Thursday, February 26, 2015

It's Go Time

Weather permitting, my medical flight test will occur on Tuesday, March 3rd, beginning at 10:30 AM EDT at KJVY in Jeffersonville, IN.

I spoke yesterday with the CFI/Ops Inspector that will be doing my test.  Here's what's on the agenda/expected of me during the flight:

  • I will be PIC, with no control input from the inspector.  (Upon hearing that I had not soloed yet, his response was, "Well, congratulations, your first solo is with me.")  
  • Once we complete preflight/taxi/takeoff from KJVY, we'll fly north.  
  • I'll be asked to pick out 1 or 2 fields as potential emergency landing locations
  • He will have me simulate 1, likely 2, engine-out forced landings over my chosen emergency landing field.
  • He will pick out various landmarks while in the air, at varying distances from the aircraft and ask me:
    1.  Can you see it?
    2.  How far away is it?
  • He will have me looking at charts, the instruments, etc, inside the plane, then back outside the plane, judging my ability to switch between near and far vision quickly.  
  • We'll fly back to the airport and I will do at least one touch and go.
  • After the touch and go, I will perform a full-stop landing, taxi back to the ramp, then taxi back to the active runway, take off, fly around the pattern once, then perform a full stop landing, taxiing back to the FBO and shutting down.  
The previous assumptions from my original AME and several CFIs I've talked to or whose posts I've read online, suggesting all I'll have to do is taxi, were incorrect at best.  I attribute this to the uniqueness of my visual deficiency in that I do have two eyes, so I do in fact have some depth perception, but it's the matter of my corrected far-sightedness and how capable I am of compensating for the limited depth perception that I need to demonstrate.  

What was once slight concern has now turned into me being, rather pointlessly, a nervous wreck at times.  I've got this.  I can do all of the above.  I know it.  Now I just have to prove it.  

Game on.

Two Victor Uniform clear of the active.   

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Last Big Hurdle (Medically Speaking)

Ok, the bad news first (not really bad, just disappointing).  For starters, I didn't get to fly this week.  34Q had new leading edges installed on the elevators.  Second, I received a call from CFI Randy this afternoon, which was to bring good news.  However, as a secondary piece of information during the call, he let me know he would be out of town next week for work, so no flying next week either.  This means that the following week it will have been 3 weeks between flights.  Again.

Normally, I'd roll with the punches and say, "Oh well, better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air, etc,", but you see, there's a reason I'm edgy for having been grounded for that long - the reason for Randy's call.  FSDO Louisville will be calling me next week to set up my medical flight test the week of 2/23.  Randy and I will fly over, I'll go up (or at least taxi around) with the AME/CFI (they have 2 on staff that are a 'combo' if you will), then I'll be approved for a 3rd-class medical with a waiver for my visual deficit, and we will fly home.

Once this is complete, I will have no medical restrictions, and I will be fully cleared to fly solo.  This is the last hurdle I have to cross before I will fully, 100% commit to seeing this through financially.  I have held off taking my FAA written knowledge test until I had this behind me.  Maybe that was a good idea, maybe not, but I couldn't see spending the money to sit the test if I wasn't going to get beyond the medical part.  So I'm in full-on study mode for the written test as of right now.  As soon as I'm medically cleared, I'm going to sit the test and get it out of the way.

According to Randy, after I solo and begin training for cross-country, the hours will rack up quickly, and I will begin completing my flight requirements at a much faster pace.  I don't want to get in a situation where I'm ready to take my oral exam & checkride but have to wait until I take my written.

I've got a lot riding on this.  For me, it basically feels like a 'mini checkride' in a sense.  If I don't demonstrate that I can taxi and fly the plane without hitting something (or, God forbid, someone) in spite of my visual deficit, it's game over for my PPL.

I know I can do this, especially after my last lesson.  I just need to get past my nerves and stop worrying that I'll do something stupid or forget something important because I'm nervous during the flight test.

Two Victor Uniform, clear of the active.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Just Do It

Tonight's flight was fairly straightforward, but 34Q had more than just door paneling replaced last week it seems.

Randy mentioned as we entered the flight school lobby that the new seats had also been installed so I'd be sitting up a little higher.  I've mentioned before, I'm not a tall man, so every inch of vertical boost counts, especially in the plane.  As I opened the left-side door I got my first look.  Gone is all of the 70's era leather that adorned the doors.  And the seats.  No more orange leather with brown and orange tweed inlays.  The only old part left in the interior is the brown plastic at the bottom of the instrument panel and the orange carpet, all soon to be gone.  Even the panel is getting replaced.  34Q is going to be one sexy looking lady when all is said and done.  Soon she'll be painted to match the King Air 300 (I'm scouring the Interwebz for pictures of this paint scheme), and not only that, she'll be getting a new N-number to closely match the 300 as well, NXXXJE I believe.

