brushing up

It's been a few weeks since I last flew, so I was expecting this solo practice to be a bit rough. I started out with some minor problems during pre-flight: the fuel hadn't been topped off since the last flight, and the pilot-side window was sticking. I ordered some fuel and found a way to maneuver the window into closing.

I had listened to the scanner before driving in, and it sounded busy. It turned out that there was a fly-in at EAA, so as soon as I switched from getting ATIS (all in one shot this time; my first one-shot copy ever) to ground, I heard a lot of directions and chatter. I waited for my moment and then called "Lawrence Ground, Cessna 61976, at Eagle East, with Information Oscar." The someone else made another call, and the tower answered them before getting to me. "Taxi to runway 5 via Alpha, winds are 110 at 8, caution: mower adjacent to taxiway."

This is my first clue that something is up: the winds are 60 degrees off of the runway, and they're not switching. They have a line of people coming in, one after another, and 5 is the longer runway. I start my taxi and wave to the guy on the mower so he knows I see him. I start my run-up, and I listen as some guys come in to land making position calls as though they were at an untowered field. I chuckle to myself and imagine what the controller must think. "Uh, yeah, Piper, I can \*see\* that you're on short final." It's good to know that it works both ways, and my discomfort with untowered airports is similar to theirs.

I announce that I'm ready, eastbound, and get my clearance. As I taxi out to the runway, I wrestle that window closed. I'm going to need to say something about that. I do one last glance at the oil gauge, then put in the power and, after a short roll, check to see that airspeed is alive. I then remember the crosswind and put the wheel most of the way to the right. I lift off into what has to be my best take-off ever. I'm right on the runway heading the whole way up.

I then headed out to the practice area at 2000 feet. I do two clearing turns, slow down a bit for maneuvering, and I tune in the CTAF. There are a few folks coming in and out at Plum; it's busier than I've ever seen. I head out towards the coast and start doing a steep turn to the right. I go around 720 degrees and roll out on my heading, but I've lost 200 feet -- twice the standard.

I remind myself to put in power during the turn. I then try 720 degrees to the left. This time, I lose 100 feet, but then end up climbing out as I forget to pull the power back out.

Well, this is why we practice. So I try something harder. I do another clearing turn, and I spot traffic above and to the south, traveling west. It doesn't seem a factor. I roll into a steep right turn and apply about 300RPM. After 360 degrees, I roll left into a steep turn. There's a brief moment when I'm less than coordinated, but it turns out well. I do another 360 degrees and I'm about 50 feet off of my original altitude. This is better.

I then do some slow flight and maneuvering with partial flaps. I climb up to 2500 feet and do one convincing power-off stall before heading back to home.

They give me a right downwind for runway 5. I descend early enough that I'm well set up for pattern altitude and airspeed before the time I get there. As usual, though, I end up a bit too tight. The tower gives me clearance before I can even make the midfield call. The wind is now 140 at 8 -- a direct crosswind. I pull the power early, before the numbers. I know that with no headwind, I'm going to be high. My base is almost non-existent and I end up a bit to the left of the runway and high. I pull all the power, put in full flaps and bring it right down. I'm at 70 over the numbers, and I land cleanly, though to the left of the centerline (why am I \*always\* left, no matter where the wind is?). I finish off the crosswind by turning the wheel to the right while slowing to taxi, and I need a bit of power to get off at Delta.

I taxi off, and we're busy enough to be like a real airport. The controller gives me a frequency for ground, and I have to contact them to go park. I clean up, get clearance, and park right on the centerline.

All that was just 0.9 on the Hobbs. After I settle the rental, I let them know about the sticky window. I'm getting a bit more confidence that I can get to the practical test soon. I have to get the sequencing down for those performance maneuvers so that I'm well within the requirements, though.

On Wednesday, I'm planning to go to KENE (Keene, NH) for a solo cross-country. I need another 0.7 worth of solo cross-country time, and that ought to do it. After that, it's probably some practice checkrides with Tim and maybe another of Eagle's CFIs.


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