Remedial Education

Posted August 2019

I've been a bit grumpy this summer.  For some reason, it just seemed that I wasn't able to actually LAND the airplane anymore. All my
landings seemed too high, or wiggling around, or bouncing from one wheel to another.

The worst came last Saturday, when three planes took off in front of me while I was on final at a local fly-in.  Sure, my mike radio had gone out...but you'd think they would have looked out the windows.

But when the last took the runway, I was in a quandary as to whether to go around.  I would have passed the guy just about the time he was lifting off (which might have startled him) and passing to the right would put me right over the crowd for the fly-in.

Anyway, I shoehorned it in behind him.  Don't know if it was the distraction or prop wash from the other plane, but I landed one wing high, and hard.  Almost felt like I needed to reach back and manually trigger the ELT.  The landing when I flew back home that afternoon wasn't so great, either.

Obviously, I needed some remedial education.  My usual practice, when I'm not flying somewhere, is to cruise around sightseeing for a bit, then shoot a couple of touch and goes.

Today, I kept it in the pattern for some heavy-duty landing practice.

I'm retired now, which means I can fly on weekdays to "avoid the crowds."  Strangely enough, it doesn't work.  Weekdays are often busy, and today was no exception... a 182, two Bonanzas, a Mooney, a Highlander, and several helicopters were working the pattern off and on while I was out.  The CTAF was pretty busy, with ~3 local fields on 122.8.

Anyway, told everyone I was "Staying in the pattern" on my takeoff radio call.

And, of course, the first landing was perfect.  Sheesh.  Saw a Robinson hovering by the runway, waiting for me to pass on my climbout.

Had a Bonanza call on the 45 entry as I turned crosswind.  I spotted him.  He was still quite a bit out, but I knew he'd be overrunning me if I squirreled in in front of him.  "Bonanza, the Fly Baby on crosswind has you in sight, and will turn downwind behind you."

That landing, I seemed to be back to flaring too high.

Third time around, there was a call on the radio.  "Auburn traffic, this is the mower...I'm crossing the runway to work on the west side."

"Below Traffic Pattern Altitude?" I ask innocently.

"I wish I could reach it," he replied.

My landing that time was a bit rough, but I attributed it to grass clippings.

Fourth time around the pattern, I saw a different Bonanza at the hold short line.  "Is that Bonanza ready to go?" I asked on the radio.  "I'll extend my downwind, if so."  No answer, and it just sat there.

I came around.  When I was on short final, the Bonanza started rolling forward.  "Bonanza XXXX, departing Auburn."

"Hey, Bonanza," came a call from another plane.  "You've got someone on short final!"

The Bonanza stopped about a plane-length past the hold-short line, nosewheel on the runway.

"Fly Baby going around," I called.  It's ironic.  Saturday, guys took off when they didn't hear me on the radio...and today, this guy tried it despite my radio calls.

Around again, halfway decent landing.

One more landing.  I turned downwind from base.

"Auburn Traffic, Mooney XXXX over the water tanks on the 45."

It was similar to my encounter with the first Bonanza.  I had a clear view of the water tanks.  We could have a conflict if he kept coming.

Then I spotted him, about a mile BEYOND the tanks, still well out of the airport environment.  "Mooney, the Fly Baby has you in sight."

"Yeah, we're right over the water tanks."

No he wasn't.  But I let it slide.

Around the pattern, slip off the excess altitude, and pull off a
reasonable three-pointer.

Rolled up to the gas pumps.  Voice called out, "So that's a Fly Baby!"

Turns out to be one of the instructors from the local helicopter school, wearing the school T-shirt.  Looked to be in his 20s.  He'd heard me on the radio, but had no idea what kind of plane a 'Fly Baby' was.

I did the usual tour and history lesson.  Then I asked, "Do you want to sit in it?"
He looked startled for a second, then stepped up eagerly.  Showed him how to board, then took his phone and shot a picture of him in the cockpit.

"Hang on a sec," I said, after he'd climbed out and started walking back to the helicopter school."  I rummaged in the baggage area for a moment.

"Hey, you've earned this," I told him, and handed him a set of the plastic wings I give to kids.

As he was walking back to the school, I saw him pin them on his T-Shirt.

Fire up, taxi back to the hangar with helmet, off, letting the breeze caress my head.

Not bad...a couple of good landings, and no real awful ones.  Guess I can go home feeling better, today.....

Ron Wanttaja

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