Last Friday, Dec 9 - An Up
Friday was an exciting day... my day job was starting to sort itself and I joined the team at work volunteering at 2nd Harvest Food Bank's warehouse in the Silicon Valley.. sorting oranges and filling 775 3# bags of oranges for the hungry. Another of my CFI's PPL students (another problem child like me) passed his checkride and I actually helped him a bit in the process. And, I went up and flew at night for the first time since my night cross country back in March.
I went up for the required 3 take offs and landings to a full stop 1 hour after sunset. The pattern was busy that night, it was calm and clear so many people had the same idea I did to get night current. I watched as other planes seemed to float most of the way down the runway and felt proud of myself for not having the same problem. I also re-learned how convincing those night optical illusions can be. At one point it appeared the plane I was following in the pattern was headed straight for the ground. I was literally waiting for the fireball! It turned out he was descending earlier than I expected and while I was watching him I was climbing.. the resulting change in visual angle made it appear like he was descending steeply. He wasn't. Another re-learning... if you are going 100kts you need to make a much steeper turn than you use at 75kts if you want to start and finish the turn at the same point. Or.. even better, turn earlier, or go slower. Yeah, I wasn't perfect but I was feeling pretty cocky after that flight.
Sunday, Dec 11 - A Down (aka Learning Experience)
Today I was in a different plane, a 172R instead of the 172N I've been flying for months. It was my first time flying in this particular plane as pilot (I've flown in it as passenger before). I wanted to do a short cross country flight today but the weather didn't cooperate. So I decided to do a couple times around the pattern to get used to this plane. My hubby and his friend hung out in the flight club and waited for me to finish.
I'm going to skip most of my miscues with the plane and get to the really exciting one. One bit of background, as I did the preflight on the plane I noticed the previous pilot left the plane trimmed almost all of the way nose up. The trim tab wasn't set at the "take off" position marked on the trim wheel. So I put the tab back on the take off position marked on the trim wheel. I did the normal runup and verified controls were free and correct, etc. Then it was time to take off. I got my clearance and rolled on to the runway. Full power and the plane surged forward with more enthusiasm than my usual 172N. As the plane rolled I felt the nose gear shimmy like it would if there was downward pressure on the nose wheel. I applied a bit of back pressure to correct for that and all seemed fine. 55kts came and went. 60kts and the plane wasn't taking off. I couldn't figure out why so I aborted the take off. Pulled out the power and mixture and braked carefully but aggressively. I was running out of runway so I steered for the final taxiway and piloted the plane across a grassy strip and finally came to rest on another taxiway.
I took a deep breath and notified the tower of my position. They had me talk to ground. Ground asked my intentions and I said, of course, that I was going to have to restart and go back to parking. Because of my unfamiliarity with the fuel injected engine I quickly flooded it and wasn't able to start. So ground sent over a crew to help me push the plane clear of the taxi way. Then I was told to call the tower. Uh oh. I called the tower and the controller there and his supervisor talked to me. They wanted to make sure there was no damage to the plane (there wasn't).. nothing fell off the plane on the runway or in the grass. No prop strike. No one hurt, etc. They took my contact info and told me everything was fine.
I had to call my husband to help me restart the flooded engine (embarrassing!), then I taxied it back to its parking spot. I was upset, mostly because I started to figure out what happened and there was most likely nothing wrong with that plane... it was me. I had the plane trimmed "for take off" which was probably too far nose down for the fact that there was nothing in the back of the plane. And, I didn't apply the back pressure necessary to make the plane take off. I only applied what I was used to using for my usual plane, which had a habit of dancing off the runway on its own at 55kts.
My CFI happened to show up at that time to talk with somebody at the club.. I told him what happened and what I thought caused it. He asked a couple questions and said that was the only thing he could think of. He reminded me that I'm so used to one plane I'm going to have to be careful and forceful with other planes. If it doesn't take off, make it take off he said. He said I'm going to have to get more and more used to dealing with that type of thing as I fly different planes. Then he congratulated me on a very powerful learning experience that fortunately no one and nothing was hurt for me to gain the experience.
*sigh* I don't like those types of learning experiences. I suppose the good thing is, this time I'm not scared, I'm annoyed with myself. Very annoyed. When I got home I filed an ASRS report. Hopefully someone else can learn from my mistakes. I'll go back out in that plane later this week with my husband and make that thing take off. Next time I fly well.. I don't think I'll get so cocky either, another "great learning experience" could be right around the corner.