My First Civilian Passenger
Just two weeks after completing my first BFR (biennial flight review - see previous post) I was able to accomplish another major milestone. For the first time in my short flying career I completed a flight with a non-CFI sitting in the right seat.
This trip started as another planned meet-up of fans of both the Uncontrolled Airspace Podcast and our new podcast the Stuck Mic AvCast at Boire Field in Nashua, NH. Several members of both shows were planning to attend as well as several loyal listeners and as the weather was looking great, I booked a plane to head up there alone. The trip from Norwood to Nashua is about 20-25 minutes tops and sometimes I drive when the weather is iffy or worse.
But for this weekend, the weather looked great with clear skies and calm winds and no threat of rain. Even the summer heat was holding off. This would be a great day to get some more experience in the Cessna 172 on a short hop flight I had done several times before.
Then, because of her schedule, the oportunity to fly with my wife came up for the same weekend. For one reason or another we had never flown together. She loves flying so that was never an issue, but mostly I wanted to get more comfortable being a pilot. I wanted to have a lot of the aviation stuff so ingrained that I could enjoy the flight and tend to my passenger without too much distraction.
We got to Norwood early and I began preflighting the Cessna while she did some phone calling and picture taking. (Most of the pictures you see in this post were taken by her using my iPhone4 with a wide-angle adaptor.)
This Cessna is pretty much exactly like the one I have more than 60 hours in, but there were some small differences I had to aquaint myself with. We had a little trouble getting my squelch where I wanted it, but settled for what I could dial in.
Eventually all was set and we took off with a normal departure on runway 35 to the north. I asked and got flight-following and turned to the northwest to give us some clearance from the Hanscom Class Delta. I like to make that move heading north which does two things, points me toward the edge of the Class Bravo which gives me altitude options and sets me up for avoiding Hanscom's busy airspace should I not get cleared through.
Eventually I turned due north toward Nashua and kept the plane right at 3,000 ft. Flight-following was almost unnecessary as we spotted several planes in the distance on our own and maintained clearance from them. Once handed off to the Nashua tower I was asked to keep my speed up for separation no doubt. I didn't really want to keep my speed up, but I did as requested.
This threw off my landing rhythm so I came in a little high and long, but was able to keep the speeds where they should be. However, because I was thrown a bit, I rounded a little too high and then flared. With a firm plop I landed on the centerline.
Fortunately my wife has a lot of experience flying as a kid with her dad and was familiar with the occasional firm landing. It wasn't what I wanted for our first experience, but she seemed pleased with the flight and told me at the end of the day that she would fly with me again.
We parked the plane and then met-up with the various other pilots/aviation podcast fans, having a nice meeting over breakfast at the Midfield Cafe. In the picture to the left is Jack Hodgson of the Uncontrolled Airspace Podcast with Robert Cigliano of the New Pilot's Pod Blog. Robert flew his Piper Sport in from Long Island! As is the custom, we ended things by heading out to the ramp to look over the planes.
Mine was the most pedestrian of the bunch, with a Cub and Robert's Piper Sport flanking me. The full set of pictures from the day can be found by clicking on the link in the upper left of this page called Aviation Photography.
The trip back to Norwood was a little more bumpy as the heat of the day created thermal areas, but not bad. We were cleard direct through Hanscom at or above 2,500 ft but below the Bravo which starts at 3000 ft. Threading the needle I like to call it and my altitude control was solid.
The roughest part of the whole day was what I thought would be the easiest, my landing back at Norwood. I basically came in too hot, probably with the Cirrus' airspeeds in mind. I let the plane float to bleed off the speed, but didn't bleed enough and again flared too high. So I landed firmly, but this time going a bit too fast. Breaking caused the plane to pull a bit to the side, but I eased off and as the speed settled, everything smoothed out. Again, not what I had planned for my first passenger flight but I learned a lot from the experience.
Fortunately, my wife said she'd fly with me again and we'll be looking for that opportunity soon.
I'm probably being a little hard on myself, but for me, it's back to pattern practice to smooth out those landings!
Below is a video of the landing at Nashua, with two camera views and ATC transmissions.