Tuesday, March 3, 2009

First two flights with passengers as a private pilot

When my good friend Dave got his private pilot certificate last year, I was his first passenger. So after I got mine yesterday, he met me at Twin Oaks Airpark this afternoon so we could go flying, only this time with me as pilot in command.

We took off from the airport and made our way south, ending up about half way between McMinnville and Salem before heading west a little ways, and them turning back north. We did a touch and go at McMinnville and then flew over Henry Hagg Lake before returning to Twin Oaks. We saw all kinds of cool stuff and did some fun turns and whatnot. It was a lot of fun flying with Dave again, and we will be spending a lot of future time together in the air, I'm sure.

A little later in the afternoon, another good friend and former roomie, Cory, went with me to the airport, and we took off for my second flight of the day. Our trip took us to Hagg Lake and the area to the south of there, then Aurora, where we did a touch and go then to Mulino, where we did a full-stop landing. From there we returned to Twin Oaks. By the time we got about 5 miles from the airport, the winds were really starting to whip up out of the southwest and west, and as I approached the airfield I started to wonder what the landing was going to be like.

In fact, Betty Stark (she and her husband own the airport) got on the radio when I announced I was approaching and intended to take a look at the windsock. She asked me what I thought, and I observed that the windsock was presenting a direct headwind, so I would fly the approach and see how it looked, but be safe in doing so. I flew the pattern to runway 20, but once I was on the final approach leg and getting close to the runway my strong headwind turned into a nasty 25-knot quartering crosswind - too much for that little Cessna 150, and especially way too much for my own personal limitations. So, I applied full power and climbed out on a go-around, crabbing into the wind.

At that point I had to decide what to do. I could go to Aurora, where I knew conditions were better, or I could go to Hillsboro, where the runways are more plentiful and facing more directions. Or, I could fly around Twi Oaks again and observe the windsock and the winds to see what they might do. I chose to head toward Hillsboro (at the Stark's suggestion) and in the process flew the box pattern around Twin Oaks again.

Once in the downwind leg for runway 20, the winds had calmed somewhat and were again running straight up the runway. As long as they stayed like that, I'd have no problem landing the airplane. So, I announced I was making another try for the field into the headwind and flew the approach. Kathy, an instructor who'd helped me with a mock check-ride exam and flight last week, happened to be in the ground in an airplane and she confirmed the winds were coming up the runway. She and her student sat on the ground in a bigger 172 while I flew the approach. It got a little squirrelly but the winds cooperated and I neatly put the plane on the ground, then got it off the runway. I have to say, it felt pretty good when Kathy keyed the radio and said "nice job." Heh. Well, I'm glad I was able to do it!

My instructor, Kelly Wiprud, had put me in situations like that one, with strong and highly variable winds, when we were early in my training and he was in the airplane with me. I hear some people hardly see crosswinds at all when they train, but I have had far more than plenty over the past few months. And I'm glad, as it's made me much more prepared for surprises like the winds this afternoon.

So, 3.3 hours just today, and it was fun. I added up my log book this evening, and was a little surprised to find out I have 77.9 hours of flight time under my belt. Pretty cool!

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