This morning my flying buddy Jordan and I decided to take a quick flight from Oakdale down to Los Banos, just ’cause. We hadn’t been flying together in a while and just decided to take a quick flight somewhere and Lost Bananas is just as good as any place. The morning started out great. It took a few tries to get the airplane started because it was pretty cold out. But finally we were airborne climbing up into the silky smooth air.
The flight down to Los Banos was uneventful and we chatted happily (for us anyway) about life’s goings on.
We finally had Los Banos in sight so made a long lazy approach and perfect landing. Good job Jordan.
We swapped seats and I taxied out to take off. I finished off all the pre-flight checks and took to the runway, rolled on power, and off we went. Then Jordan tells me his door isn’t latched.
So that’s supposed to be one of our pre-takeoff checklist items:
DOORS and WINDOWS CLOSED and LATCHED……CHECK.
Who’s fault was that? Mine.
No problem. I tell Jordan that I’ll just climb out and when we get a little higher, I’ll slow down and he can shut the door. I slow down to about 60 MPH and he still can’t shut the door.
No problem. The slipstream is going to hold the door closed anyway so we just decide to fly back to Oakdale with the door cracked.
We make a beautiful approach back to Oakdale and I call all my pattern positions, downwind, base, final using my best professional pilot voice. Except, something doesn’t feel right. I’m too close on my turn to final approach and too high.
No problem. I’ll just use all 40 degrees of flaps on the plane we were flying. Most only have 30 degrees but not this beast. I was still high when going past the first taxiway and I should be touching down at that point.
No problem. Go around.
I advanced the throttle, eased the flaps back up and tried it again. Upwind, crosswind, downwind, base, final… Exact same result.
Only this time I finally looked at the windsock. Well there’s your problem. We’ve got a fairly decent tailwind. You see, we took off to the west on runway 28. There was ZERO wind. When we got back a mere 45 minutes later the wind was coming from the east meaning I should be landing on runway 10. On cold mornings the cold dense air in the Sierra Nevada mountains just east of Oakdale starts rolling down the mountains. It blows down into the low lying Central Valley for a few hours until things heat up and the wind starts blowing the other way. And I KNOW THIS.
So I changed my pattern to land on runway 10 and made a beautiful landing, right where I meant to touch down. The moral of the story is that you’re never too old to be a rookie. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.