Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 77 degrees, wind 010 degrees variable from calm to 8 knots
Tonight was one of those deceiving evenings when it comes to the weather. It was almost completely calm when I took off and the sky was clearing. The intent was to work on some maneuvers but also to spend some time just enjoying the view from above. Takeoff was smooth and the calm winds made this one of those rare occasions when you can point the nose straight ahead and actually end up right where you've aimed.
Once over the lake I made four steep turns, going from a right turn directly into a left turn and then repeating the process. These were some of my best yet since I stayed within 50 feet of altitude throughout the entire 720 degree maneuver, kept my speed pegged at 60, and rolled out right on the original heading. Feeling good about those, I did a few power-on stalls. It's sometimes hard to get a feel for stalling the Champ since it wants to fly so ridiculously slow but I was not totally satisfied with my stalls tonight. I did not pull back to raise the nose fast enough to bleed off the airspeed quickly and get a nice, clean break at the moment of stall. As far as the recovery goes, I did an alright job lowering the nose and gaining back airspeed but it could have been smoother. Maneuvers complete, I decided to fly around for a little while.
Heading towards the North at around 3,500 feet, it was getting a little cloudier and I started to feel some bumps that likely were downdrafts from the clouds. Then it started to drizzle ever so slightly and I decided it was time to descend and turn back where I came from. I could feel the winds picking up and could tell they were a little shifty because I felt the plane trying yawing. I flew over the road I drive to get to the airport from my apartment and then headed South past Stewart. It still felt gusty and there were certainly more pockets of rising and falling air than when I took off. Once sufficiently South of the airport and at 3,000 feet, I turned around and descended to 1,800 and made a 45 degree entrance to the downwind.
My approach was a little high and fast but I got her slowed down and made a soft landing, albeit a little long thanks to the extra speed. There was a slight crosswind now but it was still pretty light and variable and I decided to head back up for some more practice in the pattern. Oh how Mother Nature can throw us a curveball in an instant. Back around the pattern and on final, I was too fast and the crosswind had picked up to I'm guessing 8 knots or so and was blowing directly across the runway. Not that I haven't landed in that sort of weather before, but not by myself, and the weather hadn't switched like that in the middle of the flight.
Floating down the runway and using a side slip (right wing down into the wind) to keep her straight, things just didn't feel right. I had enough room to land but made the wise decision that it would be best to try again, so I applied full power and made my first-ever go around. Next time around I still wasn't perfect (still floated too much) but the approach was more stabilized and I made a soft landing on Runway 26. The windsock was blowing straight across the runway so I taxied back and called it an evening. All in all, some very valuable weather and on-the-fly decision-making experience makes this a great flight in my book.
I purchased a great little suction cup mount for my camera last weekend to help with taking videos in the plane. Hopefully this will aid me in not filling half the frame with the glareshield from now on. Check out some footage from tonight below, including - in this order - takeoff, flying around the pattern, steep turns, stalls, and landing. Oh yea, just for the record, I don't like how crappy and compressed Blogger's video uploader makes the videos look!
Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.0 hours
Solo/PIC Time: 4.3 hours
Total Time: 25.5 hours