Maybe I will get in that trip to Hyannis. I certainly want to avoid going West today. Airspace around New York is closed for a Presidential visit. A close examination of the forecast suggests I can get this in during the first lesson block before the wind starts to gust. Overnight gusts have been moderating and all airports are currently reporting steady winds. I punch the new wind numbers into my flight plan and print it out.
In the time to get to the school – the weather is the same but a new Temporary Flight Restriction has appeared. A crash of a propane delivery truck in NW Massachusetts has led to the airspace above it being closed. I’m not going that way. My plan is reviewed, my logbook endorsed. My instructor asks if I feel OK about the trip. I’ve noticed he expects me to enunciate my considerations and comfort level. I do. Then out to the plane while I preflight. We share the usual joke about who gets to check the fuel caps last. I watch him firmly screw them down. I get in, he disappears.
Run the checklists, start up, set up radios and navigation gear, warm up, run up and depart. It is quiet at Providence this morning and I’m almost immediately released to my “own navigation”. I have my checklists for Top of Climb and Top of Descent firmly on my knee today. They are short and I have been trusting to imperfect memory. Today I am going to get these bang-on. I call Flight Service to open my Flight Plan. He confirms restricted area 4101 to the North of Falmouth is active today.
No turbulence but the winds are initially clearly west and not north west. I alter course to stay on the radial and fly along marking times on my flight plan. Providence calls up with traffic “12 o’clock at one mile and probably 1,000ft”. That is 2,500ft under my nose and I never see it though I intone “Looking for the traffic”. Then Providence hands me off to Cape. We say hello and Cape confirm 4101 is active this morning. I fly on. I cross Buzzard’s Bay above my safety altitude while looking for where to glide to if the engine quits. I can see a couple of nice muddy beaches. The engine keeps running. Buzzard’s Bay lighthouse is to the right as planned. The GPS is telling me I am south of Restricted 4101. I’m deliberately slightly off the VOR radial to the south as well. Mark one eyeball says I am on the south edge of Falmouth airfield and therefore definitely south of the restricted area. It is much more fun looking outside – it is a BEAUTIFUL day. Cranberry bogs, quarries, all the small lakes are bright blue and the spring green is just beginning to show. I get the weather at Hyannis. Whoever recorded it was a speed reader! It takes me three tries to get that the wind if 310 8 knots gusting 15. Hmmm. Still in my cross wind limits but I had better be careful. When I am over Falmouth Coastguard Station I call Cape and tell them I can see Hyannis. Cape asks if I want to descend through the Falmouth Class D space – he will arrange a transition. I thank him but my plan includes a steep descent without going into the space and I decide to stick with it. He hands me off to Hyannis. They immediately offer “runway 33 – report left base”. My cross bearing from the VOR at Martha’s Vineyard confirms I am clear of Falmouth’s Class D. I fly down to pattern and hit it at the correct spot and height using my planned 750fpm descent. “Hyannis 3 Sierra Papa is two mile left base for runway 33”. I’m cleared to land and told the wind is 360 11 knots. So right crosswind. As I turn final it is clear the wind is still left crosswind at altitude. I fly down final with an extra 10 knots to allow for any gusts and I only use flaps 20. The landing – like all my first ones of the day – the tires bark a little – but it is straight and I dealt with a transition at about 200ft when the wind went to right crosswind. I mark myself at 7 out of 10 on that one. I stop and am ready to pull off at taxiway Alpha. Tower asks where I would like to park. I tell him I am here for a series of three full stop landings. Then I get a clearance to back taxi on runway 33 and then left or right traffic at my discretion. As I turn around I get told – “no-no – taxiway Alpha”. I stop and turn to the taxiway and ask for clarification as I do. I thought I was told to “back taxi on runway 33”. There is a pause – the controller says I am to back taxi on the taxiway. It doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before but it is clear he wants me on the taxiway. I taxi off, clean up and then taxi down to the start of runway 33. I set up and call I am ready and will make left traffic.
