20-Oct-2001 Short and soft field work! (HIO-W27-4S4-HIO) 1.5

As promised, today we landed at actual short and soft fields. Woodland State is a driveway-width strip of asphalt running parallel to I5. It's in reasonable condition except that shifting soil has made it sort of wavy. Landed easily the first time, back-taxied and took off again on runway 32. This time I let the pattern get away from me, paying too much attention to shaping it to avoid the hill. I ended up high, and we did a go-around. Landed next time and since wind was calm (or purely xwind in the light gusts) so we took off from 14 so I could experience the hill first hand. I admired it passing us at eye level on the left after I angled out to the right immediately. :)

We had some trouble finding Skyport, which is no surprise once you finally see it. It's just one edge of a field, with a few barrels and boards to mark it. For the first time in my short aviation career, I failed to land on my first attempt. We made it in on the next try, which may have been my real mistake -- my soft-field takeoff was a near-disaster. I was a little hurried because I had real reason not to stop rolling in the moguls. On the takeoff roll I was drifting left, and more and more right rudder was not helping. Eventually either the rudder finally got more effective, or Landon stomped on the rudder pedal, and we were going sideways across the runway toward the right side. We were flying in ground effect but not too well. About the time I got the stall horn blaring I bailed and asked for help. Landon just pushed the nose down a bit and we were already at 55kts and away we went. That's about when I remembered how poorly my practice soft-field takeoffs had gone at McMinnville. More practice before we try again in "actual".

Landing on runway 30 at Hillsboro was a piece of cake by comparison. I can't even remember exactly what happened, but I picked up some serious sink after I levelled off, and had to make a pretty abrupt move with the elevator to flare. The result was a very soft landing, which wasn't what I expected at the time.

24-Oct-2001 Night airwork and landings (HIO-LCL) 1.4

It was nearly dark when I arrived. There was just enough light to preflight without a flashlight (although I had to get really close to the static port to see if it was clear). By the time we took off, after waiting for fuel, it was as dark as it gets under the winter overcast around here. Landon was concerned about fog. Luckily it never materialized, despite a slim temp/dewpoint spread of 2C.

We flew to the practice area and did a series of maneuvers including power on/off stalls, slow flight, steep turns and VOR tracking. It has been a while since I did any airwork -- steep turns were back in my 4th flight! Everything went pretty well, including the steep turns, which was sort of surprising. My steep turns in lesson 4 were not so hot!

We then returned to HIO where we had the pattern mostly to ourselves to do seven stop-and-goes. With the three expected on the night cross country my night landing requirements will be done. These landings weren't especially pretty (one was a real bouncer) but by the last one (which I got to do with no panel lights) was decent. It was pretty long (took A4 for the first time in a while) but wouldn't have scared away passengers. :)

25-Oct-2001 Hood work (HIO-LCL) 1.2

Only 16 hours or so after I last flew it, N53161 developed a bad mag. Last night it appeared to have a fouled plug, which cleared easily. Today Landon said the engine just died when trying to run on the one mag. So today we flew N219SP, a late model 180HP with leather interior and IFR GPS. The cost for these amenities (which I made little or no use of!) was about $20/hr. Remind me again why I'm not flying at Twin Oaks?

The only thing we really accomplished today was about 0.6 of hood work, including slow flight, turns, climbs, descents, etc. We also did unusual attitudes, which turned out to be a piece of cake. Landon's technique for disorientation (best I can tell) is doing lazy eights and chandelles (based on the series of 0g and seat-crushing turns).

As an object lession in disorientation, Landon also had me make a turn with my eyes closed. I really had no sensation of rolling or turning, but based on the engine sound, the passing of the sun by the windshield and the g-loading I figured out pretty quickly that I had entered a relatively steep turn (Landon told me later about 45-55 degrees). That was actually a pretty easy maneuver to maintain with my eyes closed, since the engine noise and magnified g-loading gave me a lot of pitch feedback. I only rolled about 20 degrees back OUT of the turn though and really had no idea until I opened my eyes. So yesterday was steep turns in the dark, today steep turns blind.

