The only real mistake I made today was going up when the wind was blowing straight across the runway at faster than I was sure I could land safely. No, relax, I didn't break the airplane, or anything else. But that I went up was a mistake, all the same. I hope I learned something from the experience.
Here's what happened.
I phoned AWOS at about 9:00. It said that the wind was calm. Phoned again a little after 10 and it said the wind was 290 at 4. I went for a walk then to shake the kinks out and noticed that the wind seemed to have picked up a bit. Back at the house around 11 I got AWOS on the phone again.
"Two nine zero at eight," it said.
Okay, I thought, that's thirty degrees off of runway one five, so it's only about four knots of crosswind. I can probably handle that much. I'll go down there and see what Adam recommends.
As I was driving into the airport, Adam was driving out. Then I ran into Chris Edwards on the parking lot, and he said, "It's fine up there today--just a little bumpy." (He had that right.)
I got the dispatch and a headset, and went out to Two Five Bravo. By that time the wind had picked up enough so the windsock was almost straight out. And it was pretty much perpendicular to the runway.
Aw, geez. I don't like that much. Maybe I should--well, I'll go ahead and preflight it and see if it swings around to one end of the runway or the other.
Dreamer. A couple of times I thought about tying it back down and going home. But... Okay, I'll get in and see what AWOS says now. (Of course, the plane was parked maybe 100 feet from the AWOS sensors, which are right beside the windsock. I could see the damn sock with only a slight bend where the inside frame stops, so the wind had to be at least 8.)
"Two nine zero at four," it says.
Like hell. But I sneak another look at the sock and now it's hanging straight down. For about another second, and then it's nearly straight out again.
But several other training planes have been taking off and landing--but they're using runway one five. That would give them a tail wind. Oh, well, I'll go see what it's like up at the end of the runway.
"Chesterfield traffic, Cessna four seven two five bravo, on the ramp, taxiing to one five, Chesterfield."
The sock out there is nearly straight out, too, but it's almost in line with the runway (in the right direction), so I go ahead and run up. I check AWOS again, and now it says "two seven zero at eight." Aw, I don't know about this. That's sixty degrees across the runway the wrong way. But just then another trainer lands on one five, so what the hell, I'm feeling awfully anxious, but I'll give it a try and move to the hold line.
No one coining on final. "Chesterfield traffic, Cessna four seven two five bravo departing one five, Chesterfield."
At about fifty feet I run into one of Chris Edwards' little bumps. If I had any sense at all I'd chop the throttle and land right now--that little bump left me with only about 30 feet of air under me, anyway. But no, I keep on climbing and it's immediately too late to be sensible. Bump bump bump finally I'm up to 1200 feet, climbing at 80 knots, and turn west toward the practice area, as I'd planned before coming out here.
It's about as bumpy as I've ever seen it, and there are up- and downdrafts all over the place. At 2500 feet I try some steep turns, but the bumps keep knocking me around, and the turns are all out of whack. I try some turns along a road to take advantage of the wind, but they're ragged, too. Turns around a point--but I'm going up and down in bumps and drafts so much that I can't concentrate on keeping the turns constant over the ground. (I did find a nice crossroad right near a water tower that will be good for practicing on a smoother day.)
All this time I'm thinking Jesus I've got to get this thing back on the ground in this lousy air. It sort of spoiled the view.
Okay, after a half hour of that futile exercise I head back to the airport. On the way I hear several other planes using runway one five, so I get into the pattern properly for it, get around on downwind and base and final. It's just as bumpy in the pattern as it was out in the practice area. Finally I get lined up with the runway and get it down on the ground--not gracefully, certainly not gracefully, but down in one piece.
Turn off the runway and stop to go through the after landing checklist. Then I look at the clock. It feels like I've been gone all day, but the clock says it's been only a little over fifty minutes. It seems a shame to quit so soon. Maybe I should get in a little more landing practice, despite the damn wind. After all, I'd planned to do three or four more today.
Okay, so I taxi back to one five. AWOS says the wind's now 270 at seven. That makes it perpendicular to the runway, but the maximum allowed for students is ten. I'm feeling pretty anxious by now, but can't tell whether it's just the normal anxiety or something special. Another plane comes in on one five and lands fairly smoothly. Aw, hell, so I go out and take off again.
But it's at least as bumpy as before. I'm bouncing up and down and all around. At one point on climbing out the wings are flailing around so much I think of Don Quixote and the windlmill--not a comforting thought at all.
So I'm on downwind for 15, when some guy calls in from twenty miles out, saying that AWOS says the wind's from 210 and therefore favoring runway 33, can Chesterfield UNICOM change the traffic direction.
Someone comes on and says, "All right, it's changed to three three."
Great. The 33 end is where all the bumps are. I should have stuck to 15 anyway, but instead I wimp out and announce that I'm now on upwind for 33. I fly around the pattern and get downwind and go through the pre-landing checklist--as best as I can, while getting bumped all over the sky. Then somebody is suddenly on a straight-in approach for 33, and I have to extend and extend and extend until he's past and I can finally turn base. Bump bump "Che-e-esterfie-e-eld traffic, Cessna-a-a..." Well, you get the idea. Then I'm on long final and for a minute it looks as though the wind's going to let up. No, it's from the left and I'm crabbing 20 degrees. Now it's gone and I have to turn right to get lined up again. No, it's a headwind and I'm low, add power. More power. Yiii it's from the left again. I'm over the road and the updraft that lurks there bumps me up a hundred feet and now I'm high.
Well. That's enough of that. I don't even want to think about
how that landing must have looked to someone on the ground. It looked
bad enough from where I was sitting. Fortunately, Cessna made the
152 a strong plane and then made the trainer model even stronger.
Too bad they didn't make it about ten tons heavier so air that's "a little
bumpy" wouldn't push it around quite so much.
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