24-Nov-2001 Crosswind landings, Ground Ref Maneuvers (HIO-LCL) 0.9

The winds were variable and gusting to 18kts so my solo cross country was ruled out. We tried to get in some crosswind landings on runway 2, but the crosswind component near the ground was minimal. We got one, uh, landing in on runway 30 in a 17kt crosswind. The approach was beautiful (well, after blowing through final and flying back to line up). It would have been a fine landing if it had been about 5 feet lower. Instead I dropped it in and punched in the power before we could hit again. I would have really liked another shot at that.

After that we did turns around a point and S-turns around a road, as well as a simulated engine-out. The ground reference maneuvers were fine for altitude and airspeed. My S-turns could use some work (that was the second time we'd ever done them) and I need to work on picking landmarks during my turns around a point. Altitude and airspeed were looking good, though.

Back at HIO, Landon distracted me on final by suggesting I make a flapless landing. I combined this with a slip-to-land, which confused him. We remained mutually confused right through the landing. The landing was fine, but then he said "ok, ailerons into the wind" and my brain locked up. I had no idea what the winds were other than roughly down the runway and no view of a windsock. As Landon started to demonstrate he was distracted by the control forces necessary. At that point I don't think either of us really had our heads in the game. I don't think our safety was ever in question, but it's a good thing we didn't have just one more distraction. The whole experience left me frazzled.

And I just remembered, today was "crazy ATIS day" at Hillsboro. On departure the ATIS recording ended in, "advise on initial contact you have information Golf, or..." but it didn't offer an alternative. On our return the ATIS had cycled, and information Hotel included winds 040 at 13 gusting to 18, ..., landing and departing runway 30. Turns out they were really landing on 2, but it did get us to listen to the ATIS twice.

8-Dec-2001 Checkout at Twin Oaks (7S3-LCL) 0.6

The plan was to show up, get checked out for solo at Twin Oaks, then dump Landon out of the plane and head out on my solo cross country. The weather was too crummy for my solo cross country, but I did take a few trips around the pattern in 4KU and I am now signed off to solo from Twin Oaks.

With its 180hp engine 4KU is pretty snappy. I had to back off to around 1800RPM to do the pattern at 90kts. At the 2100RPM I'd use in a 160hp 172 I was doing 100+kts. The plane is in fine shape except the elevator is pretty sticky, especially at the end of its travel. Just when you want that last bit during the flare, it feels like it's in molasses.

9-Dec-2001 Solo Cross Country (7S3-S30-7S5-7S3) 1.5

I arrived and preflighted 4KU. When I finally got Landon on his cellphone, he was with Hiro... just turning left base for runway 2. I was dragging the plane toward the fuel depot when he ran over and told me I was in 40H instead of 4KU. It's harder to push an airplane backwards up a hill than to pull it down the hill towards you! Then I got the brief "how to fuel an airplane" tutorial while Hiro refueled the 150 he was flying.

After waiting for Landon to sign off Hiro's XC and then mine, I finally got ready to depart about an hour after arriving at the airport. Just as I was about to start up, Landon runs over to the plane carrying a towbar. I'm wondering if I am supposed to move somewhere else to start, but no, he just wanted to tell me that this plane was a little nose heavy. Ok!

By the time I passed Salem I was starting to relax. Still didn't manage to take any pictures, even though there were some pretty views in the Willamette valley. It was a successful crosscountry, as I found all the airports and waypoints without any trouble. I got in full stops at Lebanon and Independence State. I even found Twin Oaks again.

Oh, and did I mention, the AI indicates in MPH, not knots? And com2 is a mystery feature of the GPS? At least I figured out the first part for myself, before I tried to set up an approach 15% too slow!

17-Dec-2001 Aborted Solo Cross Country (7S3-LCL) 0.5

Flight service told me several times (even moments before departure) that the coast was clear (no really, the area by the sea had good weather!) and that it was possible to get over the coast range. I frantically planned a solo cross country to Astoria, Newberg and back. I was not able to depart as early in the day as I would have liked, which was stressful, but it was all for nothing, since it was immediately clear when I got about 10 miles west of Hillsboro that there was no way I was going over coast range.

It was probably stupid of me to even try and get to the coast, despite the alluring weather. It just sounded like more fun than buzzing down the Willamette valley (to lower ceilings, according to my briefing, than I'd find at the coast...). Frantically planning and then not completing a cross country to the coast was no fun, though.

In the future I don't think I'll even try to hurry up and fly a solo cross country if the weather happens to be nice. There just aren't enough hours of daylight in the winter to see if it's going to be nice, and then plan a cross country in the direction of good weather, and then fly it.

