Monday, April 25, 2011

Been a Rough Couple of Weeks

Well folks, I've had a rough couple weeks. Flying and running honestly.

It started with three weeks ago when I thought I would have a great flight, get signed off for solo cross country and continue on my merry way to pilot-hood. Massive FAIL there (see many of my recent posts). The next day I sprain my ankle on a trail run badly. But I go to see my brother and his cool wife and their awesome little girl for a week. So I had "free time" with which to study for my FAA Pilot Pilot Airplane written test and keep my feet up and relax.

I got back from the break and tried and tried and tried to get in for a flight and every time I was there it was too windy for me to fly (beyond what I was signed off for on Solo flights), not to mention I was rather freaked out about my prior experiences so the one time I COULD have jumped in the plane and flown I delayed and ended up not flying because the winds got worse. But, in better news, I passed my Private Pilot Airplane test by missing only 1 question. So that was nice.

My next flight lesson (it was 2 weeks since my last flight) I suggested instead of doing the short cross country we should just go somewhere and practice pattern entry. I screwed up all over the place, but I didn't beat myself up too much and was able to laugh about it that night with my racing buddies.

I few solo once after that and it went OK. Just did four take offs and landings, not great, but better than I had been doing recently.

This this Saturday we went out and tried the short "cross country training" with three short hops to three different airports. Oh boy. Every time I think I've done my worst flight ever.. I seem to find a new low. For the first time, instead of a relatively quick debrief on the taxi back after landing my CFI just said, "I have a list of notes of things we need to talk about and I need your full attention." In the end I'm glad he did.

Lets see, the take off went well. It went downhill after that. I chose a cruising altitude that worked for a portion of the flight but not the whole thing... second guessing myself doesn't help anyone. Made it to the first checkpoint OK. But didn't turn over the checkpoint or keep on the heading I planned because what I was seeing just didn't "look right". So I went off on some other heading and ended up 30 degrees of course. Got us completely lost (or me lost anyway). On the good side, I got to do real-life lost procedures, triangulated using VORs and then calculated distance and time to get back to where I should be.

The list of problems was long, didn't maintain altitude, kept going up and down and up and down... wrong altitude. Not to mention relatively low clouds so couldn't fly the planned altitude and that hurt visibility. The biggest thing I did wrong was I just didn't have a big picture of the flight.. and I couldn't figure it out "on the fly". I spent weeks planning this flight and starting at google satellite images of the airports I was going to land at. So much so I knew I had no good image of my flight in my head.

I think I did good maneuvering when we finally got back into the valley.. had to go north a bit while waiting to get a word in edgewise with the ATC tower at RHV to get permission to go into their airspace. But had my worst landing ever. Or maybe it was just my worst landing that I managed all on my own... CFI didn't QUITE take the controls. But ugh.

In the end I'm glad he had a list to review and I'm glad his next student had to cancel so he had the time to review. I learned (or maybe it was re-learned) some valuable lessons. I just hope they stay learned. It seems on this flight I made all of the mistakes I should have made my first or second cross countries. Maybe I had to do these mistakes to make sure I don't make them on my solo cross countries. He said I need a breakthrough... he doesn't know the half of it.

It seems like my flying is getting worse and worse instead of better. All of it. Stuff I used to do well is falling apart. For the first time I am thinking maybe I need to walk away for a while. I don't know. Trying harder doesn't seem to be working. Tomorrow I'm going to learn short field take offs and landings. Thankfully, I think this will just be showing me how it works, I won't have to do it well necessarily. It's just important to do this before I'm signed off for cross country solo.

I know it will be 3 weeks to a month before that happens - minimum. It will be three weeks before the next opportunity to try another dual cross country. In a little more than 2 weeks the 90 day solo sign off expires. So maybe the combo of the both will give the a break.

In the mean time I have a couple things to look forward to... I'll be flying with my husband a couple times over the next two weeks. That will give me an opportunity to practice some of the things I need to re-learn and not have to fly the plane at the same time. I'm also looking forward to giving someone a copy of the Pilots Guide to California.. its a really good and useful book, equivalent to an AF/D with much more useful info. I got one as a gift from the 99s when I soloed. I got it the day before the one I ordered more than a month ago was delivered. I'm going to give it to my CFI to give to a student of his who wants to fly as much as I do. For some reason, just the thought of doing that makes me feel more hopeful that I will be able to fly too.

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