Making Safe Calls

Its been eight days since my last flight. I was on vacating with my family and although I didn’t fly I had about 32 hours of study time while driving. I recently purchased the Rod Machado Private Pilot Handbook audio series and downloaded it to my iPod. I constantly play it when driving, doing chores, going to sleep, etc. Some students might scoff at first in his use of humor, but I find that it helps me remember key facts as well as how those facts apply to my flying experience.

Getting back into flying today I took my time doing a thorough pre-flight, checking the squak sheet, and gassing up the plane. During the preflight I discovered that the right wing tip had a crack in it and was covered with duct tape. I called our clubs safety instructor and he insured me the aircraft was safe to fly.

My practice time has become a family affair for the three of us. My wife helps me in getting the hangar opened and my gear together, my daughter loves sitting in the plane while I tow it down to the pumps for fuelling, and each has a task they are responsible for while we put gas in. Afterwards they sit in the picnic area or go to the small café on the airstrip and cheer me on as I practice my landings.

Tonight I shared airspace with another small Cessna and an “experimental” aircraft. After doing a brief tour of the practice area I decided to practice landings. The 29 runway was active and I have not done any landings on this end by myself and had only landed on that end a few times before with my instructor. So after getting back into the groove with the airplane I decided to do some landings.

Its easy to get comfortable with one end of the runway- so I imagine it’s easy to get comfortable with one airfield. I’m going to make sure I fly to several airfields so I don’t get too used to only the “home-field advantage”.

Jeff, my CFI, still has me coming to full stops and not executing touch-and-go’s so I don’t get as many landings in during a session, but I also know this is to help me solidify certain task and skills.

After my 5th landing I called my in my departure radio calling, telling traffic which runway I was taking off from and that I would be using left closed traffic. “Left closed traffic” tells other pilots in the area that after taking off, I would be staying in the pattern. After gaining 500 feet in altitude after my take off, I called that I was turning left crosswind on 29. As I was rolling through the turn I heard the call from an aircraft that he was entering downwind for 29. As I looked out my window I saw the small experimental heading towards me. I called him on the radio to make sure he saw me and prepared to take evasive action if necessary.

Fortunately, he did see me and since he was moving at a much slower speed we were all going to be okay. A mid-air collision is not one of the maneuvers I want in my flight log. A few moments later when waiting to take off I noticed that this same aircraft was cutting the pattern short and was about to cut off another aircraft ahead of it in the pattern. I called to the smaller craft alerting him that there was another plane in the pattern. He acknowledged it and adjusted his path. The plane he was about to cut off held my instructor and a student. Until my radio call, neither aircraft knew about the other.

Using the radio to alert other aircraft not only where you are, but the location of other pilots is a skill I will continue to perfect. It’s a big sky out there, but when several planes get into the pattern it gets crowded quick. On this flight I had to not only use my radio skills, but also adjust and extend myself in the pattern and keep my eyes open not only for hazards to me, but other aircraft.

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