Friday, May 11, 2018

The Sky(lane) is all mine to explore!

Plane: Cessna 182 RG 
Instructor: Matt
Weather - MGY: Clear, 68-79 degrees, wind variable at 5-8 knots
Weather - HTW: Clear, 78 degrees, wind light and variable
Weather - LUK: Partly cloudy, 82 degrees, wind 250 degrees at 5 knots

Today started with one goal - fly enough hours to complete my checkout in the club Skylane RG. At this point, it's all about making the insurance company happy, as Matt has said he's confident I can fly the airplane. I'm happy to report we did just that today; I'm now signed off to fly the plane whenever and wherever I please!

We passed over Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky this morning

We didn't have a specific plan and the weather to the north was not particularly conducive to small airplane flight; there were a ton of storms in the northern part of Ohio and Michigan. I've been watching the weather for the past day and it seemed the best option would be to fly south or east. It seems Matt had the same idea - he suggested we fly to Spencer, WV.

After loading the flight plan (with an intermediate fix to avoid the hot Buckeye MOA southeast of Dayton) I departed on Runway 2 and turned east. After leveling off, we chatted about avionics and ADS-B for a while. The air was calm and cool at 5,500 feet and it was a beautiful morning to fly. We loaded the RNAV Runway 10 approach and let the autopilot fly the heading while I managed our altitude. Matt talked me through some of the nuances of instrument approaches and staying ahead of this fast airplane.

I didn't slow down early enough - this is definitely something I'm still getting a feel for - so I didn't maintain the most stabilized approach into Boggs Field Airport (USW). There was another plane operating NORDO in the pattern so I braked moderately after a carrier landing to turn off midfield (there's no taxiway) and get out of his way. We shut the plane down and wandered around the empty airport for a few minutes.

We had Boggs Field Airport all to ourselves this morning

A hangar was open but the airport was otherwise deserted

The winds were still light and variable so, with the engine turning again, I taxied for departure on Runway 28. Matt made the very good point that there aren't many places to go if your engine quits in hilly West Virginia. Accordingly, I circled the field while climbing and we turned on course towards Huntingtion after we'd reached about 3,000 feet.

Boggs Field Airport, just north of Spencer, WV, after our departure

The flight down to Huntington wasn't long and the skies were still clear, if a bit hazy. We planned to land at Lawrence County Airpark, which is located just across the Ohio River from Huntington. It has a relatively short (3,000 feet) runway in fair condition (which may be a generous assessment) so it would be a good opportunity to use short field techniques.

There was a bit of haze from the hot, humid air

Landing options in an emergency became a point of discussion again as we approached Huntington. With rising hills on both sides of the river and development in between, you're in a bit of a pickle as you approach to land at HTW. At some point, you obviously have to descend, but that leaves you with very few options besides the river should something go awry. There really is no one correct answer and it was a good discussion to have.

Huntington, WV on the left bank of the Ohio River

I crossed midfield to enter a left downwind for Runway 28. With the previous discussion in mind, I remained a bit higher than usual, lowering all my flaps and managing my descent and speed by reducing power on final. I touched down not too far past the threshold and was easily able to stop in about 1,500 feet with moderate braking.

We back-taxied and departed again on Runway 28. I used a typical short field technique - full power holding the brakes, then release, keep the nose on the ground, and then rotate and climb at about 60 knots until clear of the trees on the opposite end of the runway. Clear of the obstacles, I raised the gear and flaps and Matt took the controls.

It's not every day you find an asphalt runway that needs to be mowed

Matt had me put on my hood just after takeoff. He flew the plane for a few minutes while I got that adjusted and took a look at some approach charts. We planned to fly direct FGX (Fleming-Mason Airport in Kentucky) and then to Lunken Airport in Cincinnati for a practice approach. But it became so incredibly bumpy (a bunch of clouds were suddenly forming in the hot, humid air rising over the low hills) that he instead just decided we should proceed directly to LUK.

I used the autopilot at first but started hand-flying as we were handed off to Cincinnati Approach and the controller was about to begin providing vectors for the ILS Runway 21L approach at Lunken. He turned us north, then west, and then we intercepted the ILS and began our track towards the airport. Clearly I have a long way to go before I'm a remotely competent instrument pilot, but our preparation did seem to help me on this approach.

For the most part, I didn't excessively overcorrect at any point. We crossed the initial approach fix (an ADF) and I already had the plane slow and stable enough that I could basically just start to follow the ILS down towards the runway. Near the very end I overcorrected and turned slightly off course but seconds later Matt told me to remove my hood; I lost our excess airspeed and landed smoothly on Runway 21L.

We taxied off the runway and Lunken Tower soon cleared us for takeoff in the opposite direction from Runway 3L back to Wright Brothers. It only took about 15 minutes to get back - certainly beats the hour drive. This final landing was by far my best of the day, very smooth and right on the centerline. A fitting way to end the whole long checkout process.

At the same time, I still have much to learn. While I'm far more comfortable in 7YG than I was a month ago, I know it will take some time for things to become second nature. Take for example the cowl flaps - I've never flown a plane with them before and, for the life of me, I still struggle to remember when to open and close them.

I don't think it's a shock to report I'm thrilled to be done with the checkout. Now I can take the family, friends, and coworkers flying. With a plane closer to home, in a hangar, at an airport with a paved runway and lights, the utility factor just increased a great deal. Toss in the fact it's 50% faster than anything I've flown before, she's quite the bird.

Here's to many great trips in the sky in the Skylane RG.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 4.0 hours
Total Time: 389.1 hours

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