Stressful Flight

Discussion in 'Lessons Learned' started by TylerSC, Sep 17, 2016.

  1. TylerSC

    TylerSC Pre-Flight

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    As a recently-soloed pilot with about 6-7 hours solo, doing short XC flights, my confidence was growing quickly, but yesterday it took a big hit. Usually I fly early in the morning and am done by 9:30-10:00 am. Yesterday I left work early and went to the airport to fly around 3:00 pm. I had not flown the day before due to the onset of a cold. The cold seemed to have only lasted that one day, but my stomach felt a little weird. Still, I'm always a little nervous and don't want to start finding excuses not to fly. So I went. Probably a mistake.

    I took off and immediately was not havin fun. I was not used to the bumpiness of the afternoon air, and the winds were variable at 6-8 kts. I was not climbing well and fighting turbulence, which was not leaving me much time to think strategically. I just wanted to land.

    My first approach was going ok, but I was having a hard time maintaining speed and was behind the airplane. In retrospect I think there was a quartering tailwind component coming and going. I was too high and went around, which I've only done once on a solo. Second time around I extended downwind to give more time to get set up, and again was too high, too fast, go around.

    So now I'm starting to be concerned. I decide to leave the pattern to the south and regroup. Ok, straight and level is going well. I call the "big airport" which is five miles away, and to which I have never flown - I've never been to a towered field as a pilot yet; but I've gotten flight following from them before. I call them and confess: " I'm a student pilot, having trouble landing at (little airport) due to xwind, do you have a rwy facing more into the wind for me?"

    Of course, they do. I ask for a direction to fly and tell them I've never been there, nor to a towered airport, and to please tell me specifically what to do. No problem, Approach is super nice, gives me a squawk and a vector, then turns me over to tower. Tower gives me a clearance to land. I ask for pattern altitude and he tells me one that seems awful high but I comply. Halfway down downwind he corrects himself so I start a descent on downwind, kind of a new experience. He extends my downwind and says he'll call my base. Remember this is all new, I've read about it but haven't done it. I watch a big jet take off on my runway as I'm abeam the numbers and worry about wake turbulence.

    He calls base, I turn, turn again for final - and relax completely. The runway is the biggest thing I've ever seen! I can't mess this up, winds or no winds. I make a nice landing, carrying power, taking my time. It's neat to see the striping from the big jets. I flare a little high, but that's what Cherokees are for.

    I made good decisions, but it was not fun until it was over.
     
  2. TylerSC

    TylerSC Pre-Flight

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    Lessons learned:

    1. Don't fly by yourself in unfamiliar weather conditions, even one that looks sunny and low wind, before doing it with an instructor.

    2. Don't fly if you are questioning yourself at all about illness. Even if I'm ok to fly, worrying about it adds a mental issue which reduces capacity. There's nothing to gain and lots to lose.

    3. The more I have to consciously fly the plane, the less capacity I have for situational awareness and planning. It's a zero-sum game.

    4. If a little airport is not working out, big airports are awesome. They can tell you what to do and take a lot of the pressure off. Also my little plane could land in any direction, directly into the wind, without hitting anything.
     
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  3. Wade

    Wade Pre-Flight

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    Your back on the ground safe so you made the right decisions. Thanks for the write up definitely some things I will remember when I finally solo.
     
  4. Vance Breese

    Vance Breese Line Up and Wait

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    It reads to me like you made mostly good decisions and learned a lot.
    Admitting you need help and asking for it is hard for most pilots and I admire your candor.
    We all have to find our personal weather limits and revise them as we learn.
    I wish you all the best on your continuing flying adventures and thank you for sharing.
     
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  5. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach

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    Good job. You encountered a problem and found a way out. One of the things I see with new pilots is they can't come up with a plan B. They're so involved with the task at hand that they continue to push and in get in over their heads.

    If you spend any amount of time doing the flying thing for a hobby or for work, you'll have many opportunities to use ADM. You'll be up against a wall. Relax, think, and work the problem. Good luck with your flying.
     
