Thursday, June 17, 1999

Practice in the Rain (Lesson #8)

It didn't look VFR to me -- gray and drizzly -- but clouds were all at 10,000 feet, the WX said, so Kern said "we're go." Well, they weren't ALL at 10K -- quite a few floating around at 1100-1500 feet gave us some trouble. Not to mention the C172 was in for 100 hour maintenance, so we flew the little C152 (not a bad little plane, though we were only 60 pounds under max gross weight, and it climbed VERY slowly). Kern took a Boston VFR Terminal Area Chart -- a good idea, it turns out.

Well, it's late, so I don't have time to give the gory details. I did better than last time but still rather spotty on holding altitude and keeping my nose where it should be and my eyes out of the cockpit. Taxied better (need work on even braking). First takeoff was still a bit hesitant (Kern said last flight I "kissed the ground goodbye," touching my wheels lightly after liftoff, insufficient back pressure and a dip in the runway). I did OK on the climbs, some drift, but OK on rudder and coordination I think. Practiced turns (including two 360's), climbs, descents. Little wind and poor ground viz, so we didn't do ground refs today. Visibility started to look QUITE poor in some directions when we reached 1500 feet, but we pressed on to 3000. Ended up west for a while, then south, then north, then south -- then lost!

Not exactly LOST, but neither of us really knew where the airport was, and there were a LOT of clouds around. Kern tuned in the Putnam VOR (in CT, 122.8), knowing the 074 radial points straight to 1B6 (we practiced intersecting a radial, I guess!). But we got confused by the lack of recognized landmarks, the clouds, and the fact that we BOTH forgot we had crossed Rt 140 at some point (we were briefly actually IN some of the clouds -- Kern is instrument rated of course, but it's still not a good idea). So it took a couple of iterations with the VOR to get us back -- Kern was real annoyed with himself. I was never worried especially -- we had a lot of fuel and plenty of places to land if need be. Coolness or clueless? Good question - I really did relax and enjoyed a few minutes of sightseeing while Kern took the controls and tried to find a recognizable landmark (he was not as good as I expected at this, oddly enough, considering his long experience, but in fairnesss, he really doesn't know the Hopedale area that well yet).

ALWAYS carry a VFR Boston area chart, PAY CLOSER ATTENTION to landmarks -- maybe try to say "we're southwest of the airport, maybe 10 miles" to track our position.

Finally Kern talked me through the pattern on a left upwind entry from the south (runway 36). Again, sloppy on nose attitude and altitude control, but I managed, and we both were on the controls for the final approach, flare, and landing. Then we back-taxied and took off for one more time around the pattern -- this time I controlled the takeoff much more smoothly (smaller "pressure like" excursions on the rudder pedals compared to large excursions needed for taxi at low speeds). Overall a very educational and enjoyable flight (finally hit double figures in logged time, barely).

Next lesson in two days! Then off to Japan for two weeks (oy!). I think I may be able to solo this summer if I can make progress as Kern expects. I have my student pilot flight physical scheduled for July 8 in Newton (another $75 for that, but I'll be qualified to solo if I pass). Better check my eyes with these glasses before the test…

Time: 1.2 hrs dual, TT 10.1 hrs, C152 at 1B6

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