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.