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Month: May 2009

Flight 29 – Long Solo Cross-Country

Well, today was the day.  After a week of waiting out some serious winds, the forecast was for clear skies and light winds.  When I woke up Oshkosh was clear, but the clouds were still low over Green Bay; they began to clear up by 7:00.  All of my planning was done, so T reviewed it with me, I filed my flight plans, got my preflight briefing, and headed over to the aerodrome.  We took off from Oshkosh and flew to West Bend.  Things were just peachy along the short flight and the rain that had gone through Oshkosh at 4:00 a.m. had passed West Bend by 8:30.

On the ground at West Bend we stopped in at the Terminal and asked if there was a pilot’s phone, the guy at the front desk told me down the hall and turn right and then right again.  Well, I ended up in the lunch room and there were three old codgers but no phone.  They told me I had gone one door too far, but when I backtracked, it was a private office.  So I just used my cell phone.  I went back to the lunch room and asked if any of the codgers would like to sign my log book and they started jabbering, “Isn’t there someone up front?  Don’t you need a flight instructor for that?”  Well, wasn’t up to arguing so I went up front to ask the guy there to do it.  On the way down the hall, I heard the codgers continue, “Wow, the poor guy is being ignored.  Shouldn’t there be somebody up front?”

Thence to Sturgeon Bay, we had planned to cruise at 3500′, but the winds aloft were stronger there than the forecast I used, so we descended to 2600′.  We gained 15 knots ground speed by doing so.  Flying along Lake Michigan was plenty scenic and then the stop at Sturgeon Bay was great.  The FBO lineman there was super-friendly and helpful and recommended taking a look at the canal, which we overflew upon takeoff and it was picturesque like he said.

Thence to Oshkosh, the flight was relatively easy as I am familiar with the entire route.  In the Green Bay Class C airspace, we encountered three other ships.  You would think that when the controller tells you to look for traffic 2 miles away at 10:00 and 500 feet below you inbound for landing, it would not be hard to spot.  It took a minute, however, to pick him up and we  were only a mile away when I did.  I have to admit some satisfaction at being able to call the controller and report “traffic in sight.”  There was also a DNR aircraft that was flying circles above another aircraft that was spraying for gypsy moths on the surface.  That was an interesting operation, both because the DNR were spraying for gypsy moths and because they were using one aircraft near the surface and another at 3500′ to do the communicating.

In the last few weeks I have read two magazine articles about how pilots often take the word of a controller as gospel truth and now and then it gets one into trouble.  My student pilot’s manual also has a page on this topic.  All of these author’s explain that it is important for us to think about what the controller is telling us and if it doesn’t make sense, it is our responsibility as pilots to (respectfully) question the instructions or humbly ask for clarification if you don’t understand.  The pilot is the final authority and responsibility for the safety of the craft and her passengers.  When I called Oshkosh to announce my intentions, we were north of the airport.  The controller asked me to report a two mile right final for runway 9.  The pilots in the audience will have noted that the instructions would require us to fly around the city to the south and come back to runway 9.  This would not be unsafe at all, but I began to wonder: first I wondered whether I had heard her correctly, but my acknowledgment confirmed that I did; second, I wondered whether she was comprehending where I was.  So I called back and respectfully asked, “Oshkosh tower, seven zero gulf, that was a two mile right base for runway nine, correct?”  She asked me to repeat my position and then gave me a left final for runway 9…good experience.

Next up: Short and soft field landings and preparation for the practical test!

Flight 28 – Practice

Today, we were scheduled to make the long solo cross-country flight, but the surface winds forecast kept us home. Instead, we shot four takeoffs and landings. The first one stunk. It wasn’t unsafe or anything, but I would have been embarrassed had there been anyone else in the airplane. Well, I hadn’t flown in two weeks, so I already knew I was in need of practice and I’m glad I got it at my home field. The last three landings were just great — lots of small adjustments on final, keep her on the centerline, smooth round-out, hold her off, correct for a small gust from the right, keep her nose pointed straight, flare, touchdown. The perfect landing is elusive.   If I were to critique myself, I would say I could improve by flaring 12 inches closer to the runway.

All in all, it was a treat to be up again, and I must remind everyone how fantastic it is to slip the surly bonds at daybreak.

J. T. + Stephen = Formidable

If you have watched the latter season of Survivor, you no doubt have some opinions of the players and their stratagems.  Early on, I was impressed with the apparently authentic friendship developing between J. T. and Stephen and theorized to my bride that having someone inside the game whom you could truly trust would likely make you a serious contender for the finals.  Early on, we both gave J. T. the odds to win.

As the game progressed, it became apparent that this relationship — that no one has seen before inside Survivor — was making these two nearly invincible.  They navigated the first half of the game flawlessly, and then after the merge successfully overcame a 6-3 deficit — a seemingly impossible feat.  Every week after that, they and Taj knew exactly the right move to make.  They successfully split the Timbira 6 and then slew them one by one, in exactly the right order.   I have never seen such a Survivor juggernaut.

J. T. and Stephen were both great players independently, but the chances of a great player making it to the finals are still not good, maybe 1 in 8 or 1 in 10.  Together, I reckon those two might make it to the finals 5 or 7 times out of 10.

I do think they fell off a little in their end game because they both started playing from a position of fear instead of strength:

  • I did not think it necessary for them to dispatch Taj one council earlier than planned.
  • J. T. didn’t need to worry about taking Stephen to the finals, but he did do the right thing.
  • Had Stephen won final immunity, I would certainly have preferred to see him take J. T. to the finals.  Maybe, he would have done the right thing; no one can say.  In that case, you cannot say for sure whether he would have won the game or not, but based on the final vote, you have to say probably not.

In any case, the last two councils illustrated two closely related things.  First, they laid bare the ravages of greed (like they always do); second, they showed the keen eye why Survivor doesn’t quite work as a microcosm of real life.  In real life, one man becoming a millionaire does not preclude his friend from becoming a millionaire.  Indeed, that man’s success increases his friend’s chances of becoming a millionaire.  Sadly, in real life men often think they are playing Survivor.

Lesson 27 – Dual Night Cross-Country

To meet the night cross-country requirement, we took off and headed down to Wisconsin Dells.  It was the perfect night to fly with almost no surface winds and the stars out.  MP rode along.   Everything went according to plan on the way down and I knew where I was at all times.  The landing at Wisconsin Rapids was a bit dicey because of the optical illusion that a night landing presents (just like the book says, the runway was closer than it appeared at night).  Wisconsin Rapids was a nice little airport.  We turned right around and headed back to Oshkosh and again, I didn’t get to enjoy the return trip because I spent almost all of it under the hood.  My simulated instrument flying was good as far as I could tell.  The landings back at Oshkosh were better and we even tried one with the lights off, which went fairly well.

Flight 26 – Solo Cross-Country #1

This week I made my first solo cross-country flight.  After the first couple of times planning a cross-country flight, the planning process goes rather quickly and is straightforward.  This flight was to Wisconsin Rapids and back.  There were several things I encountered that were new or nearly new to me so there were opportunies to learn.  For example, a cloud layer at 4500′ rolled in sooner than forecast and so on the return flight to Oshkosh I had to select a lower altitude than planned, had a stronger headwind than planned, and arrived later than the flight plan indicated.  Moreover, I arbitrarily decided to close the flight plan after refueling, which is found out is a bad idea.  When I did call to close the plan, the FSS informed me they had already closed the plan after calling the Oshkosh tower and verifying I was on the ground.  Two lessons may be learned from this — 1. call FSS in the air to tell them when you’re behind schedule — 2. close the flight plan in the air or as soon as you’re on the ground.

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