Checked the weather today and could see that we were going to have rain tomorrow so thought I'd just run out to Skypark and see if Travis was flying today. Turns out there was a 5 o'clock slot open so I jumped on it.
There was a steady WSW 14mph wind most of the afternoon at Skypark so we again headed to Petaluma Municipal to practice takeoffs and landings. Taking off at Skypark on 26 went very well. The steady headwind lifted the plane off the ground at about 50 knots instead of the usual 65 and in about 1/2 the distance, still, from inside the plane it all feels pretty much the same. I climbed out at 70 heading west and proceeded to climb to an altitude of 1600 feet where the air was calm and smooth. It was another beautiful day in the air and I love the cruise over to Petaluma, through the Petaluma Gap and up the west side of the hills. We took the same route as we had on Friday, paralleling the airport to the east until we were several miles northeast of the runway, making a 140 degree left turn back towards runway 29 and descending to 1100 feet to enter the pattern on the downwind leg at the specified 45 degree angle.
I've been making all of my own radio calls today, at least the ones in the pattern, I'm still not familiar enough with the protocol to know when to make in route calls and announcements, but it feels good to be making my own calls for sure. I suppose that's a sign that I'm getting more comfortable handling the plane as until now, my concentration has all been on flying. At Petaluma I'm still having trouble adjusting to the speed coming into the downwind leg, and again today I entered it both too high and too fast, although I did manage to check the carb heat in time, abeam the numbers on the runway and get the throttle back in good time. I turned a bit earlier on the Base leg today and entered Final in fairly good form keeping the attitude of the plane coordinated. My first landing was actually not bad, I felt comfortable with my speed and glide angle and while I again flared out a little too early and came down with a bit of a thump, I came down on target.
I felt all of my takeoffs today were adequate if not downright good despite the crosswind. I guess that means I'm getting more comfortable handling the plane on the runway as well. With the exception of a flock of geese flying directly into the departure path and Travis momentarily taking the controls to avoid them, the take offs all went well.
On Friday my flight and turn coordination was quite good, although I had difficulty maintaining proper altitude in the pattern. It seemed I was was always a little too high coming out of the crosswind leg and into the downwind leg, which then caused me to need to descend in the downwind leg which of course throws off the timing for everything else from there to the Base leg. Today, I was concentrating so heavily on maintaining my altitude consistency, which I in fact did, that my coordination went out the window, at least in the first 3 flights in the pattern. My coordination wasn't really that bad, it just wasn't that good either. Hopefully now I'll be able to put everything back together and get it all right next time.
Of my landings at Petaluma today, 2 were so so, 2 were good, 1 was rather nice and 1 was a disaster…or near disaster anyway. Starting my flare too early I got caught in a crosswind just 30 feet or so off the runway, and since I was drifting to the right each time in the crosswind as it was, this time it took me all the way off the pavement, right wheel in the grass, bouncing around one wheel on, one wheel off the runway and moving way too fast. Seems I was trying so hard to maintain control that I neglected to back the engine down to idle, so not only were we rocking and rolling, we were rocking and rolling fast, on top of which I guess I was clamped down hard on both rudder pedals so Travis had a hell of a time assuming control. Ahh, that's what you have to love about flying though, there's always a challenge. in a weird sort of landing gear crushing way though, even these types of errors give you some confidence. A few weeks ago I would have never thought I could keep control of the plane in such a situation, and now I know I can, so while I'm going to try to never do it again, at least I'll know what to expect if it does.
My instructor was really good about walking me through everything today, over and over. On my last approach from downwind through final, nothing was said at all and I came in quite nicely setting the plane down not only reasonably smoothly in a 3 point configuration but also in the center of the runway for the first time today. We made one more taxi around and headed out on a right crosswind departure back to Sonoma in route discussing what I could do to make my landings better and more consistent. Flying the approach into Skypark, I flew through downwind nicely and made a left turn onto Base. On Base is was concentrating pretty heavily on the wind but still managed to drift fairly quickly away from the runway, making my left onto final, I adjusted my power and glide, kept the best attitude I could manage, and glided in nicely to the ground…actually, my best landing of the day which put a big smile on my face, and I'm sure was a relief to my instructor.