24-Dec-2001 Crosswind Landings and Signoff (7S3-HIO-7S3) 0.9

Yesterday the weather was beautiful and I was ready with my coast tour flightplan. Everything was perfect except that I had no plane to fly. 4KU was being used for a checkride and came back about 2.5 hours late. By then there wasn't time to get in a cross country before dark.

Today the weather was beautiful and I had a new plan, completed last night, which was only as long as necessary and did not involve crossing the coast range. I thought I had all my bases covered. Unfortunately, winds were strong and gusty at Hillsboro, so the weather didn't meet my solo restrictions.

Instead I went up with Landon to practice crosswind landings, first at Twin-Oaks, where things were pretty tame, and then at Hillsboro, where they were gusting to 25. Most of the landings were fine. On one I got a little slow and ran out of rudder authority just as a gust hit us. Landon suggested "more left rudder" when it was on the floor and we were pointing about 30 degrees into the wind. That one resulted in a landing. One touch and go was very brief, as I landed slightly above stalling speed and a gust picked us right back up and I hit the throttle.

Just in case, I asked Landon to sign me off for higher winds and crosswinds. I can now solo in 25kts with a 10kt crosswind, which might help me get in a cross country. We also talked about the written test and the oral part of the checkride, and I got signed off to take the written.

30-Dec-2001 Solo Cross Country to CLS (7S3-CLS-HIO-7S3) 1.7

Until an hour before my flight I was sure I wasn't going to be able to go. The forecast (and actual weater!) for Olympia, 20nm north of Chehalis, was 1/4SM visibility in fog, ceiling obscured at 100'. While I was talking to McMinnville on the phone they contacted Seattle FSS and found a PIREP from CLS saying it was clear. I decided to give it a try, half expecting to be turned back just short of my goal. My cross country endorsement didn't include another airport 50nm from Twin Oaks, so it wouldn't have even been a cross country without CLS!

When I got there I discovered that it was indeed clear. As I was leaving I reported my findings to Seattle flightwatch: airport clear, stratus layer extending from the ground to about 1000' starting 3-5nm north of the airport. It was that close!

The visual checkpoints I had worried about spotting were easy to see. The refinery stands out even behind hills as the water vapor in the smokestacks condenses into miniature clouds. The nuclear power plant in the NOTAM is also extremely easy to see and identify -- I wonder why it's not on the sectional? My "airport vision" has improved and I spotted all of them as I passed them.

On the way back I stopped at Hillsboro. I considered this kind of a creampuff choice since I've landed there so many times. True to form, they made things interesting. They were never entirely clear on my tail number, beyond the fact that it ended in "KU" and might have had other digits like "3" and "4" somewhere. Just as I arrived abeam the tower on a left downwind for runway 2 they had two planes on a right downwind and one that was switching to 12 (but from where in the pattern I was not clear). But I finally spotted my traffic and they gave me my stop-and-go (they didn't seem to want to, but they might have guessed that I was on a solo XC since they asked for my intentions before granting it). For some reason there was light to moderate turbulence just off the departure end of 30 which I encountered on my way out of the pattern. Those poor planes making right traffic must have been flying through it every time. The left side of the pattern was clear!

Once again my first flight after heavy crosswind landing practice resulted in what felt like super-easy landings. After last time when I was fighting the wind all the way to the ground it was surreal to just land with no excitement.

12-Jan-2002 PTS Maneuver Practice, Hood Work (7S3-7S9-7S3) 1.6

Today's goal was to finish up simulated instrument work and preparation for solo PTS maneuver practice. We did steep turns, turning power on/off stalls, slow flight, VOR tracking, simulated engine failure to the ground, soft field takeoff in actual grass, night landing at Twin Oaks, plus a little of everything under the hood. Landon threw in some partial panel work before the unusual attitude recovery to make things interesting. I still think it would be more fun to shoot approaches to make up the time, but now that I have 3.1 hours by reference to instruments, I can save it for my IR.

It took me a record three attempts to land at Twin Oaks in the dark, where the runway lighting reminds me of a big "STOP N SHOP" sign that only says " TOP N P". It took me a while to find it even though we were right over the Newberg ridge when the hood came off. Like all airports, though, once you realize it's an airport, you wonder how you could have missed it. When I spotted it only a few miles away, I could also see Hillboro rwy 30's REIL blinking, about equally bright, despite being 8+ miles northwest.

15-Feb-2002 Grinding off the Rust (7S3-HIO-7S3) 1.3

After flying only once in January the weather finally cleared up this week. I was slow to take advantage of it, but it was still beautiful today. My plan was to fly down to the MMV area, practice steep turns, then do an emergency descent to land at MMV, practice some landings, then find a tree to do turns around and return to Twin Oaks.

After crossing the Newberg ridge I switched to MMV's CTAF and it was hopping. Someone else doing an emergency descent, a few departures, two or three other planes entering the pattern in various ways. I angled off to the east to find some room to do steep turns and wait for things to calm down and immediately spotted two other planes with the same idea. They were close enough together they may have been practicing synchronized steep turns.

