Friday, November 7, 2008

Solo Practice 13: Still not a lucky number

Plane: Cessna 150 / Champ
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Overcast, 56 degrees, wind 190 degrees at 7 knots

Writing this after the lesson, I now see that I was doomed from the start. Although technically the flight in the Cessna was #13 (which went well) and not-so-good Champ experience was #14. Today I took a half-day of vacation so I could go up flying during the afternoon before catching my flight to Portland where I’ll be spending the next five days.

I had 60338 scheduled but they were working on the engine and I had been switched to 3718J. This was bad for me on two levels, as it has the screwy radio (thus scratching my plans to go over to MGY) and they also had to juggle the schedule so I lost a half hour of time. So once again I just stayed local and worked around the pattern at Stewart.

There was a decent crosswind so I practiced the usual slew of takeoffs and landings. While I might not list them all in the “very good” category, my landings for the most part were soft-ish and felt stable. One time around I came in too fast and ballooned so I jammed in the throttle and went around. I brought the flaps up too quickly, however, and started to sink and lightly bounced off the grass. Gotta be more careful with my procedures! Altogether it was a good practice session but I would have preferred 60338 and more time so I could have landed on pavement and worked on stalls and steep turns.

Time up in the Cessna, I decided to take the Champ up since I was at the airport and using a half-day of vacation to be there. It’s a few weeks since I last flew the taildragger and actually had to have Dave re-endorse my logbook as solo endorsements are only good for 90 days. Judging by my performance on the first landing, I’m not so sure Dave should have signed his name. The airspeed indicator was placarded (covered up) but the Champ is pretty simple to fly by reference to the wing on the horizon, so that should not have been an issue.

Back to the landing, I’m pretty sure it was the best job I’ve done scaring the hell out of myself thus far in flying. I came in fast but without the airspeed indicator it’s hard to say just how fast. It was probably about 10 extra mph but in the Champ that means a good deal of extra lift. I held her off but touched down and bounced and ballooned, then hit again, veered a little, bounced more… it was thoroughly scary. I knew what to do (GO AROUND!) and did just that but I struggled for what felt like a long time (and was likely all of 2 seconds) to get the plane under control and safely climbing. It really felt like I was about to lose control and ground loop the thing, or worse. Words probably don’t illustrate how bad it looked and I’m quite glad it wasn’t a nice sunny day with a lot of people watching. On the flip side, I walked away unscathed and didn’t break the plane either.

That whole experience did turn out to be an aberration on the day, as I came in the next time and set her down pretty softly. And then I made a bunch more laps around the pattern with each landing certainly at least belonging in the “acceptable” category. The crosswind picked up and varied but I adjusted properly and felt back at home in the Champ. Certainly today reminded me how quickly things can get out of control, but it also showed that all this training has at least given me enough instinct and knowledge to handle a precarious landing situation.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.6 hours / 0.9 hours
Solo/PIC Time: 23.0 hours
Total Time: 68.3 hours


  1. Wow...great story. You did a quite a job of handling it all. I had a rough day yesterday and I could empathize with your bad landing. There's nothing like getting back in the air and thinking, "wow, what the hell just happened there?" yet having no time to think about it because you've got to get ready to do it again.

  2. I going to ditto what Paul wrote. I had an off day yesterday. I had a very scary power on stall that shook me up pretty good. Took a couple of minutes to get my courage up to try another. But, just like you, there's only on thing to do: try it again.

  3. Thanks for the thoughts, guys. It definitely shook me up a little but just as you said Paul I had to keep on flying and bring it back in.

    Similar thing happened today (getting shaken up) when a power-on stall broke pretty hard and it felt like it wanted to spin. Felt the heart racing, although I have done plenty of spins and know how to get out of one. But when you're not EXPECTING to go into one it's different, at least it seems that's how I reacted.