Lesson 59 – Local Solo

Finally, a day with weather good enough for a solo flight. I had the airplane reserved for two hours and planned to go out to the practice area to work on maneuvers and then back into the pattern for a few landings. As it turned out, I did get out to the practice area but, I didn’t get a chance to practice my landings.

I got to the airport about 2PM, got N35092 dispatched to me and did the preflight. The fuel tanks were only half full so, I had to wait a little while for the fuel truck to come around and top it off. Engine start was a little after 2:30PM. I taxied to runway 23, did my runup and held for two landing aircraft before I finally got airborne.

As I was climbing out, the annouciator panel illuminated the low fuel indication for the left tank. The warning would illuminate for a few seconds then go out again and kept repeating that. The left tank fuel gauge kept dropping to empty and then jumping back to full. I was considering turning back but, once I got leveled off at cruise altitude, the problem stopped. The gauge stayed on full and the annunciator panel stayed clear. The gauge worked properly for the rest of the flight and I have no idea what caused the problem.

Once in the practice area, I started out with some high work. I did a few steep turns and several minutes of slow flight. These both went very well. I tried a couple power off stalls but couldn’t manage to do a good one. The airspeed indicator would drop to zero but I just mushed down with out getting a clean stall break. I probably wasn’t aggressive enough in getting the nose up.

I pulled the power to idle to simulate an engine out emergency. I chose my field and started down at best glide speed. I was still high for my approach when I broke it off at 800 feet AGL but I am confident I could have slipped off the excess altitude and made my field if I had continued lower.

Now that I was down low, I tried some ground reference maneuvers. My rectangular course and turns about a point were good. Better, in fact, than the last time out with Sandy. S-turns are still my weakest maneuver but, they are getting better. Done with the low work, I climbed back to 3200 feet and did a forward slip along a road. No problem with that so I went back up to 2800 feet and turned toward Waukegan.

It was now 3:45PM so I headed back home with the intention of staying in the pattern for a couple extra landings before sunset. The ground below me was still brightly lit despite the high overcast. As I got further east though, the clouds got darker and so did the ground below. A little closer to the lake shore, I saw house and street lights on. By the time I landed, it was getting quit dark so I skipped the extra pattern work and taxied to the ramp. I could have used the landing practice but, overall, I was very happy with how the flight had gone.

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