29R - Nothing but blue skies...

Weather: KBJC 271854Z 09008KT 50SM FEW060 SCT120 SCT200 17/M14 A2983

Winter has presented quite a few problems when it comes to flying. Snow, clouds, frost, and worse yet, wind. In the past month and a half, I think I am about 4:1, flights scheduled to flights actually flown. Winds contribute to most flights missed, but snow on the runway has caused a few problems as well, since they don't seem to plow the runway at Boulder as often as they say the will.

But yesterday I finally got a flight scheduled and continued some work on instrument flying and getting my required hours in. I worked on intercepting radials, tracking to and from a VOR, and homing to a Non-directional beacon (NDB) using the Automatic Directional Finder (ADF).

The true excitement of the flight was the takeoff. Not the time when you want any excitement at all. On the ground, the winds were light and variable, but I knew that up higher there was going to be some turbulence because there were a significant number of pilot reports out saying so. At about 50 feet off the ground we started to get bounced around a bit and it continued throughout the climb. At about 300 feet above the ground, we hit a down draft, stopped climbing, the plane went into a 45 degree bank to the right, and even with full controls in the opposite direction, we weren't changing anything. Even though I was doing everything we could to correct it, my instructor instinctively went to the controls to try to correct and for a brief moment we both looked at each other, thinking we may have to land the plane somewhere off the end of the runway.

Fortunately the plane finally returned to level and after another 10 seconds we started to climb again. Behind us I could hear a call on the radio of another pilot, who aborted his landing, going around. The turbulence only got worse during the rest of the climb and our attention turned to landing as soon as we could at another airport. The alternate airport of choice for our flight school was reporting worse winds than BDU on the surface, so we started north and checked the weather along the way at each airport to see what looked good. We flew up to Fort Collins/Loveland and the winds were light from the east. It looked like our best place for now. On the way up I put the foggles on and got in some instrument time. Although it was bumpy, it really wasn't all that bad.

We made a full stop at FNL and went into the FBO to call back to BDU and check the weather in the area. As before, all reported winds were light and people were making landings at BDU. We decide to head back and see what the conditions were for ourselves. Using the instruments, I flew us back to BDU and when we got there, gliders were landing and it didn't sound like there was going to be any issue. The runway had changed from 8 to 26 and we flew the pattern without much wind. I decided to bring us in with 20 degrees of flaps to help with the low level winds. When we were on final, the winds were a direct 13 kts crosswind. Maximum demonstrated for the Cessna 172 I fly is 15 kts. I don't want to sound pompous, but I think I did a great job with the crosswind controls on the landing. We were lined up perfectly, came in at about 70+ kts, 20 degrees flaps, and touched down smooth just for an instant. The winds gusted at that moment and picked us off the ground. The last second winds surprised me and although we could have set it down, I didn't like the gust and how high it took us, so I pushed full throttle and went around.

With one less knot of crosswinds and 10 less degrees of flaps, I lined us up again and this time came in a little smoother. After we touched down, it was just another landing for the most part. Outside of the takeoff, the flight was really good. Just to give you an idea of the winds, there were two more runway changes in a period of about 5 minutes after we landed, but the gliders kept flying, so it never got too bad.

Checking the weather on our return, there was a temperature inversion in the Denver area, and thats what was causing the variability and all the turbulence. It was great as usual to get another flight in, and as well as good crosswind practice and lessons learned.


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