After my less than desirable landing performance the day prior, I set out this past Sunday to get some needed practice on my own. Since I'm cleared for solo pattern work at the field, what better way to start a Sunday than with some circuits?
I made quick work of the pre-flight and engine start procedures, without my instructor I had nothing to chit-chat about, nothing to do but focus on the work ahead of me with 738VU.
"Hayward Ground, Cessna Seven-three-eight victor-uniform, student pilot, solo, at the green ramp with information echo, request taxi to two-eight-left."
Cleared to taxi, I slowly creep forward, then hit the brakes to check for brake fluid. Nothing on the left side of the plane, but without a right seat, I can't lean far enough over to see the right wheel. I'm sure it's not leaking brake fluid, pretty sure anyways. Oh well, let's keep taxiing.
After completing the run-up, I taxi to the hold short line for 28L, and request clearance for my circuits. "I should do a soft-field take-off" I think, pushing the flaps to 10 degrees. Lining up on the center line, I cram the power. Wobbling to the left I push the right rudder, "don't hit the tail!" I push the nose back down again. Soft-fields are challenging, you have to fight the plane to stay closer to the ground, requiring foot and yoke coordination that I'm still perfecting. Climbing to 20-30ft, I'm struggling to hold the nose down in order to continue gaining airspeed to climb out. Reaching about 75 knots, I concede, retract the flaps, and let the plane climb.
The left pattern is 650ft at KHWD. I have a lot of trouble staying at that altitude, doubly so without an instructor helping to weigh the plane down. That first circuit found me at odds with my aircraft, wrasslin' against it to keep the right altitude, bobbling around in winds that would be characterized as "light and variable." Another unimpressive "pilot in command" moment for me.
Turning late to final, I correct and start lining up for my first approach and landing. Wobbling down towards the runway, I'm carrying extra speed. I flare closer to the runway, balloon a little, and start feeling for the runway. Balloon again, give a little extra power, keep the nose high, that runway is around here somewhere bump. I'm on the right side (my instructor's side) of the runway.
"Carb heat identified, flaps identified, trim set for take-off, max power"
I was cleared for touch-and-go's, I'll be damned if I'm not going to take advantage of it.
Another wobbly circuit, another landing feeling for the runway, another touch-and-go.
One more circuit, on this approach I found myself feeling for the runway again. With an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach, I cram the power and initiate a go-around.
The next approach isn't fantastic either, I can't seem to get my turn from base to final right. I'm carrying more speed than I should into the flare, the mains hit, and I bounce high. Bouncing a 172 is a surreal experience, a new one for me at least, for the ascent I couldn't actually tell that I wasn't on the ground. Reaching the apex, I realized I was in fact still airborne, and I was in fact falling back down to the ground. I get a modicum of power in too late, and jolted back down onto the runway.
Between shouting expletives at myself, I decide against a touch-and-go, I turn on taxiway delta, and call tower:
"Hayward Tower, 738VU off 28L at delta, I'd like to taxiback to start and straighten my spine out."
The controller has been the same since I started this morning, I'm assuming he just witnessed that awful bounce. I figure nobody is going to yell at me for deviating ever so slightly from the script.
I clean up the plane, carb heat off, flaps up, trim set to take-off, mixture leaned, take a deep breath, and taxi back to the start of 28L.
Relaxed, I straighten my spine out, screw my head back on correctly, and get back up into the air for more circuits.
With each circuit improving my landings more, I'm able to mix it up with one or two short-field landings and take-offs. Circuit after circuit, I keep racking them up.
By the end of it, I'm back to the slight chirping of the wheels I prefer.
With my landings in better shape, I land full-stop and taxi back to parking and shut down. All said and done, I think I performed 9 landings and about 11 circuits total.
The plane tied down, I head back to the office to return the binder and back home for lunch and a normal Sunday afternoon.
I could get used to this kind of morning workout.