Tuesday October 22nd 2002, 6:30pm, N4754D, 0.9H

Today is my first night flight, I’ve already done a couple of full dark landings so I’m not too worried about it. However, its also my first trip into class C airspace which is a little more scary. It was almost dark when I arrived at the airport. The marine layer was already rolling in which is much earlier than usual. I was just reviewing San Jose Airport in the A/FD when Grainne showed up. We went over the radio procedures and the usual entries and exits we could expect for SJC. Basically RHV is so close to SJC, you tell RHV Ground Control you’re flying VFR to SJC and they get you a transponder code before you leave the ground. The pattern entry for runway 29 (the shortest runway in SJC, 4600′ long) is usually passing over mid field at 1500′ and then doing a descending turn onto the 45 for the downwind leg.
Did my first pre-flight in the dark with a flashlight, it took a bit longer but was otherwise OK. The panel lighting in 4754D is great, much better than 5766J (in fact now that I have the radio thing fixed, 54D is becoming my favorite plane). We had some fun with the radios, but this time it wasn’t us. It was the tower. When we tuned into Ground Control there was a really loud buzzing sound. Grainne called the tower and told them about it, at which time another plane chimed in said they had the same problem. So we were cleared to taxi down Zulu while the tower guys figured out there problem, helping them with various radio checks along the way. Finally about halfway down they got it working and thanked us for our help and then asked us what our departure request was. We told them and got a transponder code just before the run-up area. Had a normal run-up and did a straight out departure running along the east side of I-680 to stay out of class C.

We were cleared to change frequency to call SJC Tower just about the time I leveled off at 1500’. They asked for our altitude and for an IDENT on our transponder and then confirmed radar contact. As expected we were told to over fly the field at or above 1500’ and enter left downwind for runway 29. Right about this time I realized there was a cloud right off my right side and as I turned towards SJC we hit the bottom of the ceiling, I started descending and was at about 1400’ as we got close to the field. I was kind of worried about the clouds and being lower than instructed (though Grainne pointed out that the transponder was still showing 1500’ which is what the tower would see). In the confusion I was cleared to land as I passed over the center of the field, and I repeated back that clearance. I went out quite far beyond the field to make sure I had plenty of time to descend to pattern altitude and get established on the 45. A left 180 degree turn brought me in on the 45 at 1000’ and I turned downwind. It was kind of hard to make where the end of the runway was in order to judge the turn to base leg and of course this time I didn’t have any familiar ground references. Just about this time the Tower said, “Be advised traffic on final for the parallel runway is a Boeing 757”, this was pretty cool, I’m used to getting traffic alerts for rather smaller planes. The 757 was a lot easier to see than the usual Cessna’s and whatnot around the RHV traffic pattern. I made the turn from base to final early and angled onto the final approach trying to stay as far away as possible from the big iron landing on the runway next door. The final approach and landing went pretty well and Grainne called for a touch and go. As we climbed out the tower asked where we were and I said we had done a touch and go. At this point we realized that we only had a clearance for a landing not for the option (to do the touch and go). Tower asked us what we wanted to do, we decided that with the ceiling coming down fast at SJC and having just pissed the Tower guys off we’d better get out of Dodge, so we told them we would go back to RHV. They said, “make an immediate left turn and cross the field at 1500’”. Of course, the ceiling had dropped some more and I only got to about 1350’ before we hit the clouds. Grainne called the Tower and told them we could only maintain 1350’ crossing the field, they didn’t seem to mind and were probably just glad we were leaving before we screwed anything else up. A little passed the field they told us radar service was terminated, to squawk 1200 and contact RHV. So ended my first foray into class C airspace.

It took a couple of tries but the Tower at RHV finally answered and gave us the option of left or right traffic, I’d pretty much reached I-680 at this point so right traffic for 31R made the most sense. We did five landings and they were a lot of fun. The first was normal and went well. The second time around Grainne pulled the engine about mid downwind and I did a dead stick landing that worked great. Grainne’s only quibble was that I used 40 degrees of flaps to get down. I had shortened the downwind to make the final leg intentionally short and high. I wanted to land about a third of the way down the runway and I figured “altitude is options” so better high than low. As I was plenty high I needed all the flaps to get down. Grainne’s point was the plane is harder to control with full flaps and no engine, but at least I got down. On the third time around we were going to practice a forward slip. Grainne told me to take the engine to idle and pitch for 70 KIAS abeam the numbers. I’m not sure what she was intending. I extended the downwind a little, but of course we were descending faster than usual so we ended up on glide slope as I turned onto final (even without any flaps). So no need for a slip as it is used to lose unwanted altitude without gaining speed and we didn’t have any unwanted altitude at that point. Grainne had me do a no-flap landing instead, basically the same as a normal landing but the nose is pitched quite a bit higher. The landing was fine. The next time around there was a plane coming in on final approach so we had to extend our downwind a little bit anyway. I just kept at pattern altitude but slowed to about 70 KIAS on base. So of course we were high and long as we turned onto final – exactly what I wanted to practice the slip. For the first time I got into the forward slip, held the center line of the runway perfectly, lost exactly the altitude I wanted and exited without a flaw. It was great, I’ve had problems with this maneuver every time I’ve tried it until now. The actual landing went fine after than. On the last time through Grainne pulled the power again. This time I turned a little too early and ended up much higher than I wanted, I also resisted putting in the last 10 degrees of flaps so we were staring to run out of runway. Grainne said to pitch down for a speed of 80 KIAS to get down quicker. We got down with the end of the runway rather close to us, Grainne said “lets try to stop without running off the end”, I don’t know why she was worried, we stopped without problems and terminated for the night.

Tonight was a lot of fun. Landing at San Jose was a blast. Skimming along just under the clouds we cool and the landings as RHV went pretty well. Not just basics to get in the requirement for 10 night landings, but a chance to practice the dead-stick and slips as well. Next Thursday is scheduled for another solo flight but the weather looks iffy. On Saturday we’ll do the long cross country, we’re going to Pine Mountain Lake which is at just under 3000’ a little Northwest of Yosemite Valley.

Monday October 21st 2002, 4pm, N4754D, 1.4H

I didn’t get to fly solo on Sunday, the marine layer fog had created a solid ceiling over the airport when I arrived at 10am. It had started to burn off, but the visibility never got above 5 miles and my limit is 10, so another solo flight scrubbed. This is frustrating, it was a beautiful day except for the reduced visibility.

