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August 30, 2019

Lesson #23: Sunday August 18, 2019

With this lesson I’m up to 25.3 hours of flight time. It sounds like both a lot and a little. I wonder how many hours of driving instruction I had before I got my license? More or less? Presumably more; I got my license in the late 70s in California: my high school offered both driver’s ed (classroom) and driver’s training (in the car).

When I went to book the lesson, my usual airplane N73924 already booked, so I scheduled N704RB. Saturday night I got an email with subject “Alert regarding your schedule for 704RB” and the text “front nose wheel is flat.” What?!

I didn’t get an email saying that the flight was cancelled, so I went out to the field Sunday morning wondering if I’d be able to fly. Sure enough, Romeo Bravo still had a flat tire. The pilot who’d been in the plane the day before was in the Skybound office, and he reported it popped on landing. Goodness! (It turned out to be a bad tube: no fault of the pilot.) Cessna 172 popped tire

Fortunately, whomever had reserved 73924 cancelled their flight. Good! I had an airplane.

We’re still down to one open runway at PDK: 21L. Last time that wasn’t too hard to deal with, but this time the closure bit us.

The business jets taxi down to the end of 21L taking off towards the south, which gives them a full 6,000’ to take off. Peachtree Ground instead directed us to hold short of 21L at taxiway Golf, which was nearly halfway down the runway. Entering the runway at Golf gives us 3,746’, which is the same as 21R. Plenty of room for a Cessna 172.

So we taxi out and hold short of 21L on Golf, waiting our turn. There are two aircraft four tenths of a mile to our left on taxiway Alpha; presumably they’re ahead of us. So we wait.

And wait. I’m not sure how many aircraft went ahead of us—I think there were 3 down at Alpha that took off ahead of us, and maybe another 3 that landed before us. All in all I think we waited at least 10 minutes if not more. That’s not typical at all at PDK; when there are two runways available, we typically get on the runway after no more than 2–3 minutes, and any wait is usually waiting for an aircraft to land. (Landing aircraft get priority over aircraft taking off.) The meter was running for both the airplane and the instructor at $4.34 a minute so it was an expensive delay.

We thought about flying out to Lawrenceville again, but given that getting there and back would consume 40 minutes, we decided to take our chances and stay in the pattern at PDK.

It turned out to be a reasonable decision. Once we got off the ground, we had no trouble fitting six approaches in during the lesson.

Steve wanted me to practice using side-slips, which I will need to stay lined up with the runway when there’s a cross-wind. The problem with practicing anything you do right as you touch down is the you only get a few seconds of practice on each approach. To give me more time, instead of going all the way to down to the runway, Steve set me up so that we were stable about 30–50’ above the runway. Steve had me fly down over the runway, first slipping to the left (which I’d need to do if there was a cross-wind coming from the left), and then to the right. The back-and-forth movement is done by turning the yoke slightly to the left and right, and then using the opposite rudder pedal to keep the plane flying straight. Turns out you need a lot of rudder to do that. Push it! I did a couple of a couple of approaches above the runway slipping back and forth, and then switched to touch-and-go landings.

I’m now mostly consistent at getting from 1,000’ above the field heading downwind, then turning base then final and getting down to the runway at about the right point. But as I have for months, I’m still having trouble with that last 50 feet. (And I’m still not remembering to look out my left window when I get close to the runway.) So my first touch-and-go was not good.

My second touch-and-go landing was better. Not great, but acceptable. Acceptable is my actual goal: once I get to the point where every landing is acceptable, I’l be ready to solo.

On the last approach Tower I went for a full-stop landing, which is exactly what it sounds like: instead taking the airplane up and around another time after touching down, you slow down and get off the runway. As I was slowing down Peachtree Tower called and asked me to get off at taxiway Charlie. But Charlie is also where my runway 21L is crossed by another runway—16/34. Instead of taking a 90’ turn onto Charlie, I accidentally started making a 130’ turn onto runway 34. Just as I was doing so, Tower called and said, “If you want to go down 34, that’s ok too.” Basically, they were turning my mistake into a legitimate turn by giving me permission. The folks in the Tower at PDK know they’re dealing with a lot of students. Nice, patient people.