Cessna 172 Skyhawk Checkout Part 2 (finally!)

Woohoo! I’m now officially checked out in the club 172s. The weather was great. It was a little bumpy, but otherwise beautiful on the ground and in the air.

All I had left to do were soft and short field landings and some emergency procedures. We wasted no time getting in the air. After a couple laps in the pattern for a normal takeoff and landing and a short field takeoff and landing, we stopped and waited for an incoming King Air on the “wrong” runway. Actually, it was this very King Air that Aimee photographed last June. At non-towered airports, there’s no requirement that an aircraft land on a given runway, so you can legally have airplanes landing and departing on the same strip in two different directions. It’s pretty stupid to do that when there’s traffic, but it happens occasionally. Larger aircraft can save considerable time and expense in calm-air conditions by landing on the most convenient runway. We were the only ones around and the King Air pilot was extremely courteous, so we obliged by waiting a couple minutes for him to land.

After that, we headed out to the practice area for some emergency procedures. Nothing new, really. Gene pulled the power, I picked a field and direction and made my approach. The first time I should’ve done another circle before my approach, but it was too late by the time I realized it. I extended my downwind a little (it’s not good to drift too far from the field) and with a full slip and flaps we sank like an anchor. It would’ve been not only a survivable, but a plane salvaging landing.

The second time the power was pulled in a less expected location. I couldn’t quite make it to my desired field, so I chose a less desirable one. Another excellent approach and we headed back to the airport.

Gene wanted to do one more emergency procedure: simulated engine fire. He personally knew someone that probably could’ve survived an in-flight engine fire had they followed this procedure. The idea is to get on the ground fast, while trying to keep the smoke blowing away from the cabin. I remember him demonstrating this during my primary training and it was actually a lot of fun.

After announcing our intentions to the only other plane in the pattern (one of Gene’s students on his pre-solo flight with our chief flight instructor), we pulled the power at 2,500 feet over the end of the numbers on runway 21. Without hesitation, full right rudder, 45° bank left, 10° flaps, slow to 80-85 knotts, then full flaps. We proceeded to spiral down in this configuration maintaining about 80 knots. After a 180° turn we lost just over 1,000 feet. We had too much altitude to lose, but not enough to go all the way around again in this configuration. I lightened the slip a little and did another 360. We were lined up perfectly with the runway and touched down at the numbers. All of this happened pretty fast and with an idle engine. It couldn’t have gone better than that, and it was a lot of fun, though it probably wouldn’t be “fun” if I had to use it for a real fire.

Our 172s have autopilot and GPS systems that I’ll need to spend some time learning if I want to use them, but that’s not important for this checkout since I’m not yet instrument rated. I look forward to taking a few people that may not have been so comfortable in the 152.