Today, the weather was nice, warm and sunny with just a bit of haze, the visibility was about the same as yesterday, but today I was flying with Grainne so we only needed standard VFR conditions. The plan was to do some hood work in the practice area and then come back to RHV to practice short and soft field landings and take-offs. I would be flying in 4754D again, this is the plane that gave me all the radio problems that I have now blamed on my headset. The last couple of times I borrowed a headset from Tradewinds and these worked, though the loner headsets are pretty crappie. Last week I created a jig that has a socket for my headset microphone connected to another microphone plug. The idea was that if the particular mic plug on my headset was causing the problem (it seems slightly longer compared to the plug on Grainne’s headset) then the jig would convert my funky mic plug for a more standard one. I still borrowed a headset in case it didn’t work.

Had a normal pre-flight, my own headset seemed to work with the new jig, normal taxi and run-up and a much better attempt at a soft-field takeoff compared to Saturday. The soft-field takeoff (and taxi) is all about keeping moving and protecting the nose wheel. The idea is that if you’re on a grass, snow, gravel or mud surface then your liable to sink in if you stop moving – so always keep moving once you start and your nose wheel tends to want to dig itself into the soft ground so keep as much pressure off it as possible. When you takeoff you apply a lot of back pressure, the nose wheel pretty much lifts off the ground as soon as you apply power so the initial takeoff is done on just the main wheels. As you gain a little speed the plane will lift off, its flying in ground effect so you have to keep it there (within a wingspan of the ground) to gain more speed, this actually takes a surprising amount of forward pressure. As the plane accelerates it just lifts itself out of ground effect into the air.

We made a downwind departure and once I completed the climb checklist Grainne had me put on the hood – this restricts your vision to just the planes instruments and try’s to simulate what would happen if you flew into a cloud by mistake (though I’ve read that a cloud is much more disorientating). Grainne had me fly a heading of 120 degrees as we climbed, then a heading of 090 as I leveled off at 4000′. This was fine and I had much better control of my heading compared to the last time I did hood work (better rudder control). Then we started to practice “recovery from unusual attitudes”. If you fly into a cloud and become disorientated then it is very likely that you lose control of the airplane. I read a statistic that most VFR pilots find themselves in a spiraling dive within 90 seconds of entering a cloud – this is a scary thought. The recovery from unusual attitudes is supposed to simulate this situation and ensure that you can recover control with just instruments and fly yourself out of trouble. Grainne took control of the plane and had me close my eyes, she said that she was just doing clearing turns but with your eyes closed the G-forces are your only guide to how the plane is moving (a very misleading guide). It felt like she was throwing the plane all over the place. Then she says “your plane” and you have to quickly determine what its doing and recover.

The recover was actually fairly easy. I thought it would be a bit scary but just staring at the instruments makes the situation feel almost artificial. Sure, the attitude indicator shows that your pitched down almost 45 degrees but it would feel very different if you could actually see outside of the plane, a pitch like this is way out of the ordinary and would be a bit disconcerting. We did five or six recoveries, all of them except one were nose down with varying degrees of roll and speed. The hardest was actually a quite shallow wings level dive, but was very fast, it took a long time to pull the plane back to level and I overshot the pitch on the up side. One was nose high, just getting close to a stall (the stall horn was sounding when she gave me the plane). Then it was hood off and back to RHV. We got a straight in approach to 31L that got changed to 31R when a Commander slipped in beside us on the left. The approach was fine though I felt really slow compared to the Commander, he passed me and was on the ground before I got onto final over the Mall. I attempted a soft-field landing which turned into a more standard landing when I failed to keep the plane in ground effect long enough.

We proceeded to do 5 more takeoffs and landings. The first three were soft-field technique and the last two were short-field. I got better at the soft-field stuff, it’s strange, but a poor soft-field landing qualifies as a pretty good normal landing. I can’t really point to any one thing but my landings have been getting steadily better over the last few flights. I got the hang of the soft-field takeoffs and did a good job of keeping in ground effect until the plane was ready to fly for real. The short field takeoff is fun. You lineup as close to the start of the runway as possible, stand on the brakes until the engine has developed full power, brakes off, zoom down the runway, rotate at 51 KIAS and pull the plane into the sky at 59 KIAS (Vx). Its fast and relatively easy, but you need to be confident of your pitch control. A few weeks ago I would have been scared of stalling on the climb out. The short field landings are fun as well. The idea is to come in as steeply as is possible and then stop in the shortest distance possible. You get steep by keeping above glide slope and then descending with a full 40 degrees of flaps. The pitch is high because you also want a slow speed, about 60 KIAS. The flare is more tricky – you shouldn’t spend anytime flying level, just a smooth transition from the descent to the flare. Then yoke all the way back to transfer as much weight to the main wheels and brake hard. You are also supposed to dump the flaps as quickly as possible to lose as much lift as you can – this also brings weight onto the main wheels and helps to brake. The first landing wasn’t great, the glide slope was not steep enough, however the second was much better. Today’s flight was a lot of fun, I’m really looking forward to getting out and practicing some of this stuff on my own – if the weather ever get good enough to fly solo. Next flight is my first full night flight and we’re going to San Jose International, so its also the class C airspace experience.

Saturday October 19th 2002, 10am, N5766J, 2.0H

I didn’t get to fly on Thursday, the wind was 14 knots when I arrived at the airport and my solo limit is just 12 knots headwind. So I was really keen to get into the air today. This was my first cross-country flight. We flew from RHV to Castle (MER) near Merced in the Central Valley.

I had spent about an hour of ground time with Grainne on Wednesday evening to preview the flight planning, we picked out the route and landmarks, measured the leg distances and calculated the headings given an assumed wind. All this using the high tech cardboard E6B flight computer. I also called Oakland Flight Service Station (FSS) and got a standard weather briefing, unfortunately I forgot to tell him I was a student and he rattled through the briefing so quickly I barely wrote down 10% of what he said. Still, I got the feel for what was going on. I studied the ground school CD’s for the cross-country on Thursday night and finally learned how the E6B is really used (I was a bit bemused with what Grainne was telling me the night before). For a child of the computer age, having never even seen a slide-rule I was amazed at how clever the little gadget was – in fact better than the electronic version I’ve been playing with in my Palm Pilot – much more intuitive. For the aviationally challenged an E6B is a rotary slide-rule setup for doing common aviation calculations like “how many minutes to fly 15 miles at a speed of 115 MPH”, or “how much fuel is used in 15 minutes with a burn rate of 8.6 GPH”. The back side also has a very clever method of calculating how the wind effects the direction and speed of flight, for example finding how much headwind or tailwind you have and how it will effect your ground speed and your direction.

On Friday night I setup FS2000 with the current weather conditions, redid the calculations and flew the route on the simulator. This went well though some the landmarks I had picked out were really hard to identify. The fight was great until I crashed on landing at Castle – stupid simulator, doesn‘t it know I can land a real airplane on my own!