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  6. rtk11

    rtk11 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    ADM is critical. While probably not best to have taken off with doubts, your handling of the situation was good. The two go-arounds, and flying south to a larger airport to ensure a safe landing as a good call.

    I fly a LSA, and afternoon convection can be felt even more so in a light aircraft. But it may behoove you to go up with your CFI in the afternoons so you can gain confidence/comfort in some turbulence. It's not comfortable, but the plane will fly.

    Good luck!
     
  7. Ravioli

    Ravioli Pattern Altitude

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    I'm curious about the aftermath.

    How did the plane get from BIG to SMALL airport? Was getting on the ground the confidence booster you needed to return on your own?

    What did your instructor and/or operator have to say about the experience?

    You state you've never been to BIG airport before. Do you have a logbook endorsement for solo flight to local airports?
    Something like: Solo takeoffs and landings at another airport within 25 nm: section 61.93(b)(1).
    I certify that (First name, MI, Last name) has received the required training of section 61.93(b)(1). I have determined that He/She is proficient to practice solo takeoffs and landings at (airport name). The takeoffs and landings at (airport name) are subject to the following conditions: (List any applicable conditions or limitations.) [DATE] Instructor Name, 1234567CFI, Exp. 12/31/2010

    Overall, in the moment you did right to Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.

    Fly safe.
     
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  8. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach

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    Lol! I was wondering about the logbook sign off as well. Encountered that one first hand when I was a student.;)
     
  9. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yup a sign off is required however I guess you could think of it as a diversion due to weather, even an emergency situation. I'm wondering where and what the CFI was doing, and if the OP was authorized to fly without the CFI's knowledge. Some might think this is over control, but I always knew what a student was doing and where the student was intending to fly. I too would like the OP to comment on what his CFI said about it.

    As far as the bumps that's part of flying and you need exposure to that. Sounds like you require more instruction in the pattern managing your speed and altitude. Perhaps you shouldn't have flown while feeling ill. Good decision on the go-arounds, leaving the pattern to gather yourself, and diverting to the 'big' airport, even though you weren't authorized by your CFI.
     
  10. Theboys

    Theboys Line Up and Wait

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    Sounds like it was a good learning experience. There will be simular experiences in future. Learning to fly go's long after receiving you permit to fly. My limits are far beyond what they were at your level of experience, but, I still have limits and I'm still learning and expanding those limits.
     
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  11. jbrinker

    jbrinker Pre-takeoff checklist

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    This is very interesting and timely for me. I'm 3hrs past solo, and building time as quickly as I can at "small airport" - but we are based at "big airport" so I'm fairly familiar with operations at both. In fact my CFI will be signing me off for solo at both (and from Big to Small and back) after another hour of solo at small and probably one hour of solo at big.

    I have had moments (I bet we all have early on at least) when I have the "oh ****" feeling and sorta just worry that I've forgotten EVERYTHING all at once (I haven't). This flying thing is very all-or-nothing. Either you have the skills, and can work the problems/think things though, and follow your training - or you don't/can't. There is no side of the road to pull over onto in the sky. My "gung ho" about flying has definitely been humbled - I want to take my time and learn/practice all I can before moving on to each next step.

    Sounds like you made some very good choices. Going around was one of my big blocks - I hadn't practiced it much, only 2x before I soloed. On my 2nd solo I had to go-around twice. My call. Maybe I could have landed one of the two, but I felt safer getting set up right and not forcing. You did the same, in an even bigger way.

    On my last solo lesson (6 landings and to's) I actually had this exact thought in the pattern. The wind was shifting and I thought, well, what if I have to go around 3 or 4 times. Do I divert? Circle the field for an hour? Keep trying? I think you made a good call. And having the confidence to call up ATC and say what you need and why took some stones. I hope when (probably not if) I ever need to do that I can put my "embarrassment" away and make the call. Maybe I will just do it someday so I can get over the fear of admitting I'm not sure.

    Also curious what your CFI said in the debrief, and how the plane got back. Fill us in :)
     
  12. eman1200

    eman1200 Final Approach

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    making the decision not to fly when you're not feeling 100% is part of becoming a good pilot. 'maybe' you shouldn't have gone up in the first place, only you know that but now hopefully you'll be more inclined to make a 'no-go' decision down the road.

    when I was training I was signed off to go to our local class D field solo and after the second lap around the pattern I wasn't feeling comfortable with the winds so I went home, called off the rest of the flight. shiznit happens.
     
