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Flight 43 at SpanaFlight 
(Total: 2.5 PIC, 52.2 Dual, 2.0 Sim IFR, .2 Night, 1.0 Complex, 195 Landings)


I was pretty nervous about going on today's flight.  I really haven't had all that much solo time as of yet, and although I feel confident in my abilities, it was still a big "unknown" for me.  I went into the flight school with my flight plan completed and filed.  The weather was supposed to not only be VFR, but beautiful as well.  The only possible problem was the winds.  Hoquiam airport, which was my planned destination, was reporting winds from 110 at 11 knots, and I am only allowed to fly in winds under 10 knots.   It was expecting to improve to 7 or 8 knots according to the forecast, however.

Matt and I discussed the flight, and he signed my logbook.  I had forgotten to compute takeoff and landing distances for this flight, and Matt had me do so.  Then I went out to preflight the plane while Matt was finishing his paperwork.  The plane looked good, so I went back inside the FBO and retrieved my logbook and license, which was newly signed off for the cross country solo.  I then headed back out to the plane, organized the cockpit, and started the engine.

The winds were from the north on the surface, so 34 was the runway to use.  I taxied to the runup area and finished the before flight checklists.  I tuned my radios, set my VOR's and wiped the sweat from my brow.  I had the window open since the engine startup so as to cool down the cockpit some.  I then noted the time, and marked the time off on my flight log.  Made my radio call and taxied to 34 for takeoff.  I added full power, and then noticed that I had forgot to close my window.  OOPS...I closed it really quick, hoping that Matt couldn't see from where he was standing, then continued the takeoff normally.

I climbed and turned crosswind.  As I departed the pattern, I tuned to McChord tower frequency, and then correctly requested a transition through their airspace.  They approved and told me about a C-141 that was about 500 foot above my altitude passing in front of me.  I told them I had the plane in sight, and I held off my climb until he was well past then continued to 2500 feet.  As I left the McChord airspace, I contacted Seattle Radio and opened my flight plan.  I hit my first checkpoint about 2 minutes later, and turned to a more westerly course, aiming the plane towards a valley which would align me perfectly with Hoquiam from there.

Since the near miss incident from my last flight, I was pretty eagle eyed for other traffic.  I also made sure I continuously looked for landing sites and reset my DG regularly.  I held altitude pretty good, only deviating a couple of times (usually when I updated my flight log, or tuned the radios to try to hear Hoquiam AWOS).  The first thing I noticed, though, was that the engine RPM increased whenever I did that, so it didn't take me too long to catch the problem and fix it.

The second checkpoint, which was a tower on top of a hill I passed on my left side, arrived next, and I marked the time on my flight log.  I was only about 1 minute behind schedule by then.  From there, I started receiving the Hoquiam VOR and DME readings well, so I listened to the Nav1 frequency to make sure it was the right one, and tuned the VOR to the radial I planned to follow in.  Amazingly enough it matched my course I was flying after I took out the winds.  I was about 35-40 miles from the airport, but could see the inlet and the peninsula that I would be landing on from there.

I continued on, passing my third checkpoint on time.  I contacted Hoquiam CTAF and requested a traffic advisory, but no one answered.  I then listened to the AWOS which was reporting the winds from 090 at 11....Damn.  I was still 10 miles out though, and the winds may improve some.  I'd at least fly over the airport.  I contacted FSS and closed my flight plan, and kept listening on AWOS. The winds started to die down at about 5 miles from the airport, so I decided that it should be OK for me to land.  The runway I used was 06, which was pretty close to the wind heading.  The winds were shifting some to the north as well, and as I entered the Right downwind, I saw the windsock pointed straight down the runway.  One final check of the AWOS confirmed this and the winds were at 7 knots, so I continued my approach.

I landed a little hard, but it was much better than other landings I have had.  I taxied off the runway and cleaned up the plane.  I didn't realize how nervous I was at the landing until I released the yolk and felt the blood rush back into my fingers.  I taxied back to the head of the runway, organized my cockpit and tuned my radios.  I decided then that I would just do one landing here and maybe some touch and goes at Pierce where the winds weren't a factor as much.  I called my departure and climbed to 3500 feet.  I hit a patch of rain during my climb, and the turbulence started increasing.  

After reaching my altitude, I slowed the plane to below Va speed because the turbulence came up some.  That only lasted, however, while I was around some foothills which are notorious for creating them.  I then set my power back to 65% and called Seattle Radio to open my return leg flight plan.  The winds aloft were from the south then and I had to crab substantially to keep my ground track straight.  I headed for the same valley I knew would take me to the next checkpoints and just concentrated on performing all my checklists and looking for emergency landing areas.

I arrived at the hill about 20 minutes later, and started looking for my last checkpoint.  I started tuning my VOR's to McChord VOR so as not to get lost.  I found my checkpoint, and confirmed it via my charts.  I then returned to my 3500 foot altitude after descending 100 feet during the distraction, and tuned to McChord tower to listen for traffic before I contacted them.  I heard another plane departing Pierce and transitioning across, but never saw them, as I was still 15 miles from there.

I arrived at my final checkpoint and turned east.  I contacted McChord tower and requested the transition.  The approved, and I over flew the airport at 2900 feet.  I had descended so as to ensure I wouldn't get pushed into Seattle Class B inadvertently, which the 3000 foot ceiling was just about 50 feet to the north of McChord AFB.  I then spotted Pierce county airport, and after clearing McChord Airspace, continued my descent to TPA.  I closed my flight plan and entered the pattern for a 34 landing.  I landed OK, ballooning a little, but corrected for it and landed softly.  I decided that I was done flying by then and taxied the plane to the Gas pumps, where I knew it would need some fuel.

I shut down, cleaned up, and headed into the FBO.  Matt came out and asked me how it went, and I reported that it seemed pretty good.  I didn't give him the gory details as he was with another student at the time.  I shot the breeze with the owner of the flight school, and then filled out my logbook and went home. As an afterthought, I realized that I had a lot more time up there without Matt in the plane, than I do with him in it, even though I was always doing something.  The words I'd use to sum up this flight was "Uneventful but fun".  I felt terrific all the way home, and I must have called 6 people to talk about it.  

My next flight is on Saturday, which is planned on being a dual local.  Matt wants to work on Short and Soft field takeoffs and landings with me some more.

Until then....Journal Page 48







Last Updated: Tuesday, May 23, 2000


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