So Saturday morning the marine layer fog was a solid overcast when I arrived at the airport at 10am. Grainne and I planned to spend an hour getting the current weather conditions and making the final calculations for the flight plan. This all went well, we started by going through the weather on DUATS which is an online service contracted by the Government to provide pre-flight information. Then I called the FSS again and remembered to tell him I was a student and got a standard briefing. No bad weather once the fog burned off. The guy must have repeated “Don’t go until the fog is gone” about three times. I filed the flight plan over the phone, you can do this by just leaving a recording, pretty cool. In the end we waited until 12:00pm until the sky was clear enough to get going. I finally got to use the kneeboard I bought back in August. I got it after the flight in 8276E which had no side pockets. After that flight I never bothered to use it because it just seemed like overkill and I never flew in 8276E again. Normally, I just have my checklist card, with a small note-pad attached to it with a bull-dog clip and a pen slipped over the top. The knee board is a fancy thing full of pockets that attaches to your knee with a strap and holds all the goodies you need for cross-country flight.

Had a standard pre-flight, taxi, we got off the ground at 12:32pm and departed downwind towards Anderson Reservoir. Did the climb checklist and for the first time actually called Oakland FSS to open my flight plan. Then we called Bay Approach and got flight following, this worked well though I’m still a little nervous talking to the big boys. They all sound so busy and hearing all the commercial air traffic makes me feel like I’m interrupting a bunch of busy people at work with my little joy ride to Merced. We climbed to 5,500’ and the first checkpoint on the trip, I arrived 1 minute late to my calculated value. It was then a short 2 minute trip to the first and only turn on the route, over the south shore of Anderson. We turned inland to head towards Castle. The air was smooth but there was a lot of haze so visibility was only about 7 miles. The next checkpoint was a line of three peaks, we were supposed to pass just to the right of the middle one. I thought I could see the landmark ahead of me. But it didn’t seem right, then Grainne pointed out a peak on my right we were just passing that seemed to be the one. Mountain peaks like these make poor landmarks, but there wasn’t much else around I could have used. About this time Bay Approach handed us off to Stockton Approach. The next landmark was easy, a road and railway parallel, running between two towns with Gustine airport off to the right. With the low visibility, I couldn’t see Castle, but I started my descent when the watch said I should and we saw the field about 7 miles out (I was also cheating the whole time, because I had my GPS fixed to the yoke with rubber bands – this was real useful for making sure the heading I had calculated was right). In the event the wind wasn’t as strong as forecast, so my heading had us drifting northwards a little, you can see the little kinks in the ground track where I made corrections.
Once I got Castle in sight, I reported I could see it to Stockton Approach and they terminated flight following and told us to squawk 1200 again. I couldn’t raise anyone on the Castle CTAF frequency to find out the runway in use so I over-flew the windsock at 2000’, it seemed to show a crosswind, but slightly favored runway 31. Castle is an old Air Force base, it has an 11,800’ x 300’ runway that can take B52 bombers, you could land five Cessna 172’s in formation on the runway it’s so huge. I started a left 270 degree turn to come in on the right 45 for runway 31 when Grainne pulled the engine to simulate a failure. I made it around the turn though it was a bit messy as I was trying to pitch for best glide at the same time. Didn’t bother with checklists and just headed straight onto the base leg. I was way high coming in over the numbers, but who cares I had 4 time the usual runway to land on. The landing was good. I was worried that the enormous scale of the runway would cause me to mistime the flare, but it didn‘t. Even the center strip painted on the runway was about 4 times wider than I was used to. The place was empty, we saw one Cessna 152 on a taxi way and another plane landed while we taxied back to the start, that was it. I believe there is a cool aviation museum somewhere close by, but we went straight back to the runway to head home.

Grainne had me try my first soft field takeoff which was poor, I didn’t realize just how much forward pressure is needed to keep the plane in ground effect. Still we got off OK. We were just climbing through about 200’ when she pulled the engine again to simulate a failure on take-off – life would be nice is these only happened on 11,800’ runways. I still had half the runway to land on. Got myself configured to land and would have made it easily when Grainne said to go-around, so full power again and flaps back up and we made a crosswind departure. About this time Grainne asked me what I had forgotten in the post-landing checklist – I couldn’t think of anything until she told me. Duh, I had forgotten to close my flight plan – if you don’t close it they fear the worst and come looking for you. Grainne took care of this as we climbed back up to 4,500’. It was a bit finicky, you have to transmit on one frequency on the radio and listen on another frequency on the navigation radio for the reply, it took a couple of tries but she finally got it to work.

On the way back we used radio navigation as opposed to the pilotage and dead reckoning we used on the way out. We intercepted the 260 degree radial on the Merced VOR (a special type of transmitter that sends radiating spokes of signals out in all directions). This radial gave us a straight line course back to Mt. Hamilton. The ride back was nice, but really started to get bumpy over the top of the mountains. Mt. Hamilton is 4,200’ high, I was really quite nervous flying over at just 4,500’ so I let the altitude creep up to 4,700’ as we crossed over. The view of the lick observatory was spectacular. We got the current ATIS and I called into Reid Hillview Tower, they told me to enter on right base for 31R and report two miles. I started descending, but this is tricky on this approach to RHV. The mountains drop away very steeply just about 4 miles east of the field, so even if you just clear the last ridge line you are still way too high to land. So we did a forward slip to loose the altitude – which once again went poorly. Grainne had to help me get into the slip and the plane was yawing every which way. Still we got down and I was cleared to land on 31R when I reported in at 2 miles. The landing was fine. Today was a really fun flight and I’m looking forward to more cross-counties.

Monday October 14th 2002, 3pm, N4754D, 1.7H

Today was a really nice flight. The weather was good with variable winds at 5 knots in RHV, some scattered clouds at 20,000’ and it was warm at 27C, a little hazy with 10 miles visibility. I was early, and Grainne turned up about 2:45pm. We went over today’s plan. A flight down to Hollister (3O7) to do some solo landings and pattern work, and then a stop off in South County (Q99) for the same. We would also try to get flight following from Bay Approach along the way to see how that worked. Flight following is where you ask Air Traffic Control to issue you with traffic alerts using their radar, which they provide if they aren’t too busy.
Normal pre-flight, taxi, run-up and take off on 31L with a downwind departure from left traffic. I took off behind a Cessna 152 and followed him South, as I was a bit faster and climbed a bit better we gradually overtook him, he was the only traffic we encountered until Anderson Reservoir. Grainne, tuned into Bay Approach and after initially telling us to stand by, they gave us a transponder code to squawk and started issuing traffic warnings, none of which were much use. Firstly, they never told us about the C152 1000’ below us, and then over Anderson Reservoir another Cessna 172 flew right passed us only 500’ above our altitude. They did however tell us all about the big jets on final approach to San Jose International, none of which were anywhere close to us. However, it was still cool flying along hearing your own plane’s call sign and also listening to all the big planes getting their approach clearances into San Jose. Bay Approach terminated flight following about 12 miles North of Hollister, we had expected them to pass us off to Monterey Approach, but they just told us to squawk 1200, the VFR transponder code, meaning we were back on our own.

