Sunday, December 18, 2011

Willows Finally!

I finally flew to Willows today. It was a day of a couple firsts... my first flight to Willows (WLW) as PIC. My first cross country in a 172SP. My first aborted takeoff requested by a tower. My first non-training night cross country return. Today was my last chance to get in a cross country flight before the Christmas break and a trip to Houston to visit family. I was anxious to be able to complete a flight before the time away.

Our rented SP at WLW. Ready to go home.
About the trip.. I got to exercise the new skill I learned last week, the aborted take off. This time because the tower cancelled my take off clearance after I started my takeoff roll. A Citabria landed on the parallel runway and didn't read back the hold instructions the tower gave them not to cross my runway. So the tower had me abort to be sure of no crash. I was ready for that to happen because I heard the lack of response from the Citabria. I was ready to abort myself if the other pilot didn't stop. In any case, I brought the plane to a very nice stop and exited on Delta.. then taxied back to try again.

128kts ground speed for
115 kts IAS. Not bad :)
The flight to Willows was mostly uneventful. We got flight following of course and had a lot of traffic pointed out to us on the way. The air was rather hazy in the valley but the flight was smooth and it was a very familiar route.. part of why we picked that destination. I was flying a plane I wasn't familiar with so I wanted to reduce the number of unfamiliar variables I had to deal with (that and I've been wanting to fly to Willows myself for months, literally!).  We had a headwind on the way there but we took off with full fuel so that would not be a problem at all.

As usual I had no problem with radio work, or the cruise portion of the flight. My pattern needs help though. I keep forgetting to pick a target point when I turn base and I find I am rusty on power off landings still. In any case I got us on the ground with a smooth landing and we enjoyed the food at Nancy's Airport Cafe and watched the Broncos play on TV for a while. We ordered a slice of pie for our daughter and then headed back out to the plane for the trip home.

For the return trip I opted to take off on runway 16 since that pointed us the direction we'd be going. I announced our intentions over CTAF and was in the runup for 16 when a blue taildragger took off on the same runway in the opposite direction. Welcome to the world of the non-towered airport. People aren't required to use radios at these airports. That plane was a good reminder of why we have to keep our eyes peeled for people who aren't listening or talking about where they are going.

This plane has a very well lit panel.
On the way back it got dark.. as scheduled. I found this plane is a pleasure to fly at night. It has a very well lit instrument panel. Strobes and separate landing and taxi lights in addition to the required navigation lights and beacon. I felt a bit safer with those stobes going as we approached the busy Livermore to Calaveras corridor where planes approach from all over the central valley to transition into the bay area proper. I wanted to fly into the bay area over the Sunol grade, but I spotted a cloud bank that I would have to fly around if I took that route. So I switched to come in over Calaveras reservoir.

I got to do my first night landing in that plane too .. I almost forgot to turn on the landing lights, but I did on short final. Because of that momentary distraction I let the airspeed go down below the normal approach speed. As a result I ended up landing a short field landing. I was wondering how to do a short field landing in a plane with only 30 degrees of flaps. Turns out the answer is easy, fly slower.

I definitely need to practice more on many of my flying skills.. power off landings and learning this particular plane are two of them. At the end of the day I'm just happy about the flight, about being able to fly and spend time with my husband in the plane. I finally made it to Willows as PIC and got to log more cross country and night cross country time too. I hope for many many more days like this one.

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