Off I go and get into the left pattern. Someone is taking off on Runway 6. He is IFR and it clearly points him in the correct direction. I extend my downwind a little to give me more time to set up on the way down and call my turn to base. I’m cleared to land and am spot on the glideslope lights as I turn final. I power up a little to get a hair high and I decide that the first landing wasn’t so bad – and I try flaps 30 on this one and slow for a normal approach. MISTAKE. As I transition from the left wind at 200ft to the right wind near the surface – it is all going great till just before touchdown. Then a gust smacks out the left and the plane twists into wind. I can’t kick the rudder fast enough and I have visions of the right wheel crabbing the runway surface ready to scrape off a load of rubber. Perhaps it touches – I don’t know because I am flat out on the power for a go-around and I climb and fly her out. Flaps 30 to 20 and she accelerates. I transition off the flaps and call my go around. “left or right – your discretion.” from the controller. I call “right for noise abatement” as there was a note in the AFD that if you could avoid flying over the town it would be appreciated. I’m a little rattled by how quickly it had gone wrong near the surface. Perhaps I should just fly back to Providence. I need to make a judgment call. Balance trying again with being safe. The controller is calling “wind 360 at 11” to another plane departing on 6. I need to “get back on the horse”. I managed those winds on the first landing. I take a few deep breaths and roll my shoulders to relax. I carry on with my pattern and call my base. I’m cleared to land. Someone is incoming from Nantucket behind me and is cleared for a straight in behind me. I revert to flaps 20 and 10 knots fast and get her nicely over the runway. As I drop in the last few feet it goes nice and quiet and I plant her smoothly but firmly on the runway. Good landing – I put a on my notes at the time. I aileron hard into the winds by the windsock and she tracks straight. I pull off at the taxiway.
I’m cleared to taxi around again. I look at my watch. I need to try and get in a third landing. Time is pressing and the next student’s lesson at Providence is looming. I’m waiting for the plane to land coming in from Nantucket. I can see him in the distance. Then a second plane gets in behind him to land. Time is running out – I’m going back so I am not late – I’m not letting the need for a third make me do something like a sloppy, quick, ill-judged landing. I start setting up the GPS and radios for Providence while the others land. I call I am ready to depart for Providence. I’m released to “turn left and call Cape if I want to” as I climb out hard to get on top of the Class D at Falmouth. The wind has clearly settled in the NW as forecast and I am Vx climbing to get altitude to get over Falmouth’s airspace. I call Cape and they give me a squawk code. I then ask to go off frequency to talk to Flight Service. “Let us know when you are back”. I call Flight Service on 122.1 – no response. I try 122.6 – the Providence frequency. No response. So I try Flight Watch on 122.0. Boston Flight Watch comes up and I ask him if he can close my last and open my next flight plan as I can’t raise Flight Service. He tells me that Flight Service’s frequency on the Cape is giving trouble today. Try 126.425 or try the VOR – but he has heard the VOR is giving trouble today. I thank him and try 126.425. Flight Service comes straight up. I ask to close my last plan and open the return plan. I’m high over Falmouth and top of climb workflowing as I do. He tells me he could hear my original calls but I could not hear him – there is something wrong with his VOR antenna today……
I fly for home. The winds are now pretty much as forecast. I planned a ground speed 92 knots. GPS says 94 knots and I am bang on the radial for Providence which matches the predicted course. Cape hand me off to Providence with 33 miles to go. I haven’t finished getting the weather but call them and tell them I am over Buzzards Bay. They ask me to call them when I do have the weather. The weather – is 320 11 gusting 16. I can deal with that on runway 34. Done it plenty of times. I remember my instructor saying that if it is too much in the gusts at Providence – “go to the bigger runway at Quonset and I’ll pick you up”. I fly on. Not over confident but happy that I have done this before. Providence Approach has me flip to 129.7 and I fly on. I’m told to set up for a left base for runway 23. I hear another plane getting told the wind is now gusting 18. This is not good. That is something like a 16 knot cross wind on 23. I don’t need my calculator to figure it is too much. I’m handed off to Tower.
“Providence Tower this is 3SP left base for runway 23 but requesting 34”.
Tower calls up and asks if this is an operational necessity. I respond in the affirmative – that the crosswind on 23 is too much for me. I’m told they will set me up but to continue my approach to 23 at this time. I hear tower call the maintenance trucks and tell them to get off runway 34. Then I am cleared to make right base to 34. I set her up. I’m cleared to land on 34 after the departing traffic on 23. I call “Cleared to land 34 after the departing traffic – see the traffic”. The departing traffic goes and I turn final and am cleared to land – wind 330 at 11 gusting 16. I go for flaps 20 and 10 knots fast again. It is a long runway. I get her nicely over the runway and correct for a left crosswind. I overcorrect the bank so I ease it and hold off a moment while I get blown back to centerline and get her down through the ground effect. She grazes straight but is not quite ready – I fly on and she grazes a second time and I make her stick. It is good and actually pretty gentle – though a couple of feet right of center. I aileron hard into wind as I slow and she tracks beautifully as I correct for centerline and slow down.
Tower asks where I am going. I can’t quite believe he asks a school plane that but tell him the North West ramp. I’m cleared to taxi 34 full length but monitor ground frequency as I do. I thank him for accommodating me – “Not a problem” he replies. I switch to ground and clean the plane up on the roll – flaps first so I don’t get gusted around by them sticking down in the wind. I get to the end, turn off and park at the school. I carefully work the shutdown checklist. I call for my security escort and as I do I also call Flight Service and close my flight plan.