07 March 2011

KSUT, 60J, KMYR (Myrtle Beach)

I've fallen way behind on updates to this blog.

On 16 February, I took another crack at the squirrely coastal winds and found no shortage of crosswinds to practice in. Each airport--Cape Fear Regional (KSUT), Ocean Isle (60J), and Myrtle Beach Int'l (KMYR)--had wind blowing almost directly across the runway.
Cape Fear Regional Jetport (KSUT)

Fueling up before departure
GPS Log (click to enlarge)
We first flew to Ocean Isle airport to practice engine-out landings and pattern work. There are trees as close as 20-40 yards on each side of the runway. With a crosswind, the eddies and burbles get really interesting on short final. Also, the trees tend to hide the runway and I lost sight of it when maneuvering for the 45 degree downwind entry. There is no AWOS, so the windsock tells the story of wind direction and speed. No visual approach slope indicator is present to use as a crutch, and you had better not get low on approach because there are powerlines lurking not too far below (there is no way I would try to get in here at night). All these things make it a good place to get practice, and it thoroughly kicked my butt. I am still not proficient with the constant speed propeller and the manifold pressure settings required on approach: I was seeing 1000 fpm sink rates instead of  the usual 350-500 fpm. I was also struggling with the heavy pitch forces required in this particular airplane. Several go-arounds were required and I misjudged the emergency approaches. It wasn't pretty.

We called up Myrtle Beach Approach, got a squawk code, and were vectored on an 18 mile base and 4 mile final for KMYR, which was once an Air Force base. I landed with a 13 knot direct crosswind, struggling again to get the crosswind corrections dialed-in. The airport was surprisingly quiet for a Class C airport in contrast with my experience at Richmond Int'l (KRIC), where I was taxiing in line with regional jets. My instructor said that the airline traffic doesn't pick up until March. We taxied back and took off. The takeoff clearance from the tower included "fly runway heading." To comply, the pilot simply points the airplane in the direction of the runway (180 in this case) and does not make corrections for the wind. You can see the effect of the wind by our ground track as we climbed out toward the beach.

Ocean Isle
What an incredible view. We flew over Little River Inlet and Sunset Beach where I had spent time earlier. Everything looks so different from 2500 feet. We entered the pattern for runway 5 at KSUT and again had a good crosswind. I did a better job on approach holding the correction, but landed left of the centerline. I added right rudder to try to get back to the centerline and had unknowingly relaxed my aileron correction after touchdown. After getting hit with a gust, the feeling of nearly losing directional control was sickening. All was fine, but it drove home the requirement to fly the airplane until it is tied down. Lesson learned.

Myrtle Beach Int'l
Despite the embarrassingly poor exhibition of flying skill, this flight was a lot of fun and great experience. The CFI helped me with things that I have subsequently put into practice. When dealing with gusty crosswinds, I now think to myself, "Are you a pilot or a passenger? Pick one." and fight to hold the extended centerline. I was struck by my lack of proficiency, and this was disappointing at the time. I'll work to get there, though. I've been incredibly lucky just to have the opportunity to do this.

One thing I've noticed in my short time flying is that the aviation community is full of great people. I was really pleased with the CFI that I flew with and the flight training operation there. I also met the airport manager, Howie, who used to be the chief steward on Air Force One. Hopefully, I'll make it back there soon once I have my certificate.

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