December 4th, 2009

airplane outside

piloting in the cold

I was going to write this ILLUSTRATED guide to my long solo cross country, but it's meant putting any reports off and procrastinating which I shall not allow any more. So photos later, journal entry now. I've flown twice this week, and might fly again tomorrow!

Reasons it's good:
- I'm sooooo clooooose! Seriously ohmigod!

Reasons it's bad:
- It's sooooo efffffing coooold!

Monday morning I asked my boss if I could skip off work a bit, make up the time later, and fly to Emporia. I'm very lucky that my boss is 1) cool and 2) a pilot (overlap is common of course). It was a beautiful clear day with no clouds and very little wind. I had a flightplan all made out. I had woken up all nervous with this bad "not my day" feeling, but the gorgeous weather made me feel like I didn't care, I just wanted to be up.

Per part 141 rules, we only have to fly 100 miles. But most students at my school go 150 because we're required to have so many hours of solo time and hey, might as well go someplace fun. So off I went. I met my instructor, got his signatures and approvals, and set off on my way. Before I left he told me, "We haven't flown much in the cold. Before you take off make sure engine oil temp has moved a little. If it hasn't, run the engine a little higher than idle for a few more minutes before you go." It was a good thing he told me that because after I'd done my normal preflight, taxi and runup, the oil temp pointer had moved one pixel. Damn cold. I set things a tiny bit higher while doing the rest of the checks and setting transponder codes and everything and was saved.

Emporia was happy to see me! I made it there without any trouble, stopped in at the FBO and had the guys there sign my logbook. And get this: they gave me a certificate! It's so awesome, I mean it's a simple printout but it says "____ has completed a solo cross country flight to Emporia Airport" and they signed it.

I once explained to Marc what an FBO is... it's a building on the airport you stop in at, they'll do plane maintenance, sell fuel, sometimes have places to eat and do business and hang out. He was just like "Oh so a truck stop!" Kinda.

On the way back from Emporia I accidentally tracked the wrong VOR for several minutes and went too far south but realized eventually I'd dialed the wrong damn course in. Why'd I try to track a VOR anyway? Practice I guess, and so I can say I've screwed it up? Well when I realized it I dialed in my next stop to the GPS and just dummied it out to Newton. Landed. Stopped. Taxied around to the beginning of the runway and started off back to Wichita. It was so clear I could see the Wichita runways as soon as I had any elevation. I contacted approach and made a wonderful landing in.

I flew on Thursday with my instructor, we did ground reference maneuvers and practiced short field landings. My later landings on a flight are always so nice. My first one is still rough. Consistently. Like, I need to warm up or something, remind myself how to land. Monday's landing at Emporia was safe but I bounced some.

This close to being done I think about passengers a lot, because I could have them someday! My instructor points out little things... like abrupt power changes that aren't bad, they just might make a non-pilot nervous. And I want my landings to be smoother. Marc will no doubt be my first passenger and he's pretty gutsy.

How close am I? I have:
- One more solo flight, that needs to be another 2 hours or so. This might happen this weekend.
- One more practice with my instructor, maybe 2.
- A flight school final check-off
- Checkride!

Scary isn't it? I feel ready I just can't really believe it.