After five acro lessons in Greenwood's Pitts, I thought I should try flying a Cessna 172 again and see if I could still make it go up and down without making it go belly up. (I guess that mixes metaphors.) There was a fairly stiff breeze--about 280 at 13 gusting 20 in most AWOS reports, so there was some crosswind and the gusts to pay attention to, but not so much that I felt worried.
However, I did feel strange getting into the 172, almost as if I'd never flown one of those big fat things before. But things came back all right, and soon I had made the airplane go up, and the belly was still down. I flew west and then south, just getting the feel of the plane.
I was also trying out a Palm Pilot program called "Flying Pilot," which uses data from a GPS to plot your location, heading, airspeed, course, distance from your destination or any other point, ETE, and some other things. Using it, I flew to the Petersburg airport, and sure enough, there it was. Pretty cool! It's a whole lot easier than navigating by pilotage or dead reckoning--or even VOR. The Palm Pilot plus "ancient" GPS combination worked well--not as well as the newest aviation GPS's, but a whole lot cheaper. The only problem is that I think you get complacent fast, using a GPS, and if it fails, you could find yourself badly lost.
Then I flew north to have a look at the river and went down to 1300 feet MSL to be sure I was below Richmond's airspace, even though I was just outside it, and did a couple of 360's over our house. About half the oak leaves have fallen now, so I could see some of the house from above.
And then I flew back to the airport and entered the pattern on downwind. Turned base, then final. The wind was still about 12 with gusts, but there was no particular turbulence, and I got lined up on final okay. Switched from crabbing to left aileron and right rudder to compensate for the crosswind and stay pointed down the runway. Okay--but that's when I became aware that I still wasn't really tuned into the fat Cessna. I was still feeling Pitts in my bones. Crossed the threshold at about 70, a bit fast, but compensating for the gusts, and thought maybe I was putting it down all right. BOMP! No, maybe BOMP! not so right after BOMP! all. All right, I realized that this wasn't going to work out, so I opened the throttle, raised the flaps, and went around, feeling pretty stupid. Feeling really stupid. There were about 37 airplanes lined up, waiting for me to get out of the way so they could take off, and I knew that in every one of them, the pilots were shaking their heads. Well, it was another first for me--my first unplanned, for real go-around.
Okay, I finally got the fat 172 back up in the air and went around the
pattern. I'll get it this time. The same 37 airplanes were
still lined up, waiting to see what I'd do this time.
Lined up on final--and did the same BOMP BOMP BOMP routine all over again.
This time I flew out to the practice area to get settled down and think
things over before trying it again. I figured I wasn't flaring enough--or
probably not high enough. It turned out to be good that I took that
break, because when I came back, the landing went better--not good, but
well enough so that the 172 stayed down on the runway and stopped flying.
All of those 37 airplanes had already flown away by then. It was
a relief to get safely landed, but I still felt foolish for having so much
trouble. Fortunately, no one in the terminal seemed to have noticed--or
if they had noticed, they were kind enough not to rib me about it.
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