Flight Lessons: takeoffs and landings

I got some more time to fly today. The weather was pretty nice. There was a fairly steady breeze off the ocean, but it was going right down the runway. We were going to do touch-and-goes, but since today was a holiday (Happy 4th of July!), we had to come to a full stop and leave the runway for each landing.

I think I’ve got the takeoffs just about down. I need to pull up a little sooner though. The plane gets really hard to control on the ground when you’re going that fast, especially in the wind. I’m just glad there wasn’t a crosswind!

My landings were rough, but not bad enough to break anything. I still need quite a bit of work to recognize when to start pulling up as we get close. My approaches are getting better, but I tended to come in too high. The wind made me really nervous because as we got close the airplane tended to twist and turn and I wanted to keep it as level as possible. I think I’m getting better at stopping once we touched down, but it was a lot of work to try to keep it straight.

I somehow managed to find (and hit) a bird on my final approach. We were pretty high in the air. I’m not sure what it was doing up there, but it really surprised me. All I saw was a bit of a black blur and then I heard a loud thump. If it had hit the propeller, the landing would have been very interesting. Instead, it seemed to have hit the top of the windshield and bounced off.

Between all of those takeoffs and landings, I flew in what’s called “the pattern.” You basically take off and start climbing. Once you get a little ways out, you make a 90 degree left turn and fly a bit more. Pretty quickly you make another left to parallel the runway. By this time I was at pattern altitude and it was time to level off (something else I need more work with). When you’re about half way back along the runway, it’s time to call the tower (if they haven’t called you first) and let them know where you are. Two more left turns, lower the power and flaps, and you should be lined up for a nice approach.

With all of this taking off, landing, and flying near the airport I had a lot of time to talk to ATC. I messed up a few times, but by the end I was starting to feel almost comfortable.

Today was probably my most stressful flight. I should be doing touch-and-goes in a couple days, and hopefully everything will get a lot easier from here on out.

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