Light snow showers in the area almost kept us on the ground again Thursday. The plan for this lesson had been to practice everything I have learned so far in preparation for my Stage One checkflight. I went outside to preflight the plane while Sandy waited for the new METARS to come out. Before I finished my checks, she came out to let me know that the weather was not going to allow us to stick to the original plan. We were left with the choice of more ground school or sticking close to the airport and doing pattern work. In the end, we decided that I had already had too long a layoff so we chose the pattern to let me get some flying in.
Sandy outlined the new lesson plan in our preflight briefing. We would do full stop landings with taxi back. The idea was to concentrate on taxiing, takeoffs, flying the pattern, speed and altitude control, talking to tower and everything else about airport operations. She would let me fly the airplane down to the numbers then help with the actual flare and landing. If everything was going OK, she might; “Let you bounce it on a couple times.”
Another instructor and student from the school departed a little ahead of us and headed out to the practice area. By the time we got to the end of the runway, they had decided to turn around and re-enter the pattern to do the same full stops and taxi-backs that we would be doing. Having traffic in the pattern on every circuit was additional good practice.
My first pattern was horrible. I was behind the airplane all the way around. It started with the very first turn. The controller had cleared me for left traffic but I started turning to the right. I didn’t get very far before Sandy asked me where I was going and I changed to a left turn. I have no idea why I turned the wrong way except that when Sandy was drawing out the pattern before we took off, she had drawn a right hand pattern and I had that in my mind. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. I had trouble with remembering the heading on every turn but I did keep the altitude and speed good until I rolled out low on final. I was low because I had made the pattern too wide and also overshot the final turn. Sandy talked me through adding power and getting back on the glide slope and we got down alright. The touchdown was a little hard but we didn’t bounce.
The second pattern was somewhat better. I over corrected for overshooting final and undershot this one ending up low again but, not as much as the first time. In this landing, I pulled back too much in the flare and ballooned up. I held it level and got back into flare with the result that I not only landed hard but also quit far down the runway. As we taxied back, I saw the other school Cessna, that had been behind me, turning onto the taxiway well ahead of me. Someday I will learn how to make that first turn-off.
The third time around, I messed up the takeoff by not taking out enough of the aileron correction that I had been holding for the slight crosswind. I did recognize my error and got it under control quickly though. This pattern was even better. I kept it in tighter but again overshot the turn to final and came out low once more. Sandy got on the controls to help me with the flare this time. That did help me see what the attitude should look like but I don’t think it has stuck in my head just yet. A snow shower was hanging just off the takeoff end of the runway so we decided to do just one more circuit before calling it quits.
The last time around, I almost repeated my mistake with the ailerons but, caught it at the last second. By now, the clouds were almost at the point where we turned to crosswind. This last pattern was the best yet but still, I ended up just a little bit low. One last plop onto the runway (I won’t call it a landing) and we were done. We taxied back to parking followed by the other school airplane. We had made the right decision since snow flakes were hitting the windshield as we pulled in.
The lesson was not what we planned, but I certainly learned a lot from this one and got a little bit of a head start on Stage Two. We didn’t get Stage One finished this week as hoped, but maybe next week. Next lesson is Sunday.