Moore County

The weather was beautiful today, though it was cold and there was a fair amount of turbulance.

Gene wanted to go to a new airport about twenty-five miles south: More County (SOP). Runway 5/23 is 1000 feet shorter, but 50 feet wider than Sanford. There is also a runway 14/32, a 2000′ grass strip that looks like it’s in very good condition. We didn’t land on it, but Gene mentioned we may use it some day for soft field landing practice.

He wanted me to work on a little pilotage, so we spent a few minutes going over the sectional chart to see what landmarks we would cross on our way down there. We noted a restricted area not far to the east of our track where military training takes place. We’re not supposed to enter that area without clearance. We didn’t need to, but if we drifted to the east without paying attention, it was close enough to accidentally enter.

The flight was pretty short. It’s amazing how little time it takes to go 25 miles at 120mph. Gene pointed out the landmarks on the sectional as we pass them. I didn’t have much trouble finding them, so that was comforting. I also couldn’t help notice the trees that were changing color. Visibility was well over 20 miles, so there was plenty of beautiful countryside to enjoy.

As we approached Moore County, I made a call to UNICOM for an advisory. They responded with wind information and asked if we needed any services (fuel, taxi, rental car, etc.). Gene responded that we’d just be doing some landing practice, so no thanks. We entered downwind for runway 5 and the rest went pretty well. I was able to handle the gusting winds okay on the first two landings, which were both touch and go. The third one, however, didn’t end so pleasantly. Just before touchdown, a nice gust of wind pushed us up and left, after which we made a pretty hard landing. It was the hardest one to date, but Gene didn’t seem to think it was that hard. In our ground school, the instructor said those planes can take a harder landing than you might think before any damage is done. I could’ve avoid it by adding some power when the gust hit. The landing didn’t concern me as much as the fact that I didn’t really recognize the gust; it was all over before I knew what happened. Not comforting at all, but I didn’t let it get to me.

We made that landing a full stop and taxied back for departure on runway 5 again. Gene said that it’s good to have rough winds occassionally so one can practice dealing with it. Calm winds all the time isn’t very realistic. He also told me I was doing so well dealing with it that he was going to have to cause things to go wrong so I could practice dealing with bad landing recovery. That was a nice compliment.

We headed back to Sanford after the third landing. We were right on target for a straight-in approach to runway 3. All of the procedures I’d learned in the pattern go right out the window. Not really, but the timing of when I need to do what is different. I hadn’t done a straight-in landing at all, so Gene had to step me through it as though I’d never landed before… until we were out as far as we would normally be on final. What followed was one of my best landings yet. It turned out to be almost a short field landing, except that we weren’t using full flaps as you would on a short field. With liberal use of the brakes, and a short backtaxi, we made it to the first exit. That saved me 0.1 of time on the Hobbs… almost $7. Woohoo! 🙂

After checking in, I spent about an hour watching some pretty strange looking planes land and take off. Several looked like custom built or homemade planes. One reminded me of a soapbox car with wings.

It’s nice to just hang out at the airport on a nice day and watch the traffic. By the time I left, there was only one club plane (of the nine) left on the ramp, and it was the one I flew. There was a couple with their 3-4 year old daughter and 1-2 year old son preparing to take off in the club’s Piper Warrior. The dad took off with the girl and went around the pattern a couple times while the other two watched and took pictures. It looked like it may have been her first time up. I look forward to that day with mine.

Another 1.1 hours and 4 landings brings me to 22.4 hours total. I’m really close to soloing. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m not getting antsy about it.