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During my training there are a few things that my instructor always stresses. Well one of those things is flying “coordinated”. In a nutshell it is all about using the controls (ailerons, elevator, rudder) in a fashion that the aircraft is stabilized and not pitching and yawing all over the place. It does take feel but it is fairly natural after a bit of practice. Read the rest of this entry »

What I really mean is cross winds and gusts and wind shear .. Oh Yikes !!!
Today was a great day of intense flying. The Boston area has been dealing with the results of a pretty significant storm that raced through over the weekend and left some pretty strong and gusty winds. It was beautiful once again. Visibility 10+ miles and not a cloud to be found in the sky … only problem -sustained winds @ 16-18 mph and gusts up to 30 mph. Now that might not sound like much, but for a little Cessna 172S on runway 29 and the winds coming out of the NW @ 330 … it can be very challenging. But I was up for the challenge. In addition, one of the Senior Management team and FAA examiner from our training school wanted to go for a ride … so needless to say I wanted to do everything perfectly even with these crazy winds.

Well, it was not exactly perfect but in general each an every landing was pretty darn good. I was on the center line, landed on the left main (right x-wind) and held the nose off each and every time. I even did a “wheely” on my last landing and got a couple of kudos from my instructor. Needless to say it was a windy and squirely kind of day … but the main learning experience today is the following: with strong winds and such slow ground speed, I need to account for my rate of descent to be significantly different than I am use to. More power in order to cover more ground is essential … sometimes I felt like I was standing still.

Bottom line: Always, and I mean always be aware of the winds and how they are affecting your flight and ground track.

I love the new online flight planner at AOPA.   In the past I have used the planner that you downloaded, but it was not quite as adept at integrating weather, aviation charts and a variety of filters.  This is very well done and incredibly helpful !!  Of course you must be a member of AOPA.  Thanks AOPA!!

Well, I finally made my way up to the airport in Beverly, Mass (KBVY).  It was an absolutely beautiful day here in the Boston area.  Clear, crisp sky with very little wind to speak of, it was a beautiful day for flying.  So we headed ENE to Beverly and setup to land on runway 34 with a number of touch-n-gos on the agenda.  We did a few normal landing configuration touch-n-gos and then setup of for some short field approaches.  First one was pretty good, but we came around again for a bit more precision.  There were 3 other aircraft in the area also doing some pattern work.

So here we are on our second approach for a precision short field landing and I feel like I have my point lined up, I have accounted for the float and we come in stabilized and coordinated – and then touch down …. uh oh .. we immediately had a hard pull to the right which was hard to control so my instructor said to stop braking and took the controls.  Wouldn’t you know it … we had a FLAT right main tire. 

I had never experienced this and luckily we were right next to the taxiway so we limped off the runway in an effort to not to halt the traffic at the airport and then called for help.  The guys at the airfield were great, they looked at the tire, it looked fine, but they had to replace the tube and they only had an old one.   So they replaced the tube and suggested we get it checked out ASAP to be on the safe side.  During the tire change we had a lovely lunch at the Airport Cafe, really great people.

So we headed off to Lawrence, Mass (KLWM) where we have maintenance hangar to check out the tire prior to returning to Bedford (KBED).   My instructor decided to make the landing at Lawrence, requesting a runway which would force him to do a crosswind landing on the left main, attempting to protect the right until we new it was structurally sound.  He made a virtually flawless landing – I guess that is why he is the instructor. 

The guys at Lawrence checked it out and we were off to out final stop.   So what were the key learnings along the way:

  • how to recognized problems with landing gear at touch down
  • how to get help on and off the runway at an unfamiliar airport
  • always try to land at airports with services
  • preflight walk around is key each time at a minimum – we had a chock on one of our tires that we didn’t recognize which prevented movement for initial taxi
  • preparation, preparation, preparation

I started this post on February 11th after a great day of flying and learning.  I did not publish it and then learned about flight 3407 in Buffalo the following day.  My heart goes out to all of those affected and there is so much to learn from that tragedy … let’s not allow all those victims to be lost in vain. 

Here is what I wrote just 5 days ago ….

Today was another day of learning and improving.  My plan was to go to the airport and work on my short field landings again.  The weather was significantly different than yesterday, which was clear blue skies visibility unlimited and a bit of a wind.  But absolutely gorgeous.  Well today it was overcast with a front moving in with warm air colliding with cold.  We decided to stay at Hanscom Field, Beford Massachusetts initially, but after run-up we thought it would be a good idea to go somewhere else to make sure we were getting a variety of visuals.  It is incredible how different it all looks and feels from airfield to airfield.  So we set off for Beverly, MA, approximately 20 miles northeast along the coast.

It didn’t take long to change our plans.  The ceiling was dropping and was below 1500 feet so we had to change our route to Lawrence, MA.  Off to Lawrence which is a controlled airport, the conditions were right and it was very quiet.  We were able to do a few touch and goes with a couple of short field approaches.  My key learning on the short field today was to account for the float, so my aiming point needs to be shorter than the planned touch down point.

On the last landing we decided to head back to Bedford since we were seeing a bit of rain and mist on the wind screen.  At 2,000 feet MSL we also noticed mist/rain freezing and accummulating very lightly on the front edge of the wings and on the windscreen.  The temperature check showed that it was below zero degrees centigrade, so time to descend to 1500 feet and keep the ice formation to a minimum.  We called in a PIREP and headed home while maintaining a low level 1500 feet altitude.  

Key learning:  get out of the icing conditions and land as soon a practiccal.  It was a great day and we did all the right things.  It was not serious or significant icing but a very prudent thing to do nonetheless.