Its early Friday morning, winds are calm, and the air is crisp with bits of frost on metal surfaces throughout the airport property. It is a special day, its my first solo flight to the west most end of the state of Michigan to visit my old CFI for breakfast and coffee. I had been looking forward to exercising my privilege to go say thank you to my CFI in such a beautiful setting as Grand Haven (3GM). Pre-flight complete, engine starts, and I plug my path into the GPS and foreflight. Before I know it, I have flight following, climbing to 6,500 feet, and listening to Jonny Cash. Crossing over small lakes and farms as I depart the metro madness, I notice shallow layers of radiation fog starting to clear as the sun starts to peak further over the horizon behind me.
Now I am not sure if it is the altitude, the avgas, or the thrill of flight but hot coffee in the cockpit always tastes better. “Diamon 830BS Lansing altimeter 29.98” comes in over the comms as I watch small business jets starting to taxi out to the runway at KLAN. It was one of those days where the air felt like still water and if you were trimmed just right the airplane basically flew itself. The freedom I felt that day flying solo and confident in my abilities to successfully complete my mission was what I had been searching for during my journey toward my private pilot’s license.
Soon I would notice the Grand River and east/west bridge that connects the city of Grand Rapids. At this point traffic was racing every which way commuting to work, school or whatever that Friday morning had intended for them. I felt very grateful to be thousands of feet above all that cruising at a true airspeed of 130 knots while finishing that hot coffee that kept me perked and ready for the approach into Grand Haven. About 15 miles from Grand Haven airport, I cancelled my flight following and started monitoring the CTAF to get a picture for the traffic that day. I all I heard was the hiss of the radio sitting idle. The airport would be all mine that morning with only sound of my callouts as I prepared to enter the pattern.
There was a light wind coming out of the south and confirmed it with a visual on the windsock as entered left downwind for runway 18. The approach to 18 is beautiful, as the Grand River stretches across base to final as it makes its way out to Lake Michigan. At two thousand feet runway 18 can be a challenge to land for some airplanes in difficult conditions. Today was not that day however, the runway had twice what I needed to put the plane safely on the ground. With my instructor parked in the nonmovement area watch as I squeaked the rears, I knew I had to show him that all his work on me had paid off. Its days like this that I really get to appreciate all that general aviation has to offer. Its days like this that keep me working ever so much harder to be a better pilot and get back in the cockpit for another lap in the pattern.