This morning I went back to the flight club to try practicing PTS maneuvers again. After my previous flight I was apprehensive and not sure how things would go. I hoped I would be able to improve on Friday's performance, hoping Friday was just a "bad day", but my confidence was at a low ebb. The winds were calm again so I knew I had to face the same conditions that I didn't handle well Friday. (Funny that calm winds were harder for me to fly in than winds, but there you have it.)
Well, no point in delaying, so I went out immediately, preflit the plane and reviewed the procedures for short and soft field take offs and landings (with the hope I'd be able to do some!). I started up the plane, got my clearance and carefully taxied out to the runway. My plan this time was to do one normal pattern and then switch to what I came out to practice.
I took off and this time I nailed pattern altitude, I also extended the downwind right the first time, the approach was just above glide slope where I wanted it. I made sure to use all flaps and came in for landing, but I didn't keep the wings level so landed slightly on one main first, then the second. I was able to straighten out but I wasn't on the centerline. Well, at least I landed that time.
Try again, pattern altitude good. I was following another plane in the pattern and made sure not to fly too fast. Downwind was extended significantly as a result.. so I knew I'd need more power than usual. I felt I was low so added more power, turned final and kept the plane above glide slope. Nice stabilized approach, good. Round out for landing too high, so the plane dropped in for the landing a little hard, AND landed slightly cocked again. Argh!
As I taxied back I was feeling very frustrated. I was wondering if I should just stop and go back for retraining or something.
"I'll never get this right", I whined.
Then I got mad. I hate whining and here I was whining. The last time I whined to my CFI, he did something interesting. He said "I'm going to say something that's going to piss you off..... Maybe you just aren't cut out to be a pilot." He said. That stopped me cold, I thought about it and said, "No. I don't believe that. Not at all." So he said simply, "OK then. Just do it."
I remembered that conversation, right after that conversation I had my best crosswind landings in forever. Because I just would not let the plane do anything but be on the center line. I was mad. I got mad again.
"You think you're a pilot. Then be one! Be the pilot and just do it!" I told myself.
No more stalling. Time to do what I came here to do, practice for my check ride. Be the Pilot.
I got cleared for take off and this time I did a soft field takeoff, taxied out to the runway and took up with 10 degrees flaps and holding the nose high, no stopping. Took off around 40 knots, (the plane veered left because of the greater angle of attack than I was used to - busted) pushed the nose down in ground effect, gained speed and finally pitched for Vy, reduced flaps and turned for noise abatement. The tower had me extend my upwind for traffic.. so I did, I got up to pattern altitude, eventually turned cross wind, then came downwind and stayed AT pattern altitude. I was told I was #3 behind a Seneca and cleared for the option. I only saw one plane, the Seneca, so I verified that was the plane I was following, and it was. I extended my downwind to ensure the Seneca would have enough room. I ended up being much further than usual, so I knew I'd need more power. Came in just above glide slope, carefully controlled airspeed, used 40 degrees flaps, rounded out a little bit later, made ABSOLUTELY sure to remain on centerline and keep flying the plane right over the runway looking at the end of the runway and landed. The right way!
Finally! Just do as I've been trained and don't let the plane get off track and it works. *whew*. OK, stay mad :) I knew I'd have to use more right rudder to keep the plane properly aligned on the soft field takeoff. Got cleared for takeoff and did the soft field procedure, took off pushed the nose over to gain airspeed, used more right rudder and was much better at maintaining alignment. Almost perfect. Nailed pattern altitude, turned base at the right time, but turned final late and over shot the centerline, fortunately I had extended the downwind enough I was able to safely realign with the runway. Good stabilized approach, good airspeed, good alignment, 40 degrees flaps and landed.
"OK, see, I can do this right." I thought to myself. It was getting very hot in the cockpit (it got up to 99 degrees before I left the airport a couple hours later). I was sweating heavily and tired. So I decided to do one more to perfect the soft field take off and do another correct landing.
The tower switched me to 31L and cleared me to takeoff, so I rolled on out in proper soft field fashion (nose high, 10 degrees flaps), smoothly advanced the power, more right rudder than usual, off the ground, pitch down to gain airspeed, even more right rudder and I did a perfect soft field takeoff. AWESOME! Got up to speed, removed flaps, pitched for Vy, got to pattern altitude, was the right distance from the runway, right track, right speed. Turned base at the right time, good stabilized approach, controlled airspeed, rounded out a little bit later, was ruthless about staying on the center line, stared at the end of the runway and landed nice and smooth. That was number 5. Good enough I felt. I told the tower I was terminating and got cleared to cross 31R and go to ground.
That felt good. I actually dialed in soft field take offs. AND I got mad enough to be the pilot and just do it right. Something my CFI has told me over and over and over, you just can't let the plane do what it wants to do. If it starts to drift or if you get too high or two low you have to fix it, immediately. Don't get upset about it getting that way, just fix it. Close isn't good enough. Be the pilot. Don't just let things happen.
Boy do I have a lot to work on. But it is starting to make more and more sense every time I bump up against these issues. I'm at that fine balancing act again... that fine line between fanatical perfectionism and not being upset when things aren't right, just fix it. Sometimes I feel like I'm going round and round in circles repeating some lessons over and over. I guess that's what it takes until the behaviors and attitudes I need become ingrained in my psyche. That's what I've got to do to be a pilot. I've got to "be the pilot" to be a pilot.
I'm getting closer to my goal.