Short field takeoff and landing

Today was my first morning flight in as long as I can remember. There was a freeze warning the night before. It was still cold, so I expected good performance out of the plane, and visibility was back to forever with the cold front taking the haze with it.

The wind was 30° off the runway at 9 knots max, so I had a 4-ish knot crosswind to deal with. It seems the crosswind mostly goes away 100 feet or so above the runway, though, so while landing was challenging, it didn’t require much crosswind technique.

I started with a lap in the pattern. Climb rate was great; my landing was only so-so. The air was turbulent, but nothing I hadn’t flown in before. I went straight to Siler City to work on short field landings. Last time I worked on them I was rushing myself; not going through each step and getting stabilized.

The countryside has really bloomed in the last week or so. It’s beautiful green again, unlike the wintery dead look from the last flight. I can’t wait for my solo cross country toward the mountains. I hope the haze doesn’t ruin it.

At five miles east of Siler City, I heard the club’s Piper Warrior announce his position leaving Siler City to the east. I knew he’d be coming right at me, so I announced my position and intent to land. A minute later I saw a taxi light coming my way slightly above me, several miles straight ahead. With the great visibility I could see it clearly. As it approached, I realized it was a little closer to my path than I thought. I turned on my taxi light to be a little more visible. I watched carefully as we zoomed past each other. He was less than a mile to my left and maybe 500 feet above. That was plenty of room, but in hindsight, I probably should’ve scooted to the right a little (per the FAA right of way rules when encountering head-on traffic).

At Siler City, I managed 4 short field landings, all of them different. One was a little long on the touchdown, one was a little “bouncy”, shall we say, and the other two were a little rough, but nice and short. Rough because of the wind… gusty, so a full-flap slow plane gets easily pushed around.

After each landing (to a full stop on the runway), I followed with a short field takeoff. Brakes on, flaps 10&deg, full power, check instruments, brakes off, and start rolling. A decisive liftoff at 54 knots. I was able to land and takeoff before reaching the taxiway. That’s about 2500 feet, which happens to be the shortest length runway the club allows pilots (any, not just students) to use without prior approval.

I got a lot of radio practice as there was a lot of traffic at Siler City. Someone ready to taxi asked if there was enough time for them to back taxi to the runway. I said yes, but I wasn’t 100% sure how long it would take him. I was just entering downwind, and even if he didn’t make it, I could easily abort the landing. He made it as I turned base. Siler City, by the way, doesn’t have a parallel taxiway. You have to exit the ramp onto the runway at midfield and taxi to the end where there is a little loop on the side to do runups and wait for incoming traffic.

During one lap in the pattern, another plane announced on the 45 right before I turned base. I turned base and announced. A couple seconds later, the other plane announces “…turning base runway 4”. What!? i thought. That’s where I am. Just before I could inquire, he chimed in with “we’re downwind…sorry”, to which I replied, “Thank you!” in a relieved voice. “Made you nervous there for a second…[chuckle]” I heard in the background as I turned final. Nothing like hearing someone say they’re right where I am to make my heart skip a beat.

On the way back to Sanford I worked on a few steep turns. All but one went well. I’ve been trying to find the right combination of power and horizon site to get stable and not have to rely on the instruments so much. I think I found it, but I need to practice more.

I had time for a couple more landings at Sanford before shutting down. I made the last one another short field and landed well short of taxiway Echo, which I believe is about 800 feet from the threshold. Nice.

1.4 hours (53.1 total) and a great lesson, but I’m ready to fly somewhere else.