Sunday, July 23, 2006

Beauty

Most of my flying club is at Oshkosh for the week. And the one plane they didn't take is the one plane I can fly as a student! So I went out today for two sessions, about an hour and 45 minutes each in the morning and late afternoon. I really wish I could leave the pattern, but I'm finding plenty to focus on IN the pattern. All told, I did seventeen trips around the pattern. Well, actually I did eighteen trips around the pattern because I was waaaay too high on one approach in the morning and had to go around.

But I did seventeen landings. Fourteen of them were genuinely good, and I seem to have figured out how to avoid bouncing. The density altitude is pretty high, about 2400 feet, so my ground speed is higher than my indicated airspeed, and that can result in a bounce if I have any extra airspeed. So I WAS flaring at about 70-75 mph IAS, and that is definitely too fast. The cheat sheet that John gave me, though shows 70-75 on final, so.... But the problem that had me bouncing is definitely that I was too fast, so I'm now shooting for 65 going into the flare. And today I only bounced once, and it was only a slight bounce.

Four of my approaches were high this afternoon, but I just dialed in some more flaps and still got down in the first third of the runway. No problemo.

What I really wanted to write about, though, was the feeling I had toward the end of my afternoon/evening session. It was 7:30 or 8:00, and the sun was orange/red and low in the West. There was little wind (3 knots) and it was pretty much perpendicular to the runway. Traffic was using runway 32. A quarter mile off the approach end of 32 there begins an expanse of farm fields. The fields are patched, with thin lines of trees separating them, and there are horses in some of the fields and an occasional building. The fields are very green, and the orange light of the sun made them seem even more so.

Maybe because it was my seventeenth landing of the day, certain parts of the process were becoming natural, not mechanical, but natural. (There's a big difference there-- "mechanical" would imply that I was moving the controls through rote memorization regardless of the conditions affecting the plane, whereas "natural" implies that I was responding to changes in altitude, airspeed, etc., albeit without too much conscious effort.).

As I was on downwind on my last lap around the pattern, a plane cut into the pattern on the base leg, and I had to extend my downwind leg by a half mile or so. I was low, the sun was low, and the landscape was absolutely beautiful. As I banked into a turn to base, 700 feet or so above the ground, I had a feeling like it was me flying, not just me "making an airplane fly." I wasn't thinking too much about how I made the plane turn, I just wanted it to turn and my hands and feet did it automatically. We (the plane and I, like one) swooped down over the trees and fields on base, then into the sun for final and a good landing. I really felt like I was flying, and it was wonderful!

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