Managed to squeeze out another few hundred bucks from my paycheck, which means...yep, flight time. My CFI and I took the Arrow over to Providence, RI (T.F. Green airport) to give me more practice in the complex airplane as well as get both of us cross-country time. It's also been a while since I had to deal with medium-busy air traffic control, and doing that while also learning the faster and more complex flows in the Arrow are helping me learn. For this trip, my CFI took the radios when I was busy (working the new-to-me GPS, dealing with holding altitude, as it was VERY BUMPY, handling approach and landing checklists).
Anyway, the Arrow is fast, so it was a short trip! We saw a ground speed of around 156kts on the Garmin 430 with a 15-20kt tailwind. Leaving 7B2, I talked to Bradley Approach and requested VFR flight following. Oh yes, one much nicer thing about the Arrow - the pilot's transmit switch works! It wasn't so much full-on turbulent as just bumpy up there - clear blue skies, but bright sun and slightly chilly temps meant thermals, and strong winds meant updrafts from the panoply of low ridges that crisscross southern Mass, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
I spent my time not worrying about the radio so much as learning to hold altitude in the Arrow when the air is squirrelly. Managed to stay within 100 ft of intended pretty much 95% of the time, which was good! Also found that I'm okay at staying on course with the G430 display telling me where I am in relation to my direct track. Didn't really use the HSI much; the winds were variable enough that magnetic heading wasn't all that useful. I ended up using landmarks and the purple crayon on the G430.
When we got to Rhode island (what's funny is that this trip, under 80 NM, involved not one but two handoffs among approach controllers - Bradley approach handed us off to a different sector of Bradley approach who then eventually handed us off to Providence approach, who eventually handed us off to PVD tower) we were given a direct approach to a base leg for runway Zero Five and told to be cautious of wake turbulence from departing traffic. Woohoo, this is why I wanted to come here, to play with the big kids. Got my approach checklist and flow going, and my CFI volunteered to handle flaps (the flaps on the Arrow are a big manual handle between the seats; they look like a car emergency brake handle, and I was already using both hands for checklist and yoke since it was still bumpy). Finished my descent in good time at 1100 (pattern altitude), set electric fuel pump to ON and dropped the landing gear at 115kts. Got three green lights. At 95, on extended base, dropped power to 15" Hg and added in the first 10 degrees of flaps, checking the gear lights. Nearing the end of base, took flaps to 25 and checked the gear again; then turned final (a bit late; again, I'm not used to the faster airplane in the pattern yet), corrected and called for 40 degrees of flap. Checked the gear for the last time and moved the prop to FULL INCREASE and concentrated on landing. I did better, but still not wonderful - I started drifting left, and as I was considering whether to correct over to centerline (the runway was huuuuge) we started to sink. I concentrated on getting it on the ground, but was foiled again - my CFi has been training me to carry power down to the runway on the Arrow because it sinks like a rock if you dump power when it's slow, but I'm not chopping the power quickly enough when touching down, so any wind gust or high sink rate and the airplane bounces 25 feet right back into the damn air. Sigh. Still, got it on the ground eventually and turned off onto the taxiway and headed back to the departure end.
While I was doing the departure chores (GPS, radio presets, checklist) the tower said we could depart if ready, so my CFI responded in the affirmative and taxied us out into position, handing me back the airplane as we started the turn onto the centerline. I took it and went right into departure, mixture full rich, check fuel pump, prop on full increase, throttle to full. We picked up speed and lifted off - I held off lifting the gear until we were definitely too far down to reland on the runway if necessary. That took a while because again, huge runway. We were cleared to turn to 300 and climb to 2000 and await further clearance, so I concentrated on doing that (gear up before turning, pitch nose up for 90 kts/Vy).
Before we got to 2000, we were told to squawk our new code, talk to Providence departure and resume VFR navigation. We acknowledged, and my CFI flipped radio channels while I took us up to 4,500 feet while fighting the bounces. The trip home was even quicker, with a tailwind, and we got back into the vicinity of 7B2 around 90 minutes after we'd fired up the engine. I brought us into the pattern, descending a bit late, and ended up with excess energy in the pattern but got the checklist finished and got us lined up nicely on final.
And again, caught a gust, didn't chop power, and bounced the airplane. Damn it.
Well, practice helps, they say. And again, didn't bend it. So...more practice, when I can, I guess. Although I gotta fly the 172 to make sure I can still land that smothly!
Any day with flying in it is a good one.