Emergency in the pattern

Another day with fantastic weather; a little warmer than yesterday, which made it nearly perfect for flying. Visibility wasn’t fantastic, but it was good enough.

We only had one thing on the agenda, and that was emergency power-out landings in the pattern. We have been talking about doing these for a long time, but Gene kept forgetting to pull the power on our way in.

I had 89433 instead of my favorite 4640B today. I can’t remember the last time I flew 433. It has some minor annoyances compared to the others; the seat won’t stay put without fiddling with the latch to make sure it’s set, the mic button is large and attached with a velcro strap to the yoke making it just plain in the way (the others have the button built in to the yoke), the flap notches are worn to where they may as well not exist, and almost zero right rudder is needed for P-factor compensation. Also, while the throttle is smooth, it will not stay put without a tight throttle lock. Despite these things, I managed to have a great lesson.

I forgot to mention that yesterday I found water in the fuel after draining the tanks to check for contaminants and water. It was the first time I’d found anything other than clean fuel and it was obvious that water was present. The water sinks to the bottom of the container and it’s clear, instead of the pretty blue color that is the 100LL aviation fuel. The special screen on the container allowed me to pour the fuel back into the tanks while trapping the water so I could discard it on the ramp; a nice little doodad. Today’s fuel was clean.

Since things were pretty busy around TTA, we decided to head over to Siler City to work on the emergency landings. On climbout, the wind was pretty rough. Then at about 2500 feet, it suddenly became really smooth. Very nice for cruising. On the 20 mile trip, we worked a little on some VOR navigation; the 120° radial of the Liberty VOR goes right over TTA, so it’s a good thing to use if you get lost in the practice area. The 145° radial goes over Siler City, so we used that to get us there.

We entered the pattern and abeam the numbers where I would normally pull a little power, Gene pulled it all. Since I was already set up to make a base and final for landing, there was no need for any spiral activity. I made a shorter than usual base, and a turn to final, followed by full flaps. The approach was a little long, but with such a long runway ahead, that’s not a problem. My landing was great, but I had never landed with full flaps before, so it felt a little different; slower, more relaxed. We made it a touch and go and went around for a second. This time we used the published pattern altitude of 800-some feet AGL instead of the “normal” 1000 feet AGL. That almost caused me to come up short; I cut off the turn to final to make it, after which we had plenty of room. Another touch and go.

This time we climbed up to about 2000 feet and Gene pulled the power over the end of the runway. I had to spiral down this time, but only once before entering a short downwind, base and final. I was high enough to need full flaps early and a forward slip to get to a reasonable altitude for short final. Touch and go and around the pattern for another. This one was a “normal” approach and landing, which went well (except I think I had my thumb on the make-shift mic button during my flare… oops. A final touch and go and we headed back to Sanford.

The winds were again throwing us around on climbout and never got really smooth on the way back. As the day heats up, things get a little less calm. Since visibility wasn’t good enough to see the usual landmarks (the power plant cooling tower and 3M plant), we used VOR navigation again. As we were talking about it and the roads that I could see, Gene pointed out this one road in particular (Hwy 421). I couldn’t remember what it was, though I could picture it on the map. Then he asked if I was going to get back on course… uh oh. While we were chatting, and looking outside, this non-autopilot plane managed to drift about 30° to the right of our intended course. Ok, I did it; a good lesson in paying attention even while not paying attention.

We approached Sanford, flew over at 2000 feet and continued into a descending turn to enter the 45 and downwind for runway 21. There were several planes in the pattern, and one waiting to take off, but Gene decided to pull the power on me again abeam the numbers. We glided in as before and my full flap touchdown was as good as ever. Taxi back to the ramp and tied it down. That was a fun trip.

Another 1.2 hours brings me to 25.1 total.

Today was “second Saturday” at the club. That means bring your friends and family for some grilling out and general maintenance around the facility. My family met me there at noon after my lesson. We hung out and watched some planes come and go, had a hotdog and hamburger or two and checked out one of the Cessna 172s that was sitting in the hanger. I think Joseph is looking forward to flying. The girls too — though they don’t understand what they’re in for. Aimee still couldn’t care less. 🙂