Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Not exactly to plan (part 1)

We’ll gloss over the handwringing angst that accompanied my decision to finally get in the plane for another post. But get in the plane I did. I even bucked up the courage to start the engine. Eventually.

Following the sterling advice of my good friend A from ground school, I took it one tiny baby step at a time. Just take it to Bluffers and see how it goes. Now maybe to Claremont? Oh look there’s lake Simcoe, maybe to the base of there?

All the time the air is bucking around me, bumping me enough to remind me of its presence. I’m not exactly having fun. I’m seriously contemplating coming back. Maybe the fact that I do have an “out”, that turning around is always an option, is enough for the moment. I press on regardless.

Thorah Island and my other landmarks unfold in front of me. I even buck up the courage to make a VFR position report, not even fazed by the fact that they don’t seem familiar with the island name. I spell it out phonetically and we both seem happy with the end result.

Onwards, but not alone. Occasionally I hear Bob’s voice scolding me “Hold that heading, Missy!”
I comply but wonder how he snuck in the plane without me noticing. I'm sure I left him on the ground. Turns out it’s just my head he’s in. He taps the altimeter. I’m a hundred foot or so off what I need to be. Contritely I sort it out.

Amazingly my planning seems to have paid off, my calculated heading seems to be taking me exactly where I want to go. I spot Orillia airport off in the distance.

So far, so good.

And then the plan started to come unstuck a little. I really should be able to see Muskoka airport by now. I don’t.


I know that turning back is always an option but I’m facing the ignominy of being the first student in living history who failed to find Muskoka. Please understand that airports don’t get any more visible than Muskoka. If I can’t find it, there genuinely is no hope for me in the future.

I slow the plane down and take stock of my surroundings. Lakes

Lots of them.

Two options, find the airport. Or go home.

I start matching up the icy shapes I can see in front of me. I’m actually fairly certain that is Sparrow Lake in front of me. Which is odd because I’ve never managed to spot it before. I identify another couple of lakes by their shapes, realising that one of them beyond the airport.

I kind of know where I am, but I still don’t see an airport. I make the call to Timmins radio as I’m about to be in their zone, and I can at least give them a very rough heading and distance. I honestly do know where I am , it's just that the airport is hding.

Literally as I open my mouth, I see it. An airport.

A little off to one side but totally 100% utterly visible. Relief washes over me. So tangible I can almost taste it.

I’m here now, It’s an easy straight in approach. Hell, I may as well attempt to land. What is the worst that can happen?

Hmm, possibly shouldn’t have asked that. There’s traffic in the circuit. One full stop and one doing circuits. I spot one but not the other. As usual as soon as I go to tell ATC that I have negative contact on the traffic, I see them. Relief once more.

Until I realise that the traffic in front is planning on a full stop and back track. I’m too close. I think. I’m having a harder time judging the spacing than usual.

Quickly I contemplate my options, I need some breathing space. I decide on a 360 orbit for spacing and let Timmins Radio know. I carefully orbit, being sure to keep the turn coordinated and not risk a stall or spin. I also try to keep the runway in sight, again not wanting to be the student who couldn’t find the runway.

I see the plane in front clear. I land (a little bouncy, but no major damage) I back track and exit.
Completing the flight with the world’s worst parking job. I shut the plane down and phone the flight school.

A text to Bob simply reads “Muskoka, Baby !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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