There was lots of excitement in the pattern on the way back. My initial straight-in was modified to a "overfly at pattern altitude and join the right downwind" which turned into a "follow the Cessna on extended right downwind ahead, #3 to land". After an approach even the VASI could love (I'm prone to diving to the numbers) I got a bit slow at the end of the approach and made a very short landing. I probably touched down right on the threshold or even a few feet before. Easily could have made A7 if that had been my goal!

On the way home I was feeling pretty frustrated since the whole day felt a little sloppy to me, and I didn't really learn anything about any of the mistakes I made.

31-Oct-2001 Night Cross Country (HIO-TDO-KLS-HIO) 1.8

A long rest compared to my usual flying schedule. Turned out to be a spooky night cross country on Halloween.

I called Landon last night because I was concerned that the weather was going to be too scuddy for our eastbound cross country (to Hood River) and our northwestbound cross country was over the wilderness, making it hard to identify landmarks at night (or even stay upright, for that matter). He suggested we go north, so I planned a flight to Toledo. The only likely airport for a 3rd point was Kelso-Longview. Boringly it is almost directly on the line between HIO and TDO.

I didn't select a lot of waypoints, since there aren't very many good (charted) landmarks to identify and the hops were fairly short anyway. For two of my three non-airport waypoints I used VOR radials (actually the same VOR radial...). Looking back, I doubt we could have spotted the one visual landmark I selected at night. As it turns out, my waypoints were largely irrelevant, since low clouds forced us to follow the valley (and I5) rather than my nice straight lines. At one point we were down to 1000 AGL (and not a foot lower, I'm sure!) and starting to wonder if we were going to have to turn back or go IFR. That was as bad as it got, and I5 led us right to TDO.

I definitely would have turned back had I been alone. The scariest part was after the flight when I realized that I had just completed ALL of the necessary night training for my PPL. At the time I wasn't feeling too confident about that, but I did manage to spot all of the airports, make decent (one very nice) landings at all of them, and get home.

7-Nov-2001 PTS Maneuvers (HIO-LCL) 1.0

Another long layoff compared to my early pace. This was a mostly night flight to work on PTS maneuvers. Steep turns, power on/off stalls and emergencies. It was just barely light enough to pick out a field for the emergency landing. Even though we had a working engine it was a relief to discover that it really was dirt (and not, say, baby pine trees) on short final.

I've been meaning to go out and solo for the last few days, but aircraft scheduling has conspired against me. Landon is gone this weekend, so I'll get some nice day VFR in for sure!

10-Nov-2001 Second solo (HIO-LCL) 0.9

Finally a chance to solo again. I'm not sure how significant it is to solo at 11.2 hours if you don't do it again until you have 20 hours! I wanted to practice short- and soft-field takeoffs, but there were about four other aircraft in the pattern already so of course it was "cleared for immediate takeoff" while Gary and student were a few hundred feet off the runway in 23L. I followed him around once and then we were split up as 23L was directed to cut in front of traffic on a really extended downwind. The sky would have been clear but for the dozens of leaf-burning fires all around, including one about 3/4 mile from the approach end of 30.

My backup plan was to head to the practice area for a while and get in at least some steep turns and possibly some ground reference maneuvers. It took a while to find a patch of sky that didn't have other airplanes aimed at it. I did a few steep turns each way (not bad, not bad) and then decided to find a suitable point to turn around. I was near Hagg lake, and didn't find landmarks that weren't at the foot of a hill, so I wandered back across the lake to try the other side of the hill.

