I’m not sure where to begin, but it ends with this:
I have that feeling you get when you’re sitting in traffic on the freeway for an hour and then finally pass that big annoying accident that’s holding everything up. First, you’re relieved that it’s over, then mostly you’re excited because you’re moving again. At long last, I feel like I’m actually going to reach my destination(s).
The weather was chilly, but still. The fog we had early this morning would have made driving difficult, but most of it rolled away by noon. As I took us out of Paine Field, over the Boeing plant, and north to Arlington, there was a shelf of very low hanging clouds to the east of us. Even though I’ve logged many dozens of hours at this point, flying above the clouds, seeing entire bodies of water at a time (islands and all), and approaching mountains head-on hasn’t gotten old.
Arlington is a non-towered airport, so I had more control of my runway (superficially, anyway, it mostly depends on weather) and how I wanted to execute my maneuvers, but it also involved more radio work because I had to tell other traffic what I was doing. Even though radio calls were one of my greatest weaknesses when I started flying, I prefer making extra ones at Arlington rather than taking direction from the tower at Paine. They do a great job, but they have to be there because there’s so much more traffic. There’s just too much happening there.
When I arrived at Arlington, the nearest traffic was at Pierce County, and I could just barely pick up the transmissions. For some reason, as I practiced touch-and-gos, other planes swarmed the airport like flies on shit. As I tried to juggle the whereabouts of every other plane in a 5-mile vicinity and corrections from my instructor, I kept getting further in the weeds and my landings got progressively worse.
Although it’s not abnormal for the stall horn to sound during a landing, it isn’t preferable either. That was the least of my worries. One of my landings was square on the nose wheel, and another involved my instructor pushing the yolk down and pretty much slamming us into the pavement so we wouldn’t keep floating over the runway and eventually stall for real.
I was really disappointed because I had meant for today to be the day. I wanted to solo on my birthday last week, but the weather was horrendous. It was no one’s fault, but I already felt I had waited too long in doing it then. That said, taking control of a airplane by yourself isn’t the kind of thing you want to rush into.
After two so-so landings, we pulled off the runway. My instructor signed off my logbook and offered a few simple reminders, including, “have fun”. Squawking mayday because I’m stuck in some trees… where does that fall on the fun scale?
My parting words with him were, “Are you sure?” And he hopped out of the plane. My fuel line was flooded so I couldn’t get it to start again, so he came back, got me going, and then hopped out and told me to have fun again.
Now I was more frustrated than scared and I had to pee. I also noticed a little green bug on my windscreen and was worried it would distract me. I named him Chopper and decided I wanted him there.
Because I was flying at a non-towered airport, I cleared myself for take-off like a boss and learned later I should have just said “Departing runway 3-4 for closed traffic.” Whoever could hear me probably smiled the way you do when I small child tries to use a big word and mispronounces it. In my defense, I usually depart Paine, get cleared for take-off there, and do touch-and-gos at Arlington so no clearance is needed there.
Anyway, I got in the air, executed my turns in the pattern, and came a little too close on final. I didn’t have enough time to get as close to the ground as I wanted, so I did a forward slip almost instinctively. When I realized that was what I was doing, I became aware of it, tried to ignore it, and I was on the flare before I could decide which thing I should be thinking about most.
I executed a perfect landing. No horn. No floating. Right down the center. I should solo more often.