display | more...

Hop #13

Dragged my ass out of bed early, as I had an 8am reservation for the airplane. Got to the airport still yawning and waiting for the cup of coffee I'd had to kick in, and found that my CFI wasn't there yet. So I went to preflight the airplane. Everything looked fine except for it needing gas, so I went back in to use the facilities before flying and bumped into him coming out of that same door. He took the keys and said he'd gas the plane up.

When I walked out onto the apron, he was finishing fueling the plane (yes! Less chance of spilling 100LL all over my shirt for the Nth time). Got in and did the preflight. The day was slightly muggy in that way that tells you that although it's morning, it's going to be really hot later on. The sky was perhaps 30% overcast but way up, at least 8-10 thousand feet up, and blue sky was rolling in from the west. There was some haze 5 miles or so out and around the ridgelines south of the airport, but it was already burning off.

Taxied out to One Four, did the runup and checked the pattern. Nobody around, so announced and departed, bringing it around within the pattern for a landing. The first landing went smoothly - on final, I added a short burst of power about a quarter-mile out. Floated the airplane over the numbers, held the flare level, and got the stall horn before touching down gently and managed to make the turnoff by using the brakes as shown.

"Nice. Let's do that again."

So we did. Again, made landing with no drama, and made the turnoff. As we were taxiing back around, my CFI said those words you wait for: "Well, I don't need to be here. Drop me off at the fuel pump and I'll get a handheld radio."

I dropped him off, but had to wait while he ran into the FBO because my logbook didn't have any spots left in it for a solo endorsement and he had to go check the wording for a written one. After five minutes or so, though, he came back out and passed my logbook and certificate in the window and waved, walking out towards the runway.

Started up and headed out to One Four. When I got there, I did another runup since I'd shut down the engine before - everything looked fine. Did the pre-takeoff check he'd given me the previous time - fuel selector, trim, flaps, mixture, carb heat - and then announced. *click* "Northampton traffic, Skyhawk 12732 is departing One Four Northampton." Rolled to the centerline, rolled in the power and...

The airplane lifted earlier. I had forgotten that there was less weight in it, and it happily started climbout at a sharper angle than I was used to. Holding it at 80 MPH, I looked around to check for traffic-

Holy crap, I'm flying. And I'm alone in the plane.

Got a huge, huge grin. Brought it around in the pattern, everything almost automatic but checking nonetheless. Pulled power at the numbers with carb heat in, added ten of flaps and held it to 90 MPH on downwind. Announced, turned base and added the second ten of flaps. Turned final almost immediately (I tend to turn more gently when under low power, so my actual base leg is typically shorter than my crosswind on climbout as the turns are wider). Added another increment of flaps and watched the speed gently drop down to 70 MPH; dropped the nose to hold that speed and looked. VASI was red over white, and the runway looked...right. So I pulled power and flew it down, and pulled back to flare just past the runway numbers. The stall horn creaked, moaned, and-

*thmp*

Bounced slightly, once, maybe 2-3 feet, but it settled back tamely. Braked and made the turnoff, working real damn hard to maintain Pilot Face(tm). Cleaned up the airplane and announced clear of the active (a light sport had been waiting to go) and before I could ask, my CFI got on the radio from where he was standing out near the windsock. "Nice. Go for another."

*Click* "Don't mind if I do. Thanks!" So I did.

Got in three landings as Pilot in Command. The last one I came in a bit high - turned base a bit early, I think, and had been 100 feet high on downwind, so carried a little energy. Recognized it as soon as I turned final, though, and went to full flaps and pulled power, and the airplane obediently steepened its sink rate, and I ended up still touching down in about the same spot, and made the turn.

Taxied back in and parked it, shut down, got out and got a grin and a handshake from my CFI.

SOLOED.

Wahooooooooo!