First Unassisted Landing!

Today was a much better day. I was a little tired from being at class late last night and having to get up early to go back for class, but the weather was cool and clear, so I was looking forward to it. I decided since the last lesson in stress to just do whatever I thought I needed to do at any point during the flight, not wait for instruction, and not forget that I’m supposed to be having fun!

On my ride to the airport, I was actually getting kind of cold. I believe it’s the first time I’ve used my grip heaters this season.

At the airport, everything looked okay outside, but the AWOS was saying 1 3/4 visibility with mist, but clear below 12,000 feet. That was odd, given that it looked clear out. Upon closer inspection, we could see a 5′ layer of mist hanging around the AWOS unit. Ok. So there was mist, and visibility was poor… at the AWOS.

We called and spoke with a briefer who immediately mentioned that he was showing poor visibility and mist at the airport. We explained and moved on. One thing he did mention that was not in any of the automated reports was wind sheer at about 800 feet and different wind directions at 3000 and 6000 feet. This could mean some rough transitions as we climb out.

We headed out; preflight and taxi to runway 3. I had read up in the AIM (the FAA’s Aeronautical Information Manual) about suggested radio procedures at non-towered airports. It turns out there are no required procedures, just suggestions. That leaves open a number of variations of when, what and how radio calls are made, but the goal is safety, so the suggested procedures are mostly followed.

The takeoff and climbout went fine, but Gene’s door opened again as we turned crosswind. He was able to close it for good the first time.

Actual visibility was about 20 miles, so there was a nice clear view of the horizon and the surrounding terrain. The air was smooth except for a few points of turbulence as we climbed and descended; just like the briefer suggested there might be.

Out in the practice area we did some review of very basic maneuvers: slow flight, turns, climbs, descents. Following that, we practiced many times at about 3000 feet some pattern work and landings, power-off stalls, and recovery. Other than forgetting to push the carb heat off with full power (for stall recovery), it went well.

As we headed back to the airport, the wind changed directions and we had to adjust our heading to keep from drifting too far downwind. It was a subtle change, but it was good to see and I did notice it.

On the downwind, abeam the numbers I realized I had forgotten to pull the carb heat… again. I proceeded to descend, turn base with radio call and turn final with radio call, not waiting for Gene to tell me when. The approach looked good; Gene talked through it, and we had a nice smooth landing. After we settled and slowed, Gene said “Congratulations. That was all you. I didn’t touch the controls at all.” Cool. He didn’t tell me he was going to do that, but it was a definitely a confidence builder.

An eventless taxi back to the ramp and another 1.3 hours for a total of 11.8. My first unassisted landing and things are looking good.