Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ups and Downs - The Downs

Many have heard the old saw about flight training... "It has its Ups and Downs". Today was a great example of how flying has its ups and downs, and not just in altitude.

Today's plan was for me to get practice normal landings, then go to the practice area and practice steep turns and stall recovery. Then after up to two hours of me flying, Jeff and I were going to fly the Bonanza up to Chico or somewhere else far away as a bit of a "shakedown" flight, figuring out how we will log fuel burn, switching tanks, etc. when we fly to Denver later this week. Well, half of the day went as planned.

The Downs

I went up in niner three kilo to do some landings, we were using runways 13 again (which is unusual for this time of year but we've been using runways 13 a lot recently at RHV). The winds were reported calm, and the temp wasn't too high yet because it was still morning. While the winds were "calm" it was very bumpy and unsettled in the air over and around the airport. Not the worst I've flown in, but not what I would call "calm". No big deal though.. that's flying sometimes.

The first time around I was too low on approach and did a go around. The second time around I was doing good on the approach but a cross wind came up suddenly right before round out and pushed the plane sideways and lit up the stall warning horn (weird).. so I did a go around. The third time around the approach was good, airspeed good, landed very lightly on the mains, then suddenly the plane was on one wheel (or felt like it). I got it back on all 3 wheels and just did my best to slow it down by making sure the power was out all the way. I let the plane slow itself down some more then got on the brakes and stopped it. Screw directional control.. I felt like it was everything I had to keep the plane on the runway. That scared me, a lot. So bad I requested to terminate and go back to parking. So that's what I did. I parked the plane and cried. I'll admit it. That's what I did...

Afterwords I talked to Jeff about what happened. He assured me I did the right thing, both by stopping the plane without hurting it or myself and by parking when I was upset. Part of me kept saying I should have gone back up there and faced the fear immediately. Or maybe I should have gone back up a hour later. But I didn't. There is no point in second guessing it now. The good thing is I have a flight lesson tomorrow so I have one more chance for a good flight before I go out of town for 10 days (on the trip in the Bonanza).

Jeff and I did our shakedown flight shortly thereafter. When we got back from that flight I was a little afraid when we came in to land at Reid-Hillview, but Jeff did an awesome landing. One can't be afraid of landing at one's home airport, so this is something I'll just have to get over. I'm not willing to give up on my dream of flying over this.

I remembered talking with another student pilot (now a certificated private pilot). He was saying how he had an awful landing... I asked if the CFI had to take the controls, he said no. I asked if anyone was hurt or if the plane was hurt, he said no. Then I said, sounds like an OK landing to me. So maybe I should be listening to my own advice. As they say.. any landing you can walk away from.... its time for me to walk away from that one landing. I'm not giving up, so I'd better leave that one behind.

After Jeff and I got back from our flight I went out to niner three kilo and opened the door to the cockpit, I looked around and touched and smelled... it looked and smelled and felt like a Cessna. It felt comfortable and like a happy place. I've spent many, many hours in that cockpit. I smiled, closed the door, ran my fingers over the leading edges of the prop and patted the spinner. The plane looked beautiful in the late afternoon light. It will be OK. I will be OK. I will earn my own Private Pilot License too some day.

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