Thursday, January 20, 2022

Alone at Night

My student has progressed enough in his training to begin night flying. Therefore I needed to go out and update my night currency. It was a beautiful winter's evening in Florida with nearly a full moon. I got to the airport about an hour early so I could preflight in the daylight. The only discrepancy I had was dead batteries in my flashlight.

Even though I hadn't flown her in a while, Sally started easily and the numbers for the runup were all good. It was still too early to be counted as officially "night time" but I took the runway anyway. You can never have too much landing practice.

The first circuit ended with a "go around". I had given plenty of space to the guy in front but he lingered on the active runway too long for me to feel comfortable that he would be clear before I touched down. Well, that's good practice too and now it was officially "night".

As I turned crosswind I reported, "number two" behind a Cessna. Shortly after another plane called "number three" behind me on downwind. I watched "number one" on final and made sure to give him a little extra space for a full stop landing. I made my normal base leg position report and was surprised to hear "number three" call his base. Not good. 

Yes, I did let him know that he cut me off. Yes, I did go around again. I assume these were students getting some night experience. The rest of the night I had the pattern to myself.

Listen up, pay attention, be careful out there.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

First Solo


The pride of accomplishment for both the student and CFI following the first solo flight.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Waiting your turn

I've been preparing a student for his first solo flight. After a few weather delays, it looked like it was to happen on this flight. All of the weather prognosticators said it would be perfect. We did the preflight, pulled her out of the hangar facing south, and performed the checklists. There was a gray spot of clouds on the horizon. All other sectors were clear blue and calm.

We continued. All systems were "go" and we departed to the west. The gray spot grew. It showed up on our satellite weather screen as a green blob but I still didn't consider it a factor. 

We continued. The first landing wasn't his best.  Maybe nerves so I told him to try another. Meanwhile, I looked south. The gray was darker now and the weather screen showed some yellow in it. The next landing was much better. As we taxied back he asked for my thoughts. I hesitated for just an instant then told him to take us home. As he made his way I looked to the south and saw the showers moving in. It was a good call.

He made a nice landing at our home field (slightly left of centerline) and easily got off at the first taxiway. Then he reported steering problems. We had a flat tire! I'm so glad that didn't happen on his first solo.

Yesterday I went out to exercise Sally. I had hoped to fly to Deland for their Sport Aviation Showcase, but the weather didn't cooperate. So instead I stayed in the pattern at KVDF and practiced my landings. There were about three of us evenly spaced just drilling holes in the sky. It felt pretty good. I was just happy to get out and fly for a little while. Maybe we can do Deland next year.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Happy Halloween


The Florida weather is changing. It was in the mid-'60s when I arrived at the airport. The early morning low clouds were clearing. The winds were predicted to start gusting by mid-afternoon so I had a window of about 3 or 4 hours to give Sally some exercise. While I have been active flying, it just hasn't been in Sally. This would be fun.

Certus is temporarily using my hangar so Sally is using the covered tie-down spot. So it took me extra time to get the covers and plugs removed and untie the tie-down ropes. (So much easier in a hangar.) Everything easily fit in the trunk.

The nose tire was nearly flat and the right main was low. The compressor was back in the hangar, but I had brought along my wife's bicycle pump. A small device, slightly larger than a cell phone, it worked great to inflate the tires without removing the wheel pants! This will become a standard tool in my kit.

The first stop would be KZPH. The jump plane warned me that jumpers would be in the air in two minutes so I decided to practice some steep turns while waiting. A beautiful day with a clear horizon made me realize I need more practice before my Flight Review. I entered the RWY05 pattern on the 45 and did two beautiful T&Gs before the next wave of jumpers. I departed to the west as the jump plane took off beneath me.

I'm just not in love with my Garmin 796. The functionality is fantastic but the ergonomics...well let's just say I liked the 696 better. Trying to touch icons in bumpy air is a challenge. My next destination was X39. The database didn't recognize that. I spent way too much time trying to input this simple "direct to" before I gave up and went to the map mode. I selected the airport from the map, hit the direct button, and bingo, I was on my way. Now I could use the system to check runways, and tune frequencies. Nice. X39 has a nice runway restaurant and their ramp was full but the pattern was empty. I did two more beautiful landings then departed to the east. 

