Daily Pilot's Journal

Read the complete day-by-day flight log of an actual student pilot, from the first takeoff to the signing of his private pilot's license. Written promptly at the end of every flight, each entry is completely unedited - detailing the successes, failures, and mistakes we all encounter along this long road.
Day 8 - Even more Landings... and Coffee
Tuesday, 6/13/06 7:00am - Today was a very good day. Clear skies, low wind, I beat Stan to the echo ramp and did the external preflight before he got there. Did the inside preflight, hopped on the radio, got ground clearance and headed to the run-up. Everything seems to be moving smoother now, and I'm not stumbling over the steps. I'm feeling more comfortable with what I'm doing and the initial anxiety of releasing the parking brake to taxi out is all but gone.

Took off runway 1 and flew to Bridgeport. ATIS gave an active runway of 6, which is rapidly becoming my favorite runway. Got clearance from the tower and came in directly on a right base, made a nice turn to final and settled down for a decent landing. The next landing was good too, with the third one a little rough but still respectable. Deep into my final approach Stan asked me to slip left into a slight crosswind. I totally screwed it up, banking the plane on a skewed angle, but surprisingly I was able to correct my approach and land with only minimal help from Stan.

All the while I was making right traffic and feeling good about my altitude and airspeed. Stepping down the RPM's and stepping up the flaps is becoming second nature, and I'm learning when to extend power on final and when to cut it off if I'm going too fast. No other way to describe it other than I'm getting the 'feel' of where I should be in regards to landing on those runway numbers.

On the fourth landing, I noticed Stan had clammed up. He was no longer making comments or verbally correcting my approach. This was a first because he was always saying something. His hands were in his lap and his feet were off the rudder pedals. He was even staring out the passenger window. It was like flying solo but having him next to me.

Without Stan talking I was a lot more relaxed. I made my own course and attitude corrections without him having to say anything, which made it seem more wholly like I was piloting the plane (which of course I was, but it just seemed more official without him saying anything). I lined up nicely on final and eased the yoke back at just the right time with just the right amount of pressure to land smoothly on the runway. "Good landing" was all Stan said, and then I was throttling up for one last pass. After telling the tower I wanted a full stop, I looked over at Stan who was once again completely silent and passive. I lined up another perfect final approach and flew smoothly over the numbers. Cutting the throttle I flared up with uniform pressure and gently floated the plane over the runway before letting it drop softly to the asphalt. "Now you're getting it", Stan said in a congratulatory tone. The tower communicated an incoming plane so Stan took control of taxiing the aircraft through the Charlie exit to gate 11 (I need to remember this) to fuel her up. I'm getting better with taxiing but I'm still a little lost when it comes to where I am after I land - something that could be solved if I were ambitious enough to study the airport maps.

Once stopped I remembered to kill the magnetos (but forgot the master switch) and Stan brought me inside for coffee. The fuel station had a kickass coffee machine with a little pilot shop and a nice plasma TV showing some cool WWII fighter footage from a History Channel show. I probably would've bought a KBDR coffee mug if it wouldn't make me look like such a dork. Stan's usually in such a rush but here at the depot he chilled out a little and we spent 15 minutes drinking our coffee. We talked about the Air Traffic Control Strike of 1981, which is how Stan ended up getting hired at LaGuardia. There were photos of Bridgeport airport on the wall; Stan talked about Amelia Airhardt and a bunch of other history-type stuff. It was pretty cool just kicking back with my flight instructor, drinking coffee in Connecticut and knowing I'd just flown there. And would be flying my own plane back to Farmingdale in just a few minutes.

I took off a little steep and had to lower the nose after an extended stall warning, so I made a mental note not to use that angle of attack again at such a low speed. Headed for Northport and at cruise altitude Stan told me he was happy with my progress. Today was definitely a breakthrough for me (landing wise) and I think we both felt it. He mentioned the word 'solo' for the first time, but at 10 hours I know I still have a lot of practice ahead of me.

Navigated to the stacks, radioed for clearance, and came in nicely on a right downwind for runway 1. One last time Stan allowed me free reign over the approach, and one more time I nailed it. And not only did I nail it, but my landing at Farmingdale was perfect: the best one of the day. Stan seemed extremely pleased with it, saying: "They say you're only as good as your last landing... and that was a great landing. So you must be great - for right now at least. Make sure you tell Jerroll that you're great".

Landing is getting easier. My confidence is building. On the way back across the echo ramp I realized something: I'd pretty much done everything today. I taxied, took off, navigated to Bridgeport, radioed for clearance, landed, fueled up, and then flew back and landed at Farmingdale - all on my own. Stan's input on the controls is becoming very minimal. With my logbook at 10 hours, I'm feeling pretty good.

Flying hours today: 1.5       Total: 10.0

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