Monday, January 26, 2015

Against The Wind

It's been a busy week, so I'm late posting for last week's lesson.  Life gets that way sometimes.  

As I watched the METAR for KHNB all day I knew there was going to be a slight chance of being grounded due to the wind.  At times gusts were in the mid to high 20-knot range, so I knew it would be a bumpy ride if we went up.

My lesson was scheduled for 15:30 EDT.  I worked until 15:00 (I'd just returned from a business trip in Tampa, FL the night before which involved working 11 hours on Saturday, so I had some extra time I could flex to leave early.  Worked out perfectly).  

My lesson was scheduled for 15:30.  I made the drive in surprisingly good time for not speeding and arrived at 15:20.  There was what looked to be a Piper Archer doing a touch and go just as I was approaching the extended centerline of Runway 27 on the highway.  He didn't seem to be having too much trouble with the wind, which was comforting.  I parked outside the flight service office and watched him do a couple more patterns.  Randy pulled into the parking lot shortly after.  

34Q was already outside and chocked.  Right away Randy showed me the new interior paneling that went in last week.  It's looking really good.  The leather and seat upholstery hasn't been replaced yet, but will be soon (probably on a day I have a lesson scheduled....).  

There's no other way to say it.  It was a frakkin' windy day.  Here's the METAR from about the time I was doing my walkaround:

KHNB 212035Z AUTO 28012G25KT 10SM FEW050 11/00 A3011 RMK AO1

12 knots, gusting to 25.  The most extreme winds I've encountered so far while flying.  The good news is it was almost straight down the runway.  Great news for takeoff, but since 34Q is parked -90° from the runway heading, climbing up to check fuel quantity is going to be a challenge.  Maybe having a few extra pounds to hold me up there isn't such a bad idea...

Preflight actually wasn't that bad.  Noticed the shiny, recently-rebuilt nose gear strut.  Glad to see that.  Done with passenger briefing, etc, and she started just fine, first time.  Listened to the METAR, heard the above, checked brakes, & taxied to Two-Seven. 

Runup was fairly smooth, no issues with voltage, mag check was good.  It felt good to be back.  Oh, I guess I should mention, it had been 3 weeks since my last flight (12/31) so I was having withdrawals again.  I was getting my fix though, wind or not.

I was doing my usual routine of talking myself through all the checklist steps, but failed to say 'feet to the bottom' when I got on the runway.  As a result, I didn't put my feet all the way down and was actually tapping the brakes slightly on takeoff.  Lesson learned.  Keep up with what I was doing well - talking myself through the steps.  

Departure to the southwest was uneventful, and right away I knew I had my work cut out for me.  "Let's do turns around a point, then we're going to do rectangular course, and finish up with steep turns before we head back and do a couple landings."  "Ah, ground reference maneuvers, in this wind.  This will be fun." I thought.  This will be a definite test of my skills and a real challenge.  Challenge - ACCEPTED.  

I'll keep it short.  After both of us struggling to find a reference point to use for the turns, we found a pond, and I proceeded to do what I felt was a fairly ok job of maintaining distance considering feeling like a pinball.  The same for rectangular course. I started these entering right downwind, because I'm having more difficulty doing them to the right, so I want to focus on doing them first.  

On to the steep turns.  First couple of steep turns were again, in my opinion, ok.  Then he has me try something.  "Pick one of these bugs on the windshield.  Get into your turn, then put that bug on the horizon and keep it there."  I then proceeded to do three 45° turns each direction using this method - all in all the 6 best steep turns I've ever done.  

Before heading back to the airport, he handed me the mini-hood.  I did a few turns & descents, during which he also was feeding me info, then having me check the ATIS for the airport, then feeding me more info.  I did feel just a bit overloaded at one point but managed to maintain focus and process everything successfully.

Back to the airport via GPS while still under the hood & checking ATIS again.  Two touch-and-gos and a full stop landing.  All three were very challenging.  The third time around the pattern set me up for what I felt was one of my better approaches so far, and all was looking good until the roundout.  I knew getting her down was going to be hard all three times with such a strong wind straight down the runway, but the third time, she just didn't want to stop flying.  Bounced a little, but didn't have to compensate because the wind was giving me plenty of extra lift on the way back down.  

After putting 34Q away we headed for the office to debrief, where he informed me all three of my maneuvers would have passed a checkride, and the landings were not bad, just a difficult situation with the wind.  

Next lesson scheduled for 1/28 weather permitting, which looks good so far - partly cloudy and 45F.  Let's just hope the new carpet and leather don't come in this week :/

2VU clear of the active. 

77 Landings
Landings - Touch and Go:58
Simulated Instrument:1.3
Total Time:22.2

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