|Rain directly over the RHV airport - returning from check ride prep.|
Friday I did what will probably be my final check ride prep flight for my instrument rating. I returned to town after a week of work and conferencing out of town and I was exhausted. The weather wasn't looking too promising with a scattering of clouds and low freezing levels. For the first time I considered cancelling a training flight for just being too tired. In the end I decided to go ahead with the flight hoping getting to fly would cheer me up and give me some much needed energy and peace.
I filed a flight plan for 3PM take off and my CFI checked the flights coming in to SJC to see if we would be likely to get off quickly. We figured if we hurried we would be able to take off before the 5 jets scheduled for SJC kept us on the ground. After doing the run-up and getting our clearance we were ready to go but we were told to taxi to the "penalty box" between runway 31L and 31R to await our clearance. Tower told us Norcal advised a 6 minute delay. Then we were told there would be another 8 minute delay. We decided to cancel IFR, depart VFR with flight following on the same squawk code, and do either practice approaches or try to pick up another clearance once we got away from SJC.
We took off and when transferred to Norcal for VFR flight following we requested an IFR clearance to TCY. The controller was very helpful and told us he could give us a clearance once we got over 3000 feet, so that's what we did. After picking up the clearance we did the full check ride run. I even got a little bit of actual flying through a couple clouds briefly. No icing happened, thankfully.
My altitudes were all over the place for most of the flight. Something I've struggled with pretty consistently. My GPS approach into TCY was OK, once I figured out I had the wrong approach chart. I didn't intercept the inbound track that well, but once on track I flew the approach to spec. Then came the missed, an old problem. I did OK on everything but the CLIMB portion. Then came the partial panel approach to SCK on the VOR. Not too bad there, except the CLIMB on the missed. After that was the ILS into LVK. The sun was shining directly into my face making it hard for me to see the instruments to fly. It was my worst ILS in a very long time. I never quite busted but it was not up to par for me. I also needed to more obviously use my checklists.
We departed LVK back towards RHV VFR and my CFI took the controls for unusual attitude recovery. I sucked at that. I kept getting the recovery backwards or in the wrong order. I was frustrated, its not like I don't know this stuff. I know how to do this, but I was even more tired by that time than I was earlier in the day. We kept doing it over and over and finally he had me watch (still under the hood) as he put the plane into unusual attitudes and then recovered swiftly.
Finally we were done and it was time to head back to land. My CFI said there was a rain shaft directly over the airport, did I want to see? Yes. I was so tired my main thought was to wonder how difficult this would make the pattern and landing. He was excited about the rain though and took the picture shown above as we approached the airport. With my CFI in an uncharacteristically chatty mood and me in an uncharacteristically uninspired mood I flew through a real rain the first time in my life as a pilot. The drops were relatively small so they didn't make too much noise but they did make it harder to see straight ahead. We flew out of the rain shaft on short final. The runway was soaked with rain and I got to do my first landing on a wet runway - very carefully. It was essentially a soft field landing with very careful application of the brakes.
We taxied clear of the runway and back to the club and my CFI was still telling me stories of flights in the rain and landing on wet runways. He has very good stories. I brought the plane to a stop and he finished a last story, then I shut down the plane. He told me to button up the plane and then we would talk about his notes from the ride. He asked me what I thought of the ride and I told him I thought it went much better than I thought it would given how long it had been since I'd done a long instrument ride and how tired I was. He thought about that for a moment and agreed that did put a different light on my "performance" that flight.
When we sat down to debrief he gave me some information to write down and think about and discussed the comments in the context of passing a check ride and staying alive in IMC. Finally he said that I am absolutely ready for the check flight, as I was two weeks ago. We both know I know what to do and how to do it. We know that I will step up when the time for the ride comes.
As he left the club I sat down, exhausted but glad I did that flight. I got my mistakes out of the way with my CFI in the right seat instead of a DPE. I had some areas to focus my thoughts on as I travel for business again for the week. When my CFI sent me the photo above, I realized how beautiful that isolated shower over the airport was. I am looking forward to seeing more rain and more clouds in the near future after I get my instrument rating in my pocket.