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Final Required Solo

Today is Columbus day and us Federal Lackey’s have the day off so naturally I flew. I had a bit under an hour of solo time left to complete my required 10 hours and I got to actually fly somewhere instead of just circling the damn airport. Speaking of the damn airport, I did manage to snap a photo of dear Montgomery County Airpark (KGAI) on the way off to Fredrick (KFDK).

KGAI, Montgomery County Airpark

So my instructor and I first did 3 patterns (it’s policy to do a pattern before letting students go on solo’s). The second one was a simulated engine out practice and I did just fine slowing to 65kts and turning around at a good distance to get the right altitude. No problemo, I didn’t actually land we just did a touch and go and then one more normal pattern, until I was off for the solo.

I set all the instruments up with frequencies and the GPS is programmed direct to KFDK and off I go. Nothing eventful happens on the way out, I talk to the SFRA people, they see my transponder and I squawk the normal VFR 1200 code once out of SFRA space. However KFDK is like only another 7 or so miles away. I didn’t quite realize how close it was, even though I’ve flown past it like 50 times and before I knew it I was practically on top of the airport. Actually I was flying in at a reasonable angle but was just way too high. I call out to the KFDK CTAF that I’m on the 45 for runway 5 which was fine but I heard other traffic also saying they were on the 45. I looked and looked some more and then noticed them about a thousand feet below and ahead of me. So actually we had a decent amount of space but it was another very non-graceful entrance to an airport. I just descended pretty fast to get to proper traffic pattern altitude and the landing was quite reasonable.

The taxiing around at KFDK was very disorienting. I had a diagram but wasn’t sure where to just park for a couple of minutes to orient myself so I just pulled next to a couple of other parked planes. I didn’t get out or power down I was just going to set up the instruments and ensure that all was well. I probably spent 4-5 minutes looking for a damn pen they kept on falling out of my pockets today! Totally annoying, gotta figure out better cockpit management of papers and pens and so on.  (Yes I have several knee board, they seem to get in the way more then help.) I checked the wind and it sure seems like runway 5 would be more appropriate then runway 23 but everyone coming in was coming in runway 23 so I just taxied back to use runway 23, it was either calm or just a couple of kts of wind anyway.

I take off from runway 23 at KFDK and head off to KGAI. It’s fairly close to the SFRA boundary so as soon as I get about 2300 ft I radio Potomac Approach to get my SFRA squawk code. They say standby and never get back to me. I call again and they give me a code….in the mean time I had begun to just circle an area so that I don’t cross the SFRA without a code…that would be BAD!

I get the code and fly on to KGAI no problems then about 2 or 3 miles after I cross the SFRA boundary Potomac Approach tells me that my frequency changed is approved and to keep the transponder code until I land. This is very strange! They are supposed to do that after I have Gaithersburg in sight and I didn’t tell them that yet. (I suppose something odd has to happen on every flight.) I suspect they were just busy and didn’t want to deal with us piddley little aircraft.

Continuing my tradition of odd airport approaches I was lined up pretty good with runway 14 of KGAI, but was out still around 10 miles. I figured what the hell I won’t swing around to get to the 45 of runway 14 I’ll just treat the whole trip in as a gigantic final. I’m not sure if this is a kosher thing to do, I suspect not. But I know I hear jets coming in all the time that way so seems to me it’s not awful and I don’t hear much traffic. I announce my position a few times anyway to be sure that people know there is a plane on LONG final. It was a little bit odd judging the altitude from such a long way away but I did pretty good and had a fine landing. It was a short sweet and fun final and this concludes my solo requirements for the PPL license!

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 10, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    If you can read this and you aren’t sitting in a big hole, bravo, Sandy!

    • October 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm

      Hey Bob…great to hear from ya!

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