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Jason Pawlak

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Husband, Dad, Navy Officer, Coder, and Tinkerer. I have many interests and am always looking to learn something new. This site is a launching point to the many areas of the Internet that represent me.

Flight Lesson 12 - Is it time to panic yet?

Quite the crazy lesson I had yesterday.

We started out reviewing how to make flight plans and gathering weather information for about an hour and decided it was time to get up in the air.

A slight change to the lesson this time was we went pretty far and I soloed. After leaving Lunken we got up to 3,000 feet with a heading of 047 and went up to Xenia. The ATIS said there was 10 miles visibility, but I really don’t think there was, it was quite hazy. On the way up the 53 mile trek we reviewed in cockpit flight planning by watching the map and triangulating our VORs.

Once up in Xenia we landed on a gravel runway. I didn’t realize how much I relied on the lights of the VASI to find my proper approach angle and we landed pretty rough. Gary wasn’t phased though… “Not bad for your first not-solid ground landing…” This airport is in the middle of nowhere really. We turned around and taxied back up the runway (keeping the nose up as not to flip gravel with the propeller). We got up to a street and looked both ways before crossing… a car had stopped to let us cross. I want to be driving down a street and have to wait for a plane to cross the street… hah.

An old worn out hanger in need of a new coat of paint was on the other side of the street with a few planes sitting around. One of them was Gary’s plane. Gary is a big guy, and his plane is tiny… I want to ride in it sometime though, it looks fun.

Gary hopped out carefully (we didn’t stop the engine, cause we were in 3729D, the one that always has a rough time getting started) and went over to his plane to do preflight and startup. Once moving, he taxied around me and we crossed the street back onto the runway. I requested that we use the longer grass runway instead of the gravel runway just for my nerves. Gary took off first. As soon as his wheels left the grass I held the brakes, full throttle, then released brakes to get up to rotation speed.

This is panic point #1

I’m up to about 50 knots and the plane starts moving left. I push a little right rudder to straighten out… still going left. More rudder… more rudder… rudder to the ground…. still going left! I’m panicking… The edge of the runway along with its blue bin marking the edge are close to my wing. I look for my speed, I’m about 55 knots… I gotta pull up. Normal rotation is about 65 knots… but I’m about to go straight of this runway, and I figure my 150 lbs will let us pull up early. I pull up and sure enough I can get my wheels a little off the ground. The stall horn blares intermittently as I sweat and look ahead to see if there’s an OK place to set this bird down if I can’t stay afloat. Keeping the plane about 10 feet off the ground I am able to level off and use ground effect to gain some airspeed.

“A little left there weren’t ya….?” Gary jokes over the radio giving me a friendly and sarcastic critique.

We get up to 2500 feet and fly in pattern on the way back south at a heading of about 215. Gary took the lead as I requested and I flew low to his back right. Not too much excitement on the way back to Lunken. I saw a hot air balloon off in the distance which was nice. There was also a rainbow that was only projected on a cloud. I had never seen that before, it was gorgeous!

We are getting clsoe to Lunken so Gary listens to ATIS and calls me telling me we have information Zulu. He then tells me he’s switching over to 118.7, the Lunken Tower frequency. I remembered him saying something about me staying on 130.5 and he would call back with instructions. So I stay on the frequency.

This is panic point #2

I don’t hear anything for about 5 minutes and we are getting very near Lunken. I don’t want to flip to the tower frequency and miss out on Gary calling me back on 130.5, but I soon see Lunken about 5 miles ahead, and I don’t know what’s going on. Lunken can be a busy airport at times, and I didn’t want to be responsible for anything scary. Oh yeah, and about 1 minute before Gary had quickly descended and blended in with the ground… I was all by myself… eh… this is where I really started to get worried. I flip over to the Tower frequency and make a call.

Me: “Lunken Tower, Skipper 3729D North of you about 5 miles, requesting landing” (I couldn’t remember what ATIS information I had at the moment)
Tower: “29D you have a group of two in front of you, but you are clear to land on 21L”
Me: “Lunken Tower, 29D, I’m actually the tail of that group of two, I just lost site of the leader… sorry”
Tower: “29D, you are 3 miles north and clear to land on 21L”

I felt like an idiot… but I would have felt more like an idiot if I hadn’t known where I was going and landed on the wrong runway, or worse… caused grief for some other plane.

While in my final I heard what I thought was the tower telling other planes they were clear to land on 21L. I then was again concerned. He did say I was clear, no? I decided to sound like an idiot again in the name of caution and confirm with tower my instructions.

Me: “Lunken Tower, Skipper 3729D, just to confirm, clear to land 21L”
Tower: “29D, yes, clear to land on 21L”

Hah… yeah. They know those skippers have students in them… but still. The entire ordeal is actually quite amusing in hindsight.

After tying down the plane and walking over to Gary at his plane, he said it was funny listening to me. He said he had wanted to get on the radio and let out a long “Duuhhhhh…” when I told tower I was indeed the second in the group of two…

Wow… what a lesson. I fly again tonight as long as these winds die down a little.

Later all!

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