me to report when I was 2 miles to the South East. My instructor gave me visual clues as to where to be to stay clear of Renton. We were cleared to land on Runway 13 Left, which is coming in from the north and the smaller of the two runways. Which its 3,710 feet long and 100 feet wide. Compared to 3,650 and 60 feet wide at Thun and the 3,288 and 40 foot wide at Crest we just came from, it’s huge. But oddly enough, when it sits there next to its big brother, at 10,000 feet long and 200 feet wide, it looked like the smallest runway of the day!
My instructor requested from the tower that we be allowed to do a touch and go. We were cleared to do so. So while I did land at Boeing today, my stay on the ground was maybe 20 seconds at best!! Full power, carburetor heat cold, flaps up and away we go. There was a Cirrus taking off right next to us on runway 13R, which was new for me. Taking off at the same time as someone else. But he was way faster than we were, so no worries. We got out the way we came in.
My instructor had me fly back towards Crest and asked how I would know when to turn out of the valley to head that direction. I used a water tower as a visual reference and told her when that was about 30° off to the left I would turn as that should have me well past Renton’s airspace. Again, hindsight, she was checking my decision making abilities. Passed again me thinks?
Finally she had me input Thun field into the GPS and head back to the barn. At one point she said we should move a little more to the east as we were possibly clipping the class B airspace of SeaTac. I mentioned that we were down at 1,600 feet and that the shelf for class Bravo in this area only extended down to 1,800 feet, so we should be fine. And besides I wanted to stay away from the clouds too. Again, she was checking my situational awareness. But I scooted east anyway. Once we were past the clouds and had clear skies, we ascended to 2,000 feet and I brought us over the Orting Valley.
Having tuned in the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency for Thun I announced my position & intentions:
“Pierce County Traffic Cessna 8-4-8-2-3 over the Orting Valley at two thousand maneuvering for the 45 for runway one six, Pierce Traffic.”
My 45 ended up being closer to a 75, but we turned on downwind about mid point on the field. I activated carburetor heat, did my power reduction, raised the nose to bleed off some speed, gave a twist of nose up trim and when my speed was in the white arc, dropped my first notch of flaps. That all seemed so natural, and even two moths ago, coming in with that little of the downwind left, I would have been sweating, but it all seemed like one continuous act to me. Of COURSE that’s what you do! Turning on the base leg, gliding at 70, I felt really good for my setup to final. I turned a little early, but it was all good as the Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) lights showed two white and two red, perfectly aligned on the glide path! (I honestly can’t ever remember that happening before) I exclaimed “who’s your daddy!?” And dropped in another notch of flaps to slow us down some more. Just a squeeze of power just before we came over the threshold, then the power all the way out, round out, flair, listen to the stall horn scream, and grease it onto the runway, dead center!!!
My instructor called it my best landing ever! I’d have to agree it was darn close!! I may have had one or two better, but not many for sure! After I announced we were clear of the runway, I cleaned up the airplane. Flaps up, carb heat cold, landing light off, announce we’re taxiing for Spencer Aircraft. As we taxied, my instructor said about the best thing she could have possibly said in that moment: “If you fly as well on your check ride as you did today, you’ll be going home with a piece of plastic!” Now I don’t think you actually get plastic, I think that comes a few weeks later from the FAA. But I knew what she meant, I’d be going home with a private pilot’s license in hand. WOW! How friggin’ cool is that! Another lesson scheduled for tomorrow to work on some maneuvers. Really gotta cram for the oral. Goal is to be done in the next 11 days! I think I might make it! I WILL MAKE IT!!