Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Flight 11 - It was touch and go for a bit

No, really, it was. 

Despite some menacing storms and winds to the west that were headed this way most of the afternoon, I was able to get another 1.1 in the logbook. The storms dissipated or went north/south of us, and by the time we put 34Q in the hangar, the sky was mostly clear to the west with a few clouds that ended up creating a beautiful sunset. 

The order of the evening was practicing landings, with the expectations set that we might have to cut it short if the weather moved in. Winds were out of the Southwest (left front quartering crosswind on RWY 27) at around 6 kts, which was just about right if you ask me. 

All-in-all, I did 9 landings. Just a little assistance from my instructor on the first (got a little squirrely after I put full throttle back in, fishtailed a few times), but the other 8, he was completely hands (and feet) off. Anyone who knows me will tell you I do NOT like to toot my own horn, but I will tonight. He was so pleased by the third touch-and-go he was actually clapping on the climbout. 

One landing, I porpoised just a bit, and he was about to step in, but didn't. I actually goosed the throttle a bit on the way back down to flare then brought it immediately back, to minimize the vertical speed of the porpoise effect. He was talking me through what I was doing wrong, "No don't put more power in. You need to..." stopped mid sentence, watched me land, and said, "Whoah, that was a good landing though." On climbout, almost sounding intentionally bewildered, he said, "Man, that turned out to be a great landing. How the heck did that happen," he chuckled. I realized he was more wanting me to explain what I did rather than actually being unsure how I salvaged the approach into a good landing. 

The last three landings, I was challenged with "I'm not here. I'm not even in the cockpit." For all intents and purposes, he wasn't. In addition to being hands-off as he had been, he was totally silent for most of the remainder of the lesson.

It's weird. He told me 2 flights ago "Don't ask me why, but the next time we do this, It'll click, you'll get it. I don't understand why, but it always happens that way." 

I don't count last week's landing into that equation due to the emergency, so I apply that to tonight's lesson and say, well, he was right. It just clicked. 

Obligatory Skyhawk Selfie:

Oh, and that alternator failure from last week? Turned out to only be a loose wire. 34Q was back in the air the next day. 

G'night friends. 

Two Victor Uniform is clear of the active.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Flight 10 - The IFR conditions are simulated, but the failures are real

Flight 10 started as a pretty typical lesson. Preflight, runup, takeoff were uneventful, considering the 9-kt right quartering crosswind. 

Out to the practice area, about 15-20 miles out, and on with 'the hood.' I'd done this before, but only for about 20 minutes. Plan was to get around a full hour in. We came in just shy at 0.8, leveled out at 3500, then descended to 2500 (still under the hood) and headed for the airport via GPS. 

About 5 miles from the runway, my instructor and I hear a strange 'noise' through our headsets. Our mutual reaction was "Huh. That was weird - what the heck was that?" On to the approach. I called out over the radio my 45-degree entry to left downwind for runway two-seven. About 3/4 the length of the runway, I hear my instructor say "Oh , we lost our radio." I look and COM1/NAV1 is completely dark. He quickly switched to COM2, immediately after which I followed my gut and put out the radio call announcing we were on left downwind in case the radio was actually gone before we entered at 45. 

He took the airplane on the base leg. I called final on the radio as we turned. About 50 ft from the runway we heard a Stationair call that he was overflying the airport at 2200. At the end of his call COM2 faded, and the entire radio stack went dark. Once we got down, we had no radio, so we quickly taxied off the runway and headed straight for the hangar. Just after shutting down, tried to start it again. The battery was completely dead. 

We believed the alternator had failed, and so far I have not heard differently. My instructor let me know that they'd had problems with it before, and it must have finally given up the ghost. I could easily be bitter about it, since they've known it was a problem in the past. However, knowing that in less than 100 hrs, the entire engine is due to be replaced, it's understandable (not excusable, but understandable).

All-in-all, it was a good flight. I'm pleasantly surprised at the fact I remained calm during the situation. I did have a few days of personal reflection as to whether this was enough to deter me, but it didn't take much thought to decide that there was no way this was going to stop or discourage me.

Monday, August 4, 2014

One Step Closer

I'm a little closer to being medically cleared for obtaining my PPL. My Class III Medical Certificate arrived today, but with the expected restrictions. Obviously I must wear my glasses while flying, and it is also limited to Student Pilot Use Only. 

Accompanying the certificate was the expected explanation that in order to remove the student pilot restriction, I am authorized to undergo a Medical Flight Test at a Flight Standards District Office of my choosing, and that my instructor could assist in choosing the appropriate location. Nothing unexpected here, and my instructor stated that he did this for another student once before, nothing major, they'll expect me to taxi, takeoff, fly around a bit, and land, making sure I don't damage any property, or the plane, in the process. 

My next flight lesson is scheduled for tomorrow, and I'm desperate to get in the air. It's been four weeks since I've been up, and I'm having major withdrawals. Weeks 1 and 2 were due to weather. Week 3 was due to my instructor getting slammed with a ton of required docs needed for his Instrument Instructor checkride. Last week, the plane was down for its 100 hr maintenance. My lesson for tomorrow is scheduled an hour earlier than usual, and this may prove to be for my benefit - starting about the time I will be doing my full stop landing, there begins a 10% chance of showers in the area.  

Little by little, it's coming together, albeit more slowly than I had hoped. Still, I've waited 39 years for this. I can be patient through these challenges. 

But for now, going to Bravo Echo Delta. 

Cessna Three Four Quebec.