29 November 2010

More Chilly Morning Maneuvers

My minor milestone for the day:  I broke 40 hours of total time during this morning's lesson.  Having now checked off all of the FAA's "aeronautical experience" requirements in 14 CFR § 61.109 for a single-engine airplane, my mission now is to demonstrate to my flight instructor, the chief instructor, and myself that I am ready for the practical test (checkride).  I still need to take the FAA written test, too; I'm hoping to get signed off this week to take it.  It would be great to earn this certificate before New Years so that I can start 2011 working on an instrument rating...

As usual, I've gotten ahead of myself.  My instructor and I noted a litany of deficiencies in my flying today that I need to fix:
  1. Checklist usage.  Up until last week, I thought the proper way to run a checklist was robotic line-by-line execution and that performing the steps from memory for non-moving tasks like the engine start and before takeoff checklists was somehow wrong.  It is much more efficient to do the steps, then refer to the checklist to make sure nothing was missed.  I'm trying to adjust to this workflow now.  I still managed to miss the cruise checklist a couple of times (engine RPM in the green arc, elevator trim set, lean mixture appropriately).  This checklist has to be run after all of the maneuvers (stalls, slow flight, steep turns, etc.) during the examination.
  2. Preflight Briefing.  The law states that passengers must be briefed on the operation of the seatbelts, how to exit the airplane, emergency procedures, etc., just as is done by flight attendants on an airliner.  The examiner expects a passenger briefing, and I neglected to do it during today's mock test.
  3. Forward Slips.  These still haven't clicked for whatever reason.  The orientation is still awkward. I wasn't using enough aileron to effectively hold the runway centerline and I had a tendency to let the nose rise too high when doing them today.  They are fun, though: in a forward slip with full flaps, power off, the Skyhawk sinks like a brick.
  4. Clearing turns. A 360 degree clearing turn must be executed before every manuever to ensure there is no traffic in the area.  I caught myself skipping this once today, and then I did two stalls in succession without a clearing turn.  That would have busted my checkride.
  5. Short-field landings.  I hadn't done one of these in weeks.  I forgot that the approach speed was 60 KIAS on short final rather than 65 and came in fast and a little high.
  6. Soft-field takeoffs.  Though the last example of the day was good, I let the plane get too far off the runway in ground effect during my earlier attempts.
  7. Power-off Stalls.  Again, I forgot the procedure and failed to go to idle power before inducing the stall.   I held about 1500 RPM, so it wasn't quite a power-off stall.
  8. Power-on Stalls. I can't explain why I did this--I know better--but I delayed breaking the stall and let the left wing drop violently.  That was probably the closest I've even remotely been to a spin entry. 
  9. Trim for level flight.  I now religiously trim the airplane after leveling off or changing power settings. But no matter what I did today, the airplane would start climbing if I looked down at my chart for more than a second.  I need to be more precise with that elevator trim wheel.
I'm hoping the weather will cooperate this week so that I can fly the final Stage Check with my instructor--it looks like we're due for high pressure Thursday through the weekend.  If he's happy with my performance, he'll sign me off to take the end-of-course test with one of the senior instructors.  Only after I make it through that gate will I be allowed to schedule the checkride.

It was another chilly morning lesson:

KHEF 291235Z AUTO 00000KT 10SM CLR M07/M07 A3052 RMK AO1
That's -7C / 19F.  Again, I was grateful that the airplane was waiting for me in the hangar.  The air at 3000 feet was perfectly smooth, though.  And I think that is the highest altimeter setting I've used yet.

Flight time this lesson: 1.9 hrs dual
Total time to date: 41.1 hrs total, 30.9 hrs dual, 10.2 hrs PIC

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