To Shear or not to Shear

It was the first day of my advanced flight training class. The weather outside was superficially deceptive. Clear blue skies and  sunny, but with moderate turbulence and wind shear. Not the best of days to select for a flying lesson. I went to the airport guessing, I wasn’t going to be having my first lesson after all. My instructor walked in and said “Ready to go?”. Surprised I said “Still want to go ahead with the lesson, considering the weather?”

We got some feedback from other instructors. The general opinion was it was quite rough flying.  Earlier in the day there were reports of 3000 foot drops!

Left with the decision, I thought why not try it? After all I was going to have an instructor on board to assist. I was being a little reckless perhaps. But it was not just that, I wanted the experience of handling the aircraft in non-standard weather. What better time than with an experienced instructor flying with me?

And so started my flight. We took off into the setting sun. It really required quite a bit of work to keep the aircraft steady. We climbed to 3000 feet where it was definitely more stable and commenced our lesson. We could hear comments and complaints from each aircraft coming in to land about turbulence. As the lesson progressed, we could actually hear people beginning to abort landing when on final and seeking alternate airports. We checked both Paso Robles and Santa Maria and they were definitely having better conditions there.  It was all getting quite interesting.

We called in and decided to do a straight in approach to San Luis. It was fairly rough by then, and I had already handed the aircraft to the able hands of my instructor.  We had descended to about 2000ft when we called in 4 miles. Even with full power off, we were steadily climbing. It looked almost impossible to descend any further.

There was nothing we could do, so it was inevitable to abandon the approach and perform a go around. This time around we successfully descended while on the downwind leg and re-attempted the landing. My thoughts while on final were “I hope there are no downdrafts at low altitude”. Fortunately there were none and this time we managed to  descend and the air was fairly smooth below 500 feet and we made a perfect landing.

Every flight one learns something new. It was a night to remember.