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!