Lesson 7: Touch and Go’s in Gusty Conditions

Aircraft: C172 N13205

Flight  Time:  1.2 hours

Total Hours: 7.3

It was so windy this morning that I wasn’t even sure that I’d have my lesson. I called the Merrill Field AWOS before heading out there and it was saying 17 mph winds with gusts up to 24 mph. Right before leaving, I read up again on crosswind taxi techniques in my flight maneuvers book, figuring that I’d need to be on top of that knowledge today.

We started up the plane and taxied over to runway 34, since the wind was coming from the north. The crosswinds were not too bad on taxi, although we did get blown around a little bit as we crossed through the space between hangars. It wasn’t until we got up into the sky when I discovered just how difficult high winds can be for a novice pilot.

We spent the entire lesson in the pattern doing touch and go’s, ten in all. Although it was extremely challenging and a bit overwhelming at first, it was a great learning experience for me. I got lots of practice using crabs, wind correction techniques, and using different bank angles when turning into and against the wind.

We’d climb out against the wind on takeoff, and then, when making the first crosswind turn, I quickly learned how to roll out the turn a bit early so that plane points at an angle to your course. This allows you to keep flying the same heading with the wind effectively blowing you sideways. When making the downwind turn, we’d get blown south like a sail, so I had to make the turn with a higher bank angle to get us quickly on course out once of the turn. Very quickly, I had to run though my approach checklist, so that I could apply carb heat, lower the flaps, begin my descent, and confirm my approach with the tower.

When turning to base, I had to roll out late and fly on a crab angle that is opposite of the one I flew on the initial crosswind leg. That left a shallow turn to line the plane up on final, and this is where the real challenge came. I’d line the plane up on a heading towards the runway and try to control my descent rate, but the wind blew us around so much that it took constant corrections all the way down. I got lots of rudder pedal practice today.

I wouldn’t say that any of the landings were very good, and Mark had to help with every one. We even had to make a couple of go arounds. One time we came down pretty hard, although Mark assured me that he wouldn’t put me or the plane in danger, however he did let me bring it down that hard on purpose so that I could experience firsthand what can happen in those circumstances. That said, I wouldn’t even be allowed up on my own in this kind of weather until I had much more experience.

Overall, he said that I did well, and that I certainly make some good improvement, especially with the wind corrections, general aircraft handling and with my ATC/tower communication. I got better at listening for my tail number and trying to respond to every command or clearance that they gave me. I wouldn’t say that I did it perfectly, especially when I was trying to concentrate on something else, but that’s all part of it and I’m definitely getting more comfortable in that area.

We’ll do more touch and go’s next lesson, and after having deal with the wind today, I’m curious to see how it will go the next time with little to no wind. Friday is forecasted to be much more calm. In the meantime, I’ve been told to complete and bring in my Presolo Written Exam… 🙂

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