On Wednesday afternoon, 8 December, the wind was gusting to 16 knots almost directly across the runway at Culpeper airport. This was my chance to get some landing practice in something other than the early morning calm winds that I typically fly in.
We set out treating this flight like a mock FAA practical test. I realized after taxiing to the runup area that I had forgotten the passenger briefing. I went through the briefing there, but it needs to be done before the engine is started. That mistake probably would have caused me to fail my checkride. I did catch my instructor purposely not wearing his shoulder belt, though. Sneaky.
During the simulated emergency landing, I couldn't spot the grass strip in the area for some reason. I got down to about 1000 feet AGL and decided to head for another field. About 200 feet later, I noticed the fence and power lines crossing the center of the field. Doh! After breaking off the approach, I headed to Culpeper airport.
The gusty crosswind there ate my lunch. After the first botched approach, we abandoned our plans of completing a mock checkride and did nothing but pattern work. I had a hard time holding the runway centerline in a sideslip, and the landing flare felt completely foreign in such a drastic wing-low attitude while being tossed around with the gusts. My instructor told me to quit expecting to make a soft landing in these conditions: just get the plane on the ground safely. A gust made my soft field takeoffs interesting, too. I need more practice in these conditions.