Maybe one of the last pics I get to take of her as N9634Q

On to the flight.

Since there was weather in the area, tonight was going to be a quick flight, working on landings.

METAR KHNB 042115Z AUTO 29009KT 10SM BKN065 09/00 A3006

Pretty much straight down the runway again, confirmed by the sock.  This will be a good flight.

I taxied out to Runway Two Seven, did my run-up, checked for traffic while at the hold-short line, then made my call and took off.  Right away I felt like I was on-point for this flight.  No nonsense, no distractions, just fly the plane.  And I did.

The first approach was a bit high but I corrected with a little power out.  Round-out was probably my best to date at this point, held it off, then flared and let the tires just kiss the runway.  Power in, carb heat in, flaps up.  And proceeded to do the next two identically.

After the third touch-and-go, Randy commented 'Boy you've got your mind made up tonight.  You're going to fly this airplane.'  Also said he hadn't even had to do anything the whole flight and thanked me for the airplane ride this evening.  I appreciated the compliment, but I didn't want to get a big head and get arrogant and forgetful.  But I tried so hard not to that I think I actually *lost* some confidence instead.

After landing 6 I was getting laterally unstable in my approaches.  Randy reassured me though that as you do landings back-to-back like this, the mind tends to get overwhelmed without you even realizing it.  It's apparently a normal reaction.  So to give me a break we headed Southwest and worked on turns around a point.

I felt I struggled a bit with entering the maneuver, but he assured me it was good enough to pass a checkride.  I felt I could have done better, just as I have before, but this time was different.  I felt like I had a better sense of what the plane was doing vs. what I wanted it to do, and I took charge and told it otherwise.  In fact that's how I felt about the entire flight.  No nonsense.

As we headed back to the airport, I entered downwind, turned base, and had another landing that was looking really good until I ballooned and didn't really compensate until a verbal nudge from Randy and a slight nudge from him on the yoke.  Back up after touch and go, and into the pattern.

On the downwind, just as I was looking at the runway and was abeam touchdown, before I could pull power, Randy said, "Alright, you've just lost your engine," and pulled all the power.  "What are you going to do?"  He called our simulated emergency and waited for my reply.

"Fly the airplane."  "Yes, but more importantly, fly to the airport.  Don't turn base, just fly to the airport.  Now more than ever, we've got to fly those airspeeds."  I suggested flaps, he replied, "Not until you're sure you've made the runway.  Then you add in only what you need."

I began a turn to the airport at about 15 degrees of bank so as not to bleed off too much speed and set the pitch for about 75 knots.  Once we had the airport made, he suggested some flaps, so I added 10, then 10 more as we got closer.  I pulled the pitch up for 70 knots and gradually drifted a little right until I was lined up with center, and just brought it down on a normal final approach.  The touch-down was dead-on center, right at the 1000' markers, gentle and smooth.  "Alright, let's stop with that one."  I applied the brakes, steered it onto the taxiway, and stopped just across the hold short line for my after-landing checklist and called clear of the active.

While we were putting 34Q away for the evening, we discussed my medical flight test (yes, that is still unresolved due to the many, many delays in my lessons last fall).  Randy is trying to arrange for the FSDO AME to come to KY8/Ron Lewis Field, which is about 15 minutes flight time due South, just across the river in Kentucky, for me and one other pilot to get us both medically cleared on the same day.  My authorization with FSDO to take this test expires on 3/3, and if I haven't completed the test by then, I'll have to call the office in Oklahoma City and get another authorization letter, which will take 3-4 more weeks to obtain.  At this point hoping to get it scheduled and completed in the next 1-2 weeks.  Once that is off my back, I'll have no medical restrictions on my student license and can solo, which Randy feels I'll be ready for any day now.

During the debrief, I explained that on every other flight, I think I was so laser-focused on the numbers and the technical execution that I wasn't paying attention to what the airplane was really doing and was less aware of what was going on outside.  It was as if I just decided, "I know the numbers.  I know the steps.  Fly the plane first, correct if the speeds are wrong, pay attention to what the airplane is telling you, and what it's doing, and what you see outside.  Refer to the instruments to see if they are telling you the same, then correct what needs corrected."

I felt this was by far my best flight ever in terms of confidence and control.  Randy agreed, and was so pleased that he texted me later to tell me how thrilled he was at the flight.  I really felt like I was firing on all cylinders.  Now I'm ready to do it again next week, but this time with a crosswind.  I've been spoiled the last two weeks by these 'straight down the runway' winds.  I need to hone my crosswind landing skills now.  But I'll take any weather as long as it's VFR.

Two Victor Uniform, clear of the active.

84 Landings
Landings - Touch and Go:64
Simulated Instrument:1.3
Total Time:23.2