Weather here went sideways for about a week and a half. I had 3 lessons in a row cancelled… boooo! I finally got back in the air and boy was I a bit rusty.
After pre-flight, my instructor and I went over the flight plan. We were going to take off and head over to the practice area and work on a new ground reference maneuver. S-Turns. S-Turns are a good maneuver for calculating rate of turn with wind coming at you from different angles. The simple gist is that you find a road perpendicular to the prevailing wind. Then you set up on the downwind and cross the road back and forth make a continuous S pattern. This challenges you to make smooth turns with increasing/decreasing bank angles depending on where the wind is coming from. Oh, and you only have to make the turn 1/2 mile from the road each time, coordinate the bank, make sure you keep airspeed within +/- 10 kts, altitude +/- 100 feet while watching out for other traffic, towers, obstacles, etc. Easy Peasy.
Actually, I think I did ok. I know we didn’t have a real strong wind but I managed to keep everything in check and after about 8 or so turns we headed off to KSCR (Siler City) to land on their brand new runway.
As we dialed in the CTAF, I noticed there is a lot of traffic. Well, what can you expect, horrible weather recently, airport that just reopened after brand new runway…. everyone has the same idea. Pattern work!
I entered the pattern and here is where the rust started to show. Here I was again in a landing pattern and behind the airplane. That coupled with a wonky site picture because the runway is shorter and more narrow, my first attempt ended in a go around.
“Siler City, 46B go around because I am a noob, Siler City”
I didn’t really say the noob part but I thought it. Second attempt I came in a little high but ok. At the last second I feel a kick on the rudder then we touch down. “You feel that right push?”
“You weren’t lined up straight, need to stay active on the rudder”
Now the fun part.. remember when I said everyone was at the pretty new runway? Well, another cool feature of KSCR, there is no taxiway. At all. Which is actually more common than you think but it means if you land long, you taxi back down the runway to either take off again or you pull into the ramp to turn around, which in this case is midway down the runway. Since there was an aircraft on the ramp waiting, we pulled onto the ramp and followed him out back down the runway to do our run up and prepare for takeoff.
and then…… we wait.
4 planes in the pattern….. we wait and then wait some more. When you don’t have a taxi way, things take longer. Anyway, boring, skipping forward.
We take off from KSCR and head back to Raleigh Exec for some pattern work.
Flying back, I tracked the 120 radial from the liberty VOR back to Raleigh Exec. Really didn’t need to but might as well work on a little navigation. After about 10 minutes or so… I thought “wow, just flying a plane from one point to another”. I wasn’t working on clearing turns or maneuvers. Or navigating using pilotage… I knew exactly where I was, in the middle of our practice area. It was really cool and relaxing.
As we got in range, Raleigh Exec was bouncing with traffic as well. I made the proper radio calls, and we entered the pattern.
On the first landing, touched down a little floating but on center line. “Somebody used rudder this time” Yay!! but…
My next landing was meh, right of center line and sideways… now I am all over the place with the rudder.
Next approach, overshot the base turn but back on center line. It continued like this for a few more times around the pattern, then I heard…
“Don’t fly the radio, fly the airplane”
hmmm. I had been so worried about making my radio calls, I was late in all of my turns in the pattern putting me out of shape and behind.
As we took off, my instructor said “Last one, you’re getting tired”.
This time, I made the turns and fit in the radio calls when I could and focused on flying a precise pattern. As I turned final, I was right on and I heard so from the right seat. 🙂 My approach was good, lined up nicely and sweet touchdown on center line. Great way to end the lesson.
As we taxi’d back, I ruminated over my rust and we both agreed that my landings got better as the lesson progressed. The taxi back was gorgeous as we watched the sun set.
There were some frustrations but it goes to show you that muscle memory is key and the key to muscle memory is repetition. Hopefully mother nature will cooperate but that is unlikely. Either way, I will stay at it until it becomes second nature.