So today, I had a flight lesson scheduled and we decided yesterday to make it a cross country flight. So last night I planned a flight from Thun Field (KPLU) to Arlington (KAWO). A distance of about 66 nautical miles. I was up until about 11PM making sure I got everything filled out on the flight planning form that I could do without a weather briefing. I had a hard time sleeping last night in anticipation of the flight. I think I finally went to bed at 12:30 and I swear I woke up every 1/2 hour and looked at the clock. When the alarm went off at 6:00AM, I was already awake for a good 15-20 minutes.
I got up and retrieved the latest weather from Foreflight and Aviationweather.gov and then I called Lockheed Martin Flight Services to double check the information I got was accurate. Finished filling out the navigation log, had a shower and some breakfast and Teri and I headed for the airport at about 8:15.
Meg was already there when we got there, I let her look over my flight plan as I filled out the dispatch form. I headed out to preflight the airplane and shortly Meg and Teri joined me. You see today Teri went WITH me on my flight lesson. I think that’s mostly why I had a tough time sleeping last night. Of course you always want to do well on your flight lesson, but it’s even more important when you have a set of eyes looking at you from the back seat.
I got to file my first flight plan ever. I did it through Foreflight, which made it super easy.
We were 3rd in line for takeoff while we were doing our runup check. Then it was go time. Time to see if I could keep my wife calm in the back seat while I showed what I had learned so far in my flight training. I made the call “Pierce County Traffic, Cessna 51M departing runway 34 to the North East, Pierce” and taxied to the end of the runway, turned left and applied full power. It wasn’t a perfect centerline takeoff, but it was close. A little wobble in the wings as we lifted off and I applied more right rudder to keep the plane headed down the extended centerline. I pitched for about 70kts and we were climbing. At 1,200 feet (300 feet from Pattern Altitude) we headed to the north east and I announced we were departing the pattern and we were on our way.
We contacted flight services once we were up and on our way to officially open my flight plan. That was my first time talking to them. They talk really fast so I had to say “Student Pilot, please repeat” and you could tell the controller was a bit annoyed because he went REALLY slow and R E A L L Y enunciated his words. I thanked him for the info. Seattle approach had us squawk a discrete code on the transponder and we asked for flight following. Flight Following is basically another set of eyes. A controller watching your progress towards your intended destination and they’ll let you know if you deviate from your plan too much.
Listening to the controllers at SeaTac was challenging at best. I’m amazed that they can keep all the planes in the air straight. But they do an amazing job. I’m glad Meg was there because there were a couple of times that the controllers gave us an instruction that I completely missed. She caught every one though.
The specific route I planned had us too close to the class B airspace, so we modified it just a bit to take us out over Lake Tapps. From Lake Tapps we headed toward Crest Airpark (S36) and reached my target altitude of 3,000 feet when we got there. We pointed the airplane towards the “V-Notch” which I THINK has Tiger Mountain on the East and Squak Mountain (appropriate) on the West. Basically it’s a low area between two mountains that you can fly through. Issaquah and I-90 were just on the other side. That was my first Checkpoint after Crest Airpark. From there to Highway 522 was my next checkpoint and Meg had me do an airspeed check. We were just slightly slower than what I had planned for. (It’s nice to know I can still use my E6-B Flight Computer!)
From Highway 522 it was on to Lake Stevens, and then on to Arlington. Runway 11-29 was closed as they’re getting ready for their big air show next weekend. So we set up for the 45 to land on runway 16. The landing was nearly as good as my last cross country landing at Hoquiam. It felt really good and Meg did her happy dance again. After we taxied, Teri got out to explore the airport a bit and Meg and I chatted about the flight. I closed my flight plan too. There were a couple instances where I had let my altitude get a couple hundred feet above or below our target, or where I had drifted off course, but overall I think the flight went really well. I know I was more nervous than usual, but hopefully Teri didn’t see that. We talked about the plan for the route back (basically just the reverse of the route up) and Teri was soon back in the plane. We did another runup and were 2nd in line for takeoff this time.
The takeoff this time was MUCH better than the one at Thun. Soon enough we were flying past Lake Stevens and Meg had me do a speed check for the next leg to 522 and Monroe. Pretty much dead on to my plan, so again it reinforced that I actually did something right! Back to I-90, through the V-Notch, over Crest Airpark and back to Lake Tapps. I was a little nervous because Teri was SUPER quiet during the flight. I didn’t know how she was feeling, or what she was thinking. Which I guess was good because it allowed me to focus on the tasks at hand. But once we got near Lake Tapps, I started pointing out landmarks we were going over. Turns out she was fine. She ended up taking about 165 photos on the day with her camera! All the photos in this post are from her camera. Meg took the one of us of course, but all the rest are from Teri. She even got a couple good shots of our neighborhood! Kinda cool.
Once we dropped below 3,000 feet, the air got a bit choppy. The day had warmed up quite a bit. My setup for the pattern was pretty good, but turning base we were getting bumped quite a bit and my turn wasn’t great. Meg says the rudders were all me on landing. And the landing, while not as good as in Arlington, was one of my better ones at Thun. I even shocked Meg by showing her that the glide slope lights were fixed on runway 16. I clicked the mic on the yoke 5 times and Meg said “They’re broken on this end” just as they came to life. Pretty cool system if you ask me. You have four lights and if you have two white and two red, you’re on the proper glide slope. Four white, you’re too high, four red, you’re too low. Takes some of the guess work out of landing.
We taxied off the runway and over to the fuel pumps, filled up the plane and put it back in front of the hangar. We made it back with 5 minutes to spare!! Good thing because the plane was reserved right after us. Just another reason someday I want to own my own plane. Or at least be in a partnership with someone! Just being able to take off whenever you want to and stay as long as you like would be awesome.
Overall a GREAT day!! Lots of firsts, most important of course was first passenger. Later in the day Teri said “I would totally feel comfortable with you flying us over the mountains or down to California.” That kind of blew me away. I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable doing either of those things right now!! But I’m sure she meant after I get my license and a few dozen more hours in my log book.
I’ve got two flight lessons planned for this week, Tuesday and Thursday. 2 hours on Tuesday and 4 hours on Thursday. Another Cross country on Thursday. Supposedly the pie at Jefferson County Airport is to die for. Unfortunately that’ll have to wait until October for me. No pie until after 3010 is over. And hopefully by then I’ll have my private pilot’s license and I can take Teri up for a bite of pie!