Aviation In Canada

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Trust Your Judgment, Part 1

Not long after I earned my pilot license, I learned a valuable lesson about judgment. I had to fly every 30 days to keep current, and often cut that close due to the cost. One morning I found myself doing the walk around on a C150. I chose to leave the tiedowns on, since the wind was very strong. That should have been a clue. How did it get that far to begin with?

I checked in at the club, feeling that I should cancel the flight and hope next weekend, the final weekend in my 30 days, would be better. The weather was 2,200 BKN, 15 miles visibility, but the winds were still high after a nasty, heavy rainstorm the night before. The winds in the weather report showed 220 magnetic at 15 knots, though they felt like more. I returned to the club after the walkaround was completed. I had reinstalled the control locks and packed the flight bag up, intending to cancel. When I entered, the lady behind the counter, someone who I had grown to trust, remarked on how short a flight it had been. I explained to her that I didn't want to fly with the strong winds, to which she replied, "Tower's only calling it 15 knots. You probably need the corsswind practice." She was right, I did need the practice. We had runways 11/29, and 16/34, making the winds a good 60-70 degree crosswind at about the limit of the airplane (C150 published at 13 knots for max demonstrated crosswind component). Back out I went.

The airplane bounced along the taxiway in the quartering tailwind as I made my way down. "Foolish," I kept thinking to myself. Finally, I called ready and was cleared for take-off. All the way up to circuit height, I regretted getting in the air. I had to fight the turbulence more than any 15 knot wind I had ever flown in before. Downwind, I called to tell the tower this would be a full stop. Turning final, the best sideslip I could put the plane in wasn't enough -- I couldn't track the centerline. "This is only a C150, it's not like I need a long runway or anything." I decided to hold what heading I could and land basically at an angle to the centerline...

To be continued...