Sunday, July 23, 2006

Getting Back Into It

It has been a while since I've written, and as you might expect, it's been a while since I've flown. A strange combination of events, or in some cases, non-events, put me in kind of a strange place with respect to flying. After my last practice session, I'd planned to take a plane out to Mather Field near Sacramento for a gig. But when I got to San Carlos, I could not see the Sunol hills. It wasn't cloudy, just really hazy, and certainly seemed like less than the reported 10SM visibility. In any case, if I didn't really have to be at a gig, I probably would've gone up, checked it out, and turned around if I got uncomfortable, but without the luxury of time, I got in my car and drove as fast as I could.

That, combined with a couple of other aborted flights due to what I considered to be marginal weather, combined with my reading of "The Killing Zone," basically caused me to become a little less comfortable with the entire concept of flight in a small craft. I've spent 90 hours piloting these planes, but somehow it started just feeling like there's so much I don't know and I put myself in so much danger.

So I didn't fly for a while, which is both good and bad. I finally went out last Thursday, and decided I should do my standard 5-landing practice. I went out to PAO and flew 751SP. The session actually went way better than expected. I'd ducked out from work, so I felt some time pressure, which caused me to not think so much about my radio calls. And guess what? They were fine! And my landings were quite good -- my nose (meaning, the plane's nose) is still a little unstable on my approaches in the wind, but the touchdowns are consistently good.

So today I went out again, and decided I need to get used to going to other airports. Why? Because the 11-day-in-a-row gig in Turlock is coming up, and I'm really hoping to fly to at least some of these shows. I needed a bit more landing practice, preferably trying out the soft-field landings too (since I need that for the night landings), and also to go to a different airport. So today I flew to Livermore and did 4 landings there, two soft-field and two normal. They were pretty good -- again, my touchdowns were great, but my approaches were high. Stable, but high. My last landing at PAO was better, so I think it's just getting used to a 1000 foot pattern altitude.

There were some trippy clouds, and a touch of pretty nasty turbulence on the way back, but all in all everything went really smoothly. So I may try to get a night flight in before Thursday; otherwise, I'll just go and hope for the best!

One thing is sure -- my confidence is returning, and I think one of the good side-effects of my little bout with myself is that now that I've thought about all that I don't know, hopefully I'll be better at preparation, and more motivated to take the next steps in my learning.