Thursday, May 11, 2006

Night Cross Country


Mary and I decided to head to the baseball field so that I could get in a few innings before we would have to head to the airport. After lining the field and getting the game started Mascelli Financial jumped out to a 2-0 lead. That lead was short lived as the visiting team posted 2 runs themselves. By the 4th it was 4-2 us and Mary and I were making a beeline for the truck.

We got to the airport and opened the back of the ML up so we could sit and relax. My CFI showed up and we talked about the wx forecast. SCT 5000 BKN 6500 Vis 10 miles. TAF suggests BKN 7000 by the time we made our intended stop (22N Arner Memorial). With a review of my flight plan complete we head out to pre flight. All systems go Mary climbs in as well as my CFI while I am reaching for my seat belt.

My CFI explains all the information I should provide to my passengers, I make a mental note. I then think of my normal "driving" excursions and the label of being a big meanie for not stopping for potty breaks......sometimes we just have to live with the tags we get......MU HAHAHAH....

We are climbing out as I contact PHL APP for flight following. I have the ETX VOR dialed in and am slowly tracking a radial to get me there. As we pass my Nuke cooling tower checkpoint (without getting a visual) I maintain my heading and note the town of Pottstown. On to ETX as Allentown looms off on our 1 o' clock and reading at my 10 o' clock. As we pass between the towns I get some needle movement to indicate closing in on the station. I hold my heading and watch for the to/from to flip flop. As the from appears I dial in my new heading of 355* for about 14 miles. I also reset my leg timer and watch the time click off. I listen to the Allentown ATIS for wind and direction since Arner memorial lists that for wx info. I attempt to click up the lights and see nothing, now cruising along at 3500 down from 5500. No 22N in sight but I do have Lehighton at my 3 o'clock so I know I am close. I start a turn to my right over my known point ( the town) and click the lights up again. Ahhhhh.....Just under us at 3 o' clock Jake Arner comes to life. Ok in the valley and drifting with the wind towards the far ridge I tighten my turn to slowly get to pattern altitude. I enter on a 45* for the left downwind for runway "6" is no 6/24...that would be 8/26 . My CFI corrects me....I feel like a I enter downwind looking for traffic and announcing my new position. Extending downwind just a bit and adding flaps I start my base turn. With the winds really pushing me I "U" turn it and call out final making use of the slip to get me down and line me up on center. I am maybe a bit level as I touch down and slip my foot a bit high a tap the toe brakes only to hear a short squeal of angry from the right side tire. It happened as fast as an electrical shock and I was off the break just as fast. Ok, maintaining centerline I taxi off and back for our return to N99.

Since I did such a nice job with navigation locating 22N my CFI rewards me with the use of the GPS for our return trip. He said you deserve to enjoy some of the lights and the full moon (now exposed with the cloud layer breaking up). Well alrighty! As I go through my final checks of fuel, trim, flaps and mixture I announce departure on runway 8. Mary takes note of Blue Mtn. to our right and mentiones how easy it is to see it against the night sky while "on the ground" but that from the air you could not tell the difference. She is so right, and with that thought I plan an extended upwind followed by a climbing right turn south so that I am well clear of the "obstruction". I contact Allentown Approach followed by my squawk code confirmation then sit back enjoy the ride and watch all the traffic. Mary commented on how busy the controller is, seemingly non-stop with so many aircraft. I hear 46C called to look for traffic at our 2 o' clock Cessna caravan who is headed into Allentown. A quick response 46C looking for traffic followed by 46C has traffic has us continuibg on our route with the Caravan passing under us. It looked very cool with the strobes flashing away and Mary getting a glimpse of the closing speed. Further along we had traffic passing east to west headed into reading and then pretty much uneventful to N99.

I turned south over the field to re position for a 45* entry for downwind 9. Turning to the downwind then base I didnt correct for the wind and was well left of the runway. Grrrrrrr.....I went around and re-entered on the crosswind leg and got my act together. This time crabbing along and keeping on track. Turning base and continuing on to final with a "U" turn I am online and ALT is good. Adding last notch of flaps and some power to "get me there on center" with the wind, I slip in, on center with just a bit harder landing then I would have liked. My CFI reminds me to keep flying the plane and get me back on centerline. We taxi back for one more round and this time a very nice pattern with crab, followed by a nice landing. My CFI said that was better because I kept my head outside and did not fixate on airspeed. He reminded me how well I fly by the seat of my pants, look at the sight picture and listen to what the aircraft is telling you........more lessons learned.

We are on the ground 2 hours after we left. It's now 11pm. Mary and I are starved, tired (our day starts at 5:30 am) and ready to get home and hit the showers. We both decide we need to hit McD's on the way home but it's now 11:20. As a last ditch effort we find a taco bell open. Oh great 3 tacos a meximelt and one bottle of water later, I get us to the house. A long day and long but fun night.......I'm beat!

I have an hour of test prep left and will schedule a mock checkride this week. Then it's time to meet the examiner and plan the checkride!!!

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