Sterile cockpit

To close out the flight lesson yesterday I was working on a few soft field landings with my instructor at our home base, KHFD. During the first few approaches we were instructed by the tower to use right traffic for runway 2 which is typical due to a noise abatement. After one of the touch-and-goes, tower directs us to use left traffic for the next trip around the pattern. Since my instructor usually provides feedback on the previous landing while we are climbing out on upwind, we both missed the first two calls from the tower. Continue reading


Landing on a sidewalk

No I didn’t try to land on a sidewalk but it sure felt it when I was landing at a strip that’s a third of the width of my home airport. Sure I’ve read about the illusions caused by different runway widths or slopes, but I finally experienced it. As stated in the PHAK:

“A narrower-than-usual runway can create an illusion that the aircraft is higher than it actually is, leading to a lower approach. “

Most references to runway illusions have drawings to demonstrate the difference. Here’s a real world example. Leveraging GPS data from the Garmin Virb Elite that records my flights I was able to get two shots that are close to the same altitude above the runways. On the left is my home base, Hartford Brainard KHFD runway 2 at 4417×150 ft. On the right is Simsbury 4B9 runway 3 coming in at skinny 2205×50 ft. I overlaid the HFD runway perspective on the Simsbury runway to show the difference.

Runway Illusions KFD-4B9

To add to the challenge, there were the snow banks packed to the edge of the runway. Luckily I fly a Cessna Skyhawk 172, a high-wing. Yeah, I know the wings on the 172 are only 36 feet which gives me more than enough room. Somehow it made me feel better knowing I had a less of a chance of doing some snow clearing then if I was in a low-wing.

So how’d the rest of the story play out? Well as expected, I did think I was higher than I actually was and the runway sure did sneak up on me. It wasn’t a bad landing and it sure wasn’t a soft one. The good news is that the 2 follow up landings were much better once I understood the brain games that were in play. Another lesson learned. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Now on to find some sloped runways to round out my runway illusion series. I heard Sky Acres 44N is a good one. Anyone have other recommendations in the area?

I’ve got an attitude problem, it’s unusual

I’m always impressed with the amazing abilities of the human brain. Today I experienced how the brain sets priorities for the body. I spent 30 minutes doing unusual attitude recovery drills on a moderately turbulent day. I felt fine while in the air, I think it was because my brain knew I had to focus on flying. Once I was on the ground my stomach went a little sour. I wasn’t close to being sick but I wasn’t exactly feeling great. Enough of that, here are the flying lessons I learned today.

Continue reading

Flight Following in the Real World

If you’re early in your training and haven’t yet used Flight Following then this post is for you. What seems like a simple concept to get traffic advisories can actually be a bit overwhelming the first time. Here’s an overview of the communications from my latest cross country round trip flight between Hartford Brainard (KHFD) and Dutchess County (KPOU). Continue reading