General Update – The Weather Sucks

So, those of you who don’t live under rocks will be aware of this snazzy “polar vortex” thing, which is just a fancy way of saying we’re freezing our butts of in weather colder than it’s been in decades. This plane, C-FLUG that I’m trying to do all my time-building on, is not allowed to come out and play if it’s colder than -20 degrees. There hasn’t been a lot of that all through January. In fact, every time it got warmer than -20 all January, we had either a snow storm or fog. I got out a couple of times in December, but not at all through January. I was crawling the walls.

Working on the plane with Jim helped at least. Got me out to the airport and learning. Installing new magnetos turned out to be far more interesting than removing the old ones.

In the meantime, I finished up commercial ground school, and studied for the test. Took the test, and got a partial pass. Which pissed me off royally. You have to get 60% overall, as well as 60% on each of the four sections. If you get at least 60% overall, but less than 60% on any of the four sections, you get a partial pass, and you only have to rewrite the section you failed. I failed one section by 1%. So, working on studying for that again. I did really well on air law though. It’s the math that gets me.

Did a winter survival workshop at Lyncrest, and got pulled by dogs on a sled, learned to build an igloo, and signal search and rescue planes. Slept in the igloo overnight. There were about thirty people in the course, and only around fifteen had planned on staying the night. Of those, when I got up in the morning there were seven of us that hadn’t wussed out and gone home. I don’t think of myself as tough, really, but I suppose I have to remember that’s in the context of being a country girl.

Anyway, the new mags finally came in, and we installed them, Murray Bryson took it out for a flight test, and Thursday it was finaly nice enough go flying.

The wind was forecast to be 15G25. Fifteen knots gusting to twenty five. At Harv’s Air, they don’t let students go solo if the wind is stronger that twenty knots. I was getting checked out on the runway conditions though, since the snow is packed down nice and hard now. So I had an experienced pilot going out with me – not as an instructor, just as a safety pilot, so we could still go. I figured I wouldn’t get to go alone, but at least I’d get in the air.

We got up there, and the wind was straight down the runway. It was strong – there was obvious drift in the crosswind and base legs of my circuits, and the downwind legs were very quick. The landings – I wasn’t as rusty as I was afraid I might be. First landing was nice, right off the hop, close to the beginning of the runway, and smooth touchdown. After about a half an hour, my checkout pilot got out and let me fly alone.

I remember the first time I went out with my instructor in 15G25, and thinking “how do you get this thing back on the ground without being smashed into the runway?” Thursday I was handling the wind well. I was convinced that it must not have got as windy as it was forecast.

When I rechecked the METAR, to see what it actually was while I was flying, it said 18G25. It was kind of weird. Granted, there was no crosswind to speak of, but still. I remember wind like that being more…challenging. To the point that I was convinced that it just must not be as windy as forecast. It sank in how much quicker I was to attribute how I handled it to the conditions being more favourable than I thought, than to attribute it to improvements in my own piloting skills.

After I’d done a bunch of cross country flying, I wrote about how I’d noticed my navigation skills had improved. I guess it’s obvious that the same thing would happen with the stick and rudder skills, but it’s a little different to actually notice things getting internalized. I was watching the airspeed indicator, but I wasn’t having to correct as often. I was flying more by feel, and using the instruments to confirm, rather than constantly correcting according to the instruments. It’s weird. I remember watching my instructor do everything so effortlessly, and being promised it would come. Not gonna lie, there a lot of satisfaction in being able to see that happening.


8 responses to “General Update – The Weather Sucks

  1. When a Canadian tells you it’s cold, then it’s cold…

    I have to say “Polar Vortex” sounds like something out of a distaster movie, and I guess for some people the current climate is a bit of a disaster.

    BTW Isn’t it about time you guys hosted the winter olympics again?


      • Yep, so you did – I’m totally owned there. Mind you, given the controvesy aroudn this one maybe they should have just done Vancouver II

        So are you speaking at any con’s soon?

        • I agree, I’m disgusted with russia’s homophobia.

          No con plans at the moment. Keycon, I hear, is kind of a mess this year, not sure if I’ll go for more than the saturday. Im available to be imported if some cons willing to pay for a ticket :p

  2. Wow, I thought we were cold here in Colorado with -10 to -20 off-and-on for two weeks. Spring’s still a distant dot on the horizon, but a few days in the 40s would feel like the Bahamas.

    • Well, your -10 is our -23, and your -20 is our -28, so it sounds like we might be close to the same. Your 40 would be our 4 degrees, and that’s something we won’t bother dreaming about until April. On that note, it was about -40something with the wind chill the night I spent in my igloo.

  3. Glad to hear you are progressing well! Just be careful, as in your own words “…I was convinced that it just must not be as windy as forecast”. Just make sure you believe your instruments, no matter what you’re mind says, so that you always fly carefully!
    (They tell us engineers the same thing – always recheck a calc, even if you know how to do it by memory, cause you never know when you might find something different than expected.)

    • Well, wind and weather isn’t something you can check and re-check, neither is it something your instruments can give you. You don’t fly according to the weather that’s forecast, you fly according to the weather you’re actually flying through.You just do your best, and realize it could change any moment, and you have to be ready to make decisions accordingly. You get the best reports available, and decide based on that if it’s likely to shift to something you can’t handle. If the wind on thursday had been say, twenty degrees off the runway, that would have given me a 7 knot crosswind. That I can do. But a wind shift of no more than 10 degrees would put the crosswind component up to 10 knots, bumping up the challenge rating by like, 50%. A shift of another 10 degrees could make it downright nasty. But I was starting with wind straight down the runway, so if it shifted 10 degrees, the crosswind component added would be negligible to start with, and give me plenty of time to think better of things if it continued to shift in the same direction, since I was just doing landing practice and not leaving the airport, and could land at any time, should I decide it was getting to be too much for me. If I’d been taking off and headed somewhere with a north-south runway, I would have been taking some hella serious chances trying to make that landing, and would not have gone.

      I don’t know if there’s an equivalent in engineering. I mean, sure there’s things like you’re talking about, that we can check and double check, like fuel, for example, or oil, etc. And I’m sure the engineers building the planes went over their calculations a million times. But while it never ceases to amaze me how accurate a weather briefing I can get from FIC, weather is not an exact science, and pilots have to be ready at all times to adjust accordingly.

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