Saturday, January 24, 2009

Finally back in the sky

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-MGY-40I
Weather: Overcast, light snow, 23 degrees, wind 330 degrees at 6 knots

Over three weeks since I last took to the skies, I managed to get up and run myself through the paces this afternoon. My goal is to fly every two weeks at a minimum so I went up solo to run through pretty much a mock checkride for a thorough refresher. It was plenty cold out and Emerson (one of the owners) came out to help me get 338 started. Once she was warmed up, I filled the tanks and did a quick preflight before running through my pre-takeoff checks.

From Stewart to Wright Brothers with maneuvers in between

The winds were out of the Northwest but quite light compared to many of my recent flights at around 6 knots. Departing for the first time at Stewart, I made a normal (and pseudo soft field, as is the norm on the grass) takeoff and climbed quite quickly into the pattern - gotta love the engine performance on a cold winter day. I remained in the pattern for five landings, randomly switching between short field, soft field, and the normal variety. I could tell I was a little rusty but they were still pretty smooth and my soft field landing was one of the best I've ever made. On the final approach, I intentionally practiced a go-around and departed the pattern to the Northeast.

Caesar Creek Lake covered in ice

The clouds were up at around 4,000 feet so I climbed to 3,000 and made two sets of steep turns. I wasn't holding altitude all that great the first time around but got my head in the game and cleaned things up on the second set. Then I climbed up to 3,500 and did a series of power-off and power-on stalls. I hadn't done that latter in the 150 since my checkride (nearly two months ago) but managed a few stalls with good, clean breaks and smooth recoveries.

Looking North with US-42 down below and the power lines

Feeling good about stalls, I descended and made S-Turns along a straight section of high-tension power lines. Without much wind the practice probably wasn't that useful, but looking at the GPS track it appears I made relatively consistent turns. I then headed off towards Wright Brothers Airport and pulled my power enroute to simulate an engine failure. There were plenty of fields as I set up and made a slow turn so that I would be landing to the North on the longest field clear of power lines.

About 200 feet off the ground, I knew I would have made the landing and pushed in the throttle... and then the engine sort of coughed and didn't come back. I pulled it back to idle and advanced it slowly and it roared back to life. This isn't anything new in the 150, as you often have to advance the throttle more slowly than usual when it's really cold out. Nonetheless, you wouldn't believe the number of thoughts that ran through my head in those 3 short seconds. Of course, I was still in a position to make an emergency landing - so at least I had that going for me!

Flying near where I simulated the engine failure

Maneuvers out of the way, I continued towards Wright Brothers and made a crosswind entry to the pattern for Runway 2. Nobody else was flying when I arrived but traffic picked up while I was there. At one point, there were 5 of us in the pattern. Same as at Stewart, I made a variety of landings. The crosswind was stronger here, and interestingly cut out or picked up within 10 feet of the ground every time on final so I couldn't trust the windsock too much. But even with having to make some quick corrections on short final I managed to set it down without any drift all but one time.

Entering the pattern at Dayton Wright Brothers Airport

Heading back home, I climbed up to 2,800 on departure because another plane was inbound from the East. I never did see him, but we were calling out positions over the radio and he said he had me in sight. It's a good time to mention that I flew through snow showers off and on during all my flying this afternoon - they came and went in varying intensities. Nothing so bad that visibility was ever less than 5 miles, but I probably wouldn't have set off on a cross-country to an unfamiliar destination today. For practice, however, the weather was great. Plus it's fun to have the whole Star Trek warp-speed look out the front as the snow zooms past.

One last smooth landing at Stewart and I was safely back on the ground. It sure felt like forever since I had been up last and I was glad to once again feel good about piloting a plane. Honestly, I was more excited to go up today than I have been in quite a while. Other than the cold temps it should be nice tomorrow, so the plan is for me and Gina to fly up to Urbana for a $100 lunch. The itch to be in the sky is one that you can only ignore for so long!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.8 hours
Total Time: 85.5 hours


  1. "Plus it's fun to have the whole Star Trek warp-speed look out the front as the snow zooms past."

    We were in the air yesterday as well and it was Mary's first ride through snow showers. Her first reaction was "can we be in this stuff?"

    Your description is on the money, the warp speed look. It's a shame it doesn't help our ground speed.

  2. I'm hoping to fly at least once every two weeks after I have my ticket. I don't know that I'll be so eager to practice stalls. They are not a lot of fun to me.

  3. "Once she was warmed up, I filled the tanks"

    I'm curious, don't you guys fill them at the end of the day. Maybe it's just because of the humidity here in Florida, but we don't let tanks set empty or half full over night. Water would condense out of the air in the tanks and contaminate the fuel.

  4. Didn't get to go up today - snow moved in earlier than planned. Kept calling the ASOS phone number and watched the visibility go from 10 to 7 to 3 to 1/2 in less than an hour. Definitely a day to be glad I was on the ground!

    Gary - Definitely is about the only way to describe the feeling, plenty of fun to fly through when it's light tho!

    Tony - Stalls aren't always my favorite but I've decided it's better to at least try and do them on a regular basis. As far as filling the tanks, the instructions are to fill up before each flight but not after. No arguing about the condensation point - I was taught that too. The main reason is because some of the planes (150, Cubs, Champ) have such light useful loads that you can't even fill them full with two people on board. So they'd rather have them sit partially full than have to drain them, or so I've heard.