Pre pre solo work

Gene mentioned at the end of yesterday’s lesson that one, maybe two more lessons and I’d be ready for my pre-solo checkout with George, the chief CFI. I was hoping we would get enough done today to make that happen. I’m ready to solo. I’ve been taught what I need to know at this stage, and I can get the plane up and down safely. Now I just need more practice.

There was a lot of traffic today. Planes everywhere. More than I recall ever having before, but probably not really that busy compared to a busy airport. We headed straight out to the practice area for a couple steep turns (after a clearing turn or two to make sure nobody was around). I botched the first one losing a couple hundred feet. It had been a long time since I practiced these, so I lost my motor memory on them. The second one was much better, though I rolled out a little late.

On to slow flight, which is when my mind went blank. For whatever reason, I could not remember the (simple?) steps to smoothly go from cruise speed to “slow flight”, so I was fumbling all over hoping for some hints from Gene. I didn’t get them, so I had to ask and confess that I just couldn’t remember. Again, we hadn’t done this kind of thing in a long time. It turns out that he probably should’ve given me more information, as “slow flight” can mean a number of different things. What he was expecting was closer to Vmc, where I fly straight and level, flaps 20°, and almost as slowly as I can without stalling. I didn’t have any problems doing it, I just had trouble getting there from cruise.

After that, we went to a power-on stall. I remembered most of that procedure, but my recovery wasn’t as smooth as it should’ve and could’ve been. We tried another of those and it was only slightly better.

On to power-off stalls; a simulated landing leading to a stall. I again drew a blank on how to get from cruise to the landing configuration. It should not have been that hard; I’ve done it 100 times (literally) in the pattern, sort of. After fumbling through that and having to get a refresher on the steps, I managed to recover fairly well from two power-off stalls.

We climbed to about 2,500 feet and Gene pulled the power. I’m getting used to these emergencies. I remember how frustrating the first few were, but I’m getting much better at judging distance and altitude, so it’s getting easier. I picked the best of the available fields, but it wasn’t all that great. My spiral, base and final worked out pretty well, though I had to slip a little on final. It turned out that this field had a considerable dip in it; something I could not tell from above. Gene confirmed that you just can’t tell… you have to pick what looks good and go with it. It was a successful procedure and go-around, nonetheless.

In addition to the stress of having a blank mind, the wind was not nearly as calm as we expected it to be, so I was fighting with the controls frequently to keep the plane doing what I needed it to do. I didn’t feel uneasy about it (Gene said I was doing well at correcting for gusts), but it sure adds to the challenge.

After three so-so rounds in the pattern and landings, it was time to quit. Another 1.2 hours brings me to 28.8 hours total.

After what I thought was too many botched procedures, I thought to myself as I tied down the plane that I would need to fly with Gene again before scheduling with George. However, after discussing the procedures I botched and getting a chance to make some notes on them, Gene said I did fine; George wasn’t looking for perfection, so I could go ahead and schedule to fly with him. Woohoo!

I do have to take a couple written, open-book tests on some basics, including club solo rules and FARs regarding student solos, as well as some basic ground-school type stuff on the plane and procedures. With Thanksgiving coming up and other stuff happening this week, it may be another week before I can schedule with George, but solo is just around the corner.