Friday, August 25, 2017

Flight: Reviewed

Plane: Cessna 172 
Instructor: Tommy
Route: 40I-I19-40I
Weather: Scattered clouds, 71 degrees, wind 070 degrees at 4 knots

At some point in the past month, I received one of those handy email currency reminders from my electronic logbook. But I've finally been flying again and I know I've made more than enough takeoffs and landings for currency purposes, so I thought it must be an error? Turns out, when you don't fly for the better part of a year, those two years between BFRs sneak up on you.

I have taken a variety of courses to earn FAA WINGS credit, so the knowledge portion of my currency is, uh, current. However, for what I hope are obvious reasons, the FAA likes pilots to go up in the air and actually prove they can still fly with a CFI. I planned to do so a week ago but I was sick (food poisoning is no fun) and had to reschedule. Tommy thankfully had enough free time this evening to fit me in, so we met after work and got to it.

A checkride's worth of maneuvers in one GPS track

The long and short of tonight's flying is that it was a much-needed and very good review. Despite my recent logbook additions, I am clearly still rusty in some areas. Overall, I am just nowhere near as smooth and fluid as I can be when I'm notching regular time in the left seat. Tommy did a great job running me through a whole bunch of maneuvers and offering important reminders and tips.

We started off with a soft field takeoff, during which I climbed out of ground effect too quickly. It feels strange to push the nose over so much after rotation to fly level along the ground (and it doesn't help that the ground quickly slopes downhill ~15 feet on Runway 8 at Stewart) but that's what you're supposed to do; we tried this again later. Next, we flew east and I successfully demonstrated steep turns, slow flight, and power-off/on stalls.

Tommy suggested going to Greene County; the winds were calm but he spotted a plane waiting to take off near the end of Runway 7 so I crossed midfield and entered the pattern. He asked for a short field landing so I used all 40 degrees of flaps and touched down within 200 feet of the numbers. It wasn't my best, though, and improved speed control and a touch less power on short final would've let me perfectly plant it. While taxiing back for takeoff, he asked me what I would do if my elevator jammed and we discussed that scenario for a few minutes...

Back in the pattern, he informed me that my elevator was now jammed (courtesy of him holding the yoke to prevent me from pushing or pulling it) and I needed to land. I explained my plan, which was to use the trim and power while flying a longer final approach to help ensure things were as stabilized as possible. I throttled back, slowly lowered the flaps as I made my way around, and hit the stop on the trim while on final. On very short final, I tested kicking in a burst of power to raise the nose and it seemed to work, so that was my plan in the flare. We crossed the numbers in a roughly level attitude at about 65 mph. Entering ground effect, I pushed in throttle for a second or so, and the extra power slightly raised the nose so the mains touched just before the nose wheel. The landing was honestly pretty smooth - yes, we planted it on the runway, but it wasn't a total carrier landing. Most importantly, I actually landed the airplane without using my elevator!

I really want to thank Tommy for the simulated elevator jam exercise. I've certainly thought about what would happen if I lost a control before but never tried to actually simulate it in flight. He said one of his old instructors did the same thing and I absolutely agree it's great practice.

After taking off again, I put on the hood and we did a little simulated instrument work. It's been way too long since I last did that so it was also great practice. Sidenote - training for my instrument rating is finally in my near-term plans. My skills are crude at best but I managed to turn to headings and climb/descend per his instructions. Then he gave me a few unusual attitudes to recover from and I successfully did so.

Before long, we were back at Stewart. Tommy pulled the power on me abeam the numbers and I made a safe simulated engine-out landing. The next time around, after doing a better job with the soft field takeoff, I attempted a soft field landing. I leveled off a tad too high and didn't add enough power to achieve a perfectly soft touchdown, but I held the nosewheel off and it was good enough to call it a day.

Currency and proficiency are more important to me than ever now that I'm responsible for our entire growing family whenever we fly. Beyond simply having a calmer work schedule that should allow more flying, I really hope to finally start training for more advanced ratings. But regardless of when that commences, tonight was a great refresher that left me legally current for the next 24 months.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.1 hours
Total Time: 378.7 hours

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