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 work...it 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.
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