I tuned into the Hollister CTAF frequency about 10 miles North of the field and asked for a traffic advisory, one plane replied that he had just taken off into a stiff headwind from runway 24, which is the shorter of the two runways. I had spent some time before hand working out the traffic patterns for the airport as this was my first visit down here, we took a quick review as I started to descend from 3500’. About this time another plane called in from Southeast of the field looking for a traffic advisory, so I passed on the info I’d just got. He said he was just doing a touch and go and entered the left 45 as I crossed the field at 2000’. I did a descending right 270 degree turn which brought me in on the 45 for left downwind. One of the more complicated pattern entries but it worked beautifully. The other plane was just turning base as I entered the downwind and he was already departing when I got onto final. The headwind was really blowing, I kept checking my airspeed which was 65~70 KIAS on short final, but we still seemed to just crawl towards the numbers. I would guess the wind was at l2~15 knots, but at least it didn’t appear to be gusting. The landing was reasonable. I cleared the runway and dropped Grainne off by some hangers. Then taxied off to do two solo landings. These went reasonably well, but the pattern was a bit sloppy, especially trying to keep parallel to the runway. It didn’t feel too bad at the time, but the GPS shows I was angling in towards the runway on both downwind trips. This shortened the base leg, which pretty much made them continuous turns instead of two turns. Another plane landed as I flew the second trip through the pattern. He pretty much just came straight in for the runway. I don’t think your supposed to do this, but at least he told me what he was up to so it wasn’t a surprise. The first landing was good, on the second I ballooned up and had to add some power to keep from dropping back in. I think it looked better from the ground than it did from the plane because Grainne didn‘t seem that upset when I taxied back to pick her up. We took off and made a right crosswind departure, it was real bumpy as I climbed back up to 3000’

Once we got back to cruise altitude Grainne told me it was my choice if I wanted to go to South County, I guess she thought I might be tired, I felt fine so I tuned in South County CTAF and started a descent. There was one plane on the ground saying he had just landed on runway 32, so I planned to fly wide of the field and then make a left turn onto the 45 for right downwind. The pattern entry was good, but something wild happened to the turn onto base. I came out almost passed the end of the runway and so overshoot badly on the turn to final. Then I overcompensated trying to get lined up for final. At this stage I figured this approach was so screwed up I’d just go around and try it again. I really wasn’t sure what had gone wrong, I’ve flown the pattern several times before without problems. I had just climbed back to pattern altitude of 1300’ and made the turn onto crosswind when some guy came on the radio and said he was the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) and that the wind sock was now showing the wind favored runway 14. I was flying the downwind for 32 at this point so I was a little lost as to what to do. I figured I’d take a look at the windsock for myself and then decide. So I said on radio I was going to fly parallel the runway and take a look at the windsock, to which the FBO guy replied, “I can see it from where I’m sitting and it favors 14”, he sounded kind of mad that I didn’t believe him or something. But he’s on the ground and I’m in the plane so I’ll be the one who decides which f**king runway I’m going to land on. The windsock did favor 14 so I made a left 180 degree turn and came in on a very long base leg. The landing was reasonable, and we did the touch and go. Grainne said we’d do a downwind departure and head back for home. There was more interesting radio work on the way out, another plane was coming in from the South, and it was a comedy of errors while he tried to determine what planes were flying, instead of listening to what people were saying he kept asking where people were. Along the lines of “where is the plane in the air?” (I hope he knew there was only one) and “who is still on the ground?”.

I had a pretty uneventful trip back to RHV. Called the tower at 3000’ over UTC and was told to come straight in for 31L. Started a nice stable 90 KIAS descent and the approach went well, though I got changed to 31R at the 3 mile report point. I added the full flaps a little early and so had to add some power coming over the Mall. I even tried a little side slip to account for the minor crosswind (I had too much rudder, but any practice is welcome). The landing bounced once, but recovered in a reasonable fashion – not good though.

So today was fun, a new airport, more solo work that’s really not scary now and some real interesting pattern work at uncontrolled airports. Now I’m endorsed for both Hollister and South County so I have the run of the south practice area on my own. On Wednesday I’ll do an hour of ground work to plan the first cross country flight with Grainne, and we’ll fly it on Saturday. I’ve also signed up for some solo flights on Thursday and Sunday so I’ll head down south and practice some maneuvers and landings.

Sunday October 13th 2002, 12pm, N4754D, 0.9H

My third solo today and more pattern work at RHV. I started a little later today, so the wind was 310 8 knots, it was warm at 22C. Had a completely normal re-flight, taxi and run-up. Then Tower gave me a clearance for 31L and a frequency change to 126.1. They use the second frequency when there’s two controllers on duty usually on the weekends. Had a good takeoff and entered left traffic for 31L. I really had no significant problems today. The pattern work was good, from the GPS ground track I can see I’m flying a pretty good rectangle around the airport, the turns are fairly consistent with no overshoots on final. The five approaches to 31L were fine, although I’d like to get more consistent on my altitude during the turns to base and final. I rarely hit the glide slope right on and so I’m adjusting on final with power. I think I’m not controlling the airspeed well during the turns either letting the nose drop too much or not enough. Still, it’s easy to correct on final as long as you do it early and don’t leave it until your on short final. The flares today went much better, none were great and a couple ballooned a bit. But in general, I kept the nose high and didn’t have any flat or 3 wheel landings. A couple of times I came down on the main wheels a little hard.
I got to “back taxi” for the first time today, after landing the first time on 31L I was told to make a 180 turn and taxi back on the runway. I hadn’t done this before, but it went fine. I think I did this after 3 of the landings on 31L. After the fifth landing on 31L I was told to cross 31R and taxi back on taxiway Y and to change back to the usual tower frequency of 119.8. It was really hot in the plane as I taxied back and the sweat was just dripping of me. I made the last takeoff on 31R for right traffic. Had a good trip around right traffic and extended my downwind for another plane coming straight in for 31R. The landing was poor, I flared a little hard, ballooned up, added a little power, but still bumped down a little hard. I figured that it was too hot and I was getting tired so I called it a day and terminated.

