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Thursday, 19 May 2016

Liberation Flight

Man, what a loooong time it takes, for my license to arrive! Actually it's not that much, but those couple of weeks feel like half a year! But, upon returning from a weekend away, I found it on the mat on May 1st.

Of course, my first licensed flight would be one with my wife, Petra. She had flown with me on my very first lesson, in 2011 in a C172. At the time she was a bit nervous about the whole flying such a small airplane, and that had not changed since. So we were about to finde out if she would like flying, or maybe have grown a fear of flying in the mean time...

The plane was already booked (someone else had to make the booking for me, because I still had no license at the time) for the 5th of May: Liberation Day in the Netherlands. So this was to be our "liberation flight" :)
I had planned a relatively short flight, leaving open the option  to immediately return to the field, should the situation so require. We would go from Lelystad via Dronten and Kampen to Zwolle. We would go look at the Liberation festival in Zwolle, but from above, this time. From there, the plan was to go south along the IJssel river, and then West again from Olst, passing over the camping where we have our second home (just like Petra's parents and her brother). From there, perhaps a little detour at higher altitude for some turns and even a little steering of her own. And then back to the field. All that would take less than one hour.

So said, so done. May 5th came closer, and the weather started to look better and better. It became sunny, and even warm! Only the wind was expected to be fully cross from the South-East, but not very strong.
In order not to challenge Petra's nerves too much, I kept the remarks on going flying to a minimum, right up until the moment we stepped into the car to go to the airport. That's when I started telling her all about what was to come: that I would be busy for about an hour prepping things (plane, wheather, NOTAMs, W&B, Fueling procedure), and that she could help me with that (except for fueling up).
After a final briefing of our route (and the fact that there is no shame in returning to the field if the excitement gets too much), Petra got to hold the chart. She would be my navigator (a great way of keeping your passenger distracted from their fears, and looking out the window; less nausea ;) )

During the entire flight I kept telling what I was about to do, and in some cases also why. That keeps the mind busy as well. "I'll take the checklist, not because I don't know what I'm doing, but because I want to make sure I do things in the right order, while not skipping anything", "Tower can't hear us talking. Only if I press this button can they hear us. So dont push that button, unless, of course, you have something worth mentioning to Tower :D". I did that throughout the entire flight, and that was much appreciated.
Arriving at the run-up area for runway 05, the windsock hung like a dead cat, so there should not be too much crosswind after all. After the run-up we had to wait for two arriving aircraft, but then it was actually our turn to take the runway ...

As soon as we left the ground, I felt that there wàs a significant crosswind, so the buildings next to the windsock must have shielded it from the wind. Those buildings also cause some turbulence, exactly over the runway. Nothing worth bothering, normally, but it made for a less-than-comfortable take-off for someone who steps into such a small plane with a load of tension already. She held brave, but her silence geve away her tension.
Also, over the polder landscape, turbulence due to thermals (the first really warm day of the year...) was bigger than I had hoped for. So I just kept talking about what I did, pointing out flower fields, and recognizable points in the area to keep her mind occupied, and her eyes outside. It took a good quarter of an hour for Petra to get used to the bumpy conditions, and relax a bit. By then, we were approaching Zwolle already, and looking at three recognizable bridges, plus the city center, calmed her nerves a bit.
After Zwolle, the IJssel river, the city of Epe, the ice cream truck at Gortel, and of course the camping provided for some more distraction, but I decided not to go make turns over the camping. Also, the bit of extra flying over the wooded sands of the Veluwe did not seem to offer much added value, so I cut it a little short by proceeding directly to Bravo, and return to the field. She will get a chance to steer the plane during a next flight. This have been enough impressions for one day...
The wind had picked up to about 13 knots crosswind, so the landing took some effort. It was a good landing, but not a pretty one. But that's OK. Now, the bar isn't set too high for the next landing ;) Because she said she would fly with me again, so I must have done something right. Let's just hope the weather is less bumpy, then.

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