Saturday, September 15, 2012

Just call me Rusty

Friday was my first instrument training flight in almost three weeks. Three whole weeks. I think this is the first time I went three weeks without at least practicing in the simulator or with a safety pilot ... and ... it showed. The previous training flight's debrief was "Great job!". This one, not so much. Never so great when my CFI asks if I want the short list or long list. I always opt for the long list. After all, I'm there to learn so I may as well get my money's worth.

The day itself was just off in general. I had problems with details at work - scheduling meetings with people and then forgetting key people - twice! I had to fight with technology too (bizarre PDFs that showed blank sometimes and other times had data, fax machines that would only accept the first page of a fax, stuff like that). It was one of those days that I would not have gone up in the clouds by myself, just because I knew I was off. Surprisingly, I've learned to look forward to training flights on days like that, it gives me a chance to see how I will screw up and how I'll recover. What I didn't expect was the very significant effect of not having that practice for so long.

The flight wasn't terrible - if you don't count the landing that I bounced so hard my CFI offered to log two landings instead of one! (I haven't bounced a landing that hard since long before my PPL.) The flight certainly wasn't anywhere near the skill I demonstrated three weeks before. The main thing I noticed is, when I'm rusty, the tasks or activities or skills or whatever you want to call them, that I have integrated into my flying thoroughly remained strong. Basic attitude flying, even partial panel, was never in doubt. Radio com, great as always. Intercepting and maintaining a track, good. Maintaining glide slope on ILS and LPV, good. However, things that I have been struggling with, nailing the altitudes on step downs and compass turns, I struggled with again. I knew I needed to work on compass turns, to get those integrated into my flying, but I didn't practice that as I planned in the last three weeks. That, especially, showed. Good news was, by the third approach I finally caught up with the plane and got a couple feet in front of it. The third approach was by far my best. To be topped off by a spectacular bounce on landing back at the home airport... oh well :)

It is funny though... in the debrief my CFI wasn't ready to call and get my check ride scheduled. I am. I'll just have to show him that I can do it. I know that all I have to do to nail my altitudes is just DO it. And for compass turns, that is a matter of practice. I can do that in the simulator for only $30 per hour. So tomorrow that's what I'll do. For the rest of the areas I didn't do so well on, I am confident I will do better, much better on the next flight. The rust is definitely knocked off as a result of that bounce.. I'll do fine.


  1. Hi Anissa ,
    I am a student pilot and I have been a keen reader of this blog for a while now. October 2012 will mark one year.

    I have never commented all that time (I don't know why...hehehe...),however, I have finally made the decision to be commenting.

    I have read that even after three weeks on ground, your basic flying skills are still intact. This shows that you were well grounded during your PPL training. It reminds me of a saying that goes: class is permanent while form is temporary.

    A good foundation ensures that one has great competency (class) which will last for long even without regular practice. Form refers to fitness which lasts for as long as one practices.

    Thank you for the useful insights that you have been providing.

    Joseph - Nairobi, Kenya.

    1. Joseph,

      I believe you are absolutely right... this situation reminds me of other passion, running. In the last few years I have not been training hard for my marathons, sometimes not at all. However, I have been able to run marathons - my basic running skills are intact. My form (fitness) suffers due to lack of practice as is demonstrated by my much slower marathon times.

      Thank you so much for your comment! I am very happy you have found my blog useful... please keep me updated on your progress in your flight training too. Pilots are family, no matter where we live :)