So today was about building more confidence in flying solo. The landings were better than yesterday, though still not up to what I was doing flying dual last week. The pattern and radio work is also good. I’m starting to get sick of flying circles around RHV, so it will be nice to get signed off to go down to South County and Hollister tomorrow.

Saturday October 12th 2002, 10am, N4754D, 1.2H

Today was my second solo flight. I booked it as early as I could to get calm morning winds. This worked well, it was a beautiful flying day, no wind, 17C. I was a bit nervous, today would be completely unsupervised so I wouldn’t even have a CFI on the ground worrying about me. I picked up the key book and went out to pre-flight 4754D, again I borrowed a head-set for 54D, I am now convinced that my headset has a problem with the radio’s in the older planes.

I had a completely routine start, taxi and run-up except the right seat was empty. I was cleared for takeoff on 31R and entered right traffic. The takeoff went fine and I flew the pattern without problems. I was a little low on final so I didn’t put in the usual 30 degrees of flaps. It seemed to me that I was much faster than normal as I rounded out over the numbers. I started to flare and bounced on my main wheels. It just felt wrong and much too fast, I did the go around. I think the problem was too much airspeed, but I’m not sure.

The next time around I was again low after my turn onto final, I watched my airspeed more carefully and was at 65 KIAS over the numbers. The flare was a bit flat and I landed a little heavily on all three wheels. I then bounced just a little two or three times, it seemed that as soon as I tried to continue the flare I would pop back up into the air and then bump down. I suspect that I was a little fast and that I didn’t flare enough, it was an ugly landing. The next takeoff was fine and my altitude on final was better. However, the landing was almost a carbon copy of the first one. On the third landing I had determined that I just wasn’t continuing the flare enough so I had resolved to really bring the nose high on this landing. I guess I was too fast and possibly flared too fast, I ballooned up and started to drift to the left, I did a go around again.

So I was starting to get a bit concerned. Two bad landings and two go arounds. The next time around my altitude was good on final and the landing was fine, as good as I did previously on the stage check. I hoped for another good landing but it was not to be. It resulted in another go around when the flare went wrong and I started heading for the grass. The landing following that was also poor, I bounded a couple of times, I used a little power to help recover from the bounce and I may have either mistimed the power or put in just a little too much. Last time around went like a dream, another good landing. I decided to end on a high note and terminated for the day.

I’m not at all happy with the landings on the solo flights. I’ll practice again tomorrow, but my landing problems are definitely not behind me.I had the GPS in the front seat for the first time and whatever it did the track it recorded was terrible, it clearly kept losing enough satellites to have an accurate fix.

Thursday October 10th 2002, 3pm, N5766J, 1.4H FIRST SOLO!

There are many important milestones in life. Many are mundane, like ticking off another birthday. Some are the result of years of work, like graduating from college. Others are profound, like the birth of a child. However, the events that really stand out share some things in common. They are special because they can only happen once, they often mark the beginning of something new and wonderful in your life and above all they are rare. Well today was a rare day for me, I flew solo for the first time.
Flying is like nothing else. All other experiences in life are extensions of what we can already do. To drive a car is an extension of riding a bike, an extension of running barefoot. Sailing an extension of swimming or floating on a log. Flying is completely unnatural. No other experience can really prepare you, in fact many mislead you. Learning to fly is a sequence of unlearning whatever you thought you knew and replacing it with something different. It is a leap into the unknown made with wings. Only your skill and knowledge of how those wings fly will bring you back to earth. When you take off on your own for the first time, only you will bring that plane back down. You’ve cast yourself into this unnatural state that rests on a knife edge of technology and skill. No matter how much we seek through training and design to blunt that edge, it still exists and is unforgiving. I can think of no other experience in life quite like it. I can only say that its one experience you walk away from feeling like you just conquered the world.

And so to details. Today was cool and a little windy. ATIS had the wind at 310 10 knots, which is straight down the runway. The temperature was 22C and there were some broken clouds at 15,000’. Not a bad flying day. I arrived early, and luckily so did Grainne. We went through the written exam she had given me last week. This was the last item to complete before I was clear to fly solo. I did fine on the exam, only one question wrong and it was pretty minor, (do you know that in some limited cases it is in fact OK to fly a plane without its Emergency Locator Transmitter – I didn’t). We also reviewed what Tony had written from last Tuesday’s stage check. He wrote some pretty nice things and concluded I was ready to solo, pretty much what he had said to me at the time. Grainne said “we would do some pattern work and see if we could get me to solo”.

In denial, I headed out to pre-flight 5766J and was just about done when Grainne showed up. We had an uneventful taxi run-up and take off on 31R, entering right traffic. The first approach was good but quickly proceeded to go badly wrong in the flare, the plane wandered all over the place and as I got close to the grass on the left so I decided to go around. I figured that had blown any chance of a solo today, this was landing performance like a week ago. I’m not really sure what I did wrong, I think I was trying to use just my rudder to keep the center line, fighting between keeping the nose straight using left rudder, while trying to stay away from the grass using right. I should have used just a little aileron to keep in the middle. After that we proceeded to do three touch and goes. None were great but none were too bad. However after the second one I really didn’t feel in the landing grove and I said I thought I should wait for a day with a little less wind before I did my first solo. Grainne was having none of that, after the next landing as I was about to do the “go” part of the touch and go, she stopped me and said to drop her off at the compass rose, I had no idea where that was, but I thought it sounded like a bar. She called Ground Control and told them we were stopping to drop her off, I could hear one of the controllers cheer in the background. The compass rose turned out to be a square bit of tarmac with the cardinal points of the compass painted on it, its for testing your navigation equipment. As it is near the end of the runway it gives the CFI a good view of your landings.

I shut the door and taxied over to the hold short line. I was thinking that radio was pretty quite and wondering if I should call the tower and remind him I was waiting. That’s when I noticed my radio was still tuned to Ground Control. I don’t know if he was calling me, but I set the radio to the Tower frequency and told him I was ready for takeoff and he told me to position and hold on 31R. The big moment, no going back once I took off. I got the clearance and was heading down the runway without really thinking. A fine takeoff, I reached 700’ which is my usual altitude for turning crosswind, as I turned I realized the turn was quite a bit sooner than usual. That was the effect of Grainne’s meager weight on the planes climb. Got turned onto downwind and overshoot pattern altitude slightly. Usually, I can wait until after the turn to level off, but without the weight I hit the altitude somewhere on crosswind. I had one plane ahead of me in the pattern. I saw him turning onto base as I flew downwind. I started a normal descent abeam the numbers and I guess either he was much slower than me, or I turned onto base too soon. Either way as I came up on final, he was still short final. I was just thinking, he’s not going to be clear of the runway in time when Tower said “that’s not going to work, go around”. So my first solo landing resulted in a go around. Second time through the pattern there was a plane coming straight in to 31R. The Tower told me he was “over the Mall, and I was number 2 to land”. I couldn’t see him but as I was already a little passed the Mall I decided that he must be past me and I could turn base. Bad decision, he was further out than Tower said and I ended up way to close to his backside on final. This time, I called the go around even sooner. Moral of the story always get the traffic in sight. So a second go around, I was starting to wonder if I was ever going to get back on the ground. Next time through, I had just started my descent abeam the numbers, when Tower told me there was a plane again coming straight in for 31R, he also said “over the Mall” but this time I wasn’t fooled. I saw him about a half mile further out and waited for him to pass my wing before turning. That is the long downwind shown on the GPS track. I had to put on some power once it became apparent I was going further downwind than expected and I really had to play with the glide slope as the final approach was about twice as long as usual. The landing was OK, a little flat but not too hard. My first solo landing, just two more to go.

