Saturday, February 23, 2008

4th Flight - Hello Kinston Tower!

Tonight, I really felt like we were flying! Not just going around in circles, or to the designated practice area, but flying TO somewhere. I was surprised when my instructor Jeff mentions, "Let's fly to Kinston and get some ATC practice in". So with that we were off to Kinston International (KISO), normally a 30min drive, but we'll be on it in 11min. After a paultry 6 hours of training, most aspects of the flight I'm on my own as Jeff doesn't have to say much. It's 4:45 and the sun is setting. Seeing it from the sky is always special, and I've grown to look forward to it. Night is setting in, and I become a flashing dot in the skyline.

Using the VOR for the first time:
Today we're training on VOR navigation and controlled airspace proceedures. After we've exited the pattern, he has me climbing to 4500'. I set the NAV1 to 109.6, the VOR near Kinston. I turn the position indicator to the "TO" setting and continue until the indicator line was straight. Jeff said "Ok now keep that line centered and make course corrections to keep it so". We're a mere 10miles away already and it's time to request entrance to Kinston airspace. Jeff tells me to make the call, and as you can imagine, I'm nervous about getting it wrong, and sounding stupid. "Kinston Tower, Diamond 6-3-6-Delta Charlie, um.. 10miles from the NE inbound for landing." Whew, ok got that out ok. Lickity split the tower calls back "636DC report Left Base for Runway 23". To which Jeff cues me to respond "Diamond 636DC roger, left base for runway 23". Soon after I enter controlled airspace for the first time.

You see, as I've mentioned, Greenville is non-controlled, with no pilots just confirm positions with each other. Here it felt calming to hear a tower voice in control, making sure everyone is clear & seperated. What feels like a few brief heartbeats later, Jeff points out the beacon. Wow, we got her quick! It was easy than I thought to maintain and follow the course set out on the VOR! I call in again when I'm closer to the airport "636DC on base for runway 23"..."6DC cleared for landing with option"..."Roger, 6DC clear for landing with option".

Moments later I add another successful night landings aren't as smooth, as distance detection is tuff, but no problem. We then take off again staying in the pattern, watching other airplanes, like the small jets come in and land after you. I can't even imagine Charlotte! We spend a good deal of time doing patterns. Boring? NAH, not with Jeff as a CFI. The next pattern we do an engine failure, and bring it immediatly in for landing. Next go around (it's full night now), he kills my instrument lights. Ok, this is a new one...but not to difficult as I just keep focused looking outside, and concentrate on landing the airplane. The next time around he kills the landing light...WOAH...ok THAT was the humbling experience of the day. I flared too soon, and came down...bounce...ARGH...hold it off, hold it off!!!! Whew! I pray that never happens again!

We get clearance to leave back to greenville, and we ascend to 3500'. Greenville looks so peacefull at night. I really need to take some video for everyone. I pass over the new movie theater and follow up back to the airport. The lights are out, and pulse the mic 7 times and the ground lights up. It's nothing short of cool to see a row of lights ahead of you with chasing "rabbit" lights giving you line guide to the airport. We're in the pattern and a fast lear jet enters the pattern. We break out to let him ahead in the landing cue, dang it's fast...coming in at 170knots...boy to fly that one day... I kick in behind them, and return to my descent...and to the earth. Landings, never quite relax with them, but they get allot easier over time, and this one was fairly smooth. They are far more challenging at night as height perception is much harder. Jeff in his fashion said "Heck yeah man, how 'bout I hop out and you solo right now!" I chuckle, and take the compliment. I'm sure that will come soon enough.

Jeff always had a way to make me feel at ease. He'd always keep you pumped up. Even when you did something wrong, he'd correct you, but none to harshly. I was very lucky to have an instructor I connected with, and felt relaxed. Unfortunetly, I would find out HOW lucky I was all too soon. (See next post).

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