Sunday, October 28, 2007

2nd Dual Cross Country

Today we flew from our home base of Zelienople to Latrobe Airport (AKA Arnold Palmer Regional, LBE). Due to a maintenance snafu with our standing N89549 C152, we ended up taking the only plane available, our sweet 172SP with the oh-so-comfortable leather seats. Mike and I had flight planned the night before (I received the longest weather briefing in my short flying career, 15 minutes?), and today I would get some more experience with the VOR navigation, pilotage and talking to the control tower. I've heard there is a decent restaurant at LBE but we were in a bit of a rush to get the plane back for our club president. The tower did hold us for an inordinately long period of time at the hold-short area, and we could not figure out why, but after 10 minutes or so, she let us get on our way. I also got some experience with getting cut off by another plane in the pattern. We were doing a straight-in on 35 at Zeli and another plane dove down to a lower elevation to get in front of us on final saying over the radio that he had the right of way. I will say though, he was a good guy, coming over later to apologize and saying that he was incorrect an that we indeed did have the right of way.
Final on Runway 35 at Zeli (PJC)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Poker Run (and 1st Dual X-Country)

Mike has talked me into doing the Condor Poker Run (actually it's run by our venerable mechanic, so I think officially it's Jason's Aircraft Repair 4th Annual Poker Run). Anyway, I drove to the airport arriving about 8:55AM to attend the Condor Winter Seminar which focused on policies and procedures for handing, storing and using the airplanes in the wintertime. As usual, it was well organized, well run and informative. Kieth, the instructor giving the seminar, was even generous enough to bring donuts! After the seminar, Mike hustled me into our C152 (is there ever a relaxing moment?? :) as it was our duty to drop off the cards at the respective airports. In addition, we would hit Port Meadville to make it officially 50nm away from PJC so it would count as a cross country. The plan was KPJC to KUCP to 4G1 to KGKJ to KFKL to KBTP and back to KPJC.

The first thing I noticed after we took off runway 17 from Zelienople, was that it was windy, DAMN windy. The AWOS at Zeli was calling for 16 knot winds gusting to 25. The first leg to New Castle (UCP) was bouncy but we found the airport with just a little fussing around. Then came my first seriously x-winded and gusty landing. I have to admit, that it was hairy and truthfully Mike did most of the work at the end, it was bad. We popped in to say hi to Marty, the FAA examiner who will likely perform my checkride in the future, and dropped off the first batch of cards. We took off and headed to Greenville (4G1).

We found 4G1 fairly easily and landed on the grass airstrip that rolled over the paved runway. Dropped our cards off, took a bathroom break, said bye to the Civil Air Patrol guys and headed out to the runway. Here is where things got real interesting. Again with 16-20 knot winds and now gusting to 30, we gunned the 152, using all of the runway, with a direct crosswind. The problem however was the wind shifted into a tail wind about halfway down the runway with the airspeed indicator showing about 55. At this point the end of the runway was rapidly approaching and we were having trouble generating lift. Mike took over at this point and after a wheel bounce on the left, a wheel bounce on the right, he got the thing airborne, barely. I swear I could see the veins on the leaves as we just cleared the trees at the end of the runway.

So now we headed off to Port Meadville (GKJ) which a quick stop without shutting down as we did not need to deposit cards there. The we left for Franklin (FKL) for another very interesting experience. Franklin is, or was, used by USAir for I believe a flight a day, so the runway is fairly long, wide and has a PAPI. Coming in on final we were high with the PAPI showing four white. About 1/4M from the end of the runway, we were hit by a low level wind shear event which immediately to us to four red. Mike jammed in the throttle and for a few seconds it seemed like we were standing still. Luckily with Mike's quick reaction on the throttle we were able to squeak on to the end of the runway. A little shaken, but undeterred in our mission, we dutifully dropped off the Franklin box of cards, checked out the decent looking Italian restaurant there and headed out to Butler (BTP).

The trip to Butler and then on the Zelienople were relatively uneventful considering the rest of the day, and upon landing at Zeli we traipsed into Jason's repair shop for some much needed decompressing. Needless to say, I head learned a few good lessons today about flying in winds such as what we experienced, but the most important lesson being, until I've got several hundred hours under my belt, I'll stay home on days like today, and maybe even after several hundred hours...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

1st Solo

just had to post about my first solo last night as it was just such an awesome experience. Got to the airport about 5:45PM (and sunset is now about 7PM). Usually I'm early to get the plane prepped and preflighted, but today I was running late. My instructor (who rocks) got my back and had the plane ready to go (for which I thanked him profusely). Not being sure if this was solo day or not, we hopped in and did a few T/Os and landings. We had a decent x-wind which was cool because I finally had gotten the hang on them and was enjoying it. First two landings were pretty solid and right as I was getting ready to go after the touch, my instructor pulled the throttle back, and said "_____ it, I'm getting out!". So we taxied off the runway over onto the tarmac next to the jet hangar, shutdown, he signed my book, grabbed his stuff, and said good luck.

So at this point, I had a little butt clench going on, but then I just grabbed the checklist from inbetween the seats and started going over it. After that things just fell into place. Did the startup, and runup sequence, announced my intentions to takeoff runway 35 and did it. Boy did that 152 leap into the air without Mike on board! The sun was now getting pretty low in the sky, visibility was great, which made for a really unbelievable evening.

Came in, stuck the first landing pretty good, a little to the left, but overall one of my better ones. Mike crackled over the radio "Niiiice". Full stop, taxied back and took off for the second trip around the pattern. Radio had been very quiet as it had stormed a bit around 4PM, which I think keep a lot of GA planes in their houses, but right at the beginning of downwind, I heard a very professional "____Hotel Hotel Citation 20 miles out straight in for runway 35" and I thought, "hey that's my runway, but he's 20 miles away so I'm good." At the end of downwind, less than one minute later, I hear "____Hotel Hotel Citation 10 miles out straight in for runway 35" and I was like "holy crap, 10 miles in under a minute, he's going over 600 miles an hour!, and I'm going at the speed of smell". I turned base and announced very clearly to make sure I didn't get run over, kept checking out my right window to see if I could see him, but nothing yet. Turned final and heard him say he was 5 miles out. Stuck another halfway decent landing all things considered and taxied off announcing I was clear of the active. Sure enough, as I was taxing back to the end of the runway for one more, that big 'ol Citation landing in our little podunk airport, pretty cool sight to see up close.

So he clears out, one more once around the pattern and I was done. My instructor was fired up, I was fired up, it was pretty damn cool. We took off again to go fuel up at a local FBO, and he comes over with a pair of scissors innocently asking what it said on the back of my t-shirt. Next thing I know, there's a cool breeze across the bottom of my back and Mike is standing there holding his "scalp". So I got clipped. We flew back to base and our club mech (who also rocks) handed me a 1pt Straub. Beer never tasted so good....

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Pre Solo Check Ride Check

Last flight today with Mike before my pre-solo check with Keith. Landings are getting there, no quite there, but getting there. My right thumb is now permanently glued to the throttle.