I'd taken 1/2 day vacation and was up early that morning getting the latest weather and winds aloft. The plan was to take off at 8 am, fly north to SIV, land, take a quick break, then fly back. I ended up taking off about an hour later than planned due to SIV being socked in with 3-4 nm visibility due to fog. Randy wanted to get me off the ground soon, because the wind at HNB was supposed to be kicking up not long after I was expecting to be landing.
Once the fog started to burn off, Randy and I went outside. I'd already done my preflight before I called FSS, so I climbed into 34Q and started her up.
The flight went smoothly. Once I was at cruise I called EVV approach and picked up flight following, taking the handoff to HUF approach once I was about 20 nm north of HNB.
Despite it being a bit of a hazy day, once I was in the cruise I just relaxed and enjoyed the moment. This is what I'm working for. Hopping in the plane and flying somewhere, anywhere, just enjoying the flight, the freedom, the surprising calmness.
I hit all my waypoints within 1-2 minutes of ETE, and was approaching SIV before I knew it. I advised Hulman I had the field in sight, acknowledged the approved frequency change and squawked VFR. Making my radio call as I entered the 45-degree for the left downwind for 18, I started going through the landing procedures, turning base, then final, adding flaps and adjusting power.
I bounced just a bit on the landing, but it was otherwise good, right down the middle. I taxied to the FBO, shut down 34Q, and headed inside with my logbook to get it signed by the manager.
After leaving Randy a voicemail that I had landed and was preparing for the return leg, I headed back out, snapped a couple pictures of 34Q with the FBO and the hangars, did my preflight, and climbed in the cockpit to get ready to head home.
34Q has been 'quirky' ever since the new engine went in. If you don't push the key in juuust the right way, the starter just spins. I'm guessing this is normal, but I don't recall needing to push in with quite as much force. She also takes a little convincing to start again after sitting for a few minutes. It took me three tries to talk her into flying home, but she finally started.
Taxi and runup were smooth, and in no time I was in the air flying South. Once trimmed in the cruise at 3,500, I called Hulman Approach to get flight following, then just relaxed, started timing my waypoints, and enjoying the view again.
I've been hesitant to take the time to snap any pictures while I'm flying, mainly because I don't want to take my focus off flying the plane. However, I did feel comfortable enough with the cruise trim and workload to snap a picture of the town of Bicknell on the return leg.
Once I got back to HNB, Randy's intuition proved correct - the winds had kicked up. At pattern altitude, I felt like a ping-pong ball. The sock was almost straight across from the south but favoring 27, AWOS reporting 7 kts. I entered the midfield crosswind for 27, turned downwind, then went to work configuring for landing & focusing on flying the plane in. This was my first cross-wind landing in months, and my first ever solo crosswind landing - the last several flights, the wind had been straight down the runway.
The approach was bad, no other word for it. I was high, unstable, bouncing around. I put the flaps back up to 20°, added power, and called my go-around. As I was climbing out, I heard a KingAir call that he was 10 miles to the south, inbound to land. Ok, I thought. He's faster than me, he'll be here in no time. He'll just have to wait.
I called my downwind leg. Randy tried to raise me using the handheld to give me pointers, but he was unreadable. Not long after I began my descent toward the end of downwind, KingAir called he was 5 miles out, asked where the Skyhawk was. I told him I was getting ready to turn base, he said "Alright, we'll just come in behind you."
I called my base & final turns, then set up for landing again. 30° flaps, 65 over the numbers, I put the left wing down, held her over the middle with right rudder, and brought it down for a slightly fast but good-enough-for-government-work landing. Just missing the first midfield taxiway, I turned around and called back-taxi to get off the runway fast so the KingAir could land.
I taxied back to the hangar, shut 34Q down, climbed out and did a quick debrief with Randy. He commended me for the go-around, said the landing looked great, kept the wing down like I should & didn't go crazy with the pitch like I sometimes do.
We talked about the flight, then planned my long solo cross-country for Tuesday 9/15. HNB-SIV-MVN-HNB. If the weather is bad that morning, we'll try flying in the evening instead, with plans to head down to EVV to do some work in the Class C.
I don't want to minimize the joy and excitement of the flight, but I'm comfortable enough with cross-country flying now that the complexity actually underwhelmed me this time. I believe the lap desk and the increased organization it offers significantly contributes to this.
This flight was a huge confidence boost, especially the crosswind landing. I'm excited for the long cross-country, and to get started on the night cross-country work once that one's behind me. I just have to remember to slow down and enjoy these flights. I have that luxury now since the medical cert is no longer a 20-ton question mark hanging on my shoulders.
Two Victor Uniform, clear of Two Seven.