Well, as the title suggests I did yet another flight today. The weather wasn’t as perfect as it was on Thursday. In fact, the winds were actually blowing in the opposite direction that they usually do. This gave me a chance to land on runways 35L and 35R. This was a VERY different experience because the only other time I’ve had this opportunity, was my very first flight back in August. It was another solo and I couldn’t have been more nervous if I tried. There was a slight crosswind, so as soon as I lifted off, I altered my heading to correct for the wind drift. The weather was also extremely cold, around 33 degrees, which made the plane perform amazingly well. On my first takeoff, I reached pattern altitude before even starting my downwind leg. It was a little bit of a surprise and I actually gained an extra 100 feet that I shouldn’t have. I did my pre-landing check as I decended back to pattern altitude. My first landing I came in about 5 knots too fast due to the increased performance.
Today, I came into the flight school and talked with my instructor. He simply said to go out, pre-flight the airplane, and practice my take-offs and landings. He said I should be able to get about 10 of each completed during the time I had the plane reserved. I figured it would be a nice day to fly, seeing as the winds had stayed calm most of the day. My first take-off was a little wobbly, and my first landing I came in slightly too fast. At first, I thought today was just going to be a mediocre day of flying and decided to just relax and do my best. The second take off I did perfectly, I rotated at exactly the right time, got my speed exactly where it needed to be, when it needed to be there. As I was doing my pre-landing check in the middle of the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, something click. I realized that I had gone through my entire checklist and done it without thinking about it. I was so shocked that I went through it again just to make sure I didn’t forget anything, I didn’t. By this time, I realized that I was so focused on the awe of what I’d just done, I was already just past being abeam(adjacent) to the numbers on the runway. This means that there were steps I should have taken by now in order to prepare for landing. As I went to pull the carb heat back to reduce my RPM on the engine, I found it already pulled out. I thought this odd but continued on to my power, which was also already where it needed to be. I thought something weird but went to adjust my flaps. Surprise surprise, they were already set as well. I knew I hadn’t just forgotten about them from my last landing because I distinctly remember cleaning up the airplane(carb heat off, flaps up) and I had to put in full power for the takeoff. I had done those steps without thinking about them as well. This fact brought a smile to my face as I executed my second landing without flaw. As I powered up for my third takeoff, I felt unstoppable, nothing could go wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I was still well aware of my surroundings and the fact that something COULD go wrong. The feeling I felt wasn’t one of arrogance, but for the first time, I felt true confidence that this plane was under my control, not the other way around. I had felt comfortable and confident that I could fly the plane safely ever since right before my first solo. However, this confidence was founded by me performing that perfect takeoff and landing. Up to this point, the airport had been relatively quiet and the only thing I had been hearing from ATC(Air Traffic Control) were landing clearances and wind directions and speeds. This all changed very quickly though. Suddenly, 3 or 4 different aircraft were all asking to land at the same time. Though this is not uncommon by any means, I made an extra effort to watch out for other aircraft. I was cleared for a touch and go(land then immediately take-off again), but this time I was cleared second in line following another small aircraft. I once again executed a flawless landing and subsequent take-off. Then the air got very busy. It seemed like the radio was alive with all the chatter. Up till now, I had been practicing on runway 17R. With the sudden increase in traffic, I was told to switch over to runway 17L, a parallel runway just slightly east. Though I was not as familiar with this runway, I willingly accepted. It was the best part of my flight, not because of the challenge of landing on a different runway, but because runway 17L is typically used by the heavier planes. I should probably point out the the airport I train at is class C airspace, meaning it is relatively large. As I was preparing for my 7th landing, I hear another plane get clearance to land on the runway(I had not yet) and was then told I was second in line and to watch for wake turbulence(bumpy air). I shrugged it off and assumed it was a passenger jet coming in. I scanned for the traffic as I was trained to do and found it almost instantly. Flying toward the runway was a C17. Now this was not a rare sight at the airport as there is a military base that uses it for its operations as well. However, I had never seen one that close before and had certainly never had the chance to land after one before. I watched as it touched down right as I began my base turn. I turned to final approach and saw it pull off the runway with plenty of time to spare. I came in over its glide slope to avoid the turbulence. It wasn’t until I was climbing back into the air that I realized I had just done all the steps to my landing, including my pre-landing checks, without even thinking about them. This was the first flight where I didn’t have to focus everything all my attention on not messing up, and was able to relax and enjoy the feeling of flying, making it the most fun I’ve ever had flying by far. I also believe this is a big step in completing my training, as I will be more relaxed.