Thursday, May 05, 2011

Open House

Note: I'm a little behind on these posts. There's been so much going on lately that even though I've had plenty to post about I haven't had a ton of time to write about them.

Tthe next day was our Open House at Aransas County in Rockport, TX, so we spruced up the Cessna 172s and 182 with a little wash. This may sound obvious, but you don’t wash an airplane like you do a car. Instead we took Simple Green and some rags and used elbow grease to remove all of those dead bugs. Blech. Though gross, the bugs do come off relatively easily and other than the fatigue in your arms from reaching up to wipe the surfaces that impact with flying critters most often, it didn't take the three of us long.

In the morning we flew down the coast of the Gulf of Mexico over to KRKP. Look at me, flying all over the place in a 182. Ok, it was 39 miles. But still. We did it knowing that the low ceilings and high winds would prevent us from doing any discovery flights - people can pay $75 for either a sightseeing or an introductory lesson. It was still a great time hanging out at the airport and meeting people who were interested in the group here opening up another flight school in the area.

After the open house we headed on over to The Boiling Pot for a late lunch. I knew I was in for an experience when the waitress bibbed me. Yeah, that’s right. Tied a plastic bib around my neck. Another person covered the table with butcher paper. Then they came by with a big bowl of crawfish, shrimp and crabs. I’m always open for a new experience, and I got one.

On the way home we were going to attempt another air to air practice, but because of low ceilings we canceled it. I ended up not being involved in the final shoot because it was so darn windy every day (until I left for Oregon), but the results of the shoot were shown in this month's Airplanista magazine, which featured Dianna, the flight school's owner. Read the whole magazine - it's awesome! There's another video embedded within the premium edition, too.

Well, after all of this flying for fun it was time to get back to work. The next day Eric and I went out and got an IFR clearance to get VFR on Top. Yes, the clouds are so consistently solid at a couple thousand of feet we needed to file a flight plan to fly above the clouds. We therefore could climb to about 6000 feet and do our slow flight, stalls and such with pleeeeenty of air to recover in before tragedy.

We also wanted to practice grass strip landings. It’s always nice to have a nice strip of pavement to land on but that’s not always possible. Plus, there is a grass strip here at the airport, at the owner’s ranch, and at very other airports around. Unfortunately, the wind at all of these places were huge and 90 degrees to the runway today. We went out to a grass strip that used to, no kidding, have a power line above it. They called their Fly-ins, “Under the Wire.” The wire is gone, but the wind was not. On the first attempt, the strong crosswind was exacerbated by having to fly over a populated area with trees – remember that uneven heating of the earth? Thermals. They were bouncing us around on final. Then we came over the trees over a HUGE ditch. We were in no position to land, so my instructor went around. I had no objection.

The second time around, even being prepared for the wild ride, we were tossed around like a cheap salad. This time I told Eric, "Feel free to abort. Even if you can land out of this one, I’m not." So we flew back to Port Lavaca and practiced some more landings. Along the way we talked about the autopilot and some of the instruments to use while flying IFR – Instrument Flight Rules (through clouds, for short) and I was reminded again that I am not instrument current. Add to my list of things to do: An Instrument Proficiency Check.

After 2 hours of that, I was done. There comes a point in training where you just know you can’t absorb any more. And I know exactly when that point is. Not only that, but today we were practicing Power Off 180s, now in the 182, and the winds were howling. At one point I asked Eric to do one, mostly because my arms were getting tired! I am going to have to recognize mental and physical fatigue in my students and encourage them to speak up if I don’t. Towards the end of today’s flight I was getting tired and just letting the wind kick my butt. Eric said I was doing great, considering, but I wanted the same effect on the 180s in the 172 as in the 182. Back to reminding myself to do my round out high. I guess I was just trying to get below the darn trees so I could stop flying sideways....

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