Weather: Scattered clouds, 82 degrees, wind light and variable
Two of my aunts were down in Dayton this morning helping my cousin move into her dorm at the University of Dayton. We went out to lunch in Waynesville (at the Cobblestone Cafe, which I'd never been to before, but highly recommend - great food!) before they drove home to Akron. Anyway, it's not like I'm going to pass up an opportunity to fly when I'm less than five minutes away from Stewart... so I drove down to the airport after saying goodbye to the family.
Jamie had time to tag along so we could complete the final flight activities for my WINGS phase. If you're not familiar with the FAA's WINGS program, I explained it in a post a couple years ago. For the current phase, I've had the knowledge activities completed for a while. Jamie and I crossed off most of the flight activities back in June during my checkout in the T-Craft; we just had to finish the simulated instrument work in a properly-equipped airplane.
We departed on Runway 26 and I had the hood on before we'd left the pattern. Side note - I bought a Francis Hood in anticipation of working on my instrument rating (yes, still slacking on that!) and today's the first time I tried it in the air. Thus far, I'm a fan. It does a very good job blocking everything but the panel. Not ridiculously uncomfortable, either.
I looked like this, shirt and tie aside (Stewart's not nearly that formal!)
Under the hood, we started with the basic stuff - straight and level flight, then climbs, turns, descents, and combinations of everything. I did a relatively decent job keeping up my scan and not wandering too far from where I was supposed to be - especially considering I last flew under the hood two years ago. I really liked how Jamie was explaining things and feeding me tips and reminders as I went along... it was extremely helpful.
Next up were unusual attitudes. The idea is to be able to recover if you find yourself in a bad spot, solely by reference to the instruments. I closed my eyes, put my chin on my chest, and Jamie flung the airplane all over the sky - turns, climbs, descents, floating out of my seat, pushed into my seat. Once he was satisfied I was disoriented he called out, "your airplane!" and I had to recover. There are two basic tenets - you always look at your artificial horizon / attitude indicator and if you're nose-high, immediately add full power, lower the nose, and level the wings. You simply do the reverse (retard the throttle, level the wings, and raise the nose) if you're nose-low. We did it four times, the first being quite gentle and the last starting from a roughly 60 degree left-turning nosedive. Fun, fun. All my recoveries went well, too.
I had asked him about the graveyard spiral, which has killed more than a couple pilots. The gist of it is that you lose visual reference to the horizon (in clouds, in fog, at night, etc.) and think you're level when you're actually turning. So I closed my eyes for a while and he got us into position. I could tell we were turning slightly (I could feel the sun moving across my face) but was still all screwed up. I would've bet $100 we were turning left - and would have turned right to recover. But when I opened my eyes we were in a 30+ degree bank to the right! Just another reminder why you always have to trust your instruments - the human body is not designed for flight and trusting your senses is about the most dangerous thing you can do when flying IFR.
Finally, he asked if I wanted to fly an approach - something I'd never done before (other than monitoring as a safety pilot). He pulled up the SGH VOR 33 Approach plate on his iPhone and we dialed in the SGH VOR on the Nav radio. Jamie talked me through the altitudes and explained a few important things as we got closer to the airport. When he told me to look up, sure enough, there was a runway right in front of me!
We did a short field landing at SGH and a power-off 180. On the latter, I pulled the power abeam the numbers, slowly brought in the flaps while making a continuous turn from downwind to final, eventually dumping in all 40 degrees of flaps maybe 100 feet up. We touched down just past the numbers. Had I put in full flaps about five seconds sooner, I would've nailed it perfectly. Still... it was a darn good landing!
Neither of us had checked our watches and soon realized we were due back at Stewart, so I pointed the nose straight at the airport and put in Full Rental Power™. It took 10-15 minutes to fly there from SGH and I crossed midfield to enter a left downwind for Runway 26. Full flaps on final, 50-55 knots, I drug 60338 in over the trees for a final short field landing. We were turning off abeam the end of the row of hangars so we landed in roughly 500 feet.
With that, I'm 100% good to fly for another two years. I renewed my medical last month (which is good for another 5 years) and this checks off the flight review requirement for 24 more calendar months. Not that I don't hope/expect to spend plenty of hours in training during that time period - but it's always nice to know all my I's are dotted and T's are crossed in the FAA's eyes.
Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.5 hours
Total Time: 280.6 hours