Monday, March 23, 2015

A Pilot Looks at 40

There are times in life when you set a goal, and you set out to reach said goal in a certain timeframe, with nothing in your way.  Before long you reach that goal with a major sense of accomplishment and pride.

Then there are times when you set out to reach a goal, with nothing in your way, and circumstances beyond your control suddenly force you to delay reaching the finish line.

I'm down this morning, and I just have to write it down.  That's the whole point of a blog, right?  To share what's on your mind or what you experience?

I got a text from Randy this morning.  A text I was pretty much expecting, but the contents were more than I anticipated.

34Q will be unavailable for TWO weeks, not just one, for the new paint job, flying to Mena, AR for the work to be done.  That means my earliest opportunity to fly again will be April 6.  11 months to the day since my discovery flight.

My silent goal in getting my PPL has been to get there before I turn 40.  When I set out on this journey, I had 11 1/2 months to get there, and only expected it to take 6 of those.

With this latest delay, it pretty much blows any chance I have of completing my requirements and taking my checkride before my birthday (4/30).

I realize this is trivial in the grand scheme of things, but I was still pushing, even though time was already short, and I had confidence I could still accomplish this part of the goal, even if it is secondary.  I'm not stopping, by any means.  But I'm disappointed that I won't make it before the big 4-0.  Even more so because the reasons I won't were all out of my control.  Every single delay was something that couldn't be overcome, bypassed, or worked around.

It'll be worth it in the end.  I'll get my PPL this summer.  I may not make OshKosh, partly due to financial reasons since I now won't have time to save for the trip after I finish my PPL.  But there's always next year.  

Two Victor Uniform, clear of the active.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

That Ol' Wind

No, I'm not referring to the Garth Brooks song.  I'm talking about the 14G17 (read: 14 knots, gusting 17 knots) crosswind at KHNB during my lesson last week.

Due to said wind, there was no question I wasn't going to solo that night, just work on landings, which proved to be quite a challenge.

I've faced winds like this before.  Once.  Like the previous lesson, the wind was out of the south-southwest, which meant the approach was going to be dicey due to the grove of trees just south of the threshold.  Joy.

The first couple of landings were a bit rough.  The third was so dicey we made it a full stop then pulled back to two-seven and took off again, this time Randy assisting with the landing.  We decided to land longer for the remaining landings to avoid the turbulence rolling off the trees.  This made for a much more stable approach.  The landings were better, but the rollout on the last one of the evening was far from good.  I wasn't rattled, I was just not doing it as well as I have in the past.

The highlight of the evening was actually the pre-solo written test.  We reviewed some items prior to the test that I was unlikely to know on my own or via my training, then I was given the test and left to complete it.  It was open-book, but some of the items related to the field at KHNB and would have been my responsibility to know.  Which I did.

When I completed the test, we reviewed each answer.  There were a couple answers that were wrong on the key, one being total oil capacity.  The inside cover of the C72M POH lists oil capacity as 8 quarts.  The page listing fuel and engine capacities reads "Sump: 8 quarts.  Total: 9 quarts" for the oil.   The question specifically asked for the total oil capacity, so I put 9.  They were looking for 8.  I showed Randy this second listing in the POH which he seemed to be unaware of.  My answer was counted right, though I understand the reasoning behind the 8 quart answer.  We discussed it, possibly the 9th quart is deemed unusable.  But it is still part of the total capacity, just like the 4 gallons of unusable fuel in the fuel system.

When all was said and done, I aced it.  100%.  Next week, weather permitting, we'll consider doing my first solo.  3 laps around the pattern dual, full stops on each, then come in, shut down, and discuss if we both agree we're comfortable with me flying solo.  If so, Randy will get out, I'll fire 34Q back up, and do 3 more laps with full stops after each.

To say I'm excited would be a huge understatement.  To say I'm nervous would be an even bigger one.  I believe I'm ready, Randy thinks I'm ready, the plane is ready.  If we could just get the weather on board with our plan...

Two Victor Uniform, clear of the active.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Waltz in 34Q Time

After five weeks out of the cockpit (hopefully the last such multi-week delay of the season) I finally got some time in last night.  It was good to see 34Q.  I'd actually missed the plane.  I think I may have a problem.....but I digress.  

Preflight was straightforward.  The new leading edges on the horizontal stabilizer look great, even if they are green and un-painted (she's still scheduled for a new paint job this month).  It wasn't until I was sitting in the park after my lesson, enjoying my footlong steak and cheese sub - my reward to myself for a good lesson, that I realized I had failed to visually check the fuel quantity in the left wing.  Now, I know it was full because not only did the gauge say it was, but Randy had just finished fueling the plane - it had just returned from a cross-country with another instructor and student.  This is inexcusable for me.  You still check the fuel, regardless who tells you they just filled it.  I've even been pop-quizzed on this in the past.  I've never forgotten to check the fuel.  Can't let it happen again.

