Thursday, October 26, 2000

Peaceful Easy Feeling (Solo Practice)

I looked at the weather and decided I better fly sooner rather than later – took off at 1 pm and went to ORH for my first solo out of the pattern.  It was great!  I really enjoyed being up there on my own, and though I did try a few steep turns and a bit of slow flight, I mostly just flew around, looked at the scenery, and then flew back home.  This was my first taste of the “freedom of flight” and it was quite nice!  Flying solo in the pattern is work, as is flying with Mario – enjoyable work sometimes, useful work, but work nonetheless.  This solo was really fun!

I checked the ORH ATIS and also called the ASOS at Orange airport to get a reading on the Quabbin area where I planned to fly.  It was sky clear, visibility 10 miles, light winds.  Real VFR, though when I finally got up there, it was actually quite hazy (but certainly 10 SM or more).  Getting up there took a little work.  First I had to have the tanks topped off in 69L, and discuss the solo endorsement issue with Mario (turns out he didn’t change anything except the wind allowances on the previous solo endorsement, even though it specified traffic pattern!).  Then I pre-flighted the plane, got in, started it up, and as I went to change frequency for ATIS, the fractional frequency knob fell off!  So I had to shut down and ask Jim if he could fix it (he had been fixing it on Tuesday!).  But there’s a lesson here:

•    Carry some tools!  Something that could be used to turn a metal dial shaft if the knob came off in flight!  And get a flashlight back in there too.

Actually I had a small screwdriver tool with variable heads that I bought in a dollar store recently.  I found that one of the socket attachments would rotate the radio knob with some effort.  GET SOME SMALL PLIARS FOR THE FLIGHT BAG.  Now I see why flight bags get so heavy after a while!  This was quite an eye-opener for me, the idea that I could be in a no-radio situation due to something as stupid as a plastic knob!

Jim fixed the knob and I was off, right at about the same time Mario taxied out in 661 for its first flight test with the new engine (he got permission for a special request to orbit over the airport at 3000 feet for 30-45 minutes to break in the engine within glide range of ORH).  I requested a straight-out departure to the west, took off, spotted Spencer Airport off the right nose at 2500 feet (as usual).  I was more aware than usual of the need to look for emergency landing spots and to know what to do (the ABCDE thing) in case I lost my engine.  I got up to around 3500 feet and headed for the Quabbin, keeping a careful eye out for traffic, but once I got to level cruise, I also got out the GPS.  It was not tracking (it had been on inside my flight bag), so I finally cycled the power and punched in a GOTO for ORH, giving me a continuous readout of distance and bearing to the airport, though I didn’t really follow this (I did check the heading indicator against it – I mainly wanted to see that it worked on a flight away from the airport, and it did fine).

I got to the NE Quabbin area and did some clearing turns, followed by some steep turns, maybe 3 in each direction.  A couple were pretty good, the others gained or lost more than 100 feet.  Practice!  That’s the name of the game.  I also did a little slow flight, though I was careful not to stall – not that I can’t recover, but on the off-chance of a spin… well, let’s not go there!  I will practice stalls on future solo flights, and I will also do a little touring around to approach the airport from different directions.  This time I just looked at the chart and where I was w/r/t the Quabbin, estimating a course of 135 deg. back to ORH.  When I got part way there, I tuned in ATIS and got “kilo.”  When I had ORH in sight, I realized it was less than an hour, so I did a couple of 360 deg. turns just west of Spencer, then realized this may have been in ORH’s Class D already (4 NM radius), so maybe I shouldn’t have been doing maneuvers there (this was not a steep turn, maybe 30 deg.).  So I cruised over to Spencer (town) and made my call, “Worcester Tower, Cessna 4669L, over the town of Spencer, inbound for landing with information kilo.”  Tower told me to report left downwind entry.  I entered the downwind at 45 deg. as I have done several times, descending from 3000 feet to 2000 feet (TPA) along the way.  The pattern was good (OK, I got a bit slow on turn to base, DUH), but the flare was a bit late and I bounced pretty hard, but kept the nose up and kept good control.  Taxied back to Amity and secured the airplane – done!  Very cool to take an airplane out by myself like that!

Note: the picture here shows the town of Spencer but not on this day - this was fall 2004 when I was doing some Piper Cub lessons. More on that some other day!

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