Finally! – I Can’t Believe It!

Today (05-16-2012) was the day that I flew with Mr. Alex Haak, the Chief and Master Flight Instructor at Thunderbird Aviation at Crystal Airport. It was again a lovely day for flying with bright sunshine and calm winds. I was a little nervous to fly with Alex but after I returned from pre-flighting the plane, he was there in the reception area and I greeted him. He was ready to go. The plane that was booked for me was immediately outside but before we boarded, Alex asked me some questions regarding landings. I think he wanted to know how much understanding I had about landings. So he asked me such questions as when you’re floating and begin rising what would I do? I told him that I would ease off a little on the back pressure to let plane come down. I definitely would not push the yoke in to force the plane down. He then asked me which runway I thought Crystal Ground would give us. I said, “Well the winds are calm so I think they’ll pretty much give us the runway we want”. He agreed and said, “Yes and we’re not an extremely busy airport so it’s good to have a choice of runway”. Then Alex said, for the first couple of times I would not be landing the plane. I would just be holding off as if I was going to land, but won’t be. “Do you know what you would have to do to maintain that 10-15 ft above the ground?” asked Alex. “Yes I would have to add power and maintain that same back pressure” I replied. “Good” was the response from Alex. Then he said, “Up until now you’ve probably been landing with the power idle” “Yes” I replied. “Well we’re not going to cut the power off totally. It’s not absolutely essential to cut power out when you land, you can have a little power still” said Alex.

So we boarded the plane and I went through all the check list and was ready to go when Alex said, “Don’t worry about the radio communications, I’ll talk on the radio, you concentrate on the flying”. I was pleased to hear this and without hesitation replied “Okay”. We taxied to Runway 32L and took off to remain in the pattern, left hand turns. My take off was good, but I forgot to add trim to maintain a constant 79K during the climb out. But since Alex didn’t say anything I assumed it was good. Once we were on final Alex said, “Remember you’re not going to land, just going to go over the runway and then go around”. I said yes as I noticed my speed was at 70k and I maintained the runway distance with the plane flying about 15-20 ft above it. Then as I approached the end of the runway, I retracted one of the flaps and pulled the yoke gently toward me to climb up. As the plane began picking up speed I retracted the second notch of flaps and then as speed continued to increase the last flap was retracted. I made a left turn at 1400 ft into the crosswind. I made the same maneuver the second time round also. Alex said “You did that pretty well. You managed to hold the plane at a constant level above the ground. The second time was even better than the first”. “Thank you” I said.

Now we were coming in again for the third time and this time I was supposed to land. “Everything is the same as before Tiger. You’re going to hold off and let the plane land. If it’s going up, ease off on the back pressure so it comes down” Alex reminded me. I reduced the power to almost idle and came in to land. I held off and made slight adjustments to the pitch to allow the plane to land, and it was great! I landed the plane by myself with no help from the instructor whatsoever. 😀 We made four landings in total 3 of them were on the hard surface and one was on the sod (field landing). All went wonderfully! Alex didn’t touch the yoke once. My other instructors used to take the controls and would end up landing the plane themselves. I think they probably feared that I would make a bumpy landing or hard nose landing. But anyway, for the first time I felt that I could do this and by myself! Yippeee!

Once I parked the plane, yes I even parked it. Usually the instructor would take control of the plane and park it, but Alex said I could do it even after I told him that I’d never done this before. You may think it’s not that difficult to park a plane, but you have to be able to park the plane on the “T” shaped markings on the airport. You have to pay attention to the wings and make sure that as you’re turning the plane you’re not going to hit anyone or any wings of other planes parked nearby, and especially the wings of the plane parked next to yours. After the plane was parked and shutdown, Alex spoke a little bit more about landings and said that it’s like driving your car. “If you had constant power (speed or cruise control) and were going up a hill, the car would eventually get up to a point where it would slow down and begin rolling back, unless you added more power or the cruise control adjusted itself to take the car further up the hill. Same thing with the plane, if you want to go up add power. Or if you want to keep power constant and control speed adjust the pitch of the plane. Push the nose down to increase the airspeed and keep the same power you have.

Then Alex asked me when I was flying next. I said “This Sunday with Tim since Jeremy is going home this weekend, and I cancelled Saturday as I couldn’t get any other instructor to fly with me”. “So you fly Wednesdays and the weekends?” Asked Alex. I nodded in the affirmative. “Okay I would like to fly with you one more time next Wednesday. Hopefully it’s a little breezy so you can learn to control the plane in the wind” he said. He then signed my log book and said “See you next Wednesday”, I agreed and said goodbye.

On my way home I really felt incredibly great and a little more confidant regarding landings and a belief for the first time that I could do this. 😀


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