Once in the plane, went over the usual checklist items, passenger briefing, etc.  Randy says "Ah, man, there's bugs on the windshield."  My reply was apparently what he was hoping for.  "That'll be good for practicing steep turns..."  Which we did.  

Slow flight, steep turns, and stalls.  Power off AND power on.  This was the first time doing power-on stalls since the time I lost my groove for them.  I got it back apparently.  We only did two and I recovered well from both, though I've regressed into the nasty habit of applying aileron during recovery.  Have, have, HAVE to break that habit.  

Back to the airport to work on landings.  I bounced on the first one, and Randy let me.  Didn't touch the controls at all.  Made mental notes of what I did wrong and did the next two without repeating those mistakes.  

Just after turning downwind on what was to be a full-stop for the evening, Randy pulled the power.  "You've just lost your engine."  This time, I momentarily froze.  I knew I needed to land as soon as possible, but I'm downwind, headed for the threshold in a hurry.  Randy took the plane and proceeded to demonstrate how to handle the situation, bringing us down with an aggressive slip for a landing on runway niner.  It was a great learning, and I was glad for the change of pace.  It's been a little while since I learned something new while in the cockpit.  

We landed very, very long, past midfield, and although had it been a real emergency we could have burned up the brakes getting it stopped , at his call I added full power and proceeded with a touch and go.  Climbed to 1500 (per his instruction) then teardropped back to land on Two-Seven.  We were way, way high.  With a little help from Randy getting it back down, made a decent landing but then fish-tailed, enough to squall the tires.  I'm still beating myself up for over-correcting so much, but overall pleased with the rest of the landing.  We taxied back, shut the plane down, I stepped out of the plane and unloaded my flight bag, headset, and cushion.  "There's nothing wrong with YOUR depth perception" Randy remarked as he walked toward the hangar.  I casually replied, "You know, I've been saying that for years..."  

During debrief Randy again commended me on not seeming to miss a beat despite having been out of the plane for five weeks.  I owe that completely to Prepar3d and X-Plane.  First order of discussion was actually the pre-solo written test.  After talking through the requirements and what is expected, we've scheduled it for next Monday at 6 pm, rain or shine.  Randy said more than likely, if he's still as pleased with my flying the next time I go up, I'll likely solo that same evening.  The word excited doesn't even begin to cover it.  

We briefly talked about how quickly things will progress following my solo.  Also talked about how I've been practicing in the simulator.  He remarked, "And your radio sounds so professional."  I told him about the Pilot Edge online ATC service, to which I've been subscribing since last October.  He was unaware of the service and said it sounds like it would be a great asset to pilots.  Then he again mentioned how blown away he was at how well this flight went.  "This just doesn't normally happen.  You flew that plane like you've been flying your whole life."  I didn't really have a response for that remark.  I feel like it's coming naturally to me.  All I can say is, in my soul, at least one thing I know is that God put me on this Earth to fly airplanes.  Whether I do it professionally, well, we'll see where the journey goes, one flight at a time.  

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go bury my head in the C172 POH and the airport directory, making sure I'm up on the info I'll need for next week's test.  It's open-book, but I'd rather know the information going in.

Two Victor Uniform, clear of the active.  

88 Landings
Landings - Touch and Go:67
Simulated Instrument:1.3
Total Time:24.4

Monday, March 2, 2015

Plan C....As In Continue

Had a phone call this last hour from Randy, who had just spoken with Wayne (FAA Ops), who I also spoke with later.  Their recommendation, and I agree 100%, is for me to call CAMI and get an extension on my medical flight test authorization, then continue my PPL training. 

As it stands now, I can train right up until the moment I am ready to take my PPL checkride.  This means I can fly solo, train for cross-country, do my solo cross-country flights, and prepare for the checkride.  At the point I am ready for my checkride, I also have the option to take both tests in combination (I think I may have mentioned that option being offered to me in one of my early blog posts last fall), with Wayne being the one administering the test.  

This seems to make the most sense to me.  By that time I will be more confident and comfortable in the plane, and the medical portion will be a second thought to me.  In a nutshell, by passing the checkride I will automatically satisfy the conditions of the medical flight test, thereby eliminating the need to take both tests separately.  

Wayne was apologetic for things not panning out this time around, but honestly, I'm over it.  As long as we have a plan, and I can continue flying toward my PPL requirements, I'm good to go.  

Next lesson is scheduled for Wednesday night at 18:30 local.  That is, of course, if the weather permits.  Another winter weather system is expected to hit Wednesday, so we'll see.  

Two Victor Uniform, clear of the active