Yesterday had been a good day with respect to getting up this steep learning curve and today was a bit of a let down. I had, for the first time, dreamt about flying during the night. Specifically landings. In my dreams, they were going really well. With all that practice, you would think I would pick up in the morning and just do it. Well, up she went, around and down again… and not very well. Typically either too high, or too much to the right etc etc. Not my day. After an hour and 30 minutes in the pattern, that is about 15 take-offs and landings – but using the word “landings” in the widest possible sense – we called it quits for the morning session. My sunglasses had broken too so I was flying without sunglasses. Besides the fact, it makes you look distinctly un-cool without, sunglasses are actually really necessary because you fly a rectangle and at one point or another, you will be flying and looking into the sun. I had forgotten to wear my baseball cap as well so I was sweating into my eyes and when I walked away from the aircraft, I was feeling a bit miserable. I knew, however, that I had learned something (albeit just a little) up there, that I was getting even a little better and (though it sounds funny) I took some comfort from the fact that all though my landings were poor they were consistent(ly poor). At least I had a few specific points I had to work on; I was not all over the place.
I was moving residence from a student’s house about 10 miles away to some student flats virtually next to the flight school. My clothes etc. took about double the space compared to when Jackie packed it… ah well. The reason for the move was the departure of a number of students. There was the Welsh housemate Allan. After passing the FFA skills test, where he said he did terribly and the FAA examiner phoned the school up afterwards to congratulate them on such a perfect student(!), he did a cross country on his new license and was today flying back to Gatwick to drive Thomas the Tank Engine somewhere in Wales over the Easter Holidays. It appears he was also a steam engine locomotive driver. Yesterday while driving back to the house we had to wait at a railroad crossing. He got out his camera to photograph the engine pulling the 1-mile long monster. I asked him if he wanted me to note down the number for him and he declined with the comment: “I’m not sad!” Right. However, I hope he will write me next time he drives Thomas so I can fly out there with Hans. An English guy who had come for his IMC (and gotten it) went back as did another Brit who was “hour-building”. Many of the guys flying from the school have their certificate but are building up hour so they can get enough experience to go for the next level up towards a commercial air-traffic license.
When I passed one of the otherwise always shut private hangars on the way to the plane, for the first time it was open! In this huge hangar, about the same size as the one at Fairoaks holding all their aircrafts was one Citation Jet. It was beautiful. I walked in and there was a guy standing with his head in one of the jet engines. Gerry informed me discretely that it was the pilot/owner! I asked the guy very politely if I could take a look and surprisingly enough, I was merrily permitted. It was unbelievable. It was so polished on the outside that it was only matched by the inside. Seating for about 10-12 passengers in first class leather seats with mahogany tables etc etc. It was obvious from looking at it, he never flew it, just nursed it, but man was it nice.
In the afternoon, we took off and flew north to Lakeland. Next week will be a nightmare there, as they are expecting ½ million visitors to “Sun’n’Fun”. On the runway in front of us was… the citation jet from earlier! It flew all right, with the same guy who had been messing with the jet engine earlier, at the controls. If he flew that aircraft AND had it in an inside/outside pristine condition as the one we were looking at, he must spend his whole live in that hangar. Before dream went into overdrive: A normal lottery win would not help here; we are talking double if not triple roll over! After the citation, we scurried down runway 04 towards Lakeland. Lakeland is a Class Delta airport with some pretty big machines and we called the tower to announce our intention to land. A very cheerful voice came back on the radio instructing us we should report back 5 miles south of the runway. We did and were given clearance for long final landing. On the ground, changing to the ground frequency, we requested taxi to the shop, this was cleared, and we parked the airplane in the shop’s airplane parking area. Hop out, walk in, and I found myself in a very big showroom with all the gadgets and gizmos you could possibly imagine. I did my shopping; we looked around the new terminal building and hopped back in to fly back to Winter Haven. When we called the ground to request taxi with the intention to return to Winter Haven we had a cheerful: “Fancy that, Warrior 990 returning to Winter Haven”. 990 is the aircraft used for instrument training and Lakeland is the closest airport with full ILS and VOR instrument approach utilities so they probably see more of 990 than anyone else. Back at Winter Haven we did a few pattern for good measure, I had not improved significantly and that was it for the day’s flying.
Gerry had offered to drive me out to Tampa to meet Jackie and the family as they arrived. He would have flown but it takes a little preparation as Tampa is Class Bravo airspace and it is faster to land instruments and that requires various documentation etc. So we drove, met everyone as they arrived, helped collect their luggage and saw them off on their way to their hotel. On the way back we stopped at a redneck bar for a great burger and two pitchers of beer. I had 1.5 glass of beer, Gerry the rest. I drove him back to his place and took myself back to mine. I promised myself not to dream about landings and I went as easily and quickly to sleep as I had the other nights.