Solo Touch and Go Practice

Aircraft: C172 N52654

Flight  Time:  .7 hours

Total Hours: 18.4

At this stage in my flight training, I’m starting to take a close look at my progress and evaluate where I am in relationship to my lesson syllabus. Now that I’ve started to fly solo, I’m about to move into the cross country stage and I feel like I am right where I should be for how many hours I have under my belt. I’m comfortable with the controls, and I feel like I have a solid understanding of navigation. 

The area where I feel I need work, is landings, so yesterday, I scheduled myself a short block to get in some more practice. Now that I’m endorsed to fly solo at and around the airport, I can essentially take the plane up for unsupervised solo practice flights. I’ll actually need to do this a few times in order to reach the needed 40 hours before I can get my pilot license.

Figuring that a short but concentrated time of working on the landings would be helpful, I gave myself 45 minutes to practice. It was the end of the day and although it was still light enough to see, twilight was fast approaching. I watched all the lights start to come on around the city and got an introductory feel for what night flying will be like. It was neat to see the runway lights on either side of me as I did my landings. I did seven touch and go’s in that time and tried hard to really focus on making them smooth. They were not all smooth, and in fact a couple were not all that good, The first one was by far the best, and the last one was pretty good as well.

There was a bit of a crosswind, and without Mark in the plane to help talk me through it, I found myself starting to have a better understanding about how the breeze blows the plane across the runway during the flare. I would line up on final and concentrate really hard on keeping the aircraft straight with the rudder pedals, but then would find myself drifting. Looking back now, I think that at the time, I perceived this as that I wasn’t doing a good enough job with the rudders, when it was actually the wind blowing me sideways. I’d try to compensate with the rudder, but would end up side loading the gear a bit. Fortunately, the runway is covered with ice right now, which makes it easier on the landing gear, but I need to get this nailed down for when the ice melts.

I did have one landing where I dropped the wing just enough and brought the plane down on the upwind wheel to avoid drifting. It wasn’t the smoothest of touchdowns, but I had at least done that part right, so I felt good about the learning process. One area where I see definite improvement are my pattern descents. I’m doing a much better job of controlling my airspeed through my turns to base and final, and I’m using the trim wheel to keep the descents at a steady rate. I also feel like I’m doing a better job of looking down the runway when I level off, just need to keep practicing that and refine my feel for the touchdown.

I have my first night lesson tonight, and the weather forecast looks good for my cross country on Monday. It will be an exciting next few days!

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