Ingo Noka

Flying in the rain

In Flight Log on January 23, 2011 at 12:06 am

Heavy rain as seen out of Cessna 172

“I’m laughing at clouds, so dark up above … Let the stormy clouds chase, Everyone from the place … I have a smile on my face.”  After today’s flying experience, I can’t say I would agree with Frank Sinatra.

From about 2:45 pm, I sat in Charlie Foxtrot for more than an hour watching dark clouds circling the airfield.  I  was especially concerned about the wind, which blew at 10 knots from the North-West, which means there would be a good cross-wind component that a new pilot like me shouldn’t ignore.

An Academy Piper (I think it is a Piper.  Leave a comment if you know the type this green painted aircraft.) went ahead and took off, so after much internal debate I decided to try my luck, since most of the weather had moved from the east to the west of the airfield.  The wind was easing up a bit and as far as I could see there wasn’t anything sinister coming from the east anymore.  Start-up, radio calls, taxi went well, but during take off I felt the wind blowing me off the runway heading.  I took it as good sign that I recognized what happened and managed to keep the aircraft roughly on the right path.  (I still remember Captain Muk taking over the controls during one my not so glorious take-offs and asking me to look back to see how far off the runway direction I had the aircraft allowed to wander.  Let’s just say that I had a good view at the roof of the airport building from straight above.)

The first touch and go was so-so, but I thought I knew what I was doing wrong (flare too high again), so I tried once more.  On downwind I saw a rain shower, which was still outside the circuit pattern, but seem to be moving towards the runway.  All in all the VMC requirements still seemed to be satisfied, so I did another touch-an-go.  This time the landing was slightly better.

On downwind, the black rain cloud complete with heavy rain and wind gusts was right between me and the turning point to the base leg.  The attached GPS path shows the not so smart looking dent I managed to put into my downwind path to avoid the rain. (Download the GPS file here and load it into the Goole Earth to see more.) In the end I wasn’t able to avoid the rain altogether, but it wasn’t so bad.  The bigger problem was to get back to a circuit pattern, that had at least some resemblance to the standard we are supposed to fly.

Turning onto final, I was happy that I had decided to ask for full-stop landing and wished I had done it already for the previous landing.  The rain had moved smack into the middle of the runway, complete with 18 kts wind, coming mostly from the east to north-east, which means lots of cross-wind component.  Thankfully there was nobody watching this, the landing wasn’t very smooth, but I brought the plane down without too much screeching tires and no damage to anything and anybody.

The Academy piper had tried their luck moving from the east to the west of the airfield, but had to give up and came back for a runway 34 landing, which given the position of the weather and the wind direction was certainly the better option.

Three circuits and landings with WCF

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