Downdraft Dual


Iam a lapsed pilot who last flew 47 years ago. I’ve recently gotten back into the left seat and have picked up about 10 new hours flying with a CFI. The first few hours were intimidating, but confidence is returning every. Until, that is, a few days ago.

At 31 degrees F, it was a cold December day for my dual session in a Cessna 172, with a solid overcast at 3000 feet, winds from 280 degrees at 11 knots and gusts to 19. My CFI and I remained in the pattern to fly touch-and-goes on Runway 30.

I was coming up a little short on the first two approaches. I was thinking the wind must be stronger than reported. On the third approach, I felt like I was being pushed down; my final was coming up about 1000 feet short before I added power. After taking off and on downwind, I throttled back to 1500 rpm and watched the airspeed drop below 90 KIAS. At 85 KIAS, I applied 10 degrees of flaps and retrimmed, expecting the airplane to slow down to about 80 KIAS. Instead, it increased to 105 KIAS. The maximum flap speed is 90 KIAS, so I retracted the flaps. We extended the downwind, and I eventually was able to deploy 20 degrees of flaps, then turn base and final.

After I extended full flaps, the airspeed dropped five knots, then 10, then 15 knots, then 20. The stall warning horn goes off. All the time I am pushing the nose down, more and more. We’re down to about 400 feet agl approaching a stall while pushing the nose down. Soon, airspeed returned to 65 KIAS.

Once again around the pattern. Something is not right. I’ve had enough of this, so I told my instructor we’re cutting this flight short and the next will be a full-stop. The fifth approach and landing was very good.

I taxied back to the ramp feeling really depressed. My instructor didn’t say a word. There was no discussion. While driving home I could not stop thinking about the flight. Then it came to me…I just flew through and survived windshear.

I should have recognized the windshear on the third approach and made a full-stop landing. When I observed the airspeed rapidly increase 20 knots and then decrease 20 knots, I should have recognized the hallmark signature of windshear. My response was too timid. I should have more aggressively acted to regain the lost airspeed, even if it meant landing short on the grass. Never give up control of the aircraft, no matter what happens.

— Kenneth Clayton

Cloud Base


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