Friday, February 19, 2016

Flying Lesson # 40 - How To Scare Yourself Flying

Let's set the scene: Yesterday was a beautiful day with an early morning flight scheduled before work, winds calm not forecast to change for the entire time I was scheduled to fly, sky clear, basically perfect. Did the weather forecast, got the ATIS, everything concurs that the sky is indeed clear and the winds indeed calm as do my senses as I prep the plane. Can't be a better day to practice some pattern work.

I hadn't flown in a couple weeks and my new instructor wasn't available so I figured I'd do some pattern work to work on landings some more in the friendly calm environs of the airport. I had already booked the slot prior to the vacation.

Good preflight, followed the checklist to the letter, beautiful day, engine starts right up, all is good.

On taxi there's a bit of ice on the taxiway to make the plane skid a bit but I maintain the plane on the taxiway. Run-up done following the checklist, all good. Good radio calls, permission to takeoff, all is great.

Takeoff is smooth as silk, I'm vocalizing the process and keeping aware of everything (RPMs good, oil pressure good, airspeed alive, rotate). Good takeoff. Nice pattern, cleared for the option, I'm happy and thrilled to be up in the air again.

First landing I come in a touch high but everything is ok, the touch of the touch and go is just a bit rougher than I'd like and I get up to go do it again and tell myself the next one will be better. So far everything is just fine.

Second pattern is good, come in to land with a great glideslope, winds still clam, touch the runway and "What the F##@!" I feel the plane starting to tilt sideways and one main gear is off. It felt like it was going to tip over but I somehow instinctively get the ailerons in the direction of the up gear, get it under control and then takeoff again. That was really all sorts of not good and that tipping feeling felt like forever but was probably less than a few seconds.

Tower comes on and says "73455 as you may have noticed on that last landing we just got a crosswind coming in."

No kidding.

Turns out it was an 8 knot crosswind which is right at the limit where I'm allowed to fly solo and was not in the forecast. While I'm legal under the endorsement to fly with an 8 knot crosswind, it's not where I wanted to be at that point in my flying.

They even updated the ATIS as it was not expected, and it did not go away.

As I'm heading downwind on 25R Tower calls that I should do a 180 degree turn and setup for 9L to improve on the wind angle. At this point I'm a little shaken but not stirred so I comply and get setup for 9L.

Turns out I'm a bit more shaken than I thought and I can see the setup for 9L on final is not where I want it to be (in other words it's a crappy approach) so I decide since it is not a good approach that I'm not going to try and force it so I let the tower know I'm going around.

Not a problem, Tower's good with that and I do a good go-around and setup for the next one.

I'm now a bit worried as it is just me up in the plane and I'm pretty sure I've found my comfort limit as to a crosswind.

I recall everything I know about crosswinds, do the pattern, decent enough approach, keep the aileron into the wind and rudder to line up on the runway and bring it in but with a lousy series of bounces - probably my worst landing ever and that was a mistake. I'm down though, and tell the tower I'm terminating and they let me know I did a good job, contact ground etc.

I contact ground after leaving the active, taxi back, shut and tie the plane down and realize I had just scared myself nicely but had handled it. No shakes but I probably should have had some. The next student pilot comes over to me tying down the plane and asks how was it. I let him know about the crosswind and that I did not have a fun time. We both check and can see the METAR is still not showing it nor the other weather apps. He wisely decides that as he's also a new solo to check with an instructor first before going up as he's got the same 8 knot crosswind restriction I have.

That's .7, 3 landings and a go-round.

Lessons Learned:

1. Having not flown for a couple weeks I probably should have not done the flight and waited for a lesson with an instructor, I let myself be led by a perfect weather forecast and my senses at the time. Had I known there would be an 8 knot crosswind, I would not have flown.

2. Expect weather forecasts and even current weather broadcasts to lie and be ready for anything.

3. Declaring the go-around was good judgment on my part.

3. On the last landing I should have put in full power on the first bounce and gone around again but was too focused on getting down and holding against the crosswind. It could have led to a major problem, luckily it did not. I'll know better for next time.

On the upside there was no damage to myself or the plane. But I really did not enjoy that at all and was a bit shaken up by it. Upon reflection, the upside is there's the fact that I handled it. The downside was I could have handled it better. While a humble and cautious flyer even before this, I'm a fair bit even more humbled by the experience but ready to get back on the horse with a lesson as scheduled with my instructor tomorrow assuming the weather is decent for flying.


juvat said...

Well.....First, glad you're ok.

Second, Confidence is good. Overconfidence is not.

Third, Flying is hours of boredom interspersed with seconds of sheer terror.

#3 applies regardless of your experience level. Novice through expert.

Finally, I have bounced an F-4 on landing. It happens.

Scott said...

I guess this goes into the category of "Any landing you can walk away from is a good one", especially if there is no damage to the plane.

Nice AAR.

Murphy's Law said...

Remember this regarding weather forecasts..."It's a FORECAST, not a prophecy".
Always be ready, and keep your hand on that throttle until you're down and stopped.

As for bouncing...three bounces = three take-offs and three landings for the logbook, IMHO.

Unknown said...

Does two landing gear wheels and a wingtip count as a 3 point landing?

Aaron said...

juvat: Thanks, Roger that and copy all.

Scott: Yep, by that standard it was a good landing, but you would not have wanted to be a passenger in that one unlike the ones I have done before, or even the first landing of the day which was quite viable.

ML: Yep I know, got caught nicely by surprise on that one, and the bounces pretty much were each a separate landing!

Jay: I hope to never find out if it does!

Old NFO said...

They are called weather guessers for a reason... You learned a valuable lesson and walked away. Complacency will bite you.

Scott said...

All I'm gonna say is that if I were on the upwind side you wouldn't have needed as much aileron as you had to use. :)