Flight time building is a great period, especially its cross country part: you just enjoy flying and have fun. Of course, it’s a big deal of planning, preparation and studying, but it is a great possibility to explore new places while gaining more experience.
Summer in Florida is challenging. It is not only sun and clear skies as we can see in flight school brochures, but also frequent violent thunderstorms and gusty winds in the afternoon. But today the weather was great, so I could plan one more cross country flight.
I had just returned from my previous flight to Palatka when I was told that Cessna 150 is back to service. So, it looks like I will have a flight without GPS 🙂 Actually, I even don’t need a paper map for flying North-East since I know that route pretty well, so GPS is not an issue at all.
At about 10 miles before Gainesville I got ATIS information: wind 310 (North-West), 10 knots, gusts 15 knots, runway 29 in use. Gainesville Regional airport is inside class D airspace, so I contacted tower and reported my intention to land. The controller gave me runway 25, which means that I will have some crosswind.
Runway 29 was rather busy at that time: one jet was taking off there, and two more were in line.
Landing with a gusty crosswind requires some more attention and concentration, but it is a good practice. Here in Florida there are usually more than one runway in a lot of airports, and crosswind takeoff and landing is not a skill that we practise every day. There are two basic techniques: “crabbing” and “one wing down”, and it is better to know both.
Stage III mainly considers cross country flights and everything related to that: weather briefing, flight planning, reading and interpreting NOTAMs, fuel, weight and balance computation and so on. So for checking these skills we should make a cross country flight too.
Today the weather is not perfect at all: there are wind gusts and pretty high thermal activity. All I can say about the weather was already said by our chief pilot after my first landing today: “What the hell was that?”. It is not easy at all to smoothly land the airplane in that weather 🙂
The third stage or the Instrument Rating course is the most peaceful and calm one. The flight planning part is essential, but one could take time during this process, and there is always an opportunity to postpone the flight if the conditions are above the pilot’s personal limitations. In other words, there are less external pressures and much more time than when you’re actually in an airplane. The workload during the enroute part is also much less than during the approach, the course assumes that the student is already mastered approaches in the previous parts. Or at least he is comfortable enough with them to not mess everything up.
So the course is almost done. I need now only an end-of-course check and a checkride to obtain my first instrument rating ever.
Today I finally was able to fly. I know that landing and approaches are still my weak point, and today I practiced them a lot. I flew at six different airports to increase challenge.
I was pretty good at my home aerodrome with a wide long runway, and so I moved to LKPLES, where the runway is 1640 feet, and its width is only 15 meters. It is still paved though. After my home airport it seemed tiny!
All other aerodromes were with grass runways. Nevertheless, none of them is similar to others. I landed on a runway with a “step” where the airplane wants to jump like a kangaroo. I landed on another one which was downslope, and it was unusual that land goes further during the flare. I landed on a plain friendly runway. I landed on a rough short runway with a powerline and trees in the vicinity. It was a very interesting day.
I am happy that I have time to fly again!
I’d like to see some interesting places during my hour building, but I cannot find detailed information. Probably I have to discover it myself. For example, there are very beautiful mountains in the Northern and Southern parts of Czech Republic, and I am going to visit them.
I suppose that some day I will rent an airplane and fly across the whole Europe with multiple stops in different countries. I think it is even better than traveling by car. Some day. Probably anyone wants to join me 🙂
The summer is coming, and it means that we will see thunderstorms. I need two more hours to complete my training, and today these hours are going to fly by. I came to the aerodrome and saw a dark cloud accompanied by thunder. I have to be in Moscow soon, and extending my stay is not an option; therefore all I can do is just wait and hope for better weather…
Fortunately that front didn’t last long, and I could finish my flight lessons. There was one more cloud not too far from the aerodrome, but it was far enough to let me fly.
The sky was incredible, especially closer to sunset, and it was a pleasure to see.
I flew at LKMO today which has a much better runway compared to LKRO where I used to practice. The runway is shorter, but it is much flatter and wider, with much clearer borders, and I don’t have to cut my downwind turn due to the village below. The wind also helped today, thus my landings were better.
Today I completed all required flight hours for my PPL, so tomorrow I am going to CAA.
I continue flying my cross-countries. Today I explored incredible mountains near the Czech border with Poland. I climbed to 5500 feet, so I am getting closer to airliners 🙂
I enjoy cross country flights. I can see beautiful forests, castles, fields, mountains, houses, cars and people below my plane, and incredible blue sky above. The clouds look great. I am already pretty good in controlling the airplane, and I have plenty of time to enjoy sightseeing.
After some days of practice here I can fly in the vicinity of the aerodrome even without a paper map, but for longer flights it is still vital. The airplane also has a GPS, but I try not to use it.
There are some interesting places around: the Skoda automotive factory, a paper factory (I can see a lot of lumber there), beautiful rivers, an abandoned military aerodrome, mountain villages.
Today I had a different airplane again; it is also a Cessna C-152, but I like it much more. I think it is more stable, and its performance is better. I will try to book this plane next time.
The traffic is so hard to see! The airplanes seem really tiny from distance! Even more, once I saw a radio-controlled airplane near the airfield, and initially I thought it was a regular plane.
Today I did not like my landings. I flared too high. I will work some more on it in the next few days.
Surprisingly I was not tired today. Probably probably because the weather was easier to control the airplane, or I am just getting used to flying.
We fly a lot of aerodrome patterns. We do it in different aerodromes for a richer experience. My instructor is not totally assured in my flying, and so he does not want to let me fly solo now. Probably with the only instructor from the beginning it can be faster, but now we have what we have.
However I do not complain. Safety is the first priority. Additionally, I enjoy flying even patterns, and I am happy to see my confidence improve. Furthermore, I need 200+ hours for my commercial license, and it does not matter a lot whether I have 45 or 60 hours under my belt after private.
I enjoy exploring new aerodromes. They appear very similar, but they are not. Of course I say that only with my level of experience, but I think that it’s true for many pilots.
Today we flew circuits in an aerodrome with a grass runway. The runway itself is rather uneven and rough: firstly, it has a slope, and there are small bumps and hollows. Secondly, the grass is very uneven, and does not cover the entire runway. Actually there is no significant difference, but I still like concrete runways much more.
Here is the picture about how approach to a grass runway looks like:
Which surface is better for landing? For some reasons I like concrete. Grass is softer, and the touchdown seems easier and gentler, but concrete is flatter and smoother. And takeoff from a concrete runway is surely much better.
I had a lot of landings on the grass. In fact, I had REALLY a lot of landings on the grass. Today I fly patterns on the aerodrome with a grass strip.
Today I made many landings. The main outcome is that finally I mainly fly the airplane than it flies me. I see where it is going to land, and at least I have proper feedback from the flight controls. At least the approach becomes stabilized. Previously it was more like “trying to aim to some point by any means, using all available flight controls”. Now I have to be more precise: the strip is shorter. I was pretty good in theory, but for the some reason it did not help a lot. Possibly the reason is that I mainly concentrated on an instantaneous correction without building a ‘big picture’.
Today I have a level-up: now I analyze my track during the approach and try to keep the straight paths really straight, and curved paths as smooth as possible. I use trim even in turbulent weather. I mainly set the flaps to the desired position for landing earlier instead of correcting a glide path by using flaps.
I am making progress. I perform slower than I wanted to, but I am moving on.