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Back to Journal Page 43

Flights 40 at SpanaFlight 
(Total: .7 PIC, 46.9 Dual, 1.7 Sim IFR, .2 Night, 1.0 Complex, 179 Landings)


I started out expecting that the weather wasn't going to improve at all.  The last couple of flights were cancelled due to bad weather, so why should today's be any different.  I am starting to hate my weatherman.  Every day last week when I didn't have a flight scheduled, the weather was clear and windless.  The clouds would roll in or the wind would pick up above 15 knots as the hour of my flight approached.  Today came up looking like the last 2 scheduled flights, so I didn't expect to fly today, but as Matt didn't call, I headed out for the airport all the same, if for nothing else, to have him check my flight plan.

I almost hit 2 cars on the way to the airport, as my eyes were in the air instead of on the ground, and when I arrived at the airport, the clouds looked about 1500 feet AGL.  Well, at least I should be able to get some pattern work in.  I walked in, and Matt was still with his other student, do I headed back to check Duats.  I logged in and checked for current weather conditions around all the airports I was supposed to go to today.  I had planned a flight to Jefferson County International (0S9), Boeing Field (BFI), and then back home. Duats was calling the ceilings at about 2500 around Thun field, and then increasing to 4000 feet broken at my first stop.  Boeing field had a 1600 foot ceiling, which was my only really concern.  I could fly well below the 2500 foot ceiling around here if I needed to.  Winds were from 300 at 6 knots.

Matt finished up with his student and came back to the planning room to check on me.  He wanted me to call the FSS even though I had all the information from Duats.  He felt I needed the practice, which of course, I did.  I called the flight briefer and stated that I was a student pilot and needed a VFR standard weather brief.  The briefer then started by describing very clearly the area and weather depictions.  I had been nervous about calling the briefer directly because of the speed they rambled off information when Matt called them.  But this briefer was different, he slowed down and explained everything to me, and helped me understand the weather report he was describing.  We then commenced to file a flight plan for this flight, and although I filed it as a "round robin" type of flight plan instead of 2 separate flight plans, It went easy enough.  I thanked the briefer, and then finished computing my flight plan.

Matt showed up again a few minutes later and asked about the weather.  I described it to him, and he then reviewed my flight plan.  He said that he felt that the weather was improving and wouldn't be a problem for this flight.  I then headed out, and preflighted the plane.  When Matt got in, and I started the plane, the engine was running weird. Matt tapped the mixture control and I then realized that I missed a step on starting the engine.  Damn....I had hoped I was slowing down enough to not do this again, but I didn't apparently slow down enough.  All the other steps went fine, and we headed out to the runup area to finish the prefligh checks.

The plane checked out fine, and I spent a few minutes preparing the radios, maps, and flight plan for the trip ahead.  I knew I would not be transitioning through any airspace until I neared Boeing field, so I just tuned in FSS, Local Unicom, Jefferson Unicom, and set my Nav radios to the 2 VOR's I expected to have during the trip.  I then wrote down the time of departure on my flight plan, and headed to runway 34 for takeoff.

The takeoff was a little shaky, as I hadn't flown in a while again, and we climbed to 2000 feet.  I had planned the entire flight at 2500, but as the clouds were pretty low here, I stopped climbing at 2000.  We arrived at the first checkpoint which was the Puyallup river which I needed to follow out to the Puget sound to remain clear of Class B airspace.  I wrote the time at the turn down, and figured another 4 minutes to the next checkpoint, which was the Port of Tacoma.  I arrived 1 minute early, and turned to my computed magnetic heading.  The ceilings were better here, so I decided to finish my climb to 2500 and cruise there.  

As we headed out over the Puget sound, we crossed Vashon Island and I corrected my course to ensure that my navigation was correct.  I was checking the chart against the landscape when Matt suddenly grabbed the wheel and dove the plane 200 feet.  I looked up and saw a tiny cloud pass us.  The cloud was smaller than the plane, but Matt stated that I would have violated a FAR if I had gone through it.  I didn't even see it because, one, I was looking at the chart at the time, and two, because the cloud line was at the horizon and there were several clouds behind it hiding the little cloud.  I decided to head back down to 2000 feet to help me see the clouds better, and Matt scolded me for having my nose in the chart.  