A few minutes later the tower asked if I was still on the frequency and told me that Gary wanted to go home, and asked me to come in. There's always something new to catch you off guard. I'm supposed to initiate the callup so I have plenty of time to figure out where I am. And now I'm supposed to just reply with my location as if I just know? They asked me to report a left downwind (which makes perfect sense to me now) but at the time I thought "left base". Now getting into a left base from west of the airport is not entirely obvious. By the time I was paralleling TV Highway and eyeballing the end of the runway to judge a turn to base, the tower chided me for not reporting downwind and had me turn straight to the approach end of 30. Oops. Call it the VFR-A approach to 30. Now I wonder if I read it back wrong and they didn't correct me, or if I read it back correctly and just did the wrong thing. Either way, I knew far enough in advance that the pattern entry was awkward, and at that point I should have clarified it.

Back in the office Gary swore I was in the pattern behind him for "four or five" circuits and he thought I was still in the pattern when he called the tower. Uh huh.

12-Nov-2001 Soft-field takeoffs (HIO-LCL) 0.9

Just as I had hoped, the pattern was not nearly as busy today. For one circuit the tower even told me I had the pattern to myself! All of my takeoffs were soft-field, except for one touch-and-go I had to perform at the tower's request. The first one was probably my best, but they were all okay. The key to good directional control seemed to be coming to a full stop before starting the takeoff. That's the exact opposite of what you want for a soft-field takeoff, though. I'm ready to go back to Skyport and do a few circuits on real grass again.

Most of my landings were great. One bounced enough times to count as three or four landings, which was good experience too. I never went though a bouncy-landings stage, so I don't have much practice recovering from them. As before it came from getting a little slow on short final.

One traffic call really got my attention. The tower asked me to report my position when I was abeam the approach end of rwy 20. They told me I had traffic "abeam the numbers" about the time I was abeam the numbers. Since they had just had me angle my upwind to allow a Jet to depart, I thought I might have actually passed over another airplane during my 150 degree turn from angled-upwind to downwind. Luckily they were talking about the traffic a mile ahead of me which I already had in sight.

While I was on a 1 mile final behind that same Cessna on very short final the tower confused our N-numbers and started talking to me about expediting my exit from the runway to allow crossing helicopter traffic. That was finally straightened out, followed by my bouncy landing and the T&G. The tower was very appologetic so I guess we're even for last Saturday's pattern entry snafu. :)

14-Nov-2001 Crosswind landings, signoff for MMV solo (HIO-MMV-HIO) 1.6

Winds were up today and weather to the east and west was poor, so we scrapped the cross-country. It was a great opportunity to practice crosswind landings, but it would have to be somewhere other than HIO -- winds 120 at 15 gusting to 20, straight down rwy 12! I preserved my perfect record of never having seen the departure end of runway 12 by requesting an intersection departure from A4. I almost said A6, and in today's wind that wouldn't have been a problem! We took off while the plane ahead of us was still taxiing to the runup area at 12.

I wanted a solo endoresement to MMV anyway, so I flew us down there and landed on the runway favored by the wind (170@14, if I remember right). We made a lopsided pattern to land on 22 in a light crosswind and a moderate headwind. It took one T&G to remind me what I was supposed to be doing. The rest of my landings on 22 were fine, offcenter with a slight drift. It'd be ugly in a taildragger but you hardly notice in a C-172.

We took the windy opportunity to practice turns around a point. My altitude and airspeed were good, and the actual turns were fine, but not pretty. The wind was unpredictable, probably due to the presence of a nearby hill.

We tried out the new hood that my R&D department had produced. This one is much better -- a cardboard arch that clips onto my headset. Absolutely no view outside (with nothing additional blocking the windows!) and an unobstructed view of the instruments. Sadly my R&D department forgot to practice on the simulator this time and my instrument flying made for some exciting maneuvers. I managed to make myself mildly queasy and had to give up after only 0.4.

At 60KIAS under the hood, Landon informed me that our approximate groundspeed was 2kts. It was windy up there!

