Finally after a couple of weeks off, I got to fly again today! Last week my instructor was at the EAA AirVenture in OshKosh Wisconsin (Note: Teri and I WILL be there next year) and I was in Las Vegas. The weekend before that, the winds had my instructor and I in the simulator, not the actual plane, so it’s been awhile.
I always try to get to the airport early to do my preflight so I’m not using valuable flight and instructor time to do that. I had to put a quart of oil in the plane, but no biggie, I’ve done that at least a half a dozen times. The AWOS (Automated Weather Observation System) was out of service at Thun field today, so I had to look around the area to get an accurate depiction of the weather, but again, no biggie.
I was a little nervous having not flown in awhile, and the plan today was to just stay in the pattern, just do a few takeoffs and landings. I was actually really excited about that!! I’ve been hoping to work on those skills for a few weeks now, so glad that today was finally the day.
My instructor joined me as I was finishing the preflight, and soon we were taxing down to the runup area for our final preflight checklist. One of my issues has been holding the centerline of the runway while I’m taking off, so I really wanted to nail that today. I usually tend to drift a bit to the left. (More Right Rudder) After the runup, I made my call and we were rolling down the runway. At about 65 knots, I pulled back on the yoke and we were airborne! I have to say I held the centerline pretty good. We turned crosswind, then downwind, then base and final. A little higher and faster than I wanted to be, but the flaps helped and soon enough we were on the ground.
Second take off I managed the centerline even better, and on downwind, my instructor did a simulated engine out and demonstrated how to land the plane should such an emergency ever occur.
Third takeoff I declared my best takeoff yet from Thun! Held the centerline like the plane was on rails, lifted off at just the right moment, kept the ball in the center on the turn coordinator (mostly), it felt awesome. At 1,200 feet I turned crosswind, at about 1,500 feet and about 1/2 mile west of the airport I turned downwind. Speed was just a little fast, so I pulled out the throttle a bit. About 1/2 way down the downwind leg a HUGE hawk came at us from the west! I pulled back on the yoke as he (or she) dove below us. I feel sorry for whomever might have been driving below us, because they likely got strafed… I readjusted my altitude and we extended downwind just a bit. Turned on carburetor heat, cut the throttle to 1,500 RPM as my speed fell into the white arc on the airspeed indicator, I dropped 10° of flaps, and turned onto the base leg. Still a bit high, so dropped the flaps to 20° on base and turned final. As we got close to the runway, my instructor kept chanting “6 inches over the runway” meaning she just wanted me to hold the plane floating just above the runway without touching down. I did for the first time. Eventually the plane settled on the runway. We bounced just a little and settled back down. Not perfect by any stretch, but certainly not my worst landing either. Another bird attacked us while in the flare attitude, so we decided to give it a rest for the day.
As we wer securing the airplane my instructor asked “Will you do me a favor?” “sure” I replied. “Please don’t wear black t-shirts to your flight lessons any more.” OK!! YES MA’AM!! She was basically telling me I’m very close to soloing. So very exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time! Another lesson on Sunday, I doubt that’ll be solo day, but I’m headed out to pick up some white T-Shirts between now and then, just in case!!