Career Magazine

Flight Training Isn't All "Smooth Landings"

By Swayne Martin @MartinsAviation
While flying is one of my favorite things to do, there are challenges I have to be honest about in learning how to fly. Not everything goes smoothly, as you're about to find out, but that's a good thing. It's all a learning experience which will make me a better pilot in the end. 

I was totally psyched for my lesson last Saturday. I had planned out a course which used my house and school as a waypoint for our flight up the James River. Flying over my house and school was a life changing experience for me. For my entire life I'd been a kid looking up the skies from the yard, dreaming of being one of those pilots flying over my house. It felt like a huge accomplishment to fly over and see where I had watched the sky for years, this time as the person flying the plane. 

My lesson that day is a perfect example of what learning to fly can be like. At one point I was enjoying my flight up the James River, with the canopy open, flying convertible style. The next moment, I realized something wasn't right with the way the plane was flying. I checked around the cockpit and realized the trim lighting bar (showing amount of trim) was off. I checked the electrical fuses and saw that my instructor had popped one out. Depending on the day, this is something completely normal to go through as a student. Your instructor will test you on real-life situations like that to test your awareness. It's a combination of challenging, frustrating, and rewarding experiences. 

A few minutes later, my instructor asked me to divert to Lake Anna airport with no GPS. I thought "ok, I can do this pretty easily." What I didn't know was that my instructor picked that airport specifically because it was North of the line which separates the sectional chart into two parts. I knew the general direction was North of where I was, but I miss-calculated the direction and distance a little, which resulted in me heading on a NW instead of NE course. Never having really navigated with a sectional chart before was interesting to try for the first time. In the Sierra, it's difficult to find room to hold the chart because it's a stick-flown aircraft. You don't have much room in your lap. 

After flying over Lake Anna, my instructor and I flew to the Louisa County airport. One thing I haven't gotten used to yet is being able to tell which runway to land on based upon the wind direction given by the automated weather, when you radio in. Luckily, I chose the correct runway in the end which was a relief for me. On the approach, I noticed how rough the air had become. The winds were blowing at about 6kts, gusting to 15kts. This made for a really rough landing (certainly the worst I've done so far). Because of the crosswind and gusts, I had some trouble settling the plane to the ground. It must've bounced 10 feet into the air before settling down with some side-loading. Not good at all, I wasn't happy with the way I had landed. That was the first time I'd really sucked at a landing. Granted, the conditions were way worse than ever before. Nonetheless, I was still disappointed. 

Always with surprises, my instructor asked if I wanted to do a soft-field takeoff on the grass at Louisa. I was excited but nervous after having had such a bad landing. We decided to try it out and taxied out to the grass adjacent to the runway. Honestly, except for the procedure for soft-field takeoffs, nothing felt that different. It was a little bumpy, but nothing bad! I was actually pretty happy when I completed my first grass (soft) field takeoff! Another first accomplished that day!
The Sporty's Example Video for Soft-Field (Grass Field) Takeoffs

Flying back to Hanover KOFP, we radioed in to discover 4kt winds gusting to 16kts! For the light sport tecnam, it was sure to be a rough ride. My instructor asked if I was comfortable handling the landing to which I responded a hesitant yes. Our landing, once again, was rough. We ballooned back into the air after having made contact with the ground. I wasn't happy with myself at all. 

I was disappointed to have ended the flight on such a bad-note. Looking back on that lesson, I know that I learned more in that one flight than I probably have in all of my flight training so far. Things won't always come easily. Just like anything in life, there will be ups and downs, rough landings and smooth landings. It's all a part of the journey, and I'm glad I'm a part of it. Personally, I can't wait to get after it again and take another challenge on! 

Everyone has failures in training at some point or another. For me, after that lesson, I felt as if I had failed. Looking back, I see a different story. I see a flight student with only 6 hours behind the stick, who learned more in one day than in their entire training career thus far. 

Stick with it all of you PIC's in training, we'll all get there someday! 

Thanks for reading,
Swayne Martin 

Twitter: @MartinsAviation

Youtube: MartinsAviation1

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