Landing, landing, landing, landing.

Wow. The weather was just perfect for both flying and motorcycling. I rode to the airport, but I still didn’t have enough time to avoid the boring highway. I did, however, get to try out some new earplugs. They were noticebly quieter and just as comfortable as the ones I’ve been using for the past year. More importanly, however, is that it’s possible to put them in when they’re warm. My other plugs would expand so fast when warm that I couldn’t put them in. I had to stick them in the freezer for a few seconds to cool them off; a huge pain.

I arrived on time, but the plane (40B) wasn’t there. Knowing it was in the shop all day yesterday, I thought perhaps it hadn’t made it out. It turns out that a club member had taken it to Burlington for her checkride (the final test for getting one’s private pilot certificate). She showed up 15 minutes later and had passed! What an excited person, instructor, and husband. She stopped to pick him up on the way back since she can now carry passengers. Some to look forward to.

Preflight went fine. There were scattered clouds at 6000 (well above our target altitude), and no wind on the ground, so off to runway 3.

Takeoff was great and we went west to work on some steep turns. Those went very nicely. The test requires a 360 turn without losing or gaining more than 100 feet and a rollout of not more than 10 deg. off of the target heading. I rolled out too early the first time, but by the third one, I was right on altitude and heading. Weeee!

We follow up with some pattern practice and stall recovery at 3000 feet; all went well.

Then we headed back to the airport (it was still early in the lesson, but starting to get dark) to do some real pattern work. I’ve been waiting for this: touch and go. I landed, slowed, flaps back up, carb heat off, full throttle and take off. Climb, turn crosswind, turn downwind, base, final and land again. We mostly remembered to make radio calls, but we were discussing so much during that time that it wasn’t done ideally. Gene took over some of the radio work so I could concentrate more on flying. Everything happens pretty quickly, and there’s a lot to do on takeoff and landing, so the repetitiveness is a good thing, but stress was starting to skyrocket by the third landing. In spite of that, we went around for a forth. By that time it was pretty dark; all four landings were with runway lights on, but they were probably only needed on the last one.

None of my landings were particularly good, but they were all very acceptable and each had a unique “error” that I could observe and learn to correct. I don’t know how much Gene was on the controls, but I only noticed once that he even touched them (I was pulling back a little too much too early on the flare, which can cause the plane to baloon and be too high over the runway – which is a bad thing if it were to stall). I did notice that the stall buzzer never came on. I thought I was just touching down too fast every time, but it turns out that wasn’t the case (except once), so we think there’s something wrong with it.

Another 1.1 hours, four landings, and I’ve hit 13.2 total hours.

The ride home was dark, and cool, but I decided to take some back roads anyway. Until about a mile from home, everything was smooth rolling. Then, I saw two or three deer on the shoulder as I rounded a slight corner at about 55mph. I quick-slowed and they took off. Picked up a few heart beats per minute in the process, but no panic.

Two minutes later, at 45mph on a straight road I saw two bitty eyes reflecting back at me in the middle of the road. It wasn’t a deer, but a large white dog, casually making his way across the road, staring at me the whole time as if he had the right of way. He was well ahead of me, but animals are unpredictable so I slowed anyway.

I’m tired.

Edit: I forgot to mention that the view of the sunset, the moon just after sunset, and the surrounding sky, clouds and lights were incredible at 3,000 feet. It’s just not the same on the ground.