The next stop was KPCM. ASOS told me the winds were out of the west at about 8kts so I planned to enter the pattern for RWY28. But once with 5 miles, the winds had changed to easterly. So I set up for RWY10. I diligently made all of my position calls and was surprised no one else was in the pattern. hmmm. Checked the radio and found there was a Skycatcher on downwind. I just have to be more diligent using that touch screen. Three more beautiful landings and it was time to go home. 

I love flying this airplane.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Going Around

 Video Link: Going Around 

Jake and I have been focused on the landing pattern for the last few flights. Plant City (KPCM) is only a few miles to the west so he is busy when leaving the controlled airspace of KLAL to get ready for a normal entry into a non-towered field. He is getting good at it. On this flight, I wanted to fine-tune all of the procedures and was pretty much non-stop instructing as he maneuvered for the 45 entry. A plane made a courtesy call that he would be passing over the airport midfield at 1500'. I had that plane in sight but the student failed to make his downwind call. The other pilot reminded us, a lesson learned.

I haven't been flying Sally as much as I would like. The weather has been horrible and when it does stop raining I've been trying to get Jake up in his airplane. Today was a good day to give Sally some exercise. Thunderstorms were expected by mid-afternoon so we taxied out about noontime. Hot. OAT read 32. (So 2 x 32 + 32 = 96F). The CHT was good through the runup at about 235, but a long hold short pushed it up to 250. Sally told me she didn't like that. When the last student in front of us finally cleared the runway, CHT had gone past 253. (255 is my abort number.) By the time I turned crosswind, she was back in the 240s.

Normal to light traffic today. Not many students. It seemed like one or two pilots from nearby fields were out for some exercise on a Sunday afternoon. As I was about to finish up a student missed my position calls and took the runway as I was turning short final. Well, that was interesting. I haven't had to do an actual go-around in a while. 

I'm thinking that with all of the advanced technology out there (the "fishfinders" - I hate that term), it still comes down to putting your eyeball on the target. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021


This time I got up before the alarm clock went off. I put a k-cup in the machine then shuffled back to the PC to check on the weather. All green dots in the local area, TAFs said to expect thunderstorms by early afternoon. Time to go.

As I approached the railroad crossing at the head of Dover Road traffic came to a stop. As I looked at MLK Drive that traffic was also stopped. Maybe an accident? So I changed my plan and continued north to SR92. BAM!, more traffic. School has started. I nudged my way into the "congo line" (thanks to the nice lady in the silver minivan) and slowly made my way westward toward the airport. 30 minutes turned into 45 by the time the traffic finally cleared. I'll use alternate routing next time.

A good solid preflight. No leaks, no flats, just a dusty canopy from sitting in the hangar too long. Good run-up, although I had to wait a few minutes for the oil temperature to warm up. (85+F and the engine is running cool. Love it.)

So I get to the hold short line and there are 4 students in the pattern practicing T&Gs, perfectly spaced so that one turns final as another clears the runway. About 30 minutes later there is a break in the action for me to depart. I went over to Plant City which is about 10 miles east. Just one in the pattern there and we each did about 5 landings before departing.

CTAF at home was still very busy. The Traffic Pattern was full and returning traffic was reporting in from all quadrants. I entered the downwind leg from the 45 behind two Cessnas and slowed down accordingly. An Archer reported holding short. So I called back advising him that I would extend my downwind allowing him an interval to depart. I was a little bit nervous that one of the students might have missed my call and turn on base in front of me but that didn't happen. As I turned (a very deep) final the Archer was able to line up and wait and was on the roll as I descended past 500ft.

I landed and was off at the first taxiway causing minimal interruption to the rest of the traffic.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Staying in the Pattern.

I wouldn't have been able to do this before the exhaust wrap was installed. It was about 90F, 65% humidity with light winds. I had to wait in the runup area for the oil temperature to come up. There was a 'Gyro doing touch and goes and a Gulfstream reported a 3-mile base for runway 05. An almost unintelligible student reported 10 miles north (I think). I took off after the Gulfstream cleared the runway and followed behind the Auto-Gyro. I stayed wide and deep giving him plenty of room. The final was a bit long but I nailed it just the same.

The 'Gyro departed and another Cessna entered behind me with a teardrop entry. The next landing was beautiful, almost rolled it on. The next one was a go-around, high and fast. I would grade the last 3 as above average.

The flight lasted less than an hour. What a great vacation.

Back in the hangar.