Saturday, April 16, 2016

Flying Lesson #47 - Night Time Patterns Properly Performed

Yesterday night was just a beautiful night for flying. Ceiling and visibility unlimited and a 8-11 knot winds coming in from 110-120 degrees.

I pre-flighted N757MK and Will told me we would head to Lapeer to do some night pattern work.

Lapeer is a nice uncontrolled field, complete with an intersecting grass strip that's closed at night, but Will has stated he'll take me there soon to do some grass field work. So we waited until it got dark and then I did a nice crosswind takeoff and headed to Lapeer.

Then I got the AWOS for Lapeer, made radio calls from about 10 miles out, activated the runway lights, entered the pattern at Lapeer, there were no other aircraft around, did the radio calls, and came in and did a darn nice landing on Runway 18.

That was the start of the trend as every single landing I made last night was great. Nice and smooth, good approach, good roundout and flare. Each landing to a full stop with good braking, then get on the taxiway and turn and call and do it again. I was consistently ahead of the aircraft and identifying potential issues, correcting and critiquing before Will needed to say anything on every pattern. He was very happy with my flying and awareness.

After three landings I asked if I could practice some short field takeoffs and Will said sure. So I taxied to the runway, held the brakes, had the throttle to full and then took off with a Vx climb of 65 knots until Will declared the "obstacle" was cleared and I then pitched for 80 knots climb and did the pattern and landing once again.

He liked those and after three of them suggested I do soft field takeoffs, which were very cool to do at night. For the soft field you don't stop but continue rolling onto the runway with 10 degrees of flap, maximum elevator and do a wheelie with the nose wheel off the ground until the plane lifts itself off the runway, then you ease up on the back pressure and keep it 10 feet above the runway in ground effect until the airspeed builds up enough to be actually flying and then you smoothly climb out, retract the flaps, and do the pattern. I did a couple of those and had a blast - soft field takeoffs are fun, and at night they're even more fun.

During the pattern work and after a couple landings I think Will deliberately went out of his way to appear nonchalant and appearing to not be paying attention to what I was doing and acted as a passenger just along for the ride. It was all me. That was a confidence builder indeed.

Then it was back to Pontiac and I radioed the tower, was told to report a 2 mile downwind for runway 9 left and to avoid some traffic so at 4 miles out I started a gentle descent to pattern altitude, called in and reported at two miles for the downwind and got cleared to land and did yet another excellent landing and was immediately cleared without even asking to take delta to cross Runway 18 and take the plane back to the flight school. The tower knows where the plane lives all right.

That was an amazing flight lesson. My confidence in my landings is way, way, way up, and I know I can do this. Will was very happy with the landings and pattern work and told me I did everything just right and it was all me this flight, and he has no problem signing me off for my next couple of solo cross countries. To say I'm ecstatic about all of this coming together would be an understatement.

Unfortunately, two of three 172s at the flight school are down for maintenance so my cross country that was scheduled for today - today with the weather being perfect - light winds, not a cloud in the sky perfect, is cancelled as the bird is not available. Damn.

That's 2.1 more nighttime flying hours and nine great full stop landings done, bringing my total nighttime full stops to the required ten. That was a lot of fun.


Home on the Range said...

On one of my first cross countries, I overshot my field by a few miles. I realized I had, and quickly found my way back but that rattled my confidence a little as I had planned the flight so carefully I was a bit fast on the approach and managed to bounce, not just once, but twice. Not super hard, just enough to be REALLY embarrassing. When I went into the FBO, one of the instructors was chuckling and said "do you need me to sign your logbook (back in the day you'd do that as proof you landed somewhere). Apparently, without a word he figured out I was a student. Can't imagine why :-)

Scott said...

Saw a light single engine flying out of KLAN last night around 9:00 and hoped it was you. A turn to the south told me it probably wasn't. Still, it was fun to think it might be you.

OldAFSarge said...

Excellent description of a perfect flight!

(Living vicariously through others...)