It was a dull, gray day with light snow as I arrived at 7.55 am for my 8.00 am – 10.00 am class today (02/25/2012). As I drove in to the car park of the flight school I noticed that the beacon was on. The beacon is usually switched on when the weather conditions are below minimum VFR. Minimum VFR conditions in Class D airspace are 3 statute mile visibility and 1000 ft ceiling. I greeted Kevin at the front desk and noticed that Tim hadn’t yet arrived and I said to Kevin, “I see that Tim’s not here yet and we probably won’t be flying today as I saw the beacon is on”, “Oh is it? They must have just switched it on as it wasn’t on earlier. Anyway it’s supposed to get better after 8.00 am” said Kevin and then proceeded to check the Aviation weather on the computer. “Yah it’s 4 sm visibility, scattered clouds 1000 ft ceiling with light snow”, he said. I thought for a few moments and then said to Kevin, “Well I’ll do the pre-flight check anyway and if Tim decides we can fly, then I’ll be ready, but if I don’t do the pre-flight check then I’ll waste precious flying time doing it if we do indeed decide to fly”. No sooner I had finished saying that Tim arrived and we greeted one another. I then asked if we would probably be doing ground school as the beacon was on and the weather conditions seem to be below minimum VFR. “Oh no, for what we’re going to do, just takeoffs and landings here at Crystal we should be fine”, said Tim.
I checked-in and went out to do the pre-flight check. It was very cold and I couldn’t open the cowling of the plane to check the oil level partly because it was stuck due to the cold and partly because my fingers were so cold that I couldn’t apply enough force to undo the cowling wing nuts. So once I finished I went back in and told Aaron (he’s a mechanic at the Thunderbird Aviation) about it and he went and had a look at it. Once the cowling was open, I checked the oil level and found that it was sufficient; I closed the cowling and returned to the school building. Tim and I then boarded the plane and once I had gone through the Starting Procedure, the Before Taxi check, I called Crystal Ground and requested taxi to stay in the pattern. This is what and how I said it:
“Crystal Ground, Five Three Six Papa Uniform at Thunderbird request Taxi and Staying in the Pattern”.
Normally I would end that sentence with an ATIS code beginning with a letter of the phonetic alphabet (e.g. X-Ray, Uniform etc.), but since today we had an automated ATIS, there wasn’t an ATIS code.
I received the following reply:
“Five Three Six Papa Uniform, taxi to runway Three Two Left via Alpha and Echo”.
I have to repeat this to inform Crystal Ground that I understood the directions given:
“Runway Three Two Left, via Alpha and Echo, Five Three Six Papa Uniform”.
If there was something wrong in my reply, Crystal Ground would either ask me to repeat what I said, or tell me again the directions as to which runway I’m supposed to go to. I would then again reply back those directions indicating that I’ve understood.
So we taxied towards runway 32L and then stopped a couple of hundred feet from it to do the “Run-up Check” and the “Before Takeoff Check”. Once these were completed I taxied the plane to the edge of the runway and then this time called Crystal Tower:
“Crystal Tower, Five Three Six Papa Uniform at runway Three Two Left, request clearance for takeoff”.
Crystal Tower replied:
“Five Three Six Papa Uniform cleared for takeoff from Three Two Left, cleared for the option”.
Cleared for the option means, I have a choice to go either left or right after I’ve taken off since I’m staying in the pattern (i.e. practicing takeoffs and landings at Crystal airport). Usually Tower tells you to make left or right turns, but since there wasn’t anyone else flying but us, Tower gave us the option because we wouldn’t be interfering with any other traffic.
And that was it really, we practiced takeoffs and landings and I’m still finding it difficult to get that delicate balance between pulling the yoke far back enough without causing the plane to go up as we’re landing and keeping the plane on the ground. I’m able to do it, if I keep the power at about 1300 rpm, and touching down about half way down the runway. And that’s fine, but once you land you must cut off the power immediately as the plane then continues at that speed on the runway and it’s difficult to control it. This works on long runways. Normally, once you know you’ve made the runway, you’re supposed to cut the power off completely and the plane comes down gently and then you pull the yoke back to make that landing. In my case, I’m doing this only occasionally.
So tomorrow, Tim is having me fly with another instructor called Jeremy. The purpose of this is two-fold and it’s quite normal said Tim. Firstly, Jeremy is going to see if I know enough to do the First Check Stage 1. Secondly Tim said, “He might be able to teach you something new that might help you with your landing technique. Sometimes a different instructor can make a difference and everything just clicks into place”. So tomorrow’s lesson is with Jeremy from 11.00 am – 1.00 pm and I received a text from Tim earlier stating that he had informed Jeremy that we were working on takeoffs and landings.