Sunday, July 3, 2011

Some learning experiences are not so fun.

I'm in the "check ride prep" phase of flight training now. Preparing for the BIG DAY. With my CFI check ride prep involves a couple aspects. One is oral prep, where I study, then he does a mock oral test helping me focus on the specific information I need to memorize vs know where to look up. The other part is working on the maneuvers that I'll be required to demonstrate to PTS standards. This part I do on my own and, if I need help I can get help. After each practice flight I'm to call with a debrief saying if I was able to perform the maneuver to spec or not to spec. That's the plan.

Things went rather well last Sunday doing slow flight and stalls, all were to spec. So Friday my plan was to work on Short Field and Soft Field take offs and landings. After flying was time to meet up with my CFI and do a round of oral test prep.

I went down to the club, preflit the plane and headed out. Pretending I had a DPE in the right seat and making sure to stay on centerline during taxi, do all checklists and use proper phraseology at all times. The winds were calm and the sky clear. A perfect day to fly. I hadn't had calm winds in months, so I reminded myself I needed to extend my downwind further than usual.

I lined up for my first take off, took off, noise abate, turn cross wind, turn downwind, was immediately over 100 ft over pattern altitude. Busted (that would have stopped the check ride right there - out of spec). Ok... fly the plane. Extended the downwind a bit, turned base, turned final and was very high on approach. So high I finally did a go around (that was to spec anyway). Try again.. too high again, extend downwind more (figured that was part of why I was too high), turn base, turn final, too high on approach AGAIN. Damn it! Go around. (Getting good at go arounds).

"If I keep this up I'll get stuck up here," I thought.

Try again, still a bit high on downwind but better, extend downwind more. On final, high, but not as high, so I come in for landing and end up floating more than half of the runway before finally landing. I was instructed by the tower to back taxi and take off again, so I did.

This time I tried a short field take off. I did it, but I let the airspeed get too low (busted), got up quick. This time I stuck to proper pattern altitude, extended the downwind much more, turned base, turned final and finally the approach looked right. Good. Put in 20 degrees of flaps (what I normally use) and still floated down the runway further than I should. I decided I was done for the day. I was certainly not going to be doing what I intended to do.

I stayed around the club waiting for my CFI to do the oral portion. When he arrived he asked me if I was practicing go arounds.. turns out he saw my first three times in the pattern. *sigh* So, we started with a debrief of the flight. He asked me what I did wrong and helped me dissect the flying and figure out what I was doing to get the results I got. That was hard, I really didn't know what I didn't know. But I learned what I didn't know... in the end, I was high on the first 3 because 1) too high in the pattern makes you too high on final if not fixed, 2) I was turning base too early, now I know where to do that, 3) I wasn't using enough flaps to slow the plane down when I came in to land. I needed to increase the drag on the plane (slow it down) mechanically because there was no wind to do it for me. That hadn't even occurred to me. It was upsetting, but at least I learned.

We spent the rest of the time reviewing the oral test subjects, I did really well on some portions, much less well on others. I learned a lot. I was amazed at how much I forgot and blanked on, but that discussion certainly cemented some things in my brain. Overall a great learning experience and a frustrating day.

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