  13. mulligan

    mulligan Cleared for Takeoff

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    I'm a very new pilot with only 170 hours and an instrument rating that is being used every time I fly lately because the weather stinks on ice. Many of my flights lately have been stressful because of fear of the unknown. But every time I fly I learn something new and the stress turns into joy. My flight yesterday had me in hard IMC for 45 minutes, something I have never done before and was not looking forward to. But I'm on the ground and had a blast and can't wait to travel again tomorrow in bad weather to use what I learned yesterday. Take every flight as an opportunity to learn and improve. That will never stop! Once you have some experience these little things that are stressful now will become the reason you look forward to each and every flight to follow.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  14. TylerSC

    TylerSC Pre-Flight

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    My instructor said I made the right call even though I was not authorized to fly there. It is ok to deviate for safety reasons, and we have talked about using the big airport if something happens at the home airport, like a runway incident or unexpected weather condition. The outcome of the flight was in question at my home airport, the only other airport with more than one runway was 25 minutes away and the AWOS there is out of service, and I knew how to ask for help, and did ask. If anything else went wrong, like with the plane or with me, I would have declared an emergency. He was really happy with my decisions.

    After landing I left the plane at the FBO and my wife picked me up. He or we will fly it back home.

    Rolivi, I was flying within my solo endorsement until I had to deviate.
     
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  15. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Did your CFI sign you off then being you already have done it? ;) :D
    Just joking with you.
     
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  16. PaulS

    PaulS Final Approach

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    Time to get up there with your instructor to practice crosswind landings AND takeoffs. Do them until you are comfortable, remember the control techniques, and don't be shy to use them. After a while they become fun.
     
  17. James331

    James331 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Always found smaller uncontrolled airports easier, shy of needing emergency crews.
     
  18. korben88

    korben88 Line Up and Wait

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    When I did my short field to/lndgs lesson there was some pretty good winds 9 gusting 15. My instructor asked me if I wanted to go to the practice area and work on something else but I decided to stick with the planned lesson.

    Even though I struggled and needed some help from the right seat it was a huge confidence boost. Those winds would be outside my personal minimums if I was solo. But seeing myself make decent landings, and working on a new skillset to boot and my normal landings improved a ton on my next lesson.
     
  19. N659HB

    N659HB Line Up and Wait

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    Good call, pilot!

    Have you flown to KCDN yet? If not, I recommend you try it sometime, even without the AWOS. You can listen on CTAF and usually learn the active runway, or call Unicom, or just overfly and check the windsock. I was once based there, and miss the crosswind runway sometimes. Winds reported at KHVS are usually close to those at CDN.

    At any rate, you now have some experience with which to judge afternoon weather conditions for your go/no-go decision. Your comfort level will increase as you gain more experience, but you should always listen to that little voice!

    It gets quite bumpy here in the midlands during the hot weather, so I generally avoid early to mid-afternoon flying until the fall and winter. I don't much like flying my Luscombe in the summer thermals: it's like riding a kite tossed in the breeze! If you have to divert to another airport, remember the winds and thermals will calm down towards sunset.
     
  20. Lando

    Lando Pre-Flight

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    One of my most memorable lessons as a student was when my instructor took me up in 30+ kt gusting winds and I got beat to hell for a good 8-10 laps around the pattern. Having him there to help me through it and get the feel gave me the confidence and skills to fly up to the limits of my plane. It's been a few years now, but I still remember that as a turning point for me. There is simply no better experience than having an instructor push you to your limits while he or she sits next to you as a safety net.
     
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  21. Cajun_Flyer

    Cajun_Flyer Cleared for Takeoff

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    First of all, great decision making all around.

    Just to touch on what you said in quotes above... there's nothing to worry about there. The big guys take off while I'm abeam all the time.

    Good luck in the rest of your training.
     
  22. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    If you're abeam the numbers, you should still have around two minutes separation. It's adequate.

