Friday, June 26, 2015

This Old "Thing"

"No. I, um... I can't go in this. It's, uh... It's broken..."

"No, it's not broken, it's being maintained."
- Six Days, Seven Nights

Got a call from my CFI Monday morning. You guessed it. The plane is still down. Or, well, actually, down again. Seems the new engine was installed, everything was looking good. Then they recalled the engine, something related to the cylinders. DCFS had to pull the engine and ship it back. According to him they were expecting it back at KHNB by this Thursday. 

So, we decided to meet at the airport Tuesday evening anyway and work on prepping for the oral exam portion of my checkride. Yes, it's actually that close. Just have to finish up solo, cross-country, nail down all the flight requirements. 

Well, we both had a pleasant surprise - the new engine was already back, hanging on the hoist, supported by a dolly, with seemingly everything necessary attached. This means it will only be a day or so and 34Q will be flying again. This should be the last major delay from a plane standpoint. 

We spent about 2 hours doing a mock exam & discussing my incorrect answers. There were a few things I admittedly didn't remember, but he explained them well, to the point I'm confident I'll know them when the time comes. All-in-all, from a knowledge standpoint, his general remark was, "You're ready for your checkride." I'd agree about 85-90% with that statement. I'm not doubting myself, but I do know where I need to focus my remaining study time. 

Current plan is to fly Tuesday evening, weather permitting. Absolutely no reason the plane shouldn't be ready by then. Not exactly holding my breath on that one, but I'm giving the benefit of the doubt this time. No sense holding onto any anger or frustration over past delays. 

Two Victor Uniform, clear of Two-Seven.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bring Me Solo

Seriously.  Forget the Wookie, I just want to solo.

Last week's lesson (Tuesday, 6/9) was strictly focused on landings.  With a 9-knot direct crosswind, chances of soloing were slim, but I still had hope.  However, I went into the lesson disregarding the idea of soloing, just wanting to make up for my previous lesson that proved how bad an idea it is for me to fly when I haven't slept much.

I felt rushed.  For some reason I felt rushed for most of the lesson.  Maybe it was the Piper Warrior in the pattern with me, also working on landings.  Maybe it was the pressure to get 3 good landings in, with hopes that my CFI would send me out to do 3 more on my own.  But after the 9th landing, we both agreed.  He commented that I was "right there.  I have no doubt if I got out of the airplane that you could land it safely, I'm just not seeing the consistency I need to."  I felt the same, and responded that I'm not seeing it out of myself either.  So the idea of solo was off the table for the evening.  "So we agree.  Alright, so let's just fly, and have fun landing the plane."

And I did.  Even though I went into the lesson with solo being a distant possibility rather than the goal of the evening, apparently, on some subconscious level, I was still letting it pressure me.  Once we verbalized that solo wasn't going to happen tonight, apparently that unrealized pressure was gone, and 2 greasers followed.

"Now, if you had done two or three like that before, I might have had you pull off the runway and we'd talk about it."

After shutdown and putting 34Q to bed, we debriefed, echoing what we'd discussed earlier.  Then came the discussion about the next flight.

"Ok, here's the thing.  The engine has one hour left on it."  He proceeded to tell me that the new engine had arrived, and even though they've assured him it would only take a couple days (the engine, though new, has been bought already broken-in), something will undoubtedly happen, this part, that part, need to order something, and it may end up taking a week or two.  I agreed, as this has been par for the course.  He's frustrated as well, says it's been the hardest year he's ever had to get students through to their checkride because of the delays.

"So, what I can do is check the schedule, see if anyone has it tomorrow evening.  If not, would you want to try tomorrow evening to solo, or would you rather wait?  I'll leave it up to you."

Well, naturally, based on what we'd both just witnessed from my sub-optimal performance with a subconscious distraction, I naturally responded, without hesitation, "No, absolutely not.  I don't want to put myself in that situation."  My reason was simple. The 1-hour limit, though trivial, would be on my mind, just as the rushed feeling was this flight, and I wouldn't be at my best.  Plus, if I went into the flight with solo being the actual goal, and ended up not getting there, I'd be even more disappointed and frustrated for having spent an hour of time (and money) knowing full well it wasn't the ideal situation.

Decision made.  So I suggested, since the plane may be down yet the next week, let's just get my practice knowledge test and endorsement out of the way.  Then once that's done, if the plane is ready, maybe try flying later in the week.  We agreed on Tuesday night for the practice exam.

Which brings us to last night (6/16) and my practice exam.  But, before we went upstairs to the classroom, he says,"You want to see your airplane?  The engine is off."  We walked to the maintenance hangar and there she was, engine on a dolly on the floor, nose completely gone.  Kind of sickening to see even though I know it's just a machine.  I could sense the frustration in his voice as we talked about the engine.  A couple short looks, then upstairs we went.

I finished the 60-question exam, which he assured me he had made more difficult than the actual FAA test,  in just over an hour.  There were some questions I knew I had missed, but after reviewing several sections over lunch and just prior to the exam, there was much that was fresh in my mind, and I actually answered some correctly that I felt might have been wrong when answering.  As we reviewed the answers, there were some (about half actually) that I missed just because of plain old stupid mistakes or not carefully reading the answers (which the King's course repeatedly and adamantly stresses you to do as some answers are just designed to trip you up).

All-in-all, I missed 12 of the 60, which comes out to an 80%, good enough for his endorsement, and good enough for me considering I'd only had 5.5 hours of sleep the night before (seriously, going to talk to my fam doc about finding a better solution for a sleep aid, starting to affect all areas of my life).  I'd like to have done better, and I probably would have with more sleep, which might have helped me be more careful with reading the answers, but I'll take it.  Once I get my PPL this score won't really matter.  It's not like I'm gunning for an airline job and a prospective employer will use this in deciding between me and another candidate.  The actual FAA Knowledge Test (which I will be scheduling in the next few weeks) carries more responsibility, and I'll continue studying for it, particularly the areas in which  I fell short.  But I want to know the material, not just memorize it for the test.  I need to know it, and it will help me be a safer, more confident pilot.

We ended the evening with plans to fly next Tuesday, unless the plane is still down for the engine installation.  Here's hoping for better weather next week, and no crosswinds.

Two Victor Uniform, clear of Two-Seven.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Quick Update - Crazy Week

Last week was one of those crazy ones.  It started with me only getting 4 1/2 hours of sleep Sunday night.  Sleep issues continued through the week and this past weekend.  With a flight lesson (and hopefully a solo) scheduled for last Tuesday evening, I was hoping Monday night's sleep would be better.  It might have been, but it ended up not mattering.

Monday morning (6/1) my CFI texted me he'd be out of town due to a change in his work schedule, asking if I wanted to fly that evening instead.

Fly.  On 4.5 hours of sleep.  Sure, why not?

Knowing with the ceiling being low I'd only be working on landings, I accepted the offer.

I'll just say that it wasn't one of my worst lessons, but it was far from my best.  9 kt direct crosswind, doing pattern work on runway niner.  In short, some were ok, but none were greasers.  After the lesson we debriefed as usual.  I let him know that I knew coming into this lesson I was going to be off my game, and I'd accepted the fact that all my approaches wouldn't be perfect, and my landings the same.

He assured me he didn't feel unsafe at any time during the lesson, and that I'm still ready to solo.  Regardless, I'm not sure it was the best decision to fly.   All-in-all, I did learn a personal limit:  If I've only had 4.5 hours of sleep, being PIC of a plane, although not dangerous by any means, isn't the best idea.

Next lesson scheduled for Tuesday 6/9, with plans to solo if I'm "on" this week.

Two Victor Uniform clear of the active.