24 August 2010

No Stage Check today: low ceiling

I scheduled my first stage check for this afternoon.  The stage check consists of an oral knowledge test and flight test given by a senior instructor consisting of all of the maneuvers that I've learned so far, a 3-4 hour ordeal in total.  If I pass, I'll be allowed to make solo flights into the practice area (around Warrenton and Culpeper).

I had been watching the weather all last night and this morning.  The area conditions were all marginal VFR with a scattered cloud layer at 1500 feet and a 2500 foot overcast layer above.  Some of the maneuvers, like stalls and steep turns, are usually done at 3000-4000 feet MSL, but the requirement is at least 1500 feet above ground (AGL).  The 1800 UTC forecasts showed the overcast layer increasing to 4000 feet, which would support the check flight.   I hadn't gotten any phone calls, so I took off work a little after 12pm and drove to the airport.  I like to give myself plenty of time in advance of the lesson to check the weather, file flight plans, and preflight the airplane--I'm definitely not my best in a rush and I was going to be graded on this stuff, after all.  So I wasn't too surprised that I got the phone call canceling the flight while sitting at the weather terminal in the FBO.

The instructor apologized for calling so late, and frankly I was a little bit relieved because he told me the things that he was going to be looking for during the flight test.  Situational Awareness was the number-one item, which happens to be my biggest problem in the August haze:  knowing where I am. There is no GPS in the airplanes that I fly, and I am happy about that: it is forcing me not to become dependent on GPS for navigation at this stage of my training.  You better believe that I'll be cross-checking my landmarks (powerlines, antennas) for the SFRA and Class B, D airspace boundaries with VOR/DME radial/distance fixes. Maybe I'll even tune up the ADF...

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