As expected the weather didn’t cooperate for another solo flight. This time the wind and visibility were fine, but there was broken cloud at 3,500’ and it looked like more solid cloud was moving in from the West. However, Yoed was hanging around outside at 4pm when I was supposed to be flying so I asked him if he was available. He had one student for an hour, but would go up with me afterwards. I hung out at Tradewinds working on the flight plan for Saturday’s long cross country and I had 5766J pre-flighted and ready to go when he got back down a little after 5pm. We planned to stay in the pattern at RHV and practice short & soft field landings & takeoffs.
I made a dumb rookie mistake that I’ve never made before, I forgot to call Ground Control before starting to taxi – I was just about to go when Yoed says “Are you just going to start?”, then I realized what I had done – oh well, maybe I should write that one in on my checklist. We had a normal run-up and takeoff from 31L. I was just about the call the Tower when they told me to expedite crossing 31R and takeoff. That break in routine caused me to make my second rookie mistake – I forgot to turn on the transponder and landing light (the usual “lights, camera, action” checklist just before takeoff). From now on I’m going to just turn them on at the end of the run-up unless there’s a long line of planes waiting to takeoff (meaning I’ll have time to remember it then).
We proceed to do 7 takeoffs and landings. All the takeoffs were a combo soft & short technique. Basically, holding the nose wheel off the runway and then flying in ground effect to build speed, then climbing at best angle of climb to simulate clearing an obstacle at the end of the runway. Yoed made a good point, many soft fields are also short so its not unusual to have to combine the techniques. The first few takeoffs were a little ragged with a lot of drift sideways flying in ground effect. Yoed really drilled me on keeping the center line during the takeoff – more right rudder and use the ailerons. This paid off and the last couple of takeoffs were right down the line. Of the seven landings, two were soft-field and the rest were short field. I really had fun with the short field landings. 40 degrees of flaps brings you in steep, the flare is very positive and you really try to plant your wheels on the aiming spot. Two of the landings were my best ever, I aimed for the numbers and planted the mains right down on them, not hard, but just firmly enough that you knew you had arrived. Yoed commented that one was “commercial standard” whatever that means. We only had one go-around, I’m still not sure what went wrong. I believe, I was a little fast and I started to flare early and too much. So I ended up about 15’ above the ground and then started to just drop in. Yoed called for power and then a go around. He seemed real concerned which bothers me because I think I would have still attempted the landing (with just adding power to soften the landing). I’m not sure what exactly I missed that made it so bad. The two soft-field landings were a mixed bag, one was reasonable, the other felt more like a normal landing – I will have to practice these more.
Tonight was fun, Yoed is always nice to fly with – he’s precise and picks up on a lot of little stuff that Grainne lets slide. He’d probably drive me nuts if I flew with him every time, but great for a brush up on technique.