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Location: Massachusetts, United States

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Serenity now!

Today brought a nice change of pace.
After weeks of maneuvers and all sorts of emergencies in the airplane and the simulator, my instructor and I headed from Manassas to Raleigh-Durham.
Since my multi-engine private retest is scheduled for this Tuesday, we departed the ADIZ and practiced a few steep turns and power-on stalls, which went well. Minutes later I called up Potomac Approach to pick up our IFR clearance and we were on our way.
Sadly, haze masked much of the countryside around us and therefore made picture-taking a somewhat futile excercise.
To our west, however, the haze hung as a mesmerizing veil over a ridge of mountains and took on the orange tint of the declining sun. It was nice to once again taste the peaceful feeling of being aloft and I savored the tranquility and sense of well-being and complete serenity. As my eyes followed a winding river at the foot of the mountains, which appeared to be on fire because of the evening light's reflection in its calm waters, my instructor told me how much he loved flying, and I could only echo the feeling.
Half way between the Gordonsville and South Boston VORs (which reminded me of home) on the South Boston FourArrival, the radios were quiet so I asked the controller if we could go direct to ALDAN intersection, which would take us away from the headwind.
"Proceed direct Raleigh," he said.
Even better!
As we neared our destination, I briefed the ILS 5R at KRDU, which I loaded in the GPS, ran through the approach checklist and followed approach's vectors, which took us about 2 miles inside the FAF. Chopped the power to catch the glideslope and slipped down along it all the way to the runway for a nice landing.
Taxiing past the terminal where Delta, Continental, Southwest and Northwest airliners awaited or disembarked their loads of passengers was awesome and gave me a taste of what may be one day soon.
After checking the weather to keep track of bad weather coming in from the west, we decided to hop in the crew car and have a bite to eat at a pizza parlor run by an annoying gold-chain sporting character with the worst fake New York City accent in the world. I wouldn't be surprised if the kitchen there serves as a "processing" spot for the local mob. He certainly fit the mould.
A little over an hour later, bellies full of mediocre pizza and soda, we were on our way to 5R again, where a Delta Connections CRJ was preparing to take off. The Seminole lifted off easily and we cut through the still and calm night sky effortlessly all the way up to 9,000ft for an uneventful ride home.
Night flying is gorgeous and while my experience there remains limited, I look forward to more.
Shortly before 9 p.m., I finally picked out the airport beacon out of the sea of lights surrounding it and made a visual approach for 34R.
My landing sucked. After the round out I felt we were higher than it appeared (a typical night illusion) and bounced the aircraft. Not enough to ruin a great 4 hours of flying though.
Tonight was what this whole flying thing is about. What a breath of fresh air! Just what I needed before the multi-private retest Tuesday and the instrument ride probably the following week.


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