For this lesson, we flew to Dacy Airport to practice soft field techniques on a grass landing strip. It was my first time flying to a field with turf runways and was a real education. This is the way flying was in the early days and it is good to know there are places like Dacy that preserve that heritage.
This was also another lesson in pilotage and it was up to me to find the airport. As we got closer, Sandy took over the controls and had me concentrate on the chart and direct her to the airport. I gave her a couple small heading corrections and pointed out features on the ground. I didn’t spot the airport from as far away as I would have liked, but we were right on course when I did see it.
With the field in sight, Sandy stayed on the controls to demonstrate a landing on grass. She entered the pattern and set us down on runway 27. The thing that surprised me was just how rough the strip was. I guess I had expected it to be like a smooth grass lawn but that wasn’t the case at all. Now I see why it is important to keep the weight off the fragile nose wheel and gear when operating on non-paved surfaces. Sandy gave the controls to me and I taxied back to 27 where she took off again with me following through on the controls.
The next three landings and takeoffs were mine. I still haven’t got that butterfly light touchdown on the grass mastered, but I also didn’t slam the airplane on. I will be practicing maximum performance takeoffs and landings for the rest of my training. For every takeoff and landing from now on, my CFI or I will decide ahead of time if I’m going to use a normal, short field or soft field technique.
The flight back to Waukegan was another pilotage exercise and I found my way without any problem. Even though I was on course the whole time, I still had times when I doubted myself and wondered if I was headed in the wrong direction. I guess that’s good at this stage of training since it keeps me double checking my landmarks. The next flight will be an even more challenging exercise since I will be finding my way to two airports that I haven’t been to before and then back home. We are starting to get to the nitty grittty of travel by airplane now.
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