The weather was sunny but hazy, only 3 miles visibility. It was warm at 25C but not too bad. I arrived just on time and Grainne was waiting for me. We decided that we would go do pattern work at South County as planned and I headed out to pre-flight the plane. No issues with the pre-flight, the airport was back to normal today after yesterday’s Open Day. Normal taxi, run-up and take-off with a downwind departure. Although we took off on 31R, the tower asked us to turn left traffic for the downwind departure. This is a little unusual, but he may have had another plane coming in to right traffic at the same time. I made no mistakes and I remembered all the checklists.
I climbed up to 3000’ and we had a smooth cruise down to Anderson Reservoir, through there was some traffic coming against us. I got South Country in sight and we listened to the CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency). As South Country is an uncontrolled airport, all the panes announce their position and intentions on this frequency. We heard one guy saying he was turning onto right base for runway 32 which told us what runway and traffic pattern was in use. As I still needed to lose some altitude I flew a little left of the field to give myself a longer approach to the downwind leg. In the event I got on the 45 right at pattern altitude and announced I was there.
I did six landings at South County, four touch and go’s and two to a full stop. In general, they were much improved over yesterday. The very first one was a little hard, but the others were fine. I really can see an improvement over yesterday and previous flights. One of the landings was with a simulated engine failure and it was probably the best. I really tried to keep focused on the end of the runway during the round-out and flare and it seems to be paying off. Another big help is that today I was ahead of the plane the whole time. I got the checklists done and I never forgot to switch on my transponder or operate carb heat correctly (my usual sins). This gave me more time to focus on getting the approach setup. Grainne pretty much left me alone most of the time letting me make my own decisions so I really felt like I was flying and landing the plane myself. Today was a definite confidence boaster. After the last touch and go I said I’d take us to 2500’ and head for UTC to go home, I was getting tired and a little hot.
I was just setting up to get the RHV ATIS when Grainne pulled the throttle out for another simulated engine failure. We were too far from either South County or RHV to I picked a nice field just below us. My mistake was picking a field with a crosswind and then failing to just fly the plane so I could get a good approach to land. Just like yesterday, I spent too much time on the emergency checklists and not enough just flying the plane. Its much harder to plan out the approach to a field than an airport. To some extent your are spoiled for choice, there were just so many nice fields we could have landed in. There is a big temptation to keep changing your choice. Once you’ve got best glide speed, you really need to plan out the whole approach, my mistake is to try and do this in stages. It doesn’t work, and you end up too low and in a bad spot. Next time we’ll see, I have a feeling I’m going to be dreaming about landing in fields for a few nights until I get one of these right.
The only interesting issues with the trip back to RHV was that were first were told (by ATIS) to use a different Tower frequency (I guess they had two controllers on duty) and second was were told to change our transponder to squawk 5300 (the first time I’ve ever had to change this). There was another Cessna on our left and a little ahead so we were told to follow him in. He was told to squawk the same code, so then we were told to IDENT. There is a button on the transponder called IDENT, when you press it causes your plane to flash on the controllers radar screen, this allows him to make sure he knows which plane is which. The approach went well and we were just coming over East Ridge Mall when I spotted another plane right under us. He seemed to be almost scraping the trees in the mall parking lot. Grainne didn’t seem too concerned and said that he was probably heading for 31R, which sure enough he was. Either way is really overshot his final and was very low. My landing went just fine, not hard and on only two wheels (one less than my usual count). Other than the second emergency landing today was a nice flight.