Well, I made it back at 5 pm. Maybe 5:01 or 5:02. The three balked landings at KRCZ contributed to it, of course, and my last leg was about five minutes longer than it needed to be because my VOR radial took me a little west of TTA… I didn’t realize I was slightly off-course until I finally saw Scary Tower farther to my right than I thought it should be. I was still south of the field, but I had to turn upwind at 030 for a couple of miles so I could cross midfield at 2000 feet.
I also lost a little time during my preflight, when I pushed the plane back and found a pool of oil under the nose tire. Jay and Tom came out to look at it and concluded that the oil had come from a different airplane–and I agreed with their reasoning.
Anyway, I took off at 1:48, so I was pushing it already. Opened the flight plan without any trouble this time. Hit all my checkpoints down to KRCZ and timed them, as well. I thought about requesting flight following–I tuned to Fayetteville approach and listened, but it was dead. The only thing I heard was another pilot trying to raise the controller for flight following, and he gave up. So I didn’t try myself.
So, I had trouble landing at KRCZ. The first two approaches were way high and I didn’t even consider trying to salvage them. The third one, after a longer downwind, was probably salvageable, but I wasn’t inclined to do any slips. I was committed to flying very conservatively, so I did another go-around. I extended the downwind even farther and this time I made the field on a stable approach. Landing was fine. I think part of my problem landing here was my relative unfamiliarity with 4640B. I’ve noticed that the throttle seems to want to creep up, more so than 89333 and 89433. It’s quite possible that I was high on final the first three times because my power was actually above 1500 despite my efforts to retard the throttle. I didn’t think to check to see that I was still at 1500, though.
Fueling was a pain–the ramp where we fueled last time is closed, so I had to park on the other side of the tanks and drag the hose and ground wire a good distance to the plane.
I left RCZ at 3:15, and short field takeoff was smooth and uneventful. Perhaps I was fortunate, because once I was at cruise I noticed that I was already leaned out. I don’t remember leaning out during the climb… so *maybe* I left it lean before takeoff, despite my lights, camera, action. I will pay extra attention to this step in the future.
I found the correct waypoint for turning toward MEB, and I was on top of it before I knew it. I had trouble identifying Red Springs and it felt like it took far too long to intercept the 64 radial for FAY. (Does Red Springs have three white tower-like structures in kind of a line?) I did eventually get to that radial, but I may have been farther north than I should have been, because it felt like a very quick trip inbound to FAY. (I was too focused on the VOR, locating Red Springs, and listening to ATC to remember to crosscheck my position with Avare, although I did use it on the first and last legs.) FAY ATC brought me in on a long final to Rwy 4, and the landing was stable, although I came in a little too high at the end. Because the runway is so long, I just kept a stable approach with power-to-idle and let myself overshoot my aim point by 100 feet or so. Touchdown was smooth and on the center line. I turned off at Charlie, although I could have made Delta with more aggressive braking. I was erring on the side of caution, though.
Radio comms with FAY were fine. I stayed on tower frequency while on the ground. I guess they were short-handed today, hence the radio silence above Sanford on the first leg.
I fueled and called Flight Services. The briefer noted that I was behind schedule and amended my ETA. I got my clearances, read them back, and took off for TTA at 4:24 . I missed my first two checkpoints. FAY departure kept me on frequency until I was 10 miles south of TTA. My approach was cautious and by-the-book. A lot of traffic was landing right before sunset, and I crossed the field at 2000 and did a right teardrop into the pattern. I’ve been having a lot of sloppy landings at TTA lately, but this time I did a smooth, stable landing and turned out at Alpha 3.
One thing I noticed on this trip: I’m getting a lot better at picking airports out of the landscape.
I was nervous on the first leg of this trip, but once I took off from RCZ, my only anxiety was about being behind schedule. The three Signature ramp hands at FAY took a really long time to fuel my plane. I wanted to go do it for them.
Other points: I did better maintaining a stable cruise altitude, but I struggled to hold the VOR heading on the last leg. I just need to be systematic about it instead of chasing the needle all over the place.