I thought I had no problems with distractions. After all, I’m a highly trained and experienced pilot, and when I was a student pilot my instructor had spent a fair amount of time making me deal with distractions. But today I was taking some friends out flying, and just as we were leaving the class C airspace I noticed a bit of a strange noise – and I looked over and realized the door wasn’t latched at the top. I unlatched the bottom to try and get it re-shut, but it wasn’t possible to get it closed. I slowed the plane to 80 knots and tried to get the passenger to close the door, but he couldn’t do it. Unlike the club’s other aircraft, the Lance doesn’t have a strap you can yank on to pull the top of the door closed, so neither of us could get it properly latched.
Now you and I both know there is nothing wrong with having the door open except for the breeze and noise, and the potential for having your charts whisked out of your hand at a bad time. But I didn’t want to do a two hour scenic flight with all that noise and wind, especially not with people who’d never flown before.
Fortunately, Ledgedale Airpark was about a mile off my right wingtip. So I told Rochester departure that I’d be making a landing there, and did a 180 degree turn to enter the pattern. But I was having a terrible time in the pattern. The winds at Ledgedale down low were gusty as hell. But I can’t blame the horrible pattern I flew entirely on the gusts – my speed and glide slope control was ridiculous. I heard the stall horn a few times, I got the “Landing Gear Unsafe” light a few times before I put the gear down as I horsed the throttle around overcorrecting altitude and speed excursions. I was so low on final I had to put in full throttle so I wouldn’t touch down a dozen feet short. And then my landing was, to put not too fine a point on it, a bit firm. I must have let the door distract me. And that’s not good.
I guess it’s time to spend some time with an instructor re-learning how to deal with distractions.