Finally, we were able to take to the skies again. The weather has been crummy all December so I guess we just had to wait till January of Aught-Nine and I’ll tell you one thing, it was a gorgeous day — bright sunshine and crisp air, but breezy. There was a 30 foot long snow drift in front of the hangar so we started by shoveling a path for the airplane. Upon starting the engine, I noticed immediately that I had failed to latch the left cowling hatch. Apparently, waiting till the last minute to unplug the engine heater threw me off my game. One must remember that when his routine is disrupted, he can forget simple things. Most likely I shan’t forget that item again though.
The winds were from 290 at 9-10 knots so we took off on 27 and there wasn’t much of a crosswind. We began the lesson by heading out to the practice area and trying out some sideslips and then some forward slips. Well, that was an adventure. In coordinated flight, you always feel pushed straight down into your seat, but in a side slip and especially in a forward slip, your really are thankful for you seat belt and sometimes you use the OCHO (O Crud Hang On) handle. After getting the hang of slips — which are relatively easy at 2200′ AGL — we headed back to KOSH for some touch-and-go practice.
We started on runway 27 and I could tell I was a little rusty from not having flown in three weeks. The flares just weren’t coming back naturally. In fact, I ballooned twice. Also, on one takeoff, I got confused about holding aeleron against the wind and drifted to the right of the runway. I think T may have explained something to me a little different than he had originally, but my mental lapse was just one of those things that happens to you when you’ve got more information trying to get into your brain than it is trained to process. Well, we practiced a few more on 27 but since the winds were at 10 knots, it was prime time for some crosswind takeoff and landing practice, so we switched over to runway 36.
Crosswind takeoffs are a challenge. You have to use your side slipping technique so that you can keep the airplane moving in a straight line (holding position on the ground but slipping into the wind) and still pointed straight down the runway. You do this by lowing the windward wing and using opposite rudder to keep the airplane from turning. Mostly there is a lot of hand and foot movement to get the position correct but you have to constantly adjust for wind and your position on the runway. This is just a skill that will require a lot of practice.
The rust on my skills was also apparent in a generally lower level of precision. For example, I did not hold altitude as well this lesson as last. In the last lesson I generally stayed withing 20′ of pattern altitude, but this time I was sometimes more than 100′ above or below the pattern altitude. Correcting these is just headwork, but sometimes that’s the hardest thing. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.