Tradewinds doesn’t allow solo pilots to do touch and go’s, so every landing is to a full stop. It certainly spaces things out and gives you time to catch your breath. Did my after landing checklist and taxied back for takeoff. Another takeoff on 31R and right traffic. This time everything went well and I made a second landing, though the flare was better I was moving a little sideways when I touched down so I got some side force on the landing gear. Another takeoff and around the pattern for my last landing. Again a fine approach and then the flare when bad, just like the first attempt of the day, so another go around. The last landing was pretty much like the second, nose was high, but I was moving a little sideways on touch down. Still, three landings with me and plane both undamaged – that will do nicely for today.

Taxied back and got the plane parked, its hard work when you have to push it on your own. Grainne turned up with an instant camera and she took a couple of pictures of me grinning like an idiot for the notice board and a couple of shots on my own camera. I finished locking up and we headed back to the office. Grainne wrote up my shiny new solo endorsement on my license and the various endorsements in my logbook (which technically she should have done before I flew). She then proceeded to get me to cut the back out of my tee shirt. I guess its an old tradition when you solo your “shirt tails” get cut off. I’ve read that it goes back to the biplane days when your instructor sat behind the student. They didn’t have intercoms so to get his students attention the instructor would pull his students shirt tails. Cutting them off was freeing yourself from the instructor when you soloed. We had fun writing my name on it, drawing pictures and tacking it to the notice board along with the picture.

So now I’m to be let loose to fly planes around Reid Hillview. I guess I thought that I would solo, take a few more dual lessons and then sort of gradually solo a few more times. Not at all, Grainne wants me to fly this weekend solo and practice landings at RHV. We will fly together again on Monday and go down to South County and maybe Hollister so that I can get endorsements to fly there and land. That will pretty much opens up the whole practice area to me to fly solo. I’m looking forward to this weekend.

Tuesday October 8th 2002, 2pm, N4754D, 1.3H

So today was my pre-solo stage-check, it went very well. The stage check consists of an oral test and a practical test with one of the senior CFI’s at Tradewinds. Grainne set it up for me, the CFI she chose was a guy called Tony Plumb. He turned out to be a young guy with a goatee, but real nice. The way Tradewinds conducts training is very precise, Tony came armed with a checklist of topics to cover in the oral part, and he pretty much systematically worked his way down the list. I guess checklists are just second nature to aviators. The questions covered the FAA regulations, mostly on what are the limitations placed on a solo student pilot. The operation of the plane’s systems like the engine and the instruments. Some questions on the local airspace and the airspace around South County. Some questions on the length of runways at RHV and Q99 and how much of said runways I usually need to takeoff and land. We covered density altitude and its effects on performance – basically the less dense the air than the worse the plane works. We spend some time going over the SFO Sectional Chart and demonstrating I could identify different airspace types and read the airport info from the chart. Lastly we covered some emergency procedures like what to do if you have an engine fire in flight and what to do if you have a total electrical failure inbound to RHV. I really didn’t have any problems with any of the questions, I’m good at book learning and the technical stuff is mother’s milk to me. I went to have a smoke, got the key book, borrowed a headset and headed out to pre-flight 54D.
No issues with the pre-flight, got a fuel fill up while I was just finishing up. Tony turned up and we got started. I had fun telling him how to undo his seatbelt, but on a stage check you have to make sure to do the passenger briefing, so he got the full spiel on the how to use a seatbelt, the under-wing emergency exits, the secondary rear exit (the baggage door) and not to touch the controls or talk when somebody else was talking on radio. We had a normal taxi, but had a little trouble with the left magneto, but I did what I had been shown and it cleared it. The takeoff on 31R went well, just a little drift to the left when we lifted off. Flew the right pattern and exited downwind. I had a Cessna 152 ahead of me and a new Cessna 172 behind me. It was funny, I out climbed the 152 easily on my way to 3500’ and then turned to look out my right window to see that the new 172 had caught up with me and was passing to the right. The newer Skyhawks have a bit more power than the 33 year old plane I was flying. I remembered to complete the climb checklist and the cruise checklist when we leveled off. It was sweet, I nailed 3500’ and pretty much kept it here plus/minus 10 feet.

Because of the traffic around us we flew a little further South to Anderson Reservoir and I did a clearing turn to the right and another to the left, completed my maneuvering checklist and then started slow flight. I lost about 300’ slowing down because I was slow to add power to stop the descent. Tony asked me to gain it back, so I added power and we slowly climbed back to 3500’. This was the right answer, pitch for speed, power for altitude. Then a couple of turns at slow speed, which went well thought I let the aircraft pickup a little speed in the turn. I should have added some power, I think I need to practice this some more. Then powered back up to cruise did a couple more clearing turns and setup for a power off stall. This went fine until the actual recovery, I actually forgot to add full power until Tony pointed it out – stupid mistake, but the only major one of the day. A 180 degree turn and then a power on stall, which went well, had good rudder control and we maintained our heading fairly well. Still the stalls need practice as well.

We did another two clearing turns (Tony believes in “clearing turns for clearing turns”) and we started into steep turns, one to the right and another to the left. These were passable, but I really need to apply more back pressure in the turn and keep the nose up. We lost some altitude and gained some speed. This is the hardest part of steep turns, but they were fun to do all the same. At this point Tony pulled out the power and told me I had lost an engine, he didn’t put carb heat on, but I think he noted that I did it for him, so I hopefully scored some brownie points there.

