Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The ghost and the wind gusts.
Part 2 of my stage check arrived with a stiff wind out of the west. It was 10 knots and gusting to 20 knots, and it was a situation that was promising to make my flight portion of the stage check "interesting".
It didn't help that it was muggy and almost 90 degrees, so my climb rate was around 300fpm. My check instructor (Sammy) wanted to go to 3500 feet and I said "I don't think we have enough fuel for that". Thankfully, he laughed. He finally settled for 3000 feet (2100 feet above ground - the ground is 900 feet above sea level). We did steep turns and I held my altitude and speed pretty well, though my speed was definitely a little fast. It became obvious that my maneuvering skills had started to tarnish a bit from concentrating on landings the last four lessons.
After steep turns, we did slow flight. Sadly, Jimmy had only done this with me once or twice, and of course the check instructor wanted me to do a bunch of stuff in slow flight so the tarnish became a little more apparent. But I did what I could, and then we went to stalls. I was taught to recover the stall at the break, but Sammy wanted to show me that it's more elegant to recover at the shimmy, which I suppose might be a safer way to react to an impending stall (the airplane will start to vibrate just before it stalls). To be honest, recovering from the shimmy vs. the break is a lot faster and easier, so I had no problem with it. We also did power off stalls (a stall with the engine at idle). I made sure to keep the plane coordinated (not slipping or skidding) which is key at preventing a spin.
Once we were done with stalls, Sammy pulled my throttle out to idle and said "oops your engine just died". I went through the emergency checklist, by pitching for the best glide speed, picking a landing spot, and other things like broadcasting a mayday and setting my transponder to "7600" (emergency). I did everything right, except I chose to land with a tailwind. Now, the landing is still possible with a tailwind but it's going to be faster and require more space. Landing into the wind is always better.
Now, onto landings. I warned Sammy that my landing skills were green and not "gust tested", but he assured me that if he had to take over a landing it wouldn't really count against me due to the weather. The first landing was actually pretty good. I compensated for the gusts and crosswind, and although it wasn't a greaser, it was a good solid landing and Sammy said "that'll work!". I took off and flew the pattern again and this time I made sure to screw up the landing. We came pretty close to the edge of the runway, and Sammy urged me to steer towards the center of the runway. Anyway, we didn't even land that hard but good grief, that landing was one I hope to forget.
So, we taxi back to the school and we head downstairs for debriefing. He basically said "you did fine out there today, I see no problem letting you solo. I'll talk to your instructor."
Friday, weather permitting, I will get to solo. These are exciting times!
Oh, one more thing. A new feature of my blog is a cool GPS track of my flight. Download the .kmz file and open it in Google Earth. It will show altitude and course. Enjoy!
Google Earth Track: Stage Check