Just when you think you've got it all figured out, everything changes.
What is it about this flying thing? 11 perfectly reasonable landings one day, and then 48 hours later...
My instructor had planned for us to fly over to Napa and practice wheel landings in the Citabria and I asked him if we could go up and practice some slips first. While I was pretty comfortable doing them at altitude, I still wasn't that confident doing them on the approach. We headed out and up to 3400 feet where for 15 minutes or so I practiced, full power slips, low power slips, slips down, slips up and flying the box. I tried to get the message to sink in, stick first, then rudder to support it, hold the rudder, don't pump it, keep it steady, fly straight, left, now right, now left, now right. Ok, I think I have it, next time I need one I'm going to know just what to do.
Napa is a busy airport, and it was a little gusty today for sure, but even so, I would have thought I would have done better. I didn't practice any full stop landings today, so I'm thinking that had something to do with it, and the extra traffic adds a little something to the mix for sure. The runway is much wider and quite a bit longer than either Sonoma or Petaluma as well. While you would think this would work to your advantage, there's an illusion that happens when you're used to looking at an airstrip that's short and narrow and suddenly you're staring down something 3 times as wide and 4 times as long. As I discovered, your perspective changes and the world seems to be coming to meet you a lot faster, at least, that's the way it appeared to me.
Of course, Monday was all about 3 point landings and today was all about wheel landings with go-arounds. Just changing from full stop to go-arounds is enough to throw me off a bit, but then you toss in all of the other factors, a different airstrip, tower controlled traffic, and a fair amount of it, a few flyovers only several feet off the runway and just for grins, a healthy little crosswind and suddenly I was all over the place.
In my defense, 3 of them were perfectly fine, well, reasonably fine, well, landable. Actually, a few of them were nice and soft, and I even heard my instructor say something like, "that one was nice", but of course, looking at the GPS, out of 11 landings in Napa all I really remember are the ones that didn't work out, the one's that were more like popcorn in the wind. I can't tell you what happened with those, no matter where I thought the ground was, it was always just a little higher or a little lower than I expected it to be. I wanted to land like that guy in the Lear Jet who came down in front of me, soft and smooth, and trust me, I was trying...maybe a little too hard, but it wasn't going to happen, not often enough, not today.
Any day flying beats any day working and you always learn something, but I felt like I was getting schooled over and over again today and I just wasn't getting the lesson. Of course, 11 take offs and landings without stopping, well, 14 if you count the 3 in Sonoma, is a good workout on any day, but Travis knows how much I want this, and he's pushing me to get it right. I'm sure I make it out to be worse than it probably was, but you know when it's bad. If you fly, and the instructor has to take the controls for any reason, you can figure you wouldn't have made it and that's the part that gets you.
We called it a day and headed back to Sonoma where the wind was coming from about 170 degrees at 10 knots or so, so I swung around for a right pattern onto runway 8, that's the one where you come in over the buildings and somewhat taller trees on the west side of the runway. It's a little steeper descent and a quicker drop right at the end, and even though it's the same runway as 26, I'd swear it was narrower and shorter, but of course I know it isn't. Coming in I had a chance to put all that slipping into action using it to slow the plane down and drop into the runway. This being only the second time I've landed on 8, I came in a little stronger and steeper than I probably would with more practice but I managed to get the wheels on the ground with only a little bounce this time, all in all, one of my better landings today. Honestly, I got a little squirrely on the run out as I have a tendency to let the stick bounce forward if I hit the ground too hard, something I definitely have to pay attention to, but I managed to get the stick well back and bring the tail down where it belonged and steady the plane for the rollout.
If you're going to botch a bunch of landings, at least make the last one count. Tomorrow's another day, and whatever I did today is staying back in the parking lot with the car tomorrow.