I did a good job of getting best glide and trimming for it. I knew we were close to South County but when I located it out the back window I couldn’t judge if was it inside glide distance or not. I hummed and hawed a bit before deciding I should just turn around and see what it looked like from the front. As soon as I turned it was apparent I could easily make the straight in approach to runway 32. Tony took care of the radio and a nice couple of planes in the pattern made way for us to allow us the straight in landing. I got through all the checklists, including actually getting out the checklist, and continued to fly the plane and getting us on final for the runway. It was clear we were high, so I got a full 30 degrees of flaps in and we made a fine landing with only a little drift to the right due to a crosswind that just caught me as I flared. But a nose high, no bounce (one handed) soft and gentle landing. Just great!. We got off the runway and I completed the post-landing checklist and taxied back to the takeoff point. Tony told me to make a circuit of the pattern and this time handle all the radio work on the way around. There was just one plane turning base, but I had plenty of time to get lined up and takeoff. It turns out that South County has a rule about making turns in the pattern, you are not supposed to turn under traffic pattern altitude (1300’). I hadn’t known this before and had been turning at 800’ (or the usual 500’ AGL), Tony said we should follow the rule so it was a long climb up to 1300 on the upwind leg, then a simultaneous level of, reduce power and turn to crosswind. This actually went very well and I nailed the 1300’ altitude. The approach for the second landing went fine, right on glide slope and another fine, no bounce, one the center line landing. We did the touch and go and Tony said head for home. So I started the climb back up to 3500’ and headed for the call in point at UTC. I remembered to complete the climb checklist and was just listening to RHV ATIS when we leveled off at 3500’ close to UTC. I made the call to the Tower and was told to make the straight in approach to 31L and report at 3 miles. At 3500’ we were high, so I started the descent right away, a nice 500 FPM, 90 KIAS powered glide.

At this point another plane called in from Calaveras, whose call sign was 45D (very similar to our 54D) and another plane in the pattern was calling in with 475 (also very similar to our 4754D). So the Tower had three planes all coming in to land and all with almost identical call signs and he proceeded to get more and more confused. I made the 3 mile call and took great care to clearly say my full call sign and was cleared to land on 31L. Shortly afterwards 45D called in on the right 45 for 31R. The Tower, then cleared ME (54D) to land on 31R instead of 45D. At this point Tony called in and asked for clarification – did 54D have clearance for 31L? the Tower then said “Um 54D is cleared for 31R, no um 31L”. Tony repeated back the clearance for 31L and both of basically rolled our eyes to heaven. We figured that we didn’t appear to have anything in left traffic for 31L and we had the clearance, also 45D didn’t seem confused, he knew he was headed for 31R so we looked good to land. At this point we were coming over Eastridge Mall, I had slowed at the 3 mile point and had in 20 degrees of flaps, I got in the last 10 degrees and setup for 65 KIAS on short final. The landing was beautiful, right on center line, no bounce, one hand and nose high – everything was good. Tony helped a little in breaking (I’m still a bit timid on the breaks) and we exited at taxiway C and were cleared to cross 31R. I called Ground Control and go cleared to taxi back to parking. In a final fit of confusion, Ground Control called himself “Reid Hillview Tower”. As we taxied back along Zulu the Bonanza with the 45D call sign was stopped at taxiway D. We heard, Ground Control tell him “Be advised, there is another plane on the ground with a similar call sign”, to which the pilot in 45D replied with an audibly sigh “we know that”.

The debrief went well, Tony said I was ready to solo whenever Grainne thought the time was right, basically a nice calm day, without too much crosswind. He said my oral exam was well above average and my flying was excellent for my current stage of training. He nitpicked a couple of things, like the delay in turning back to South County when the engine “failed” and the loss of altitude in the steep turns. But otherwise we were both pretty happy with how things had gone. I’m still not quite sure why the landings have gotten so much better. I can’t really point to a single thing I feel I’m doing differently from when they were terrible. To some extent I’m a little worried that I’ll “lose it” and they will revert to previous performance (or lack thereof). Still, if I fly with Grainne and land a couple of times like I did today, then I’ll really feel ready to do it on my own. I hope its soon, I’m eager to get it past me and start the next phase of the training.

Sunday October 6th 2002, 9am, N739YE, 1.3H

Another perfect flying day. The sky was crystal clear, winds calm, ATIS had 19C. I pulled into Tradewinds just after Grainne, our plane wasn’t back yet so we spent a little time going over my flight yesterday with Yoed. Grainne answered my questions about the fuel primer, its floods the engine if you leave it on and the flaps during a go-around, both methods are correct, the idea is to accelerate and take them off in stages so you don’t sink into the ground. We decided to go back to South County and do some emergency engine failure procedures along the way.
Had a normal pre-flight, except once again I couldn’t transmit on the radio. The audio panel and radio claimed we were transmitting but I never got a reply from either Ground Control or the Tower. I’m now convinced that my headset is to blame. So, as Grainne’s radio transmissions were fine we decided to proceed and let her do the radio. On the run-up the left magneto was bad, the engine coughed and spluttered. I tried 10 seconds at 2200 RPM and it didn’t clear, then we tried the same at full power, that worked. Had a nice smooth take-off and a downwind departure.

We climbed to 3500’ and along side Anderson Reservoir Grainne pulled out the throttle to simulate and engine failure. I knew I could make South County from there, but I wasn’t sure if I could make the full downwind, base and final approach to runway 32. I pitched for 65 KIAS and got through the checklists fine (this time remembering to take out the checklist). The only error I made was not to just make straight for the downwind leg, instead a turned a little left of the airport thinking to come in on the 45. Once I got close it was apparent that I couldn’t make the full downwind, I decided to make the straight in approach to runway 14, this would have been pretty easy. There were at least two planes in the pattern using runway 32 so we applied power climbed to 2000’ and crossed above the airport. Given the traffic around South County we decided to head south to Frazier Lake.

Grainne pulled the power again a little north of Frazier Lake, but too far to make the runway. I picked a nice big field right in front. I was a bit unsure if it was really inside my glide distance, but in the event we would have made it without problems. The only problem was the cows in the field. In hindsight there was another field just next to the one I picked, but without cows. Again I got through the checklists without problems. We made a nice big turn back towards South County and I just enjoyed the flight at 1500’. Usually its a bit bumpy to fly this low, but today the air was completely still.

We entered left traffic behind another plane, as I had to wait for him to pass me we made a later than normal turn to base and final. Still, I timed starting the descent well, and we were nicely on glide slope for the approach. The landing went well, again using one hand. The only mistake I made was to release the back pressure once my main wheels were on the ground. This caused the nose wheel to bump down on the runway a little hard. We did the touch and go and entered the left traffic pattern. Grainne pulled the power about midfield on the downwind leg. So landing two was without power, it went fine, a little flat but very soft. Another touch and go and this time I pulled the power about the same spot and made a second power-off landing. This one was just fine. We did the touch and go and headed for home. That was three landings, all with one hand and all fine.

