It's hard for me to imagine, that it's been a year since I became a pilot. By which, I mean my first solo. I remember it was a nice calm day, with nice steady winds down 08. How exilarating it was, and how very scary! Tonight I was going up to get my night currency back in check, and I found myself with similar feelings.
There is a certain peaceful aspect of flying at night. The airport relatively quiet, but nicely lit up with it's blue taxi lights, and racing rabbit trail. N223DC was to be my magic carpet for the evening. A special plane to me, as it was the one I soloed in. No other plane would do for an anniversary flight.
To my immediate dismay, it wasn't there when I arrived. I didn't recal anyone else on the schedule before me, and the key wasn't in the lockbox like they phoned me about. I let myself calm down, and give whomever 15 minutes or so. Sure enough, 10 minutes later, I spot and begin hearing the familiar drone of a DA-20's engine. They come into land, a little up and down in the hold off, but it appeared smooth. As they taxi back, my hearing was confirmed as the silouette of a DA20 turned toward the hanger lights.
I walk up to the marvel of 21st century composite engineering, and see it's owner pop out along with his instructor. I've known him since last year, and he soloed a month after me. "Ah no, 1.9 hours (hobbs)...just 0.3 short of what I need for cross-country!" he says a little dismayed. "You trying to get your X-C requirement for IFR?" I inquire. "Yeah I have my check-ride on Monday!" Wow, that made me do a double take. He had obtained his private right before me, and here he was ready for his IFR checkride! Well, I guess that's one of the benefits of owning a lease-back airplane. You can afford to fly allot! I wished him luck as I begin pre-flighting her.
I took my time, enjoying the rare steady breeze we had. TAFs said the clouds would be coming in later that night, creating low overcast. The moon was out, and it played hide-in-seek with the cloud layers. I sat there remembering how much I love to fly at night. My plan was to do two full stop landings, then fly over the city lights of Greenvile.
I realized these flying spurts, once every two to three weeks, are taking their toll. My flow isn't what it used to be, and have to go through the checklist first (instead of the usuall flow, followed by a double check against the checklist). Flying once a week was far better. Still it's better than not flying at all. I have been pleased that my landings are still pretty smooth, so at least that part of the art is fine.
My second run in the pattern, and the winds started coming at a 60° crosswind. It's always weird and yet cool to be pointed so far off your actual ground track heading. It's like sliding sideways. Piedmont, the USAir Dash-8, announced it would be entering behind me. That's another reason nighttime flight is great, I could spot him since he announced being 10 miles away. It's pretty obvious why more collisions happen during daylight hours, than night.
After another successfull landing, I begin my climb to 1500'. Time for some sightseeing over Greenville! Ever since I was young enough to remember, I'd always awe at the beautiful city lights viewed from the commercial jet window. Now, to be able to get that on my own terms, is a pure feeling of freedom. I fly near the baseball stadium, no one playing, but the lights are shining bright. Flying over the mall, reservoir, restaurants, and of course our home is a serine picture. I look up and the moon is shinning down, casting a glow on the wings. I can't help but think, "Well, I'm closer to it, but I doubt I'll ever get to go there..."
After performing some 45 & 60° bank turns (the later being my fav...2Gs!) I head back to the airport. No one in the pattern, and I command the lights on full...foom! I always love that! Same bit of crosswind, but this time I turn the runway lights to their lowest setting so I can see the pavement sooner. In the base I noticed I failed to complete my pre-landing checklist, and switched back on the fuel pump which I missed. While not absolutely necessary, as it's a backup, it's a good idea when at low throttle settings. I smack myself for that one. Dang I'm out of touch...no way I woulda missed that several months ago!
I hold it off better, as I exit from the crab, left wheel lightly chirps then the right. YAY a super sweet crosswind landing! I taxi past the PGV terminal, and the now silent Dash-8. I park the plane, and sadly shut her down. It's amusing how many pilots take pride in everything they do, including parking. I get out and the nose wheel & tail are perfectly on the line, and I nod happily to myself. Only 0.6 hours of flight time this go, but I still had a great time. As I put the cover over the DA20, I just wish I could do it more often.