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Month: August 2009

Flight Test – Private Pilot

Yesterday, almost one year since my first lesson, I took my flight test.  I was pretty relaxed about the thing, but by the end of the lesson, I was sweating and wondering how it was that I passed.  The oral test went fairly well, I think, and then it was time to make a go/no-go decision.  The winds were fairly high for me (210@13 gusting 19).  Well, runway 4-22 had been closed earlier in the week, so I was thinking we should have to use runway 27 and so was the examiner, K.  I discontinued the test because I did not want to do a short or soft field landing with that much of a cross wind.  But as I was about to leave, I realized that the NOTAMS had not indicated 4-22 was closed, only 18-36.  So we continued the test.

We started off on the cross-country towards Dubuque.  K pointed out to me that my number 2 navigation radio was not working properly and I should have backed it up by the number 1 and by the GPS.  We diverted towards Fond du Lac, and then went on through simulated instrument flight, steep turns, slow flight, and power-on and power-off stalls.  K pointed out that I could actually shave 10mph off of my slow flight.  After the test, he also pointed out that I tried too hard to induce the stall by increasing the pitch instead of just setting the pitch and waiting for the speed to bleed off.  Next came a simulated engine failure, which I handled alright except for I didn’t simulate an emergency radio call and then my chosen field did not have a suitable field adjacent to it.  So a field with a backup next door and a backup on the other side would be safer, in case my glide distance was not enough or too much.

Finally, we executed an S-turn across a road, which K said I handled o.k., but only because I staggered through it, not because I anticipated the wind direction and bank angles, which was mostly true.  I tried, but just didn’t hit it right.  I think that I did fine with my ground reference maneuvers during solo flight and with T because I had more time to think about and plan the maneuver — maybe the pressure was lower — but K took me into it immediately after climbing out from the simulated engine failure and I only had one shot at it.  K said I should have that thought out in advance so I don’t have to think about it during the test.  In any case, I understood the principle of the thing and explained it when he asked.  And I’m not making excuses here, but I think my patterns were a lot better when we went back for touch-and-gos because I did anticipate the crab angles.  Now that I think of it though, I could apply that principle better by anticipating a steeper or shallower bank angle in the turns during my traffic patterns, depending on my relationship to the wind.

Short and soft-field takeoffs and landings on runway 22 went o.k., but K kept telling me, “you just completely ignore the crosswind!” and I didn’t understand what he meant because I landed on the center line (at least the second time).  Well, after those two landings, we transitioned to runway 27 for a real crosswind landing.  The crosswind component was 11, the biggest crosswind I have landed in to date.  My sideslip was pretty jerky, but the plane landed close to straight and close to the center line and then K really chewed me out and I realized why he had been saying I was ignoring the crosswind.  I had forgotten to deflect the ailerons into the wind after touchdown.

K pointed out afterward that most pilots think the approach is the critical part of the crosswind landing, but really it is the touchdown and rollout.  I do a fine job of deflecting the ailerons during taxi, so why should I forget after touchdown?  He said something that really made sense to me.  Unless there’s a dead calm, If I treat every landing like a crosswind landing, I will develop the habit of deflecting the ailerons every time.  In fact, that’s why I am so consistent with it during taxi; I do it no matter how light the wind is.  So I am going to go shoot a few on the simulator with that advice and deflect the ailerons on every landing henceforth.

Let’s go flying!

Lessons 39, ground review, and 40

My last two lessons were in preparation for the flight test. T took me through a review of all of the maneuvers that were required for the flight test and made sure that I could perform them proficiently. We did stalls — power on and off — steep turns, S-turns across a road, turns about a point, short-field and soft-field landings and takeoffs, and a little bit of simulated instrument flight. We also spent some time talking about the flight testing procedure and about what I should expect things to be like after getting my private pilot’s license.  T encouraged me that he would not have approved me for the test if he didn’t think I were capable and a safe pilot.

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