One of the rules of most FBOs (Fixed Base Operators) is that you need to be checked out in an airplane to make sure you can safely fly their rental aircraft. In the case of Thunderbird Aviation, where I took my training and rent my planes, is that you need to fly each type of plane you are checked out in at least once every 90 days, or you need to get checked out again. Last week I got an email saying that my currency on the Tecnam Bravo would expire on the 24th of December, so I started watching the long range weather forecasts to see when an opportunity would arise. When saturday rolled around, the weather was very cold (0°F) but calm and sunny. At 9am I rolled up to the FBO and saw they had the heater on the Bravo, which is a very good sign.
I preflighted and fired it up, taking my time in making sure I knew where all the gauges were and re-learning how to program the glass panel and GPS. I made the call to Ground control and taxied over to the run-up area to perform the pre-takeoff engine checks. As I increased the engine RPM, the cowling (engine cover) flapped up on the left side and I had to cut the power to prevent damage. I radioed ground and told them I needed to taxi back to Thunderbird to secure loose equipment. Now, the cowling on the left side isn't accessed as part of the FBO's checklist...BUT...I should have checked to make sure it was secure anyway. Seeing as how I didn't damage the aircraft, I fired up the engine again and called for permission back to the runup area, and soon I was airborne. Tower told me to make left traffic (I was staying in the pattern for full stop landings so left traffic meant to make left hand turns back to the runway) and on downwind, the plane was flying extremely crabbed (angled to the direction of flight).
I was a little worried: what was wrong with this airplane? Was the rudder damaged? There was only a gentle breeze on the ground, so I didn't immediately suspect such strong winds above, but sure enough, as I descended for landing the wind died down. The landing itself was my best in the Bravo by a long shot, a squeaker to be sure. Now, I'm getting to learn this neat little airplane's personality. The Cessna 152 and the Warrior are much different to land, because you start putting in flaps long before your final approach to landing. Because the Tecnam Bravo's safe speed for flaps is so low (70knots) I can't safely put them in until I'm on final approach.
So anyway, I'm current again in the Bravo and I hope to fly enough this winter to keep my skills from getting too rusty. I'd like to budget enough money to fly a lot more next spring, and possibly look into a flying club to cut expenses a bit.
Until next time, fly safe!