Today’s lesson started with the realization that I know next to nothing about the plane that is keeping me in the air. I can tell that skip is prepping me for my Solo. This morning he was asking questions about my plane. The first one I knew, What Kind of plane is this. A confident Waner answered: “A 2001 Cessna Skyhawk 172s” That was pretty much the only question I got right. The actual mechanics, engine specifics, electronics, I knew near nothing! It was a real eye opener. My trusty CFI pointed me to the proper page in the Pilot’s Operating Manual and told me to study it.
This time we were on a northeastern departure from Page Field, We haven’t done this one before. We were off to La Belle Municipal Airport, a small, non-towered general aviation 25NM away away from Page Field. On our way there, we fly close to Buckingham Airfield, Another small airport even closer to Page Field. Now remember, Page Field Airport is very close to the Fort Myers International Airport (KRSW). The international airport lies within a Class C airspace, and I would need permission to enter it. We stay clear of the Class C airspace and continue flying towards La Belle. Almost as soon as we leave FMY, Skip tells me to dial in the Buckingham CTAF, and report our position. CTAF is the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency. Airports that don’t have a tower or the tower is closed for the night have a CTAF where pilots can tell the other pilots in the area that “HEY, we’re here and this is what we want to do!” When flying through the air you are bound to fly over, or near other airports. And if you are close enough to their activity it only makes sense from a safety standpoint to alert other pilots that you are in the area. It’s also a good idea to know where the other pilots are. After this short explanation, I’m late in calling our position for Buckingham Traffic, Skip jumps in and saves the day. This is my first lesson of the day in distractions.
Maneuvers & Navigation in Foggles
About half way between Buckingham and La Belle we climb to a safer altitude, and I slip the fantastic field finishing Foggles over my eyes for some simulated instrument training. Remember, a Private Pilot applicant needs to have completed 3 hours. I completed 20 minutes today. While under the hood (another term for Simulated Instrument Conditions) I do some maneuvers and start tracking the La Belle VOR. Now this Navigational Aid is not located on the airport, but leaving from a specific radial from a VOR will take you somewhere. That’s where your charts and Airport directory come in handy. I like navigating by VOR. I’m sure that once I have my Ticket, I’ll travel mostly by GPS, just like I imagine a good portion of the pilot population does. But I’ll make sure to keep my VOR skills up to par; it’s fun to track your location using radio waves, and you never know when your gps will not work correctly.
Leaving the VOR to get to the actual airport was suppose to be easy enough, but I’m still having trouble making out airports from the air. Luckily there was a Skylane coming in from the north, and I just followed him in for downwind to runway 14. So here we are, I’m taking N3521Q in for a landing at an airport that has a few hangars, and grass right next to the runway. Coming to this airport will not only help me in the navigation portion of flying, but in landing as well. How so? well, not all airports are created equally. The runway where I’m used to land is 150 feet wide. The space gives me plenty of room for lateral deviation. Better known as, not keeping centerline. At this smaller airport, the runway is only 75 feet wide, less room for error, remember the grass I mentioned? Landing here will force me to address my centerline issues head on.
The first landing was pretty good. The second traffic pattern and landing even better! I push the throttle in, and take off again. I notice that Skip is working the radio, reporting our position as I move about the pattern. On my next take off, I try my hand at speaking on the CTAF. But it was a bit more work than I thought, by the time I get to Base, my airplane is further out, My flaps aren’t right, and I’m carrying excessive airspeed. I had a lot going on in the last 30 seconds, but I regrouped and saved the landing. The actual touchdown was ok, but everything up to point was [insert four letter word]. Skip Gave me a “C-” for it.
Lesson two in distractions while flying.
After that landing it was time to head back to Page Field. This time we use GPS and he shows me a new way to find an airport; instead of using the knob to key in each letter on the GPS, I hit the NEAR button and find the airport from a list of airports that are closest to me. The ride back was smooth and we go over some visual checkpoints. Skip sadly points out a private airfield that has been closed. Story goes that the Pilot died and the widow painted X’s on the field and put up blockades on the runway. Makes me dream of owning my own runway someday. Remind me to take a picture next time I fly over it.
Page Field was a bit busier than we left it. The controller had me on a very extended downwind, more practice for slow flight! This time the landing was much better, and everything just clicked. It felt natural to come in for a landing. I can tell that this new found confidence is going to go far in my flight training.
Comments Questions or concerns about this flight, let me know in the comments!
Just the numbers
Total Hours: 9.8
Total Dual: 9.8
Total Solo: 0.0