Lesson 17: Wicked Crosswinds | 10/18/15

Yesterday’s lesson one one of the most intense lessons I’ve had in a long time.   We started out the lesson normally; we checked the weather, and found that they skies were mostly clear, visibility was good, and there was a strong and gusty crosswind, finally giving me a chance to practice crosswind landings.   We talked a little bit about crosswinds and then headed out to preflight the plane.   Once we started up the engine and got clearance, we taxied to runway 4, ran up the engine, and took off.   Immediately as we rose into the air I could feel the crosswind biting at the plane.   Any small movement of the ailerons would catch the wind and jerk the yoke, forcing me to keep a steel grip on it.   I had no idea how I was going to land in such extreme winds.   My first approach was crazy.   It was a constant battle to fight the wind, and keep my airspeed under control.   We sank towards the runway, swaying back and forth across the centerline, and the winds got even more choppy as we fell below the tree line, which stirred up the wind creating even more turbulence.   I tried to flare as late as possible, as my instructor had advised me to, and we floated for a moment, until suddenly the plane caught another gust and jolted towards the runway.   Somehow I reacted at the last second and pulled back the yoke just enough and we touched down surprisingly smoothly.   After that, I gained some confidence, and began to smooth out my approaches.   I even experimented some with incorporating a combination of crabbing and slipping into my approach.   Some landings were hairier than others, but I definitely feel much more confident in my abilities to land in a crosswind than I did when I started.   Here is the GPS track of the lesson (the elongated departure leg was requested by ATC, as was the shorter one to avoid traffic, and the one downwind leg that dips towards the runway was when I was trying to avoid a plane taking off on runway 28, right below us):

GPS overview of flight

GPS overview of the flight

Lesson 16: Getting back into the swing of things | 10/10/15

Other than accompanying my uncle on his flight review in August, the only flying I did over the summer was to go to Montana on a commercial flight to see family.   Because of this, I needed a little review before I could bounce back to where I was before the break.   Luckily, the weather welcomed me back with clear, beautiful skies, no wind, and a moderate temperature.   After getting our weather briefing and doing our preflight, we lifted off of runway 28 and began the lesson.   Although I hadn’t done any real world flying over the break, I had done A LOT of VATsim (virtual air traffic simulation) on my flight simulator, allowing me to practice talking to real air traffic controllers in airports like JFK, BOS, and Dallas Fort-Worth, widely regarded as one of the most complicated airspaces in the United States.   As a result of all this I did feel a lot more comfortable talking to ATC – although on my way back to CDW I responded to ATC when they were calling 811JD (the plane I usually fly in) not 5253R (the plane I was in); not a huge slip up, but it reminded me that I can’t get comfortable with ATC to the point where I become complacent – as far as the flying went, we did a simulated engine failure enroute and I had to go through the emergency checklist and promptly find the spot at which I would land (or crash) if my engine actually failed.   We then practiced flying VORs inbound (To the west) and outbound (To the east) to and from SAX, did some stalls, and then flew back to Caldwell.   My landing at Caldwell was OK; I got a little low and slow on approach for runway 22, but after correcting this, my touchdown was smooth and I was able to turn off on Delta, the first taxiway besides the one at the beginning of the runway.   When we were taxiing back, we heard some commotion on the radio between the tower and an airport vehicle who had crossed the runway without clearance and then would not respond to the tower which was pretty unusual – that guy is probably going to get a less than pleasant call from ATC in the near future.   Here’s the GPS track of the flight (the path that goes to the left was my outbound path and the path that is to the right then comes back to intersect the outbound path was my inbound path):


Close up of CDW


Complete flight