Got the airport today and found that my instructor was running a few minutes late and that the weather was gorgeous. Checked out the plane and a headset and strolled out onto the ramp to do the preflight. All well; 14 gallons in each wing, fuel drain clear, 7 quarts of oil in the sump, flight controls free and correct, all ports clear, prop and spinner fine. Plugged in my headset and saw my instructor walking up; he waved me back in, so I set the gust lock and followed him.
"Well, we really should get out of the pattern, so today we'll head up to Turner's Falls. When we take off from there, we'll pick up Barnes on the VOR and follow it down to Westfield, do a touch-and-go there, and head home."
"Okay! Hm, then I really do need to buy an updated sectional."
So I bought a new sectional, folded it over properly, located Northampton Airport and traced north to Turner's Falls (0B5). "Hm, okay, I haven't done this in about twenty years..."
"Don't worry, this is a local - within 25 nautical - so we're not going to do the full nav log and preflight. Let's just make sure we know the runways and frequencies."
"Okay. Turner's CTAF is...um...123.0? And Westfield tower is 118.9..."
"What's the VOR?"
"VOR is...(I struggled to find it on the sectional, because sectionals are nothing if not poster children for information overload)...I think...oh wait here, separate box, 113.7."
"Okay. Let's go flying."
So we did.
Climbout was smooth, and we were CAVU, pretty much, with a couple of puffy stratocumulus clouds way up and things fading into the haze out around 20 miles away. "What altitude should I look for?" I asked as I made my left turn into the pattern.
"2500 is fine, just follow the river north..."
"Yep, got it, Turner's is just east of Greenfield, where the river curves to the east?"
So I got it to 2500, dropped the power to 2100 RPM and set up cruise. There was almost no wind - a slight westerly, maybe 4 or 5 knots, but steady - so it was a very smooth flight. We could see a freight train northbound on the tracks below, and traffic winking over on I-91 as it angled to the west slightly. After perhaps fifteen minutes, I said "Is that it over there?" and pointed to an open space east of the river curve.
"Yep, that's it. How are you gonna set up?"
"Oh crap. I forgot, what's the runway at Turner's?"
"One-Six/Three-Four. Which one do you want to use?"
Thought about it. "We took off using One-Four, so I'll assume similar winds and use One-Six."
"Okay. And what's your approach plan?"
I fluffed it again: "I'm heading north just west of the airport, I could loop around to the north and enter the downwind from the other side..."
"Well, yeah, or you could just turn right and enter a crosswind directly, right?"
"Heh. Yeah, indeed I could."
So I did. Oh crap, right: swapped radio freqs to the one I'd preset on the runup back at 7B2, and: "Turner's Falls traffic, Skyhawk 12732 is five miles southwest of the field, joining on a left crosswind for One-Six for a full stop Turner's."
Had another thought. "Wait, what's the pattern altitude here? I mean, the pattern is 1000 AGL, but what's the field..." Rummaged for my sectional, squinted at the numbers underneath the airport logo. "Okay, um, twenty-seven...no...hang on...OH, 359 isn't a vector, that's the field altitude. Derp. So pattern is around 1400 MSL." Looked up, noticed I was actually at around 1300; pulled the nose up a bit as the runway crossed my left wing on the downwind.
Managed to get the runway halfway up the wing strut on the downwind, and as I came abreast with the runway numbers, I brought power back to 1500 and put in carb heat. Watched my speed get down to around 100 MPH (this damn airplane and its instruments in MPH), made my turn left and put in some flaps; made another left..."hm, this doesn't look right." Put in more flaps, but realized I was almost over the numbers and still a hundred feet up and going 80 kts...
"What do you think?"
"I'm high and fast..."
"Can you make the runway?"
"...not the first half of it, no, going around." So I did, put in full power and waited for the nose to come up a bit. It did, but not quite enough...I took out ten degrees of flaps, still not great...
"Hey, how can we get more power?"
"I can get rid of the flaps..."
"How can we get more *power*?"
"Oh derp. Carb heat." Took out the carb heat, watched the RPMs bounce a hundred or so and felt the airplane pick up a bit. Took out some more flaps, got the airspeed to 80 again, made the left turn into the pattern at 1000 MSL (allowing for higher field altitude). "I was fast all the way around, wasn't I."
So the second time, I pulled power and immediately added ten of flaps like I'm supposed to, and brought it around. This time, we drifted over the numbers at around 75 MPH and touched down. I turned the airplane around to back-taxi and then looped around the taxiway. "I was still a little fast."
"Yeah. You're not doing it the same way every time. Sure, adjust the approach, but start it the same way: power to 15, and immediately ten of flaps, look for 90 MPH. Turn base, another ten of flaps and look for 80; turn final, another ten and look for 70. And remember, 70 is approach speed, not landing speed."
"Right. Right. Landing speed is 54 MPH with full flaps in. I keep forgetting I have all that spare speed, I think I have in my head that 70 is landing speed and I have no margin." Clicked the mic. "Turner's traffic, Skyhawk 12732 is departing One-Six Turner's, making a left turn and departing the pattern to the southwest."
