Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Learning Experience #2: Think before you act

I went up for my second flight since getting my PP-ASEL and wouldn't you know it, I learned something again. I think I see a pattern forming here. :^)

Due to weather and illness, it had been quite a while since I had flown (almost 6 weeks), so I scheduled some time in my favorite airplane at my home field just to do some pattern work. I wanted to stay well within my comfort zone and just knock off any rust that had accumulated after six weeks of no flying.

The day went well -- my flying was good, but not as precise as I would have liked, which is about what I expected.

The learning experience came when the Tower informed me that they were switching runways from 12 to 30. I had just turned to the left downwind when they informed me and told me to "make a right turn to base." I look over and the runway is to my left, which means that the shortest way to get there is to make a left turn, so that's what I do. Then I start thinking about what it is I'm doing and that the Tower told me "right turn to base" . . . "right turn" . . . the words are rolling around in my head . . . "right turn" . . . "right turn." OH! They want me to make a 270 degree right turn to base, not a short 90 left turn to base. Of course, I had almost completed my 90 degree left turn when I realized this, but I immediately started a right turn to base like they asked. Fortunately I was the only one in the pattern, so it wasn't a big deal -- this time.

So what did I learn from this flight? Take a couple of seconds to think about what the Tower is saying and do the maneuver in my mind before I perform it in the airplane. Turning the wrong way in a crowded pattern could have had some significant consequences. Of course, I don't want to take too long to mull over instructions from ATC, but I think it's definitely a requirement to understand exactly what they're asking before doing it.