After several weeks of bad weather, I was finally able to fly my first cross country solo. Flew to UES and back. It was an uneventful flight, which is exactly what I was hoping for. The weather was great and everything went pretty much to plan. The only snafu was as I returned to PWK, the winds from east were strengthening and I ended up pretty far east of the airport even though I was flying the flight plan. I was correcting my heading as I came south, but when I made the turn over Lake Zurich, I needed to correct even more and ended up getting pushed east. I eventually figured it out.
After several weeks of bad weather, I took my flight school’s check for the final phase of their second training stage. It involved taking my instructor to KUES and then practicing a diversion on the way back. We got there fine, but I then had some uncertainty with my last checkpoint. While looking at the chart, I got off course. Once I figured it out, I did find the airport and landed there fine. Lesson: don’t abandon the plan, even if you think you are off course. On the way back, we diverted to Galt (K10C). My course was again a bit off and I ended up west of the airport, but I did spot as we approached. In that case, I didn’t immediately draw the course line and so my heading wasn’t very accurate to start with. I did fix it along the way, using VOR/DME to find myself, but it wasn’t enough. We then flew back to KPWK, which I mainly did with the VOR.
Overall it wasn’t a complete success, but my instructor was confident enough to let me fly it solo. So I will be making the same trip to KUES as my first cross country solo.
I flew at night for the first time last night. Not only was it my first time flying and landing at night, but we also did the nighttime cross country. Sink or swim.
The cross country actually went quite well. Had a bit of snafu when we got there as I entered the downwind for the wrong runway. Check those instruments! Once I fixed that, getting setup for that approach was quite an interesting experience. I would have preferred that my first night landing happen at a familiar airport. It’s quite hard to judge height, as one would imagine, so I landed flat.
On the way back, I flew under the hood for a while. Then he spring lost procedures on me. I found my position and figured out where to head, but then he started asking questions that made me second guess myself. After a bit of a panic, I confirmed my position with the VOR. It turned out he was trying to get me to explain my plan after I got to where I wanted to go. I interpreted his comments as hints that I was not doing it correctly. Sink or swim.
Once we got back to the airport, my second landing was better and the rest went fine. We had a long debrief, and discussed the next steps. Next we have a, “stage check”, which involves a mock check ride of sorts. If that goes well, I’ll be doing my solo cross country flights.
Between work ramping up to a deadline and preparing for the written test, I took a month off of flying. I probably should have squeezed a solo in there somewhere so keep my skills up, but that didn’t happen. I managed a 92% on the written test, and it is nice to have that behind me. Since I hadn’t flown in a month, my instructor went up with me for a couple of laps to shake the rust off. Made a couple of dumb mistakes with ATC, but went fine otherwise. Flew solo after that, but the airport was so busy that I only got 3 laps in before calling it quits.
I went up again a few days later for some more practice, but again it was very busy. It’s good to have practice with ATC procedures, but I also need to practice things like short field take offs and soft field landings. They don’t like having small aircraft linger on the runway when they are squeezing us between small jet traffic. I think I’ll need to head to a different airport for that.
Flew around the pattern again at PWK this morning. This will probably be my last flight until I get the written test out of the way. The airport was busy and it proved to be challenging to deal with all of the odd ATC requests. At one point we had 4 Cessnas in the pattern with small jets coming and going.
The wind ended up being rather variable and at one point I was landing with a tail wind. I got maybe two or three “normal” circuits in the pattern. The rest contained ATC deviations of some sort, including extended bases, short finals, and runway changes. At one point I was getting a little too close to O’Hare and had to hover in the downwind at 50kts until I finally got the call to turn around for a different runway. At another point, I had too much power on a short final and had to forward slip like crazy to get down to the runway. The techniques all worked like they were supposed to though, and I didn’t have any major problems. Just some squirrelly landings.
Flew over to Lake In The Hills (3CK) for my third solo, as was the original plan for the last flight. Did a couple of practice laps and then he got out and I did 4 circuits solo before heading back. At this point I’d be good to solo at that airport, but my school has a policy about flying cross country before taking the FAA written test. So it’s time to get serious about prepping for the written and getting that out of the way.
Today we were going to fly over to Lake In The Hills (3CK) for a little practice at an uncontrolled airport and to do my second solo there. My instructor ran into a problem on his way in and couldn’t make it in time, so I actually soloed again at PWK. It was pretty fun going through the whole process on my own and I got 8 circuits in before calling it quits. Got a few nice landings in there towards the end, which felt nice.
Had a nice, relaxing lesson today. The air was dead calm, which was a nice change of pace from the weeks of gusty conditions that I’ve been dealing with. We flew over to Lake In The Hills (3CK) for some uncontrolled airport and precision landings practice. The conditions were so nice and smooth, that I could just focus on my approach and flare technique. I was eventually hitting the numbers and got some greasers in there. I could tell my instructor was enjoying the smooth flying as well.
Some success can really build confidence and he said he would have soloed me right then and there, but I still didn’t have my student pilots license. I say “didn’t”, because when I got home this evening, there it was….
Today we practiced an in-flight diversion and lost procedures. We set off for a nearby airport and then he diverted me to DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport (DKB). The diversion procedure itself went fine and we arrived at the airport as expected. For some reason (mainly because I’ve never done it before), what to do at an unfamiliar airport fell out of my brain. You’re supposed to overfly the airport and check the sock…duh. He was purposely not helping me, which definitely drove the point home. Eventually I figured it out and landed on the active runway. That was learning moment one.
Learning moment two happened immediately afterwards. I have a habit of rushing myself to get out of other people’s hair. In this case, another plane was taxiing along the runway as I exited. They had the right of way, but they radioed and let me go first. With them behind me, I felt rushed to get off the ground and out of their way. We took off and headed back east when he “diverted” me to 3CK (our original destination before diverting to DKB). What he knew and what I didn’t know was that I forgot to realign my heading indicator and so it was about 20 degrees off. I ended up flying too far south and actually thought everything was OK until I cross-checked my position with a VOR. Once that was fixed, we got to practice lost procedures and got back to 3CK.
Getting burned like that definitely drives the point home. I was always a bit lazy about realigning the heading indicator. Hopefully that habit is broken.