I flew my first passenger this past weekend without having another pilot in the plane. I've flown with passengers before-- but always with either Husband (who is a pilot) or an instructor in the plane with me.
Husband was out of town-- he and a friend flew out (commercial, of course) to Reno, Nevada for the Reno Air Races. They apparently had a blast-- though the festivities were a bit more somber this year because of all the crashes. I was invited... but opted to not be the tag-along wife, and instead thought I'd get a nice relaxing weekend at home alone. The best of intentions...
We discovered a few weeks back that we have a water problem in our basement... and decided last week to do something about it. So I spent my weekend torn between writing a proposal and clearing out our basement-- which has basically been a storage space since we moved in. In fact, I almost canceled our flight on Sunday... too much work! But I decided that I definitely needed a break. All that work just made it that much more fun to fly!
The weather was gorgeous. I think this time of year is the best for flying in our area. Cool nights, warm days, clear and haze-free skies, what more could a girl ask for?! I picked up my friend, J, around noon and we headed out to the airport. I think she was pretty excited. I know I was... she asked a ton of great questions-- which I like because I ask a lot of questions, too. Besides, that way I know she's not bored to tears!
The new ADIZ procedures are still a little foreign to me, but we made it out ok. We had decided to fly to CBE for lunch. That takes us over a bunch of small- to medium-sized mountain ridges that are really beautiful (the main reason I picked that destination). Unfortunately, the scattered clouds (all little puffy ones-- they looked like a sea of cotton balls) were a little lower than predicted, so we decided to climb above them for the way out. It was awesome! J really seemed to like getting up above the clouds.
Coming into CBE, we heard a tow-pilot making calls out of CBE. As we got close, we saw him take off with a glider in tow off of runway 11. That was more first real encounter with a glider in the area-- so I wanted to make sure we stayed well clear of him as we maneuvered for our approach. J was a natural at helping me spot traffic -- she saw a lot of it before I did! I told her I'd take her as a copilot any time! We finally determined that the tow and glider were well away for the airport and were able to turn for our downwind and base for 23. Then, just as we turned on final, we heard the tow pilot call that he had released the glider and was on base for landing on 11! 11 and 23 intersect, so I told J to keep looking for the tow plane while I concentrated on landing. I was so focused on where he was, I didn't realize how close we were to the runway. All of a sudden I felt one wheel touch... which kind of surprised me. Luckily, it was a very soft touch, so I just brought the rest of them down and told her not to worry, we had landed. She hadn't even felt it! OF course, I played it off like I meant to land that way (and I did... I just didn't know that it would be right then!). :)
We had lunch on the field at the little diner place. It's recently changed hands, so we spent a few minutes talking to the new owner. She was pretty funny-- she's never owned or run a restaurant before, so she's having to learn quickly. She said she was going to try and start going to some of the other airports in the area so she could see where all the pilots were coming from... but she's scared of flying, so she'll have to drive to them!
We had two separate "Traffic" encounters during the flight. Both times we had seen the traffic on the TIS, but had trouble locating it in the air because it was hidden behind our wing. The first time, the other plane was showing only a few hundred feet above us. Since I didn't have it in sight, and it looked like the traffic would pass right over us, I grabbed the controls, killed the autopilot, and dove down and away. J's seat wasn't locked in place (mental note: add to my briefing!), and she slid pretty violently towards the controls-- which freaked her out a little. After a couple of seconds, we saw the plane pass by. I could tell that the plane was IFR traffic, headed the opposite direction to us... and the altitude would have been enough separation, but I can't help wondering what would happen if either of our altimeters was off-- or what if the TIS altimeter is off. I'm never sure if that is 'overreacting', or if that is 'good instincts'! The second traffic incident was similar-- except that the avoidance was a little less dramatic!
We had another pilot take a few pics of us with the plane when we returned to JYO. I'm hoping J will share so I can post...
I'm also hoping to work in a flight in the next few days with our old instructor, M. He passed his checkrides at the airlines! Yay! He's on vacation right now, but should be starting next week with his IOE.