Saturday 5th March – a quick lesson squeezed in at the end of the day because Sunday was going to be a bust with an approaching storm. The wind was from the South to South East. 20 gusting 32 and with a cross wind component of up to 16 knots on Providence’s runway 23. The big problem was just going to be taxying to the runway without getting blown over and we proceeded with extreme caution. The name of the game was strong wind landings. Set the plane up, correct for crosswind and then hope that as you arrived at the end of the runway the wind didn’t drop and dump you or gust and balloon you into the air. Really good practice and I managed to pull off four landings and two go-arounds when it all came apart at the time of touch down. As my instructor said (while demonstrating two landings himself) – “It is not about elegance – it is about being in the right place in the right gust and planting her safely when you get there”. Some brief hilarity in the cockpit when Tower called another aircraft and told him to “look out for the Cessna Skyhawk on final” and the aircraft called back he had seen the “Sky Chicken”. (You have to go read Bob Mason’s “Chickenhawk” to really get the joke). On my fourth approach we saw a twin engine Bonanza which was ahead of us get blown to the edge of the runway during his landing. “Centerline” was never more important and as I pulled off a VERY credible fourth landing – I called it a day. No point in pushing my luck – I got the point of the lesson!
So Tuesday morning – the 8th – bright and clear and light North Easterly winds. Good chance of another solo out of Class C airspace if the instructor thought I was up to it. The usual brief – “three good landings” and – as they were – I took my instructor back to the school and he got out. I got a new endorsement in my logbook – cleared to fly in and out of Class C airspace and to any dry 3000ft x 75ft runway in the area with a maximum of 7 knots crosswind and 5,000 ft ceilings. “Go land somewhere or play around” was the brief. As I was just happy to be soloing again and had not prepared other airports in any great detail – I called for a clearance to the training area and taxied out. The airspace to the North of the airport was about to get closed for a Presidential visit to Boston so I went south and east. I duly lined up at the end of runway 5. Two jets ahead of me and one RIGHT behind me. The two jets left, a Cessna landed and then my turn. I was all set, run up, the pesky birds that had plagued our earlier landings had left. I pulled onto the runway, took off and proceeded on tower assigned course. Then just to mix it up – Providence Departure changed frequencies and then also had me change my squawk code on the fly while climbing out.
It was a BEAUTIFUL morning and I actually did some sightseeing above the bird sanctuary and over the beaches before putting in some more practice maneuvers. I got the current weather then I called to be allowed back into the Class C airspace and got vectored for home. As I made my turn to final – everything looked just like it had earlier in the morning except the windsock was standing out a little more strongly. A jet was waiting to take off after I landed and I was cleared to land at 5 miles out. As I was making my final approach I heard the controller clear a jet just 4 miles behind me to land. No mention of “you are number two following the Cessna Skyhawk”. With 200ft to go I called down to check the controller had remembered me (which was a way of saying to the number two aircraft – watch out for me – I’m already here!) Then with the plane beautifully lined up some little gusts came out of nowhere knocking me left, right, left and leaving me dancing on the rudder pedals to stay lined up. I was low, slow and off centerline and was about to slam the throttle forward for a go around when all the previous practices came together. The instructors “land when YOU want to – not when the plane does” came to mind, pitch nose down and a small spurt on the throttle arrested the descent, regained the airspeed and I flew back to the centerline. Then when I was ready I let her down again gently. I taxied into the school and got out. Nice! Another 1.2 hours Pilot in Command in the log book