night moves

The last night flying I did was quite a while ago. On that trip, I got just two take-offs and landings to a full stop. So, per the regulations, I needed another 8 in my log book.

I scheduled time with Tim tonight in 61976 (my usual plane), starting at 8:30PM, and I got to the airport at about 8:20. Civil Twilight today started at 8:31. If I'd been thinking about it, I probably would have scheduled for 8PM. It always takes at least a half hour more than I expect to do the pre-flight, run through the checklist, get clearance, do the run-up, and get ready to roll. By the time we headed out of runway 5, it was almost 9PM, and the tower was closing down the pattern.

So, we headed off to Beverly. I flubbed the navigation a bit -- the top VOR with the integrated controls sometimes doesn't like me -- but with the airport only 13 miles away, it was easy enough to find the beacon visually. I made a straight-in approach to runway 16, then taxied back to go up again.

It was a nice, cool, clear, and calm night. We had had strong gusting winds all day, but they were predicting that they'd die down by evening, and they were quite right. At least I didn't have to correct for wind too much in an unfamiliar pattern at night -- with the PCL timer cutting out on me every now and then just to make things interesting.

We went around the pattern five times, taxing out to the other end each time to take off in the other direction; a luxury afforded by the lack of wind, and probably a good thing for the neighbors. On the last landing, he had me land with lights out to simulate an alternator failure. It's hard to judge the ground like that, and I came down a bit firmly.

We headed back to Lawrence about two minutes to 10. They close the tower at 10, so we came in doing position calls. I picked runway 32 (approximately straight in) for my first approach. My reasoning was that I could \*see\* the runway in front of me, and I was already low enough to make a good flaps-and-lights-out approach. Tim pointed out that it was the short and narrow runway, and that I should have gone in the pattern. I came in, made a sloppy sort of slip, and landed hard again.

We taxied out to the far end and turned around to take off on 14. I went up and turned left into the downwind for 23. I made my position calls, then turned base. I was a touch high, and Tim said to slip it. I eased into the best slip I've ever done. The nose pivoted to the right, I stayed right on the track I wanted, and I got at least 1200 fpm descent, right to the runway. I let out the slip, flared, and landed firmly (again without lights), but pretty much where I wanted.

I taxied off at Alpha near the approach end of 5, after taxing the long way down the runway. Tim said I did the best I've done so far, and I told him about Sean's advice regarding trim.

That's it; my full 10 landings are done. On to the next item to check off.

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