What’s that on the Runway??

Well, I thought we were going to go through my phase check but instead my CFI wanted to nail down the short and soft field take offs and landings which was fine. I would rather feel more comfortable with those before moving on. One could argue that you could just…

Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
29 Jun 2016
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Well, I thought we were going to go through my phase check but instead my CFI wanted to nail down the short and soft field take offs and landings which was fine. I would rather feel more comfortable with those before moving on.

One could argue that you could just make sure you were good enough to pass your check ride and then just stay away from the short and soft fields, but I ask why? Who knows if you will find yourself one day having to put the plane on the ground and the closest field is a short or soft field. I don’t want to just be good enough to pass, I want to have it nailed. So, off we went.

It was very different than Saturday morning. The winds were blowing again which was just fine with me. It was mostly down the runway. There were also almost no other planes around. After a couple of times around the pattern we were the only plane up there.

My short field take off was fine so we worked on the soft field take off. The first one I did the same thing as Saturday and popped up through the ground effect but the second one was much better.

We did a couple soft field (simulated) landings and those were nice so we moved on to short field landings again. I would come around and my approaches were right on, lined right up on the center line, good speed, good descent rate, and then ugly right at the end. On one of them stalled it out just a bit high… and slammed down on the runway. My CFI said “Well, you nailed it right on the numbers, but you planted it hard enough that an examiner is going to be complaining about his back…” He said he didn’t feel the strut bottom out, but to me it was rough. I told him “I just better not ever do that with my wife in the plane or she might not fly with me again.

He said that my approaches were perfect, it was just the timing of my flare. Each time I would say, “Okay, so what did I do wrong there” and the next time around I would make the adjustment. The problem is that I know what to do, but I’m not exactly “feeling” it. Finally I got one just right, the approach, 50′ over the imaginary obstacle, and touched down nice and smooth about 50′ past the numbers. We lifted off again and my CFI said “What do you want to do now.” I said “Let’s do it again and make sure it wasn’t an accident.”

The next one was a little rougher, but the one after that was just right again. I’m starting to get the feel for it…

You may be wondering about the title of the post. As we were getting to the end of the flight time I touched down and before I added power back in I noticed something crossing the runway up ahead. I wasn’t quite sure what it was as it was about 3,000 yards up ahead but it was crossing from right to left. So I left the power out and moved to the right side of the runway. It crossed the center line and then sat down.

CFI: “Uh, we have something on the runway up ahead of us, maybe a dog?”
ATC: “Is it a coyote?”
(By this time we were close enough to it to see that yes it was a coyote. As we rolled past it, it headed off the left side of the runway, I put the power in, and we lifted off.)
CFI: “Yes, looks like a coyote.”
ATC: “Is it still in front of you?”
CFI: “Nope, we’re past it.”
ATC: “Ok, thanks.”

The very next time around we touched down and I put the power in. We were rolling along, not quite at rotation speed when I see something else in the runway. It looked like maybe a piece of hose but as we got right to it I noticed it was moving, must have been about a 5-6′ snake. Well, I couldn’t stop in time, not going to try to swerve, and didn’t want to just yank back on the yoke so it went “bump, bump” under the nose wheel and main.

Me: “Snake”
CFI: “Aww, I like snakes”
Me: “Seriously?”
CFI: “Yeah, I had a little boa constrictor as a kid. But it only ate live mice so that was not so fun for a kid.”
Me: “Well I guess we’ll see if it’s still there on the runway next time around.”
(We came around for one more touch and go and the snake was gone not there.)
CFI: “Maybe he’s okay.”
ME: “Unless he’s wrapped around the main gear waiting for us to get out. I think you can get out first and check. :)”
CFI: “What? Why me?”
Me: “Because you said you like snakes, just tell him it was my fault…”
(Needless to say there was no snake or snake pieces anywhere on the plane after we landed.)

I had asked to transition to 26R for a short final and complete stop. As we were coming downwind my CFI said that when I got abeam the numbers to pull power and it would be my decision how to get us down. So, I pulled the power and began my turn toward the runway. As we had the wind blowing down the runway I headed straight for the numbers. We had plenty of altitude and speed so my CFI said if I wanted I could dump the flaps which I did. We still had plenty of speed and were high as we were coming up on the numbers so I slipped the plane a little and then we set down nicely.

As we were taxiing back my CFI apologized for spending the whole time in the pattern. I said that was fine with me, I needed the work, and honestly I could spend five hours just flying around the pattern and working on landings and I’d be happy. I don’t really care what I am getting to do, I’m flying… and that is the most fun there is.

Next up, my phase check with my CFI on Saturday, followed by my pre-solo check ride with a different instructor, and if all goes well I will solo next week. This is getting exciting, as if it wasn’t already.

Some places just have you make a few trips around the pattern for your solo. The owner of the school here wants more than that. My CFI said that I will make a few trips around the pattern and if I look good, I will then fly to another field, land, and come back. He said that the owner of the school wants it to be to a field the student hasn’t flown to yet. Since I have been to Corona, Riverside, Flabob, and Ontario, that really just leaves Brackett and San Bernadino. My CFI said we will save San Bernadino for my solo, it’s just a trip up the 91 freeway and the airport is right in front of you. I can’t wait!

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