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Private Pilot Lesson #4 – My First Bad Landing in a Cessna 152

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A new airplane, a new airport, and a new respect for the physics of flight.

The Pre-Flight

I’m switching instructors. That sounds more dramatic than it really is. I was flying with one of the co-owners of the flight school. He is a great instructor, but he also has a day job like me and I was starting to get the feeling scheduling would be an issue. He was one step ahead of me and introduced me to one of their full-time instructors, with the idea being that I would fly with CFI #1 ( the co-owner) on the weekends, and CFI #2 on weekdays. Well, after this lesson I sat down with my calendar. Remembering what a zoo FRG can be on the weekends helped me make the easy decision to only fly on weekday evenings. Since CFI #2’s scheduling was wide open then, I decided to make the switch. Also, CFI #2 scheduled us in the school’s other Cessna 152, so I got to fly a new airplane! Even though they’re basically exactly the same, it was still exciting.


In the last lesson, I LANDED A PLANE. In this lesson, I LANDED A PLANE AT A DIFFERENT AIRPORT. That may not seem like much, but it was pretty exciting. It’s nice to start getting the experience of actually going somewhere in the airplane. These things weren’t invented just to make circles in the sky, you know. OK, so it was Islip, which is 15 miles away, but it was a different airport! And a Class C at that!

Republic Airport (my base, FRG) is a Class D (Delta) airport. Islip (ISP) is a Class C (Charlie) airport. A what? A who? A huh? Who is Charlie? Well, the different types of airspace have been some of the more…interesting things to learn.


90% of it makes perfect sense, and some of it was already familiar to me, but that last 10% took some serious brain crunching. But essentially, the airspace system was set up to create more, or less, stringent requirements for areas that are more, or less, busy. So, in rural areas near the ground you can barnstorm around in your Piper Cub with no radio, scaring cows but doing no greater harm. That wouldn’t quite work near JFK, though, so the Airspace System was created.

FRG is in Class Delta airspace, with an operating control tower (from 7 AM to 11 PM). It’s probably one of the busier Class Deltas in the country, though, since it  is one of the closest general aviation airports to the NYC area, and there is plenty of corporate jet and charter traffic coming in and out. No scheduled airline service, however.

ISP is in Class Charlie airspace, which generally means an airport with a tower controller, and an approach controller, and usually scheduled airline service. At ISP you can catch a flight to Philly, Baltimore, and FOUR cities in Florida. Snowbird Central, basically. Oddly enough, though, ISP felt much less busy than FRG once we made it over there. I think they might have fewer flight schools. FRG, especially on the weekends, gets pretty crazy with student buzzing around everywhere.

The Flight

OK, so back to the flight. Once we lifted off from FRG, we had to ask the tower controller if we could switch frequencies early. The FRG Class D buts almost right up against the ISP Class C airspace, and you have to make contact with the ISP Approach controller before entering the airspace. We got in touch with the ISP Approach controller, told him we were coming in to do some touch-and-goes, and he set us up for Runway 15R (15 Right). Nice, looooooong, beautiful 15R: 5,186 feet long by 150 glorious feet wide. I slide down onto final approach and set my target. The short final and transition to landing was a little shaky, but not bad. Solid landing.


The controller asks us to make right traffic (right turns around the traffic pattern), but then clear us to land on 15 LEFT. Wait, what? OK, well I wasn’t prepared for that but not everything happens as planned, and I have to be ready for things to change, right? OK, where….is 15L. Oh hello, little fella. You’re only 75 feet wide. You don’t have the same aiming markers as 15R. Well, this should be interesting. Coming down, there’s some trees. OK, bring it on down. Dowwwwwn. Dowwwwwn. Whoops, too fast, pull up a little too hard. Bringing it back down, uhoh wind shifted, nose is turning, bank it, baaaaank it, get back on centerCLANG!!! That photo at the top of the post shows the moment where it got away from me.

My instructors swears I didn’t break anything on the airplane, and he swears he has seen worse. Much worse, he says. I still whisper an apology to the little Cessna 152. I know it wasn’t that bad, but it definitely woke me up. We head back up and knock out 5 more landings, all on the wider runway, and all pretty darn good. I don’t remember precisely how good because my, let’s call it “firm”, landing knocked my GoPro’s suction mount off the window. Whoops!


Well, I supposed learning to fly an airplane is all about learning to go with the flow. Things change: weather, air traffic control instructions, any number of things. And the point of this training is to make sure you are ready for as many possibilities and scenarios as you might encounter in your life as a pilot.

We also tried a forward slip, which is a maneuver designed to help you lose lots of altitude fast without gaining airspeed. It feels a bit like a rollercoaster. I learn to love it in some upcoming lessons I’ll post blogs for soon. But this first try showed me that I’m being too timid with the controls. I realized I was slightly afraid of the airplane, afraid that too-abrupt a control input would send us spiraling out of the sky. I told my instructor this, and requested that next time, we take her up and yank her around the sky. Just so I can get used to the sensations and what she is capable of. His response to my request was an evil grin and an eye-twinkle. Uh-oh.