You Guessed It, Touch-and-Goes

Uggg. Today was the first day I left the airport without being happy about having gotten to fly a plane.


Yesterday evening (~5pm), a Cessna 172 crashed at Fairbanks International Airport, killing one of the three people onboard. It freaked me out a little to read about it online ~midnight ( The plane reportedly crashed just after takeoff, just south of the fence at the end of runway 20L (airport’s general aviation side).

Out of morbid curiosity, I downloaded the PAFA radio feed off of and listened to it. All I was able to learn is that after an accident (even if the incident was only on one side), both runways at FAI are closed (only Fairbanks ground and Fairbanks approach/departure frequencies seem to have been posted online, no tower). Within 20 minutes of the first mention of a crash, both runways were up and running again.

I think it really shook me because I fly a lot of my lessons ~5:10pm. Given where I am in flight training, I would have been in the pattern doing touch-and-goes. Would I have been in any danger? (probably not, but I still worry) What would I have needed to do if I was in the air? I don’t have recordings of tower frequencies, but I assume that those in the pattern would have been allowed to land at the ski strip or 20R? Or the nearby military’s Ladd field which abuts FAI’s class D airspace? The Chena Marina airstrip in town? I suppose that if I were allowed to land on the other side of FAI, I would have to sit around til runways reopened, take off on 20R, and land on 20L to park the plane? (since taxiway bravo, which connects the two runways, is still closed – see post PAFA Taxiway B Closed)

I was going to ask CFI2 these questions, but before my flight, the school was really busy; after the flight, I just felt blah – unpleasantly surprised that I didn’t enjoy flying even though I didn’t make *major* errors that would scare anyone. I’ll ask next time.

More morbid curiosity led me to read most of the aircraft crash articles in the local news site ( and do a quick search of the NTSB database. I’m actually really glad I did this. There are so few accidents in each year (as compared to car accidents).

The crash was cleaned up by the time my flight happened so there was nothing to distract me….except my really high-strung mind. CFI2 joked that he was going to start slipping me prozac – can’t hurt right?


Today’s lesson began with an oral pop quiz: List every step one needs to take for touch-and-goes. Yuck. I know all the steps but did stutter a bit – as well as forgetting to talk about 3 parts until prompted.

For my personal reference: Cessna 150 – Line up on runway, throttle in, climb at 7degrees pitch, letting the horizon just touch the nose in my sightpicture. Turn crosswind ~500ft AGL, turn downwind about 5 seconds after that. 150 reaches pattern altitude, 1000ft AGL, on downwind leg. Reduce power, maintain level flight. When abeam runway touchdown point, carburetor heat, throttle to 1700 rpm, pitch down (~500ft/min), 10 degrees of flaps. When runway is about 45 degrees behind the wing, turn base, go to 20degrees of flaps while turning. Next, turn final. Establish plane on correct glideslope. Line up on centerline; adjust altitude with throttle. 5ft above runway, pitch to level flight, reduce power to idle  slowly, then flare (pitch to climb attitude). Let main wheels touch, control direction with rudder, keep pulling back on yoke, let nosewheel sink down when plane is slow enough. Flaps up, throttle in, carb. heat off, do it all again.

5 takeoffs and landings today with CFI2. He covered the airspeed indicator with a post-it the entire time to show me that I don’t need to chase the indicator needle in the pattern. I know what my sight picture should look like on all steps. Look outside of the plane Christina.


I’m still doing the same mistakes I’ve been doing – and it’s a real downer.

First, the good: all takeoffs and landings are noticeably closer to centerline than before! Good! But still distinctly off…always end too left. I attribute the improvement to looking down at the end of the runway each time – I remembered!

CFI2 says he feels that I finally understand when to level out and when to flare. Uh, I’ll just have to take his word for it. Every once in a while, I get it right….but it doesn’t feel very consistent to me (probably because I still don’t feel I entirely know what to look for).

Last landing was really pretty until I pulled the power to idle too quickly and we sank like a rock. My instinct was to pull up but I went too high. Oh man…

  • Initial taxi: forgot to turn on the taxi light (why can’t I remember to do it when CFI2 is in the plane?).
  • Tower’s initial clearance for takeoff: I forgot the words “cleared for takeoff” but remembered everything else…
  • My climbing turns are coordinated at the beginning but usually end slightly uncoordinated.
  • I almost never automatically correct for the crosswind at pattern altitude – I drift towards the tower until prompted. Today it was harder because that wind was gusting and the dips and bumps distracted me. The sudden, seemingly extreme changes from level wings did scare me a couple times because I wasn’t expecting it.
  • When tower says something besides “cleared for the option”, I still can’t quickly figure out the correct response. I saw that disappointed look in CFI2’s eyes. I’m greatly saddened also. I should know what to do by now. Wilco, looking, in sight, #__ in the caravan, etc
  • After turning to base and final, I never pitch down far enough. Sometimes the instructor has to tap on the yoke on downwind after that first notch of flaps. -> I’m usually too high on final.
  • Taxi to parking: I (like always) forgot to say where I was to ground.
  • upwind leg and after the main wheels touch runway – starts nice and centered but at the last second, I’m off centerline. Araahhhh! How did the messup even have time to occur?!?

Silly mistakes – I hate that I keep doing these things wrong. I wish flying was like learning to parallel park – very cheap to go out and do hours of practice every day until it was perfect.

Reminders (my new knowledge for the day):

  • Even when tower extends your downwind leg, you still do the normal initial descent procedures at the same places you usually do.
  • Don’t need transponder in pattern practice unless told to.

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