I headed back over the ridge and did my steep turns at the edge of the valley west of Hillsboro. I called HIO from 8 SW and was instructed to report a 3 mile final for straight-in on 30. Wary of odd pattern entries (as you'll know if you've read the rest of the log!) I read it back carefully and turned toward the airport. They warned me that they had just given similar instructions to another plane, and shortly after my initial callup I heard another plane get similar instructions after reporting the exact same position (8 SW).

Obviously you can't land straight-in to the northwest when you're flying a northeasterly course to the airport. I reported at 4 miles straight out from runway 2 and they switched me to runway 2. Nice of them, considering the wind was 040@11. First trip around was uneventful. Second trip around the tower asked me to "extend my downwind" (in right traffic) for a Mooney entering on right base. I immediately asked if they intended me to cross the path of of this plane on my extended downwind. The tower guy sounded exasperated and called the traffic at my 11 o'clock. In reality we were so close at that point that he was closer to my 9, so I didn't spot him. Tower suggested I may have to angle left, so I did, and there he was, about a half a mile away, crossing my path from left to right. I continued angling at a 30 degree bank! To follow him in I had to do a 180 degree turn back to base. After that touch'n'go I departed to the west, did a turn around Turning Tree and returned to Twin Oaks.

And I finally took several photos. My wife criticized my choice of subjects: airports! But I really wanted to get a shot of Twin Oaks.

14-Mar-2002 Grinding off More Rust (7S3-MMV-7S3) 1.3

If you only fly once a month then all of the flights are going to be dedicated to grinding off the rust. Did a few crosswind landings at MMV and one back at 7S3. Did steep turns, power on/off stalls and an emergency descent in between.

Got checked out in 08Y, a VFR-only 180HP 172. Apparently being light on the avionics makes a big difference! Climbs at over 1300FPM easily. Its only reliable COM is a... you guessed it, GPS/COM! Only Twin Oaks would have a moving map GPS in a VFR-only airplane. And did I mention the vertical card compass?

22-Mar-2002 Final Solo Cross Country! (7S3-CVO-EUG-7S3) 1.9

I finally flew the last cross-country I needed. A trip I planned at least three months ago. It was designed to be foolproof, based a simple route with easy VOR navigation, in a direction where weather is usually tame and the airspace is uncomplicated.

It was scrubbed for bad weather (at least twice), missing plane and missing instructor. Several very nice weather days went by when I was otherwise occupied. I was going to fly it yesterday when the forecast light winds turned out to be 17 gusting to 25 starting before dawn (blowing my trashcan into the neighbor's yard) and lasting all day. Today those winds left some pretty clear skies and high ceilings and at last the trip was complete. They even cancelled the NOTAM putting the CVO VOR OTS all day.

I needed 1.8 to finish my 5 hours of solo xc. I flew for 1.9.

23-Mar-2002 Praticing PTS Maneuvers (7S3-7S9-7S3) 1.6

Power on/off stalls and slow flight went fine. Steep turns, which are usually easy, were barely within tolerances the first few times around. Back up to my usual standards by the end. Good emergency descent, turns around a point, s-turns on a road. One of the few times we've had enough wind to make ground reference maneuvers interesting.

Things went downhill when I got "diverted" to an airport we were very close to after doing the ground reference work. I located our position from landmarks, and Landon checked me with a couple VORs. I probably flew right over the airport looking for it. Finally climbed to 2000' and spotted a plane landing there, and found Aurora, which is much easier to see. Turns out our destination has trees on both ends and along one side. None of those FAA 50' obstacles, either -- the trees were a good 100-150' and 200 yards off both ends.

Had to go around the first time as we were very long. Barely landed on the runway on the second attempt. We should have just insisted on landing with the wind (and the glider/tow pilot) rather than trying to follow the other plane practicing landings. Soft field takeoff out of the grass was fine.

Got back to Twin Oaks and did another go-around from 10' after flying too tight a pattern. Second landing was better placed, still not as soft as it should be.

25-Mar-2002 Landings (7S3-HIO-7S3) 1.1

Flew over to Hillboro to improve my landings. Much better. I still never remember to do soft-field landings, though...

30-Mar-2002 Landings (7S3-2S6-UAO-7S3) 1.3

Emergency drill went fine. Landing at Sportsman was an unmitigated disaster. Oh great, my last dual flight and I'm flying worse than ever. Landon warned me at the beginning that he'd be hard on me, but by the end I had been so hard on myself that he was trying to reassure me that my flying was okay.

I did learn one thing from this flight, which is that I shouldn't do anything differently just because Landon (or my DE) is in the seat next to me. Having Landon with me makes me rush.