17-Nov-2001 Coast Cross Country (HIO-AST-S47-HIO) 1.8

The cloud cover burned off and it turned into an absolutely beautiful day for a cross country to the coast. In retrospect I don't know WHAT I was thinking planning a flight to the gorge when the coast range was clear. I missed my first landmark but we spotted all of the rest. Landon really wanted me to calculate groundspeed for some leg and he happened to point out the one where we had missed the waypoint and estimated our position. The resulting groundspeed was 180kts. I think our estimates were off...

We tossed the Astoria-Tillamook flightplan leg out the window and flew down the coast. It's very easy to find Tillamook that way. You just turn into Nehalem Bay and fly until you see AIR MUSEUM in huge letters and then land.

The leg back had us about 2 miles south of the intended ground track at the Hagg lake checkpoint, but both of us knew what we were looking for so we spotted Hagg lake easily. Hillsboro ATIS gave me a double-take when they got to the end of the spiel and said "landing and departing runway 2", which they rarely do in calm winds. So I had to let the winds come around again on the guitar, assuming I had misheard them. Nope, winds calm. Then they asked for a "3 mile right base" when we were nearly straight in on rwy 2, and actually off to the left. They must have known I needed practice questioning reporting requests from the tower. ;-) They amended and gave us the straight-in and I made Landon very nervous by landing about 15 feet from the threshhold. I actually had to accelerate to get to A6 in a reasonable amount of time.

21-Nov-2001 Hood work (HIO-LCL) 1.1

Got in 0.8h of simulated instrument in some really scuddy weather. My flying was pretty decent since I remembered to practice in FS2002 the night before. Landon was vectoring me all over the place to avoid clouds, terrain and airspace. This is the first flight with my new GPS, and it was amusing to look at the crazy squiggle made by the track log.

We also practiced soft-field takeoffs and landings since I was still unclear on where the burst of throttle was in the soft-field landing. We made some interesting landings in some serious wind-shear before the hood work. It took full rudder deflection to almost line up with the runway at 50', and almost no rudder in the flare. Landon kept me under the hood down to about 200' AGL on our return flight, and I looked up and landed, remembering at the very last second that I wanted to practice a soft field landing. I added a burst of power and touched down so softly we could barely feel it. Aha!

23-Nov-2001 Dual XC to Albany (HIO-S12-(7S5)-HIO) 1.5

Landon woke me up this morning to alert me to the (relatively) good weather and suggest we do my final required cross country. I had enough time to shower, get a briefing and file a flightplan before going to the airport. No fancy flightplan form for me, just one quick estimate of the initial heading and we were off.

Well, almost. We had to file IFR to get out of Hillsboro. Sure enough, we passed through a layer of clouds on the way out as I flew the Farmington Three departure for the first time in real life. We cancelled IFR at about 3,500 and transitioned to flight following (now that's an easy way to get VFR advisories!). I got a frequency change to give a PIREP for the cloud layer we passed through and opened our VFR flightplan.

We had to descend to avoid clouds, but we were able to stay above Salem's class D. A quick T&G at Albany and we were on our way back to "Hillsboro", but I knew there was going to be a diversion, and I knew Landon was planning on Independence State. He did trick me by asking me for an initial heading to Lebanon, which force me to grab a chart and FIND Lebanon. After I gave it to him he said, "Ok, now take me to Independence State." This was complicated slightly by our crazy DG (precessed about 30 degrees in there somewhere) and my airport blindness. The Willamette River has a kink which points right at it, and I got us there easily, but failed to see it until we were only one mile away.

I got to play with the GPS some more. I had expected it to be a good distraction for Landon, preventing him from distracting ME. In fact, showing him how to do various things with it was just as distracting as fielding pilotage questions.

In a hurry to get out of the airport today I kept up my speed on a 10 mile straight in to HIO. I nailed the VASI, but after pulling power and adding flaps as the speed allowed, it still took half the runway to get down.