Wednesday September 25th 2002, 6pm, N4754D, 1.1H (0.3 Night)

Tonight’s flight just sucked. I arrived without much time to spare, I was a little tired and generally not in top form. Grainne was waiting for me and we spent a little time talking about the night before. By the time we got through pre-flight it was already dusk. The weather was identical to the night before, hot with a light wind blowing down the runway.
The problems got going in earnest when I tried to call Ground Control. Once again the radio’s in 4754D gave me trouble. They transmitted a carrier but no audio. The previous night the same thing happened the very first time I tried calling the tower. I tried a second time and it seemed to work. We had a normal taxi and run-up and the radio worked calling the Tower for take-off clearance. We got it and took-off on 31L to enter left traffic.

The pattern was really busy, with 8 planes circling the airport, the Tower was doing a great job of keeping up, but he was really pushed. I hadn’t got a landing clearance by the time I was abeam the numbers and I extended downwind a little waiting for it. I decided to call the Tower and let him know I was turning onto base, in this case he will usually give you a clearance or he may tell you to go-around. I made two calls and got no response. Then he called that he was receiving a carrier with no audio, and so Grainne tried and got the same result. At this point I was on final and starting to do a go-around, but the Tower figured out it was us and gave me a clearance to land, with instructions that he was too busy to deal with a plane with no radio so we should land to a full stop, get off the runway at taxiway Charlie or Delta and work it out on the ground. He told us to reply with two clicks of the mic-switch if we heard him, Grainne did the clicking. We actually landing quite well, but then I had some problems breaking the plane smoothly to get off at taxiway Delta, it was messy, swerving and poorly controlled. This is basic stuff and I guess I was a bit rattled by losing the radio and the change from a go-around back to a landing while on final. Grainne called Ground Control, and sure enough the radio worked perfectly!. We taxied back to our parking spot and Grainne tried a few more calls on the radio which all worked. So we decided to continue with Grainne doing the radio work. So we had spent a bunch of unproductive time taxiing around playing with the f*&%ing radio.

I took-off on 31R and entered right traffic, by this time the pattern was less busy. We did three touch and go’s and one full stop landing. Of the four I messed up the approach on at least two, turning late onto base and being below glide slope on final. Its always better to be too high rather than too low on final, altitude gives you more options. The landings were uniformly bad, worse than last night and really a step backwards. I still cannot correctly judge the flare. The last landing was the worst of all, three bounces which took us almost onto the grass off the right of the runway. Just a real lack of positive control of the plane as we touched down. It was a relief to taxi back to parking and shutdown the plane. I was unhappy, I could tell Grainne was unhappy, all in all a bad day.

So what went wrong? Mostly the problem was me. As I said I was tired, I had had a great flight the night before, and this had me a bit hyped up when I went home, consequently I didn’t sleep very well, this caught up with me today. I think, in future I will not schedule back to back evening flights, just to give myself time to be on a more even keel. So I’ll leave at least one night off between flights. The radio problems had a dual effect. First, it threw me when it happened and this just made a bad day worse. Second, with Grainne flying the radio, I may have felt a little less in control of the plane, a little more like my CFI is with me so she can fly the plane. There is a temptation to laziness, sometimes you don’t concentrate as hard as you should because subconsciously you know the CFI will step in if you do something stupid. From now on I am just going to pretend she’s not there (soon she really won’t be) or that she’s just talking to me on the radio. I may also ask her to keep her hands off the yoke when we land, its hard for me to distinguish what control inputs are mine and what are hers, I don’t know if she’ll agree, but we’ll see.

Lastly, what the f&*ks up with the radios in 4754D? I have flown this plane 4 times. The first time I didn’t use the radio. The second time the radio didn’t work for me and then we had the electrical fire after landing which killed both radios. The third time (8/15) I was supposed to fly in this plane but the radios didn’t work at all and we had to use 5766J (now my favorite plane). The forth time was yesterday and they worked almost fine. Tonight’s debacle was the fifth time in this plane. So of 4 attempts to use the radios in the plane, three have resulted in major problems. This does not seem to be a random occurrence. As I can’t believe the plane actually hates me, the only conclusion I can think of is that my headset causes a bad interaction with the audio panel. You have to go through a pretty twisted trail of logic to see how this could happen, but is the only explanation that makes even a little sense. If I have to fly this plane again, I’ll borrow one of the clubs headsets and we can see if this is the root of the problem. Still I’m not in a hurry to book the plane again.