Snow! And Mastering Soft Field Techniques

We finally have snow in Fairbanks – it held off til about noon yesterday and then it was fluffy white stuff all day. Too bad it didn’t wait until midnight (if it had, it would have been the second Fairbanks Halloween without snow on the ground – second one since anyone had been keeping records).

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The morning was marginal VFR but lifting quickly. I didn’t take a picture but it was really strange to have the low fog/cloud cover the mountains by west ramp – yet east ramp (general aviation) was nice and clear. I was my choice of whether I wanted to do more soft field work (now I definitely need it for the snow covered Alaskan runways) or start cross-country work. I didn’t love the idea of soft field work, but after last lesson, and all the non-straight landings, I wanted to perfect my technique.

I had scheduled today’s lesson a week ago in the 152. It’s not my normal plane (the 150 is my usual pick because it’s easier for me to do maneuvers like stalls) – but someone else beat me to it – and as of last week, I thought I would still be working on normal pre-solo landings – where the plane choice doesn’t matter. I suppose that’s where doing landings was better than a cross country because I didn’t want to add the new flying elements to the unfamiliar instruments of the 152.

152 ready for its next victim.
152 ready for its next victim after me. Engine blanket only partially velcroed on so it doesn’t get dirty from dripping oil.

Taxiing: um, where are my lines? They’re completely obscured now and will be until April. It was kinda of a relief to not worry about staying on the line but unnerving because my only references (buildings and parked planes) were all really far from the taxiway. I need need need to remember that you never taxi over the sewer grates (my taxi lines helped me avoid them….but now they’re gone…).

Sewer_Grate_01
[grate picture via google]

As the snow continues to build up this winter, the grate will probably usually remain open – but there may be a 6 inch drop from snow packed surface to grate. Taking out the propeller would be a really stupid mistake.

The runways were perfectly clear of snow – awesome. Alaska ‘road’ crews do such a nice job – I wish they’d get the taxiways.

Got 4 soft field landings on 20L (good to practice the left base landings); then CFI2 said to go home because he wasn’t going to waste my money making me practice something I already know (funny story – he actually made the full stop radio call to tower but I didn’t see him press anything….so I repeated the exact same thing on the radio. Sorry tower 😉 ). Nice praise but it always makes me nervous when he says that (‘what is he going to say when I mess this up next time’).

Soft field takeoff – I need to work on pitching to level and accelerating in ground effect before climbing. I know I need to be closer to the runway, but it is so strange not to immediately climb.

Other than flaring slightly too early 3/4 times, ballooning once, the landings were straight, soft, and on centerline. Centerline was a nice unexpected bonus for me, yay! Has it finally clicked like everyone said it would? Hope so 😀

I believe the test trucks were on the runway (testing stopping distance) on one of my downwind legs. ATC told me to do a right 360° turn as I was abeam the end of the runway. That was weird. I didn’t concentrate hard enough on wind correction and ended up drifting the tiniest bit east from the airport (it wasn’t very noticeable so maybe the instructors are right, I’m much too hard on myself).

Taxi to parking – soft field because of the snow – My arm actually started cramping up from holding the yoke all the way back (really need to hit the gym).

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No sectional charts available for purchase (anywhere in town) because the new ones come out soon (end of next week?). Is this just a Fairbanks thing? All the old ones have walked away from the flight school so learning to plan the cross country this weekend will be interesting.

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