Today I decided to do a quick local VFR flight, which ended up being much shorter than I planned…
Following my pre-flight of the C172, I already had that feeling that I may be forgetting something although I always go line by line on the checklist. Before hopping in I did one more walk around just to satisfy that forgetful feeling. After starting up and checking the ATIS, the wind seemed to be extremely manageable at a 10kt headwind.
Ground Control then taxies me to Runway 04 which I’ve never used so it’s uncomfortable, but I’m familiar with the field so I’m up to a new challenge. The controller seems to be a little confused as to which runway to use because the wind is now variable between 190 degrees (which is a lot). As I’m taxiing out, the ground controller is updating me on the rapidly changing wind, which could’ve been another red flag. As I’m doing my run up I notice about 7-8 coyotes to the east and west of the runway, which eventually cross and disappear into the tree line. After a few minutes I’m cleared for takeoff… as I gain speed, another dashes across the runway and I abort takeoff, request a back taxi and line up and wait.
The second attempt was “animal free”. Immediately after getting airborne the controller asks me to change to Runway 17 since there was a massive wind shift again. He asks me to make a left turn to report a straight in for Runway 17… as you can see from the picture, my brain automatically registered 35. At the time, a left turn just led me to instinctively adjust for a left downwind to 35. Quickly realizing my mistake as I level off at pattern altitude and begin cross checking everything, I embarrassingly request a 180 in the downwind for right traffic to 17. With traffic entering the left downwind this really made me stop and think… being 100% focused on what was happening then and now could’ve prevented it.
It was important for me to share this experience with you, as embarrassing as it may be, to say this: Always trust your gut. It’s okay to cancel. Some flights just aren’t meant to happen. With a “hair raising thought” during pre-flight, an odd runway, coyotes on the runway, and a nearly unmanageable shifting wind, it would’ve been better to just cancel. Focused on work, the messages waiting for me at home, studying, etc, I wasn’t 100% engaged and mistook simple instructions that could’ve hurt myself or others.
Aviation is all about learning. Please learn from this and feel free to share any of your “uh oh” moments below. Thanks for listening!