More pre pre solo

With the Thanksgiving holiday and not so good weather, I didn’t get a chance to take care of the paperwork and fly with George this past week. Instead, I finished the paperwork over the break and flew again with Gene today. We spent the first hour plus going over each of the three open-book multiple guess tests. You’d think everyone would get 100% on these since they’re open book, but some of the questions required finding things that weren’t easy to find and others required understanding how to calculating things that weren’t easy to know without some help.

I did get all of them correct on the Club standard operating procedures test and the FARs test, sort of. One of them was actually wrong, but Gene didn’t think it was. We looked it up together and it turns out that it was one of those misleading questions, so you had to be careful. Class C airspace requires two-way radio communication, but not a clearance. When ATC says “standby”, it means to keep your mouth shut and wait for them to get back to you. The question was regarding the intial call to ATC before entering Class C airspace. If the response is something like “Cessna 1234, Raleigh Approach, standby”, then yes, you’re expected to wait for more info. However, one of the other answers was that you’re cleared to enter the airspace. Since ATC said your tail number in response to your call, you’ve “established two-way communications” and are therefore authorized to enter the airspace. Tricky, but very helpful to know. That was a good illustration of the difference between needing a clearance and only needing to establish two-way communications.

There was another tricky question (that I got right) on the general per-solo test. It required calculating the takeoff roll and distance required to clear a 50-foot object given a set of conditions. The Cessna Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) indicates percentage adjustments if the runway is grass instead of a dry, hard surface, and percentage adjustments for headwinds. However, it does not state which one to do first, so you could end up with two different numbers by applying the same rules in a different way. The two correct answers were each calculated using a different method, which made it very confusing. The whole point of doing that, however, was to illustrate that the POH could be interpreted in different ways and you should always add a large (50%+) margin to these numbers. It might be science, but there are many factors for which a book cannot account, and do you really want to clear those trees by only 5 feet? Another good lesson.

After that most helpful ground time, we went out in 89333 to brush up a bit since it had been a week since I’d flown. I’m not too crazy about 333, but I tried to be positive and do the best I could. We started with a single touch and go that went well, so we headed to the practice area. A steep turn or two, a couple power on and power off stalls, a simulated power-off emergency landing… all went very well with only minor things that could be improved. Since I took some time to review the procedures I wrote down last time, I didn’t have any blank mind moments. Gene complimented me on my use of flaps and forward slip during the emergency approach since we needed to lose a little more altitude than usual. We probably could’ve gone around in another circle, but even Gene wasn’t sure at the time. I’m pretty comfortable with those things now; we do them often enough, so I should be.

My final landing was fine, but nothing spectacular. We were only up for 0.8 hours, but that was enough to give me confidence that I know what I’m doing. I’m scheduled to fly with George at 11am Thursday, weather permitting as always. After that (assuming it goes well), I’ll finally get to fly solo. At 29.6 hours, it’s about time.