So the weeks are rather short recently as I have completed most of the flight requirements necessary for my private pilot license. The only thing I have left to do is the long solo; a flight totaling at least 150NM with three stops; and one leg being over 50NM. I had this entire flight planned out and was going to fly it this past weekend. I was out pre-flighting the plane and I noticed that the wind was starting to pick up rather hastily. My instructor and I decided it was wise to hold off for another day, and the next weather report indicated winds had in fact become stronger with gusts over 20kts. I’ll give this another go sometime over the next week.
So its a pretty strange feeling, waking up early and heading to the airport, and taking to the sky on my own. I am at a point where I am both excited and happy to go fly, but I am also extremely restrained, never forgetting that this is very new to me. I have expressed to my flight instructor that I although I feel that I know the why and the how associated with flight, as well as the procedures to perform maneuvers, I am still far from having a through confidence in my overall ability when flying solo. He explained that this is normal, and experience only comes with time. More specifically, at this point in my experience, I am not scared or nervous in the least bit regarding normal flight, rather unsure about my ability and response in case of an inflight emergency. This feeling should fade with time and experience, and I also have to make sure that these feelings do not clutter my mind while I am flying, serving no benefit, rather being a detriment to the flight at hand.
Anyway, this past Tuesday morning I headed out on a solo flight to practice maneuvers. I have to be within certain certification standards when I take the practical exam, so I headed out to practice S-turns across a road, steep turns, and rectangular course. The underlying skill that is being tested and relied on for all these maneuvers is an understanding of the wind and how to compensate for wind in order to keep the airplane on the pilot’s intended flight path. I also took some time to work the radios, looking up and tuning in the frequencies of various airports I was overflying or in the vicinity of. After working on maneuvers, I decided to do a bit of sightseeing before heading back to the airport. One thing that you realize very quickly during flight training, is that you hardly ever have a moment to actually fly for enjoyment and take in the sights, and after all, this is one of the great benefits to being able to pilot your own plane. I decided to fly out over Princeton, NJ, and get an aerial of the town and Princeton University. I did a few laps and headed back to the airport. As I came in on final, the winds seemed to have picked up a bit, and my landing was less than stellar. Time for some more crosswind technique.
Just yesterday, with the winds pretty strong, I headed up with my instructor to fly the pattern and practice crosswind technique. We had a pretty direct crosswind as we landed runway 24 (170 @ 10kts). I did 9 landings, and really got a great feel for the crosswind technique. Aileron into the wind, opposite rudder to line the plane up on the runway. Touch down with the windward wheel, keep aileron into the wind. I felt the most comfortable yet regarding flight and landing with wind.
Well, until next time!