Dual to 5W8

The primary purpose of today’s flight was to go over to Siler City (5W8) and get some practice there so Gene could sign me off for flights to that airport. The practice area is between Sanford and Siler City, so it’s a good airport to be able to go to and get some maneuver practice in on the way. It’s a lot less busy than Sanford, and it doesn’t have a parallel taxiway, so planes have to taxi on the runway to the end for takeoff. The CTAF, however, is one used by many airports in the area, so there’s a lot of radio chatter and one has to pay close attention to figure out if it’s relevant or not. You can rarely hear other airport chatter on the Sanford CTAF.

The sky was clear, but it was cold so I decided not to ride. The wind was also next to zero, but it seemed to throw me around a little here and there. When I got to the airport (a little late), I noticed our plane (40B) had been switched to 433, so I asked Gene about it. Another instructor and her student had taken 40B, but neither of us knew why. I went to preflight 433 and it checked out fine. We spent a few minutes going over a handout on turns around a point. Gene wanted to introduce this new ground reference maneuver on our way to Siler City. It’s basically what it says. You make a fixed radius turn around some point on the ground (a cross road, a building, whatever) at 600-800 ft. above the ground. The challenge is to adjust the bank angle at the right time to account for wind. Downwind of the point requires the steepest bank, upwind the shallowest.

After a few nods at the handout, we started up the plane and got ready to head out. Shortly before calling to taxi out, 40B came back to the ramp. “Wish I were in that, instead.”, I thought to myself. I made the call to taxi, but I couldn’t hear myself through my headset. Something was wrong. I tried again; nothing. Gene tried his; nothing. We fiddled with the radio but still got nothing and nobody responded to our radio check request. Well… while it’s legal to fly into and out of an uncontrolled airport and in Class E airpsace without a radio, it’s not necessarily a good idea. Gene didn’t want to do it (and neither did I). We decided to switch planes.

I went inside to switch keys and note the problem in the squawk book (the book used to note problems that require maintenance). While I was in there, I asked the instructor theif if something was wrong with 433 that made her decide to take 40B? She looked at me funny, then looked at the bulletin board where the schedule was posted. She then proceeded to apologize for taking the wrong plane… she just plain didn’t realize it. Other than the tail number, the two planes look the same. The inside, however, is noticeably different if you’re familiar with them at all.

A quick startup of 40B and we headed west. About half way to Siler City we picked a couple points to fly around. I wasn’t used to flying around so close to the ground; it was fun, though. The maneuver was challenging. One of the biggest problems I’ve had is properly visualizing wind direction compared to my direction. I understand it perfectly, but as I turn, it changes, and by the time I get it straight in my head, it’s changed again. I think (hope) it’ll come more naturally with practice. I managed, with much aural coaching, to do a decent job for a first shot.

We headed for Siler City and landed on runway 4. The winds seem to favor 22, though, so we rolled out to the end, turned around and took off on 22. A couple more touch and gos and that was good enough. None of them were particularly good. The “light” wind was playing games with me; nudging me just before touch down to make my landings not so pretty.

On the last climbout, as we turned crosswind to head east for Sanford, Gene made a radio call that we would be leaving the pattern since there was nearby traffic wanting to enter the pattern. A minute later, the inbound traffic called that he would enter crosswind behind “the plane that looks like it’s about to turn downwind”. Gene responded: “No sir. We just called a minute ago and said we would be departing the pattern.” I could tell he was a bit irritated, so I commented… “You don’t like it when people don’t listen, do you?” He said, “I sure don’t. Especially around an airport you need to be paying attention.” Indeed.

On our way back, we talked about how to make it back when visibility wasn’t as good as it was. Since I could easily see the Sharon Harris cooling tower, there was no need for VOR navigation. Gene asked if there were any maneuvers I’d like to practice while we had the time. I said I was comfortable with everything we’d done so far, so not necessarily. I just needed to get out here and practice them solo. He asked if we’d done a spin yet, and I said no. So… he demonstrated an incipient spin. The club doesn’t allow full spins, but it’s helpful to see what’s it’s like when it starts. He went quickly into a stall and hit the left rudder. A couple seconds later we were pointed straight down and dropping, but he quickly recovered with heavy right rudder. More stalling fun.

A couple uneventful laps around the pattern at Sanford and we were done. Gene signed me off to solo to 5W8 (and thus anywhere in between), so I was ready to practice everything I’d done to date.

1.3 more dual hours brings me to 35.9 total.