Learning Plateaus Suck…

John HurlbutFlyingLeave a Comment

“More Right rudder John”

“Don’t let the ball slip out John”

“I feel like we’re a little fast John”

“It seems like we’re a little high let’s fix that”

“Let’s not do that again shall we?”

“No more that 20 degrees of bank John”

“More right rudder John”  (Yes, I know I already said that, pilots know what I’m talking about).

I’ve hit, according to Meg, a “learning plateau”.  It feels like I’ve never been at the controls of a plane before. Yesteray was supposed to be a day that we just practiced takeoffs and landings.  We got all of two takeoffs and landings completed.  Yesterday I was frustrated, Meg was frustrated, even the plane seemed frustrated with me.

I expected to get at least four takeoffs and landings in yesterday, instead I got two. The first takeoff was one of my better ones.  But climbing out I was pitching too much.  After turning crosswind and onto downwind we were about 200′ higher than the traffic pattern.  It was nerve wracking too because there was a plane off to the north east of me getting ready to enter the pattern that I could see on my climb out.  Additionally there was another that neither of us saw apparently to the northwest of us as well.

While driving a car, you really only have these things to pay attention to:  gas, brake, clutch (maybe), speedometer, tachometer, and turn signal. In a plane, you have the rudder to control yaw, the yoke to control pitch & roll, the throttle, the mixture control, carburetor heat, altimeter, attitude indicator, vertical speed indicator, heading indicator, turn coordinator, and airspeed indicator. My point being there’s a lot more to pay attention to, and when one or two of those items get out of bounds, for a newbie it’s tough to get them back in bounds easily.

So we made the first landing, I got off the runway “Pierce traffic, Cessna one-one-five-one-Mike is clear of runway three four, pierce traffic” and “cleaned up the airplane”. Carburetor heat cold, flaps up, landing light off, etc.  We taxied down toward runway 34 again and were 4th in line for take off.  Busy day at Thun. When it was our turn “Pierce traffic, Cessna one-one-five-one-Mike departing runway three four, left closed traffic, pierce traffic.” Meaning we were going to stay in the pattern.  I turned us onto the runway, full power, and away we went.  About 1/2 way into our takeoff roll there was an audible THUD from the left main wheel.  “What did we hit?” Meg asked. “No idea” was my reply.  I think it was just a crack in the runway, but don’t know for sure.  We were already committed to the takeoff, so up we went.

I again went about 200 feet high in the pattern.  The landing was slightly better, but not great.  Sometimes I wish I could just slow down time.  After we cleared the runway this time I taxied us to the ramp. I shut down the plane, Meg hopped out and checked the tire, all was good.  She hopped back in the plane and walked me through “zen flying” the pattern.  Eyes closed, she talked me through the entire pattern.  So I guess you could say I got three takeoffs and landings, but that one doesn’t get counted in the logbook.

I fired the plane back up and we plugged in our headsets, and nada. We couldn’t hear each other at all.  So I taxied us over to the parking spot and we began securing the airplane while Meg called the maintenance guy to come look at the intercom.  Turns out the squelch just needed to be adjusted. Dumb! Glad it wasn’t anything major, but gah!  I did learn about two knobs in the airplane I had never touched before, so at least I have that going for me.

After that I was just flustered anyway, so who knows how good the real #3 would have been anyway.  This “learning plateau” sucks.  I’m hopefully only about three or four weeks away from getting my medical certificate, and my hope is to solo almost as soon as I get it.  But I wouldn’t solo me now, and I’m sure Meg wouldn’t either. So I’ve got to get better.  I will get better.  Off to schedule a new flight lesson! 

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