Your connection with the sky

June 7th, 2012 Review Day at Skypark

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When I looked at the syllabus for today, I wasn't quite sure what that meant, review, but I soon discovered, it meant exactly what it said, I was going to do a little of everything I had learned up to this point. I was a little nervous I suppose, as I had been thinking so much about landings for the last week that I hadn't given much thought to the other maneuvers, but today I had to repeat them all, to the best of my ability. This included full power climbs at a given speed, turning ascents, controlled turns, power on and power off stalls, emergency engine failure, flying at slow speed, flying under the hood, i.e., IFR practice, turning on a point and well, at least 3 more take offs and landings. Taxiing and take-offs feel good, flying feels good. Updrafts, downdrafts, crosswinds and turbulence no longer take me by surprise. I was able to perform most of the actual flying tasks well. Heading out south again towards the bay and leveling off at 4100 feet I made some clearing turns and then practiced several power on stalls. Since I hadn't done them in awhile, the first one wasn't all that great as I pointed the nose way too high way too fast rather than letting the plane stall in a steady climb and thus, when I dropped out of it I was really pointed nose down, straight to the ground. I didn't panic however and did just pull the plane back up, but I leveled off to fast loading the plane and almost causing a second stall. After a quick reminder and demonstration of the proper way to stall a plane, I managed to comfortably pull off a couple more correctly.

Next I flew an imaginary pattern at the same altitude bringing the plane into a power off stall at approach speed which went very well. From there I spent some time flying under the hood. This I felt very good about. While my CFI directed me to navigate in particular directions and altitudes I flew only by instruments. He had me do a 360, set me on a couple of specific headings and altitudes, all of which I feel I performed very well, and in some manner, even better than I might have flown the same maneuvers under VFR. Flying under IFR really makes you pay attention to all of the details, where you're headed, the angle of your banks, the attitude of the plane, your speed and coordination. I know it might sound odd, but I find it is very helpful in giving me a feel for the plane without the distraction of what I would normally be looking at out the windows.

The next maneuver was the emergency procedure simulating a complete loss of power. Without warning my instructor simply pulled the the throttle back too idle while at cruising speed and said…"uh oh, engine failure". I then had to jump in and run through the procedures for an emergency field landing. I managed to get through all of the first steps without a hitch, all in good time, trim out, best glide, speed back to 65, pick a best field, check power, magnetos, fuel, fuel valve, mixture, prime, radio tuned, "May Day, May Day", squawk 7700 on the transponder, then realizing the engine was not coming back, ran back through the steps for landing and fire prevention, master off, magnetos off, fuel valve off, mixture lean, seat belts on, door open all the while flying towards my field. Of course, in all honestly, I missed a few of those keys steps in retrospect, like remembering to radio in the number of passengers on board, the amount of fuel, approximate altitude and location, you know, fairly significant stuff like that. There was also some confusion on my part as to the exact expectations from my instructor as I didn't quite grasp how far he wanted me to take it, so I was simulating a pattern while staying basically at altitude rather than getting down to my field and landing the plane. In short, what started out well would probably not have ended so well if it were indeed a true emergency. By the time I got down to my intended landing spot I was way off and actually perpendicular to my intended field. I'm pretty confident about that particular procedure though, so now knowing what to expect, I think I will do much better next time.

I then practiced some turns on a point which went much better this time than the last time. While my instructor did say it was more of an egg than a circle the first couple of times around, looking back on the GPS track, it wasn't too bad and I did manage to keep the plane at speed, angle, pitch and altitude. Once down with a few laps around the tree I headed back to Skypark. I think I might have been a little over worked by that point as I had trouble concentrating on the pattern, again, it wasn't bad, but it wasn't good, not good enough to pass the check ride anyway. My deviations in altitude are still often off by as much as 300 feet and in trying to correct, my speed was in general, a general mess. I flew the pattern for several landings and go-arounds, all of which were near disasters, twice ending up one wheel in the grass and bouncing down the runway. I did have one nice touch down, but then completely botched the rollout by not keeping the stick back and under control. On the bright side, and for what it's worth, I made all of my own radio calls today.

I feel good about what I did in the sky today, but I can't help being disappointed by my landings. I'll really need to get that together if I hope to solo anytime soon.

B

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