Lesson 77 – Ground Reference and Gusty Crosswinds

Winds were 12 knots gusting to 19 yesterday, making it a good day to work on ground reference maneuvers. Sandy pulled the power during our initial climb out from runway 32. I picked out a field just to the left of the nose and made a gentle turn toward it. That was the decision that she wanted to see and she quickly gave me the power back. I continued the climb to 3700 feet and flew us out to the practice area. On the way there, Sandy had me tune a VOR and intercept a radial inbound. I had no problem with that.

While we were up high, I did a couple steep turns and a turning power off stall. Then, Sandy pulled the power again for another simulated engine failure. This time I went through the whole procedure. I set up best glide, picked my field and turned toward it. While we descended toward the field, I went through the engine restart procedure and simulated an emergency call on 121.5. At 500 feet AGL and with the field made, Sandy gave me the power back. As I climbed back up a little, I realized I had forgotten to give a passenger briefing before the simulated emergency landing. I will have to be careful not to forget it on the checkride.

I leveled off at 1600 feet (about 800 feet AGL) and we picked out a road for some S turns. I’ve never been very good at those but, they were OK this time. We followed the S turns with a rectangular pattern. I didn’t have any problem with that despite the gusty wind blowing diagonally across the field.

I was expecting some turns around a point next but, Sandy just had me head toward the airport and climb up to 2700 feet. On the way back, she took the controls and told me to close my eyes. I knew that when I opened them again we would be in some weird attitude and, I wasn’t wrong. When she told me to open my eyes and take the controls, all I could see was blue sky. The attitude indicator showed a right bank and the airspeed was dropping rapidly. I pushed the nose a little below the horizon while leveling the wings and added full power to get the speed back up. As soon as we were under control, Sandy took the controls back and had me close my eyes again. When I opened then this time, it was just the opposite situation. I saw a windshield full of ground that was coming up fast and the right wing heading upward. I pulled the power to idle, rolled level and pulled back firmly, but not abruptly, to bring the nose level and bleed off the excess speed before adding the power back in- just like I was supposed to. Sandy was happy with how I handled the unusual attitudes and told me to take us home.

I turned back toward the airport, got the ATIS and called the tower to let them know we were coming in. The wind was from 280 and the tower was using runways 23 and 32. We were number 3 on to land on 32 and had to extend our downwind to allow the two aircraft ahead of us on 32, and a Falcon jet on runway 23, to land. The wind was 14 knots gusting to 22 now so I had to work really hard to stay on the center line. Sandy helped out at the last second and we landed fine.

Because of the gusts, this wasn’t supposed to be a crosswind lesson. Still Sandy didn’t want the adverse condition to go to waste so, she had me tell the controller we wanted to taxi back and stay in the pattern for a couple more landings. Attempt number two was pretty good except that I bounced and ended up touching down with a little side load. When I was close to the runway on number three, a sudden gust got me pointed further off center than I felt comfortable with so I added power and went around. That got a complement from Sandy for my good judgment and for a very nice go around. The last landing was good but, harder than I wanted it to be.

If we get a day with steady winds Thursday we will concentrate on crosswinds.