Lesson 150
13 March 2001
1.2 Hours

Some Wind!

I have a BFR due in November, but have decided to do the FAA's "Wings" program instead.  It requires attending a safety seminar and doing three "one-hour" sessions with an instructor.  The first hour is for general airwork, the second is landings, etc., and the third is instrument training.  (I think there's also a fourth "hour" on odd Wings levels.)  A few hours of instruction seems a whole lot more sensible than a two-hour exam.

Today was the first hour of airwork.  But the wind was strong and directly across the runway at FCI, and the forecast was for increasing wind and gusts, so I didn't know whether we'd go, or not.  The strongest crosswind I'd landed in before was about 9 knots.

The instructor, Michael, said the strongest crosswind he'd ever landed in was 34 knots.  Frankly, I didn't believe him, even though he did confess that it was stupid of him--but in any case when we took off he didn't seem the least bit concerned.  Of course, the AWOS said that the wind on runway 15-33 just then was only 250 at 9, gusting14, so there was nothing to worry about.  What I knew and Michael didn't was that in taxiing to 33, with the wind from the right, I had the left pedal to the metal almost all of the time and had the left brake on a lot, too.  So I think the gusts may have been harder than 14.

We took off and kept to the extended centerline with a crab of maybe 15 degrees.  This was the first installment of the Wings thing, so Michael had me do airwork--slow flight, stalls, steep turns.  Then we flew to PTB for three landings into the wind--normal, simulated engine-out, and no flaps.  They were easy enough on runway 23, with only a slight right crosswind.  That all went nicely, so we went back to FCI.

Ahem.  FCI's AWOS was then saying 260 at 14 gusting 25.  Just as we entered on downwind, it was 17G27.  And it had begun raining lightly.   Naturally I underestimated the wind and overshot on base, but was far enough out to get back on the line and managed to set up a reasonable approach at 80 mph with ten degrees of flaps (Michael's suggestion).  Crab was--well, I don't know because the DG was screwed up in that airplane and even though I'd set it on downwind, it had already precessed so far that I don't know what the heading was on fnal.  But we were crabbing.

Okay, okay, okay--over the threshhold at 75 mph--still crabbing down the centerline, flaring but keeping it pretty flat with the extra speed, left wing low, right rudder lots of right rudder still on the centerline WHAM GUST up we go and to the right down we go add some throttle more throttle still on the runway left wheel touches, bounces, touches again and stays down, eventually the right wheel and finally the nose wheel.  Yoke ALL the way over to the left by then.  Missed the first turnoff. Missed the second turnoff.  Went all the way to the end, all 5500 feet x 100 feet, and had to raxi back to the middle, where the FBO is.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  You old hands think this is easy.  Well, actually, I thought it was pretty easy, too--except for that one big gust, and that was ...interesting.

Michael is suddenly very talkative--good landing, you did very well, wow wasn't that some gust!  Etc., etc.

We tied the airplane down and by that time the rain had passed over, so we crossed the ramp to the FBO.

In the lobby were (a) the FBO himself--the manager, (b) five or six other pilots, (c) three secretaries, and (c) the head of the flight school.  As we approached the door, the manager opened it for us and started in saying all these embarrassing things.

"Wow, you sure can log a crosswind today!"

"Man, that was SOME landing!"

"Boy, that was impressive!"

I looked at Michael.  He seemed just as surprised as I was.  Yes, it was gusty, but...

Well, then I had a look at the AWOS readout on the monitor:  260 20G29.  Hm...

But it must have looked more interesting from inside the FBO than from inside the airplane.  The FBO seemed a little disappointed when he asked me what it was like and I just said it was interesting, but not bad.

They all know that the Cessna 172 Pilot's Operating Handbook says the highest demonstrated crosswind capability is 12 knots.  So much for handbooks.  But I think mainly they were just glad they still had a 172 to rent.

P.S.  I'm not a believer in dieties--but I do like this poem, and it seems applicable here.  Hopkins called it a sonnet, although if you're up on those things, you'll recognize that it stretches the definition good and tight.

The Windhover
To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
   dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
   Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
   As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
   Rebuffed the big wind.  My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,--the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume here
   Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
   Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

   No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
   Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion,

    --Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1877

In case you're wondering, this seems to be the transcript of a mystical experience.  The first section is a meditation on flight (and figure skating).  A "dauphin" is the eldest son of a French king, but here it seems to be the bird and to suggest its relationship with the son of God.  The second section seems to be almost a firestorm in the mind, when The Experience occurs and literal meaning and logic fail.  And the third is the application--trying to fathom it in our lives.  Iron plowshares really can create a shine on the turned earth if the moisture level is just so.  I've seen it in turning earth with a spade.  It's something like the way oily puddles in asphalt parking lots refract the light, creating colors--only, completely unexpected when it happens in dirt.

Back to "Learning Flying"
My home page.