On the way to our call in point for RHV, we tried an experiment to determine how much altitude you need to get back to the runway if you loose your engine on takeoff. Basically, this it one of the worst scenarios. You have to make a choice between landing straight ahead in a built up area or trying to turn back to land on the runway behind you. The big question is “do I have enough altitude to make a 180 degree turn?”. If you decide to make the turn and you don’t have enough altitude, then you will crash before the turn is finished, in other words an uncontrolled impact with the ground. Making straight ahead you at least have the chance to control the landing, even if its onto a less than ideal spot. So somewhere between about 300’ AGL and 1000’ AGL there is a minimum safe altitude where you can turn back. The actual altitude depends on a number of things such as the wind, the temperature, the plane and the pilot’s skill. So, it makes sense to simulate the situation at a safe altitude and find out how much altitude is needed. First, we tried a shallow turn starting at 3500’ with the engine out. It took 450’ to make the turn. Then after climbing to 2700’ we tried it in a steep 45 degree turn, this time we lost 350’. This was a useful exercise, in the real event there would be additional reaction time as your accepted that the engine had quit and the stress level would be a lot higher, plus you need a little margin to establish an approach and land under control.

We got the ATIS for RHV and Grainne called in. I made the straight in approach to 31L without any prompting. I did the descent checklist, I’m not sure if I did the landing checklist, Grainne didn’t say anything and I can’t remember. This was the first time I’ve made this landing (straight in) without any inputs. In the event we came in high and landed a little far down the runway. I should have adjusted the approach a little earlier to get on glide slope. But, the landing itself was ok, a slight float up, but the recovery was fine. I let it roll to taxiway E and got off the runway.

So, in the last three lessons I’ve done 17 landings without a single unplanned go-around. While the landings have not all been perfect, they have all been either OK or adequate. I think my major landings problems are behind me. I wish I could point to one single thing that helped me get over it. The two handed landings on Thursday gave me some confidence that I could do it. The lesson with Yoed helped on looking in the right places and proved one hand could do it. Today’s flight reinforced yesterday’s learning. My next flight will be the stage one checkride either on Tuesday or Thursday afternoon. I’m actually looking forward to it.

Saturday October 5th 2002, 8am, N5766J, 1.1H

Today I flew with Yoed again. It was my earliest flight so far starting at 8am. The weather was beautiful, the sun was rising just as I arrived at the airport, crystal blue sky and the barest whisper of wind. ATIS had the temperature at 14C, but it didn’t feel cold. Yoed, arrived pretty much on time. We went over what I have done before with Grainne, he wanted to make sure I was used to the pattern work. I talked to him about the two hands issue during the flare. Predictably, he thought it was a bad idea, and that I shouldn’t get used it, because it was just developing a bad habit right at the start. I was skeptical, but he assured me that it could be done. I figured that I’d give it another try with one hand and see what happened, I don’t think he would have accepted anything else and I didn’t feel confident enough that this was my problem to really disagree. In any case, he’s the teacher, so its a real waste of my time and money if I don’t listen to him.
The only new item during the start-up was priming the engine before starting. Because its cold and hasn’t been flown since yesterday you get a little fuel into the carburetor before starting. The primer is a little knob that you twist and then pull in and out three times, you have to make sure it in and locked once your done – left on it can cause problems with the engine later, I’m not sure why, but I’ll ask Grainne tomorrow. We had a standard taxi, run-up and takeoff, except I missed the “check flight controls” item on the run-up, first time I’ve ever done that. We took off on 31L and entered left traffic. Right away you see that Yoed is much more detailed in his instruction compared to Grainne. Whenever he sees you do something even a little wrong, he tells you to correct it. So while Grainne pretty much lets me fly around the pattern unhindered, Yoed coached me on better use of the rudder and better pitch control during the turns. Basically, my turns are still a bit sloppy, not fully coordinated and I often let the nose drop a little at the end of the turn and then pop up again when I roll out. None of this is fatal, but its just sloppy flying – it shows even the basics require attention and practice.

Yoed had decided that the first two circuits we would simply over-fly the runway trying to keep the plane first 10’ above the ground, then 5’ above. I would keep my right hand on my knee and he would take care of the throttle. This was to help me get the feel of fine control with my left arm flying in ground effect, without the distractions of making and actual landing or controlling the power. On short final he took the throttle. The first attempt was marginal, once again it was difficult to keep the plane from sinking and I was a little late starting to pull back to get enough pitch to keep the plane flying level. We did the go-around and the second time was not much better, we actually touched the wheels on the runway and bounced a little, powered up and went around. I had a few problems keeping the nose low enough to pick up speed and Yoed gave me a little help on the climb out. Its a bit disconcerting, but you really need to fly level along the ground to pick-up speed, even if this points you right at the trees at the end of the runway. Another difference with Yoed is how he takes the flaps up on the go around. Basically, he had me bring them to 20 degrees and then keep them there until we reached about 65 KIAS. It takes a long time to accelerate to that speed with 20 degrees of flaps. I need to pin down with both CFI’s what is exactly the correct procedure, because I’m not clear and its pretty important when your that close to the ground.

I think Yoed decided that my problem was really just judging the sink rate correctly, rather than anything to do with how many hands I used. We proceeded to do 9 “one handed” touch and goes without any go-arounds or really screwed up landings. Yoed pretty constantly drilled me on looking at the right place at the right time. I have two definite problems that I can recognize, but which I still need to fix consistently. First, when I should pause in pulling back the yoke, I tend to actually push it forward slightly. I kept doing this, even though my brain said “hold” my treacherous left arm pushed. I’m not sure how to stop this other than practice. Second, I have tendency to get the plane level above the center line and then “close my eyes and hope” it lands itself. I really don’t close my eyes, but my control inputs become much less positive (especially on the rudders). So I had some problems drifting to the left because of lack of right rudder. This is another thing to focus on and try and bring the concentration level a bit higher at the critical moment. The biggest thing I got out of today was focusing on the end of the runway – the very end, to judge the start of the flare. Basically, Yoed said “look at the trees” that are off the end of the runway. This really made it clear how far down I needed to look. I think before I was just looking about two thirds along. It was another of those “Ah Ha” moments, when you know you have done something differently from before and it has worked much better.

So its true, you can land a plane with one hand. I still think its more difficult, but I suspect that is because, my right hand was preventing the treacherous left hand push when I used both hands, so it fixed one of my biggest sins. The reason I needed to pause the back pressure is because I’m misjudging the start of the flare which I hope will improve with focusing on the very end of the runway. I’m flying again tomorrow morning with Grainne, we’ll do some emergency procedures and hopefully get in some more landings to see if I can repeat what I learned today.