My first solo marked the end of Stage 2 training. Yesterday I started on the first lesson of Stage 3. This is the dual cross country stage but starts out with maximum performance takeoffs and landings. We flew up the shore of Lake Michigan to Racine to work on short and soft field takeoffs and landings. Racine is not far from Waukegan but the flight there involves a couple complications that make it a good introduction to cross country flying so fits well into this stage of training.
Taking off from Waukegan, the controller authorized a frequency change soon after we turned to the north. I called Kenosha tower to request transition through their class D airspace. I was cleared to transit at 2500 feet. Finding the airport at Racine is not hard, just follow the shoreline north. Sandy did have me work on pilotage by following along on the chart and picking out landmarks on the ground. North of Kenosha, I requested another frequency change, listened to the ASOS and made my initial call to Racine traffic advising that we were inbound. We planned to go north of the airport to enter the left downwind for runway 4 so, as soon as we were out of Kenosha airspace, I had to descend below 2200 feet to stay clear of the Milwaukee class C. I turned back south to get on the 45 for the downwind and made all the proper calls as I flew the first approach and landing. Runway 4 is over 6500 feet long with no turnoffs beyond the first third on it’s length. We realized that after we went all the way to the end and had to taxi over a mile back. We wouldn’t be doing that every time. For the rest of the landings, I did a 180 on the runway and back taxied.
We started out with soft field takeoffs and landings. I got the takeoff procedure down quickly but the landings still need some work to master the very gently touchdown. Getting just the right mix of power and back pressure to keep most of the weight on the wings is a delicate balancing act. Short field was next. Again, the takeoffs went pretty well right from the start but the landings need work. I was doing a good job of controlling the speed on final but my problem was finding just the right amount of back pressure to slow down quickly in the flare but not so much that I balloon and eat up valuable runway. I have the basic procedures down. Now it is just a matter of getting more practice. For the next lesson, we will try to go to a field with a grass strip for more realistic conditions.
On the way back to Waukegan, we again went through the process of getting clearance through Kenosha’s airspace and then the frequency change to get the ATIS and contact the tower back home. This was supposed to be another short field landing but, with five aircraft in the pattern, the controller asked us to keep the speed up on final so we changed it to a normal landing. The lessons are getting longer now, this was a two hour session, but I realized I was less tired than I was after the one hour lessons early in my training.