Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cubbin' It

Sweet little J-3 Piper Cub
I had a great flying weekend this weekend. One I desperately needed after a long period of too much work, getting sick, slow recovery leaving me exhausted and major frustration with lack of progress in my flying.

First, Saturday morning I was finally able to make some progress on a flying problem I've been having. My CFI helped, of course, and I was able to end my lesson with a smile on my face and some optimism for the future.

Second, another pilot I know offered me a chance to go fly in his Piper J-3 Cub. It's a perfectly maintained cub from the 1930s and it was FUN FUN FUN! I've never flown in a tail wheel before, not to mention something so simple and pure fun as this plane. We kept the big window open... sometimes opened the door. The air was cool but comfortable and it was sooooo neat to be flying with wind in my hair and to go so slowly. I really did feel like a bird.

Me and the cub's owner.
BIG smiles all around!
We took off and flew slowly to the ridge line near RHV and did some maneuvers, coordination exercises, slow flight and stalls. Then we came back in and did some touch n' gos at RHV. Talk about different. I am not used to coming in to land absolutely unable to see straight ahead. That was a totally different type of landing. We did three and then it was time to come in ... the plumb bob fuel gauge indicated we had about 3 gallons left (we took off with 7 gallons and had an hour of fun on 4 gallons of fuel).

Third, after confirming I would be allowed to sleep myself out Sunday morning, I flew myself up to Willows to meet up with my husband and racing friends for dinner Saturday night. Willows is a special place to me for many reasons. For this trip it was just nice to do a solo cross country flight with nothing to do but fly. I've been having on heck of a month(s) and I needed a break. As requested by my hubby I did a little fly by of the race track to wave at the racers before turning to land at WLW.

Then it happened, I was on final for runway 16 at Willows with a 10-15 knot wind on my nose and I found myself flying a perfect final approach. It's hard to describe but the best way I can describe it is this. Nothing moved. I was looking at the runway and it wasn't moving left or right. The numbers weren't moving up or down. They just got subtly.... slowly....  bigger. It was almost disorienting. I've become so used to gusts, downdrafts and updrafts over the mall by RHV, and changing winds on short final. I've been working on not making unnecessary changes on final but I've not seen this particular view in recent memory. There was nothing for me to do but run through my pre-landing checklist until I was over the fence and ready to round out and land. The landing was good too! What a gift!

Small but mighty cub!
This morning I slept in and went by Nancy's for breakfast and to pick up the obligatory pie. I flew back mid day and the air was actually cool at 5500 feet. As I flew back I practiced observing the small visual and physical queues you can get when flying. I used the tips of my toes for very gentle rudder pressure to make 1 and 2 degree course corrections to fly exactly the course I wanted without using my hands. I monitored the oil temp and pressure gauges, EGT, fuel pressure, switched tanks and thought the engine never runs as smooth as I'd like it. The 1 hour flight went smoothly until I got on the leeward side of Mt. Diablo and the invisible winds kicked me around. That was not unexpected.

I requested the option when I came in to RHV so I could practice more of what I was working on with my CFI. The first touch down was close, so I did a touch and go and went around for another landing. I had to fight to keep the plane aligned with the runway on short final with the erratic winds but still did a good, not great but good touch down. I decided to call it a day. I'll come when conditions are better.

I'm tired as I write this... but it's a happy tired. I've got the "gotta fly" itch again - which is a great sign. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to fly in the awesome little cub (can't wait to do it again), make progress in my flying and be able to take a break and enjoy flying with some actual skill. I needed that. 

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