Smoother Landings

I’m still working on my solo time prior to carrying any passengers. I don’t find cross country to be very difficult at all so I decided to just focus on pattern work and landings today. Cross country basically involves climbing to altitude, going through the cruise checklist to get everything…

Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
21 Jan 2017

I’m still working on my solo time prior to carrying any passengers. I don’t find cross country to be very difficult at all so I decided to just focus on pattern work and landings today. Cross country basically involves climbing to altitude, going through the cruise checklist to get everything configured, making sure you don’t get lost, and then going through a descent checklist while descending (obviously) prior to entering the traffic pattern at your destination. I haven’t ever had a problem getting lost, and the rest of it is simple if you follow a checklist. Today I really wanted to get my settings and speeds dialed in for the traffic pattern as well as my landings. You can have a great flight, but if the landing is ugly your passengers may not want to fly with you again…

In light of those thoughts, I decided that today I would spend my time just working in the pattern and on my landings at some of the nearby airports. After completing my training at Chino I am very familiar with the runways and pattern there so I decided to head over there for some practice.

There are advantages and disadvantages of flying out of a non-towered airport. The biggest disadvantage is the obvious one, there is no tower and therefore nobody giving you traffic advisories. That is unless you have some helpful pilots on the airport CTAF (Common Airport Advisory Frequency). Fortunately most of the folks on CTAF are helpful and friendly. After taking off (still only seeing 2,550rpm which I need to figure out to get the full 2,700rpm on takeoff) I got the gear tucked away (there’s something about raising the gear up that makes you feel like you’re flying a real plane) and raised the flaps.

Me: “Corona traffic, white and gray Mooney turning left crosswind, Corona.”
Unknown Pilot: “Hey Mooney, keep an eye out for a Diamond heading westbound towards the pass not on the frequency.”
Me: Looking up and seeing the Diamond about 1,000′ above me and heading west. “Thanks for the heads-up, I see him.”

I then left the pattern and flew along the foothills before turning north and contacting the tower at Chino. They were using runways 8R/L. Out of the probably 100+ times I have landed at Chino, only once was that on 8 coming in from the west. I was determined not to make the same mistake again that I made then. What was the mistake you ask? I had previously landed on 26L a lot… That day in November the tower had given me 8L. Any kindergartner could look at the two runways side by side and tell you which one is the one on the left. There’s two problems with that, first, I’m not a kindergartner, and second, with all the times I had landed on 26L, my mind just translated that 8L was the same runway coming from the other direction. That day I turned final about two miles out, saw that the runway was clear, and then had the tower ask “Confirm you are landing 8L.” My quick response was “Sorry, shifting to 8L” and sidestepped over. This time I was focused to make sure I didn’t make the same mistake when the tower gave me 8R for landing.

I made five landings at Chino. One was a touch and go, coming in with flaps set to take-off settings, just to see what a touch and go would be like in the Mooney. Afterwards I decided to just make full stops with a taxi back to give me the repetition of going through my post landing checklist as well as my pre-takeoff checklist. Overall I was very pleased with the progress of my landings. I was able to stay close to the center-line with the stall horn chirping just before touching down. I do need to hold the nose off just a tad bit longer for a smoother touchdown.

After my landings/takeoffs at Chino I headed over to the Lake Matthews practice area and made a quick flight around the lake before heading back to Corona. I have heard repeatedly about pilots not making accurate reports when coming into an un-towered field but I hadn’t experienced it until today. I try to be careful to check the distance on my tablet (I’m still not that great at eyeballing distance from the air) before making my radio calls so that I am accurate.

Me: “Corona traffic, white and gray Mooney, 5 miles south of the field, inbound and I’ll be entering a left downwind on the 45 for runway 25, Corona.”

Shortly after my radio call I heard:

Bonanza: “Corona traffic, Bonanza, 3 miles northwest of the field, I’ll be entering left crosswind for runway 25, Corona.”

I was keeping an eye out for where I thought he should be if he was going to be entering on the crosswind. The rest of the calls were in fairly quick succession.

Me: “Corona traffic, white and gray Mooney, 3 miles south of the field, I’ll be entering left downwind at midfield for runway 25, Corona.”
Bonanza: “Corona traffic, Bonanza, entering left crosswind for 25, Corona.”
Bonanza: “Corona traffic, turning left downwind for runway 25.”
Me: (I was at midfield and ready to enter the pattern. If he’s just turning the downwind leg I should be fine to enter midfield ahead of him.) “Corona traffic, white and gray Mooney, entering left downwind at midfield for runway 25, Corona.”
Bonanza: “Mooney, do you see us? I don’t see you.”
Me: “I’m looking for you, I have a wing up towards you.” (I was turning which should have given him a bigger cross-section to see me, if he was where he should have been.)

(I had been scanning for him but I still didn’t see him where I think he should be if he had flown a standard crosswind, but then I was looking for a white plane against white clouds… Just then as I am turning into the pattern I see him right in front of me, about 100′ above me making a left turn onto the downwind leg. He hadn’t flown the crosswind leg where he should have been, he had flown the crosswind right over the departure end of the runway.)

Me: “I see you, I’m going to continue on a right 360 and come in behind you.”

I listened to him make the rest of his calls and watched him land while making my calls and coming in behind him. I set it down for an above average landing and got a “Nice landing Mooney” from the Bonanza pilot after touching down and gave him a “Thanks.”

After putting the plane away I pulled off the cowling, took a closer look at the prop cable, and could see that it wasn’t hitting the set screw. Now to figure out why that is and see if that solves my rpm issue.

I did put together a short video of a couple of the landings at Chino and the landing at Corona. I need to find a better place to mount the camera as there is some shaking around with it where it is. The video is at 4x speed with the exception of the landings and take-off which are at real time.

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