    Flaring high on a wide runway is a standard optical illusion.

    Big airports aren't scary, but they are a bit different. Lately, I've been having much more trouble at smaller towered airports, as they seem to be getting rather busy.

    Legality is not an issue. If the outcome of the flight is ever in doubt, it's an emergency and you can deviate from any rule you need to in order to deal with that emergency.
     
  23. Omalley1537

    Omalley1537 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    This. My CFI had me take advantage of several bumpy, windy days for the experience. Great confidence builder to have to fly in that, with the CFI next to you in case things get ugly.
     
  24. Omalley1537

    Omalley1537 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Did you make sure to hose the engine down for a quicker re-start? I heard CFI's give you extra points for that...

    (In case you missed that thread, don't do this...)

    In all seriousness, sounds like you learned a lot and that you made some great decisions once airborne. You recognized you weren't feeling it so you tried to end the flight. When you weren't comfortable at you home airport you identified and committed to an alternate and confessed that you needed help. All good stuff. My ground school instructor repeatedly used the word "judgement" (aka ADM) as what separates good pilots from bad, rather than actual flying talent. You might read the book "The Killing Zone." You will find that the root factor in most of the accidents he cites is bad ADM.
     
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  25. Hank S

    Hank S En-Route

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    Good call, good flying. Problem solved, pilot first then airplane all safe!

    My CFI made sure to take me up in less than ideal conditions, so that I could learn to handle them. One of her main concerns was that I would NOT become a fair-weather-only pilot. It seems to have worked . . . and more so since picking up Instruments three years later. But I still sometimes decide to stay on the ground.

    "Discretion is the better part of valor."
     
  26. TylerSC

    TylerSC Pre-Flight

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    Thanks everyone for the support and helpful suggestions. I just need to get more used to turbulent conditions and practice more in general. We have been flying early in the morning because of the heat and I was not expecting the afternoon to be as different as it was.

    9HB, I do fly to CDN pretty often. I started flying lessons there in 2013 and did 10 hours in a taildragger before a hiatus from flying. All those hours were in winter though. Thanks for the tip to listen to HVS ASOS.
     
  27. whereisrandall

    whereisrandall Pre-takeoff checklist

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    @TylerSC , good job on the ADM. Sounds like a pile of good decisions followed by strong analysis of the factors involved.

    I'm a 400-hr CFI, and I hit an edge two weeks ago that caused me to rapidly make many critical decisions. We all do, it's how you deal with it that counts. In this case, you got to learn lots without getting hurt or bending metal - job well done!

    Related: the Swiss Cheese Model
     
  28. Lndwarrior

    Lndwarrior Pre-Flight

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    I think you went a long way to becoming a good pilot on this flight. You and your CFI should be proud of your decision making process. It's the hardest part of learning to fly safely. You did a great job, even though it may not feel like it.
     
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  29. danhagan

    danhagan Cleared for Takeoff

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    Mine switched all morning lessons to afternoon in the summer here in W. Texas the latter half of training. A ton of 3pm flights, windy, turbulence ... it was awful. Then doing the PTS maneuvers in that crap. When it came time to test for the flight portion after the oral (about 10am departure), plane felt like it was on rails with no TB ... piece a cake.
     
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  30. mulligan

    mulligan Cleared for Takeoff

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    You don't get to come in here and make a comment like "I hit an edge two weeks ago that caused me to rapidly make many critical decisions" and not provide the juicy details. Please share :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2016
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  31. whereisrandall

    whereisrandall Pre-takeoff checklist

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    @mulligan , ha. thanks for asking. I posted it to the board . Two days later, I flew IFR on top then did a short descent through a marine layer to land, easy peasy. but the nighttime IFR spooked me.
     
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  32. ircphoenix

    ircphoenix Pattern Altitude

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    You done good. Made good decisions. Logbook sign off be damned. You diverted due to weather, and no one is going to fault you for that.

    Your confidence should be bolstered to know that in tough situations you had the presence of mind to say "this ain't working" and you didn't force it.
     
