Red Winged BlackbirdSlightly better today than a dreadful lesson on Friday but not great. But better. I’m a bit stuck on performance soft field landings.

We set off for New Bedford as it would be quiet on Saturday but the orographic cloud was forming in the onshore breeze and the dew point spread was tiny. I had to fly down the VOR and then cross a visual bearing on it with a line from the harbor mouth to find the field. Circled at 3,000ft above the clouds and talked to the tower and though we could make an approach in the clear from over the water to the south – the cloud layer was basically at TPA. Not going to work for practice landings. We blew off and went back to the training area. Newport was clear – though less than optimal due to the nature of Saturday flying there. Still it was quiet when we arrived – so we got in a couple of soft field landings. Then the Newport Helicopter tour got going every 15 mins and the parachute jumper aircraft took off for the first time. We kept making circuits.

Fun couple of approaches as the parachutes were dropping in JUST to the west then as we came around one more time and were climbing out a Cessna 152 crossed in front of us while blathering about entering for Newport on crosswind from Jamestown. He never saw us. We had to genuinely cut around his tail and then we got back in the pattern. After every call he made I made precise spot on radio calls and added (as a broad hint about our whereabouts) “following the arriving traffic”. He was way low in the pattern and I proceeded to fly a perfect pattern behind him. He landed and I was turning final. He announced “clear of the active” when he was still on the end of the runway and I clicked and broadcast clearly “No you are not!” As he cleared I was going to announce “Now you ARE clear” but I got busy landing. I could sense the thumbs up from my instructor. We went in for a break.

A guy and gal were standing looking for a taxi (car on road variety) to go visit the mansions. People were lining up for helicopter tours and parachutes were being packed for the jumpers. My instructor casually engaged “the guy” in conversation – “yes he had just come in from the Hamptons, yeah – a little red Cessna…” My instructor then gently drew him to the side and politely mentioned how to fly a pattern at Newport. “The guy” wasn’t very pleased but didn’t have a leg to stand on. Hopefully the guy got it.

We flew some more patterns. As I banked on one turn to final a Coopers Hawk was hovering over a field about 100ft below me – looking for prey. And if you want to see Red Winged Blackbirds – I can recommend all the bushes around the field at Newport, the grass around the runways and on the runways if they think something is worth looking at – which they do – a lot.

The cold front was pushing down from the north and the warm wet air was still blowing in from the sea. The line of squalls where they met to the north of Providence was building and we were watching because the risk of thunderstorms – forecast as a possibility – was now becoming real. As I climbed out for the eighth time over First Beach the thick hazed moist air visibly turned to small fleeces of cumulus before my eyes – about 200ft below. Cool to watch but there is a lesson about how you can VFR into IMC because the atmosphere changes a hair of percentage point of a degree in temperature. There were still plenty of holes and we were easily still VFR but it was time to head back for Providence.

Critique – nail the soft and short landings and it is Checkride time. I’m a bit stuck on a plateau with them right now – I’ll try flying through that plateau tomorrow.

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