We continued our course to the north and I corrected as needed.  We passed over Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, which was my next checkpoint.  It was really neat to see 5 aircraft carriers from the air.  We then proceeded to the next checkpoint, which was a pier at the Submarine base nearby.  I spotted it in a few minutes, and then headed to our first stop, Jefferson airport.  About 10 miles from the airport, I called for a traffic advisory.  An automated recording responded with the wind and runway information.  Matt and I both thought that was the coolest thing.  With winds from the northwest, we chose runway 27 to land on.  

It took me a little while to spot the airport, although it was right where I expected it to be.  If my altitude was higher, I probably could have spotted it better.  I turned to approach the 45 from downwind.  I was at pattern altitude then, and I entered the pattern a little late.  I turned downwind, and then base.  I realized then that I was way to high and way too close and executed a go around.  I set up for a better pattern this time, and proceeded to land fine on the little runway.  We took the plane around the pattern one more time for good measure, and then pulled off at the runup area to plan the next leg of the flight. 

Matt stated that he might have me divert on this leg, but didn't say where.  I saw that Bremerton airport was closest, but I didn't know exactly where we were going to divert at, so I kept my options open.  I situated my charts for this leg and got my radios set for Boeing approach and tower.  I checked the pressure from the automated Unicom broadcast and set my altimeter appropriately.  Then we took off and headed east off the downwind leg of the airport. 

Matt started talking about diverting shortly afterwards, and he decided that he wanted me to divert before my first checkpoint.  He stated that Boeing field just got snowed in and we would have to make another choice.  Without going into detail, Matt and I computed a new course together, and I then called FSS to update my flight plan.  I must say that there was a flurry of activity during that time and it seems as though the chart became a living thing that didn't want to fold differently nor show me the correct area when I looked at it.  Suffice it to say, I didn't handle the cockpit management tasks then too well.  We turned south and headed to Bremerton, which was upon us a lot sooner that I expected it to be.

We called for an airport advisory, and got 2 versions.  One saying that Runway 01 was in use, the other stating that runway 19 was in use.  As we could see the person landing on 19, we chose the latter and transitioned across the runway midfield to follow traffic.  Just about then, every plane in the Puget Sound area decided to arrive at Bremerton and start landing approaches on 01 instead.  We did a 180 and transitioned back across the field, and entered the 45 to a downwind.  Another plane was on the 45 as well, but further behind us.  We then turned downwind, base, and landed with a bounce.  The runway at Bremerton was about 150 feet wide, and the landing illusions were out in full force.  

We pulled off and headed to the runup area to get re-organized and prepare for the final leg of this harrowing journey.  I put away the flight plan, as Matt stated that we were pretty much on pilotage from here on out, which was fine by me, as I knew my way home from here well enough.  I kept out the chart and the e6b I had been using.  I decided to do a touch and go at Bremerton and then depart off the upwind leg to the east and head home.  I went around the pattern, and did a little better landing, although still too hard for my liking.  I don't know what is going on with my landings today.  I figure it probably was the unfamiliarity of the airport I was at.

We then headed back towards the Port of Tacoma, ensuring that we didn't enter the class D airspace of Tacoma Narrows airport.  We then skirted the Puyallup river and then turned north to enter for a 34 landing at Thun Field.  I entered the 45 as normal, and started the pattern.  I was high and fast, however on final, but instead of going around (which after the fact I definitely should have done) I attempted to salvage the landing.  That was a mistake, and I landed pretty hard.  That landing was the worst one I have had in about 2 months.  I decided to cut my losses then, as I was frustrated and tired, and park the plane.  

After securing everything, Matt and I reviewed the flight, and he wants me to do some pattern work before I attempt the solo cross country, but he feels confident that I wont get lost and probably won't crash the plane.  I wrote myself in for some solo pattern work on Tuesday, with the solo cross country being on Wednesday.  I am again heading out to Hoquiam for this flight, and despite the relatively poor performance I put on today, I am looking forward to it.

Until then....Journal Page 45




Last Updated: Tuesday, May 23, 2000


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