Thursday, September 28, 2006

Crowded skies

Today brought with it one of the hottest days so far. I had a lie-in and went to the pool in the morning for a quick swim before heading to the school with Matt. I was a good boy today....had a sandwich for lunch instead of the usual burgers and other such crap they usually have in the cafe.

I studied for a while in the afternoon and then took "Golf Foxtrot" up for a spin on my own. I was doing Touch and Go's in the circuit by myself. For some reason, doing the preflight and taxy out to the runway I was feeling nervous, more so than yesterday when I went for my first solo. I think the nerves were the reason for a not so good first landing, but I soon settled into the saddle and starting feeling better and the landings improved. I tried a few soft field, short field and flapless landings by myself. It really is amazing how differently the plane flies when on your own....and it's only a difference of 90kg's or so!!

I almost ran into trouble late into the flight though. I was cleared by ATC for a touch and go and left closed pattern (i.e. to continue in the circuit for another toch and go) and I saw traffic ahead of me when I was climbing out. One of them was a smaller Cessna 152 which was doing T&G's with me, but the other one looked like a bigger C-172, the same as what I'm flying. From where I was after take-off, it looked like they were turning to depart towards San Diego over the hills. I turned to go downwind when I heard ATC tell them to follow the C-152 ahead of them (and me) but then they said that they also saw me and that I cut them up!!!! I knew I was close to both aircraft, and intended to slow my speed to keep clear of the 152 ahead of me, but when I was turning to go downwind, I had honestly thought the other 172 was departing and NOT joining the circuit to land. Had I know that, I'd have flown behind them myself, but since they joined the patter from the wrong place.....AND ATC never told me to do anything special other than continue with my normal circuits, that's why I flew in that piece of sky. I didn't feel I had done anything wrong as I had clear sight of both aircraft, the other 172 had sight of me and we were still a good distance apart.

Anyway, I continued downwind and knew I'd have to do a longer approach to give the slower 152 time to get down and off the runway. I let ATC know and they said that was fine and could I use the right hand runway instead. That gave them the option of putting the other plane behind in line for the left hand runway. When I got down I heard the other pilot in the school complaining. Enrico, Matt's instructor, also asked what went on, and I told him exactly what happened. He said it was fine, and since I wasn't told to deviate by ATC and also had both traffic in sight, then I was OK. But still......I have a nagging feeling going on in the back of my mind about the whole thing.

Tomorrow I'm flying on my first cross-country flight to a small airport called Hemet. I planned the flight with Matt's help and just need to finish the trip with the up to date winds. I'm looking forward to it.

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