My instructor nodded, so I centered the pedals, gave it full throttle and rode the airplane down and out and up. Made the left, circled back over the middle of the field at around 1500 AGL, repeated my departure call and set out just west of south at 2500 feet. We did some sightseeing on the way down to 7B2, passed just west of it. Before we got there, though: "Okay, let's get Barnes on the VOR."
So I did, setting the NAV1 active to 113.0 and watching the VOR needle swing.
"How do you know that's Barnes?"
"I should listen for the identifier." So I put the switch over to NAV1 and listened, turning up the volume. There was a little hashing from the comm set, then I heard it clearly: dah-dit-dit-dit...dit-dah...dit-dit-dah-dit... "Got it!"
"Okay. So what radial are we on? Are we on TO or FROM?"
Looked at the dial. "We're on a three-zero from the beacon..."
"What do we need to fly to get TO the beacon?"
"Well...three zero inverse is two ten..."
"There's an easier way right?"
Heh. "Yeah." Reached out and spun the VOR dial until the indicator flipped over to 'TO' and centered the needle. "Okay, two ten to two fifteen gets us there." Made a slight correction to the west until my course was around 212 gyro.
"Great. Now what should we do?"
"We should get ATIS for when we check in." Did it; flipped the second com radio to the ATIS frequency, but couldn't get the stupid thing to sound out in the headsets. Looked at my instructor questioningly. He shook his head.
"I really don't like the radios in this airplane." He fiddled for a few seconds, then said "Screw it, use COM1, we'll just change freqs."
Set up the radio as appropriate, got the flat recorded voice which told us that runway Two Zero was in use, winds were from 220 at 6 knots, field altimeter was 28.89 and gave us the current temps and dewpoint. "Should I call in now?"
"Not yet, let's call in at the ten mile mark." My instructor tapped the DME where he'd entered the Barnes VOR frequency; it read 13.9 miles. "Let's do a dry run, though - you be us, I'll be Westfield Tower." So we did the playthrough and he nodded. "Okay, all yours."
Ten miles on the DME. I laughingly tell people that the coolest part of piloting is landing and talking cool pilot stuff on the radio, and this was my first time talking to ground since starting up lessons again. "Westfield Tower, Skyhawk 12732."
"Skyhawk 12732, Westfield Tower."
"Westfield Tower, Skyhawk 12732 is ten miles north with information November, requesting a touch-and-go on the active, Skyhawk 12732."
"Good day Skyhawk 12732, you're cleared for a straight in approach to two zero, report a two-mile final, you're number one for the active, Westfield Tower."
"Westfield Tower, Skyhawk 12732 on straight in approach to two zero, will report a two-mile final, thank you."
Angled a bit west, as I could see the field now, and it was clear I was just east of the runway line. Flew in to about five miles, then started letting out power and letting the altitude drop down. Checked my altimeter to make sure it was set to 28.89; yep. At three miles, my instructor spoke up: "Three miles on the DME is about two miles from the end of the runway."
"Whoops, thanks." Clicked mic. "Westfield Tower, Skyhawk 12732 is on two-mile final for touch-and-go on Two Zero; requesting northeast departure."
"Skyhawk 12732, you're cleared to touch and go on the active; turn left and cleared to depart the area to the northeast, Westfield."
"Westfield Tower, Skyhawk 12732 cleared for touch and go, northeast departure, thank you very much."
"You're welcome, Skyhawk 12732, and have a good day."
The runway at Barnes is much bigger than the runway at Northampton; 9000 feet long and 150 feet wide, it is sized for the F-15Cs of the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard which are based there. It could handle jetliners, unlike our 3300-foot 50-foot runway at 7B2. It looked vast as I floated down towards it. I juggled power and flaps, and ended up drifting long a bit (I had more speed than I should, since the straight-in approach had made it harder to judge when to drop flaps and airspeed) but came to a respectable touchdown. Got the airplane steadied, then took out the carb heat and gave it full throttle, increasing my right rudder to compensate for takeoff torque and propwash. The airplane juddered a few times and I realized that I had my feet too high on the pedals and was giving it intermittent brakes, so I moved my heels to the floor and readjusted. Everything smoothed out and we lifted back off, headed for Northampton.
Everything else went fine. On approach, I correctly planned to enter a crosswind since I was approaching from much the same angle I'd approached Turner's Falls; we slid into the pattern, came around, and...
...I was fast again. The landing was fine, but we had to pass the turnoff and back-taxi. "I know, I didn't put the flaps in, did I."
"You had them in, but that first notch you waited, you didn't put them in right when you dumped power on downwind. Think of it this way - do the steps the same every time. Power out/flaps, turn/flaps, turn/flaps. You should end up on approach with seventy MPH and thirty of flaps in. If you need to adjust, do it by using pitch or stretching the downwind leg, and then if you need to add power or add the final ten of flaps on final do that - but don't try to correct by changing the process."
So we parked the airplane and that was that. As we were walking back in carrying our headsets and gear, he said "That was good. Excellent on communications; you know what you need to do to fix the approach speed, so just start doing it; remember, even if we're staying local, get the runway numbers, field altitudes and all communications frequencies together before taking off. Okay? Okay, see you next time."