I've been a bit grumpy this summer. For
some reason, it just seemed that I wasn't able to actually LAND
the airplane anymore. All my
landings seemed too high, or wiggling around, or bouncing from
one wheel to another.
The worst came last Saturday, when three planes took off in
front of me while I was on final at a local fly-in. Sure,
my mike radio had gone out...but you'd think they would have
looked out the windows.
But when the last took the runway, I was in a quandary as to
whether to go around. I would have passed the guy just
about the time he was lifting off (which might have startled
him) and passing to the right would put me right over the crowd
for the fly-in.
Anyway, I shoehorned it in behind him. Don't know if it
was the distraction or prop wash from the other plane, but I
landed one wing high, and hard. Almost felt like I needed
to reach back and manually trigger the ELT. The landing
when I flew back home that afternoon wasn't so great, either.
Obviously, I needed some remedial education. My usual
practice, when I'm not flying somewhere, is to cruise around
sightseeing for a bit, then shoot a couple of touch and goes.
Today, I kept it in the pattern for some heavy-duty landing
I'm retired now, which means I can fly on weekdays to "avoid the
crowds." Strangely enough, it doesn't work. Weekdays
are often busy, and today was no exception... a 182, two
Bonanzas, a Mooney, a Highlander, and several helicopters were
working the pattern off and on while I was out. The CTAF
was pretty busy, with ~3 local fields on 122.8.
Anyway, told everyone I was "Staying in the pattern" on my
takeoff radio call.
And, of course, the first landing was perfect.
Sheesh. Saw a Robinson hovering by the runway, waiting for
me to pass on my climbout.
Had a Bonanza call on the 45 entry as I turned crosswind.
I spotted him. He was still quite a bit out, but I knew
he'd be overrunning me if I squirreled in in front of him.
"Bonanza, the Fly Baby on crosswind has you in sight, and will
turn downwind behind you."
That landing, I seemed to be back to flaring too high.
Third time around, there was a call on the radio. "Auburn
traffic, this is the mower...I'm crossing the runway to work on
the west side."
"Below Traffic Pattern Altitude?" I ask innocently.
"I wish I could reach it," he replied.
My landing that time was a bit rough, but I attributed it to
Fourth time around the pattern, I saw a different Bonanza at the
hold short line. "Is that Bonanza ready to go?" I asked on
the radio. "I'll extend my downwind, if so." No
answer, and it just sat there.
I came around. When I was on short final, the Bonanza
started rolling forward. "Bonanza XXXX, departing Auburn."
"Hey, Bonanza," came a call from another plane. "You've
got someone on short final!"
The Bonanza stopped about a plane-length past the hold-short
line, nosewheel on the runway.
"Fly Baby going around," I called. It's ironic.
Saturday, guys took off when they didn't hear me on the
radio...and today, this guy tried it despite my radio calls.
Around again, halfway decent landing.
One more landing. I turned downwind from base.
"Auburn Traffic, Mooney XXXX over the water tanks on the 45."
It was similar to my encounter with the first Bonanza. I
had a clear view of the water tanks. We could have a
conflict if he kept coming.
Then I spotted him, about a mile BEYOND the tanks, still well
out of the airport environment. "Mooney, the Fly Baby has
you in sight."
"Yeah, we're right over the water tanks."
No he wasn't. But I let it slide.
Around the pattern, slip off the excess altitude, and pull off a
Rolled up to the gas pumps. Voice called out, "So that's a
Turns out to be one of the instructors from the local helicopter
school, wearing the school T-shirt. Looked to be in his
20s. He'd heard me on the radio, but had no idea what kind
of plane a 'Fly Baby' was.
I did the usual tour and history lesson. Then I asked, "Do
you want to sit in it?"
He looked startled for a second, then stepped up eagerly.
Showed him how to board, then took his phone and shot a picture
of him in the cockpit.
"Hang on a sec," I said, after he'd climbed out and started
walking back to the helicopter school." I rummaged in the
baggage area for a moment.
"Hey, you've earned this," I told him, and handed him a set of
the plastic wings I give to kids.
As he was walking back to the school, I saw him pin them on his
Fire up, taxi back to the hangar with helmet, off, letting the
breeze caress my head.
Not bad...a couple of good landings, and no real awful
ones. Guess I can go home feeling better, today.....