KIAD 090859Z 0909/1012 31013G23KT P6SM SKC FM091400 30018G30KT P6SM SKC FM092200 30012G22KT P6SM FEW250 FM100200 31008KT P6SM FEW250
I had Dulles Tower playing in the background while I made my morning coffee and I heard the controller call out the winds to a Learjet that had just been cleared for takeoff on runway 30: the gusts were already in the high twenties. Dulles is the closest airport to HEF that has a terminal forecast and a feed on Live ATC. The conditions at Manassas and Warrenton were markedly calmer than Dulles, though:
I've seen this pattern with strong northwest winds aloft and light winds on the field before, and it usually means there will be some wind shear-like stuff to ride through near the tree line during takeoff and final approach on runway 34L.KHEF 091055Z AUTO 30005KT CLR M07/M13 A3002 KHWY 091100Z AUTO 29010KT 10SM CLR M05/M13 A3001
I called my instructor at about 6:45am to run down my analysis of the weather to reduce the chance of making a trip out to the airport only to cancel: there is really no ground work left for me to do and CFIs don't get paid for their gas/time if they have to drive out for a canceled lesson. Admittedly, I don't mind making the trip to the airport even if I can't go flying--I'd be content to just sit there and watch airplanes takeoff and land all day long. He gives me the usual "You're pilot-in-command, so what to you want to do?" I said that I probably wouldn't launch solo in this, yet, due to the turbulence AIRMET and incongruous winds, but that I'd like to fly to push my comfort level landing in this stuff; we would remain in the traffic pattern rather than practicing maneuvers as originally planned.
During the flight, the surface winds steadily picked up, but stayed below the 30 knot forecast:
As was expected, we were tossed around a bit in the traffic pattern. It was wild to watch the ground speed accelerate when I made the downwind turn as the crosswind became a ~40 knot tailwind. For the downwind leg, I held the tach at the bottom of the green arc, a little more than 2000 RPM, to keep the ground speed down.KHEF 091455Z AUTO 31015G23KT CLR M02/M13 A3013 RMK AO1 52024
In contrast to last week's spectacularly lousy display of airmanship, I was relaxed and relatively happy with my performance today, though there were a few issues (there always are):
- During a couple of soft field landings, I experienced a gust dying out during the flare. This resulted in an immediate high sink rate--it felt like the bottom fell out. My response was to add power and pick the nose up a few degrees, but I was ham-handed with the throttle. This caused us to land long and with a more forceful touchdown than I'd like.
- Given the gusts, my inclination was to carry too much airspeed during the short field landings. This made them less short than they should have been--too much float--but I think they were close to PTS. I also came in a few feet high on one and made a go-around. I'm told this is something the examiner will scrutinize closely: the airplane must be no more than a dozen feet or so above the imaginary 50ft obstacle to qualify as a "short field" landing.
After an especially crummy week at work, I am so grateful to have gotten my flying fix today. One way or another, I will pass this checkride.
Flight time this lesson: 1.2 hrs dual