I called my instructor at around 8:30am to make sure that I wouldn't drag him out to the airport only to cancel the flight due to weather conditions. CFIs don't get paid for their time unless a lesson transpires. Since he was going to be there anyway, I kept the lesson scheduled and would do ground work if we couldn't fly.
We reviewed checkride topics on the ground before making the go/no-go decision this afternoon. Winds at Manassas were brisk (18 knots gusting to 25):
but fortunately they were blowing nearly straight down runway 34L. An AIRMET (Airman's Meterological Information) for moderate turbulence below 12k feet covered the area. I had seen a few pilot reports (PIREPs) for moderate and severe turbulence earlier in the day at altitudes near our usual 3000 feet: moderate around BWI and a severe turbulence report near Roanoke (over 130 miles away).
After reviewing the weather again and calling the AWOS phone number to get up-to-the-minute conditions, we agreed to make the flight and took off around 1945Z. It was a little bumpy, but not nearly as bad as my night flight back from Richmond; I didn't experience any large altitude excursions as occurred during that trip.
We practiced the cross-country routine of intercepting the course line and tracking time between waypoints, only there really wasn't a course--I reused my HEF-CHO sheet from a solo flight. I didn't realize this was going to be part of the exercise ahead of time, so I hadn't recalculated a wind correction angle and ground speed. I was guessing at the crab angle, and wound up sliding over Warrenton airport. I used pilotage from there to get to Culpeper and Mitchells (abeam a tower on a hill), and then we simulated a diversion to Culpeper. I forgot to simulate opening a VFR flight plan with Flight Services (since I hadn't really filed one). I also neglected to run through the enroute climb and cruise checklists. This is easy to do because there really isn't much to do: the fuel mixture stays full-rich below 3000 feet in cruise for a C172. The checklist mistake is a checkride buster, so I won't let that happen again.
My steep turns were mostly within the FAA Practical Test Standards (PTS) , but they were not as good as I want them to be. In one of the unusual attitude recovery maneuvers, I didn't close the throttle before recovering from a dive--first time I've botched that one--but the airspeed was still well below Vno when I recovered.
The landing at Manassas was interesting with the strong, gusty headwind. I didn't use any flaps and started the approach a little high, carrying more power than usual. I pulled the power back and quickly developed a high sink rate, finding myself low in a hurry. I had to add full power for a bit, needed some coaching getting the crosswind correction dialed in with the gusts, and landed long. It wasn't pretty. The approach profile with no flaps and a strong headwind felt foreign. More practice is clearly required. Fortunately, the weather looks good tomorrow so I am planning to fly solo for more practice.