I knew that we would not do patterns Saturday morning, well not at Winter Haven anyways. Winter Haven is what the American’s call a Municipal Airport. That means the community, run by the community mainly for the community, owns it. The flight school is by far the biggest user of the airport during the week but on Saturday mornings everyone with micros, light and not-so-light aircrafts come out to give ‘em a spin. Most of these guys have licenses to fly and most of those that do, have it current. Of those that are equipped with radio, few of them make calls in the pattern (It is my country, my airport, my pattern. Why should I make calls?). So the school has decided just to stay away to reduce the risk of collisions in the pattern. I appreciated that. We could go to another airport to fly patterns but it is a bit of waste of time so it was off to the training grounds for a couple of steep turns. We were flying a heap of junk called N444HA. Another Warrior PA-28-151 it had an inop (Faulty) turn indicator, a very suspect HI (Heading Indicator) that needed re-adjustment every 2-3 minutes and after every non-shallow turn, which was difficult because the compass was loose too. I am in Hotel-Alpha today but should be back into 990 tomorrow. We were then working on some more forced landings. Getting the whole check list right and in order, get wind in back, look for a site, decide quickly, fly the approach and land (or get within 500ft) is tough. On the second one, we were at 4,500ft. I found a huge field with no trees and a few haystacks. Ideal… I got most of the checks ok, with full flaps, turns and slipping I got rid of most of my height and I was on final with 1,500ft to go… the haystacks started to move. Oh S***, they were cows! Hitting a cow going about 85mph is not good, neither for the cow nor the airplane or indeed the occupants in it. Quick re-decision, ah, that field there to the left now looks distinctly more attractive. I know we will be doing more of these and they are actually harder than they sound. You need to coolly execute all your checks and actions while within range finding the most suitable site for the landing. You then have to fly as good an approach to that site as possible. However, though not planning to ever need it, it is a distinct life-safer to be able to execute a good forced landing. No doubt, you can survive most if not all total engine failures in a Piper as long as you do the right things.
On the way back from the plane, we saw a guy in a home made ultra-light gyrocopter. That thing looked really cool; right out of a James Bond movie. It was sort of a garden chair with a very big propeller on a broomstick coming up vertically from his back. He took off and flew a couple of circuits. Fun contraption. As we are getting closer to the fun’n’sun events we have all sort of interesting aircrafts landing. WW1 bi-wing planes, private jets, micro-lights etc. I am taking photos and could find myself turned into a plane spotter… ahhhhhhh!!
In the afternoon we practised unusual take-offs and landings. Flapless landings, short-field landings, soft-field take-offs etc. We did not have to do anything special for crosswind as we did all this with a 9-knot crosswind from the south.
In the afternoon we did a couple of touch and goes but as I hated the aircraft (Still Hotel-Alpha) and wasn’t too keen on the runway (11 – I definitely prefer 04) and it was getting a bit dusky I felt I might as well hold off to Sunday morning before doing more solo patterns. When I am solo, I am not allowed touch and goes. They all have to be full stop, taxi off and taxi back on for another run. Again, this is a school rule because the added stress of doing both landing and take-offs and the accumulation of inaccuracy and the fact that a 1 minute breather between each pattern is probably good for a student.