Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lesson 31: Checkride prep

Plane: Cessna 150
Instructor: Joe
Route: 40I-I73-40I
Weather: Clear, 58 degrees, wind 110 degrees at 4 knots

Seems like forever since I was last up with Joe. Indeed, it has been over two months as I last flew with him before my first solo. Nearing the end of my training towards the Private it's important that I go up with another instructor or two as a check to ensure I am ready for the checkride.

We talked for a couple minutes before going up, discussing what I had left to do and what maneuvers I had been taught and practiced solo. To my delight, I'd done everything he brought up. While starting up and taxiing, Joe asked me some questions about weather and procedures similar to those I will be asked on the oral portion of my exam with the FAA examiner. Then we departed Stewart and headed off to the West for a rundown of many of the maneuvers on the Practical Test Standards (PTS).

First were two steep turns, one to the left and then an immediate entry into one to the right. Having admittedly not practiced them in a while, my entry into the first turn left much to be desired but I recovered and made a nice one to the right. Then I did power on and power off stalls, including while in a turn. I'd never practiced stalls while turning before but I made a smooth recovery each time.

Joe then asked if I had spun the 150 and I told him Dave didn't have me practice them in the 150 since it can mess up the gyros. Well, apparently a smooth entry and exit from a one-revolution spin doesn't do much to them so he had me spin 18J. I made two but didn't hold the elevator all the way back and maintain rudder pressure so I only got about half a revolution before exiting. Then, with some advice from Joe, I got into a third spin and made a smooth recovery after one revolution while losing only 200 feet in altitude. It's been a while since I did them in the Champ, but I do still love spins! :)

The three spins were at the purple/pink points on the GPS track

Then I descended and did some S-Turns and turns around a point. But Joe changed it up on me because he pointed out a car accident at a four-way intersection and told me to get a closer look. To get a good look, you essentially have to make a turn around a point in order to keep the plane banked enough to get a good view. As Joe said, we're usually doing ground reference maneuvers (GRMs) because we want to get a good look at something on the ground - a very good point. There were some tall radio towers in the area so I didn't make the best GRMs because I was trying to stay safely away from the obstacles. No excuses, though - I need more solo practice on these before the checkride.

Joe pulled the power on me and thus it was time to make a simulated emergency landing. Establish pitch attitude for best glide speed, carb heat on, mixture rich, throttle open, mags to both... I still need to run through that sequence faster. You want to land into the wind (from the East today) if possible and I started to set up for that but decided last-minute to aim for a field pointed due South that looked more forgiving. We got down to 100-200 feet above the ground before Joe had me bring the power back in and get out of there. You can never look out the window enough to have emergency landing spots in the back of your head just in case, and I can still do a better job with that too.

After that, on went the hood and I spent a half hour doing all sorts of things. Turns, climbs, descents, intercepting a VOR radio to fly directly to the station, and recovery from unusual attitudes. Unusual attitudes are where you put yourself in a very nose-high or nose-low turn and recover solely by reference to the instruments. I did this four times, with the last two recoveries going very well.

Having had the hood on for a half hour, Joe had me remove it and immediately told me to divert to the nearest airport. I saw Wright Brothers in front of me about 8 miles out and then looked to my left and saw Moraine (I73) about a mile off the wing. Pull out the sectional, dial in the CTAF frequency, and descend to pattern altitude. The airport's elevation is about 700 feet so a standard pattern (1,000 feet above ground level) made for 1,700 MSL. I descended from 2,500 and entered a left downwind for Runway 8 since the wind was from the East. Arrivals into Moraine are fun because a river wraps right around three sides of the field and a 15 foot tall levee sits right in the approach path. Also, in the river next to the airport is the site of the first seaplane base in the world - courtesy of the Wright Brothers. Your trivia for the day!

Joe asked for a soft field landing and while the approach was nice and stabilized, I touched down a tad firmly and did not add in enough power to keep the nose wheel off the runway for long. It was still a decent landing but I know there was plenty of room for improvement. I departed with a soft field takeoff and stayed in the pattern. Due to the airport's proximity to the city, the river, and lots of very tall radio towers, there really aren't many good landing areas should your engine quit on takeoff... just something to keep in mind. The next landing was a short field and while the touchdown was firmer than I would have liked, I had the wheels on the ground within 5 feet of the threshold line. Nice! We departed back to Stewart with a short field landing and I climbed up to 2,500 for the short flight home.

The Champ was in the pattern ahead of me so I extended the downwind slightly and set up for a short field landing since I was already on an extended downwind. Flaps down to 40 degrees and speed at 50-55 knots on final, it looked nice and stable. Then at the last minute Joe told me to land on the other side of the hump in the runway so I added power and held the plane off the ground. The wheels touched right on top of the hump, so obviously I should have put in a little more power. Otherwise it was a nice landing and we taxied back and shut her down. Joe really made a lot of good points about how the examiner likes to keep you thinking on your feet all the time and throw changes at you. It's important to be able to handle these things as a pilot, so it was great practice. I left feeling like I had done pretty well overall, learned a lot, and figured out where my deficiencies are.

I'll be up Tuesday night and will likely work on GRMs along with takeoffs and landings on a paved runway, either at Wright Brothers or Middletown. Then it's a little more checkride prep with Dave next Friday and Saturday. After that, I hope to finish up the required paperwortk and schedule my checkride for sometime the next week.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.6 hours
Solo/PIC Time: 19.3 hours
Total Time: 62.8 hours


  1. Sounds like you had a very productive flight and handled everything thrown at you. I'm impressed...I hope to get there some day. I'm also jealous of all the flying you've been doing...I've been having a hard time connecting with my instructor lately!

  2. Thanks, Paul! Just how far along in your training are you? I've had light flying months and heavy flying months. As long as you stick with it, you'll be progressing along faster than you can believe.

  3. Sound like you're almost there. Months ahead of me at any rate. Good luck with the check ride.

  4. i think you are better in certain should give yourself some more credit. sounds like you had a pretty good flight. can't wait to do some spins with you!!!