  33. flyingmoose

    flyingmoose Pattern Altitude

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    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this write-up. I think you did exactly what you should have done--come up with a plan! You are the PIC in there and you will ultimately have to make decisions on every flight from here on out. Some of those decisions will be easy because you will rely on previous experiences to make that decision. Sometimes you just have to do the best you know how to and do SOMETHING!
    All too often we pilots live in a world where admitting you may have been in over your head or ask for help is taboo! You did well, and you should be proud of that! Keep learning and showing others how to learn while being honest.
     
  34. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Sounds like the best possible outcome once the decision to leave the ground was made.

    Review your feelings about that decision and learn to listen to that voice that says "no go", it'll serve you well in the future.

    Also consider talking to the instructor about working on techniques for getting down to the runway when it looks "high and fast". At the stage you're at, a go around is absolutely the correct choice, but as you gain experience and technique, that's one of those "problems" you'll be able to fix and still keep the latter portion of the approach stabilized.

    I recommend some time spent slipping heavily to create all sorts of lovely drag... and coming down like a rock, and then recovering at a reasonable altitude directly into a normal stabilized approach... which would be on the "menu" immediately after this event if I were your instructor.

    I even snuck in a little slip when I was a tad bit high to hit my intended landing spot in the twin ride recently.

    Didn't take much in that draggy beast, but adding a touch of drag without having to destabilize the whole approach by messing with the flaps, served very well. And any glider pilot will also naturally pick up this skill when the aircraft's dive brakes or spoilers aren't quite enough, too.

    I absolutely nailed that spot. Easily within the paint marking I was aiming for and had called out.

    You done good -- put yourself in a mildly bad scenario (bad, but it happens) and came up with a plan to fix it in a safe and reasonable way.

    Youll get a few more tricks up your sleeve and then always try to plan in such a way that you don't have to use them. Good stuff.
     
  35. Bill Jennings

    Bill Jennings Final Approach

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    Exactly. Looks like you took a little out of the bucket of luck and put it into the bucket of experience.
     
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  36. TylerSC

    TylerSC Pre-Flight

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    Update: this turned out to be a very good experience and a turning point in my flying. As a result of this incident my instructor and I had some long conversations about how to manage airspeed without fixating on the ASI. I learned to set my airspeed after reducing power abeam the numbers, trim out the pressure in the yoke, and fly the rest of the approach by feel and visual cues. I also paid more attention to the sight picture for that airspeed range. This has taken a lot of stress out of my landings and made bumpy or X-wind landing days much less of an issue.

    And I am now endorsed for the big airport!
     
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  37. N659HB

    N659HB Line Up and Wait

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    Sounds like you're making good progress. Keep at it.
     
  38. saddletramp

    saddletramp Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Good job. Getting safely on the ground is Job 1.

    When I worked full-time as a CFI I used to get frustrated with students who would cancel a lesson because conditions weren't perfect. I used to explain to them if they intended to use an airplane for transportation & not just pleasure fly they'd need to experience less than perfect conditions.

    I learned to fly in gusty Livingston, MT. The wind blew all the time & taking lessons in 20K winds were common. I got my ppl at 17 years old & my parents decided to move to Washington state from Montana. Once we were settled in I ran up to the airport & checked out in a 172. The CFI/FBO owner told me that I flew very well & the check out was done in less than an hour. A few days later I scheduled the 172 for some solo work & when I arrived at the airport the FBO said it was too gusty for me to take the 172 out. It was 15 to 20 knots straight down the runway. I was stunned.

    A few months later I talked my father in buying a brand-new Warrior & then I could fly when I wanted. Okay, I admit I was a bit spoiled.
     
  39. Rykymus

    Rykymus Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Dec 24, 2014
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    Rykymus
    Nice work. Be sure to practice at all times of the day. And as you approach your check ride, practice at the time of day the flying portion of your check ride will be done.

    And big airports are nice to practice at because they throw curve balls at you. Extend this, I'll call that, traffic positions, wake turbulence. It all teaches you to be more flexible and not as dependent on perfect, box-pattern, by the numbers landings. When I got signed off to fly my plane back and forth between my home airport and the training airport, I learned a lot.