Thursday, March 12, 2009

Yes, I am still a pilot!

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: High overcast, 33 degrees, wind 030 degrees at 7 knots

Hard to believe, but nearly a month has passed since I last hopped into the left seat of an airplane. I certainly didn't intend to go this long between flights but winter weather and a busy schedule have kept me grounded. Thankfully, with the start of Daylight Savings Time, I can finally fly any day of the week once again. The weather was great tonight with about 10 miles visibility and nothing below a high overcast layer at 10,000+ feet so I gladly hopped in the 150 for an hour.

Looking at the airplane logbook as I entered in my starting Hobbs time, I saw my name at the top of the sheet. Clearly I'm not the only one who hasn't been able to get up in the sky. There were only about 10 names (and therefore flights) between today and my name next to my flight to Columbus on February 15th. In fact, nobody had flown 60338 since last Thursday - a whole week. So I made sure I was very thorough during my preflight, going about the whole process methodically and slowly.

Surprisingly, considering the cold temperatures, she started up very smoothly after three shots of primer and a fourth shot that I fed in slowly once the engine began to turn. I let the engine warm up for 5-10 minutes and then taxied over to the fuel pump to add 10 gallons to the right tank. Then she again started up smoothly and I taxied across the field and down to the departure end of Runway 8 to run through my CIGAR checklist. The radio was still inop. (if you recall, it died on my way home from Columbus last time) so I elected to just hang in the pattern at Stewart and work on takeoffs and landings.

Not the most consistent track around the pattern I've ever made

The landing biplane cleared the runway and I taxied on while slowly advancing the throttle as I began a normal takeoff. Everything was going great and I lifted off the grass very softly. But at about 300 feet I realized I had neglected to retract my 10 degrees of flaps. No safety concern there as I was well within the white arc (flap operating range, for the non-pilots) but it was a good symbol of the rust I clearly had after not flying for a month. The cold temperatures made for good engine performance, as I looked down and saw a climb rate of 1,000 feet per minute and I quickly reached 1,800 feet - pattern altitude.

Other than forgetting to retract the flaps soon enough on that first takeoff, I felt pretty much on my game the rest of the flight. The only exception is that I was either flying about 10 degrees off heading or not compensating for the wind properly and I overshot my final on most of my landings. But I just gently flew back in line with the extended centerline when that occured. I ended up making six total takeoffs and landings, switching up between normal, soft field, and short field versions. I pulled my power on the third or fourth time around and made a nice gentle arc back to the runway and dumped in all 40 degrees of flaps to quickly descend when I had the runway made. Altogether, my landings were really (surprisingly, I might add) smooth if not a bit flat.

So there you have it, I finally got back in the air. Hopefully I start to get into a more regular flying schedule with the increased daylight hours and improving weather. I've also been a bit swamped (and watching the bank account) because I'm in the middle of buying a house so my free time will improve when that's all done with too. I reserved a slot with Dave in the 172 on Saturday so I can get some more experience in that plane before I try and fly anyone else around in it. Until then, safe flying for the rest of you!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.9 hours
Total Time: 89.5 hours


  1. Always a great feeling getting back in the air!!

    I had to add this since that checklist always prompts the vision of the in cockpit exchange in the movie between Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. For the non-pilot readers Steve didn't fire one up or hold one when for when the mission is completed like the movie Independence Day. Instead CIGAR is a mnemonic that refers to a pre-takeoff checklist performed by general aviation pilots. The mnemonic stands for:

    Airplane secure

  2. Well I was worried that Steve had just given up flying! ;)

    This is a poor time of year for finding good flying weather. I find myself in the same situation - a week of bad weather, then two really good days, but oops, no time for flying.

    Anyway, glad to see you are back in the air. I've forgotten the flaps a couple of times, but if I forget now my checklist catches it. I was bad at using climb / cruise checklists but my second-to-last CFI hammered me pretty hard until he broke that habit.

  3. Yeah our official CIGAR list goes like this... C for controls free and trim, I for checking/setting the instruments, G for gas checked/fuel on/primer locked, A for airframe like seatbelts and door latches, and R for runup.

    I'm still not the best with checklists before landing but I'm good with the rest really, don't know why. We never used much of a post-takeoff checklist for whatever reason. I hadn't even turned crosswind when I noticed the flaps were down too so it's not like they were down forever, just later than I usually retract them. Anyway, use of checklists is one thing I'm really try to harp on myself about and get better with!