Monday, June 25, 2007

Checkrides, and Maintenance, and Goodbyes, Oh My!

7:45 am: I have tons of time to do my cross-country planning for my Stage 3 Check. I'll get started now, though, so I have plenty of time to get to the airport and get the plane looking good for the checkride!
8:30 am: Man, it's taking a lot longer than I thought just to figure out which charts to use for this flight! Why on earth did I say Hickory, NC when the Asst. Chief Flight Instructor (ACFI) asked where I wanted to go when I finished?!
9:30 am: Ok, course finally plotted, time to get the winds entered.
10:30 am: Whew, done! Just in time to get my shower.
10:30 am: Uh-oh! I forgot to do the weight and balance and performance stuff! Aagh!
11:05 am: Finally finished-- but I haven't showered or eaten!

This is how much checkride started. Fortunately, I did make it to the airport ok-- and I was clean and managed to grab a sandwich on the way out the door (thankfully, Husband bought sandwich makings the night before!). Besides somewhat confusing myself on the oral (why is it so hard to think during an exam?!), the oral went pretty well. Although, it pointed out that I have a little more review to do before I'm ready for the real thing.

Then came the flying portion. We got settled, did the run up, went through the checklists and briefings. I did a shortfield takeoff (in the middle of which I realized I hadn't started the timer/written down my time so I could time my checkpoints). As soon as we were no longer in danger of stalling, I quickly punched the timer and scribbled down the time. Thankfully, the day was so clear, we could literally see for miles and miles. This makes it much easier to find the checkpoints. After I found 2 of them, ACFI called an engine problem and had me divert to another airport. I didn't understand what he was doing at first, but asked a few questions, and then understood. I did hoodwork, steep turns, and a power on stall.

All went well (except that I forgot to announce the stall). Then he had me do slow flight. I got set up and started into the maneuver (power back to 1500 RPM, 10 degrees of flaps; hit the white arc, dump in 20 and 30 flaps; wait for 68, then add about 200 RPM and wait for the third level of stall warning horn). I'm waiting, and waiting. The airspeed is going down, and down, and down. We hit 23kts. Something's strange, but I almost have trouble putting my finger on it. Finally, I start to say-- "why isn't the horn"... and then the airplane stalls. As I recover, I continue my thought, "going off? am I doing something wrong?" ACFI responds, no-- you're fine. Your stall horn is not working. I shoot him a quick glance. What?! Not working? But how am I going to... ? Then he asks, what's bottom of your white arc? 40? Just hold it there. That's good. So I finish slow flight holding the airspeed at 40kts. Then he has me go into a power-off stall. Now that I know, I notice that there's no horn as I finally hit the stall. We do an engine out and ground reference.

And then as we go back to the airport, he tells me he wants a softfield landing. Really? Softfield? In these winds (it's 11 gusting to 15-- and usually softfield is done on good wind days). He says, just do your best. So, I set up for it... only I'm not sure how many flaps to use. Normally, with softs, you do 30 degrees. But with wind like this, I usually only do 20 degrees of flaps. I decide that I don't want to get thrown around by the wind, so we go in with 20 degrees. I line up nicely on the runway, keeping the airspeed a little on the high side. I pull the power when we're nicely over it, and then we float, and we float, and we float. I feel ridiculous, like we're going to keep floating forever. So I'm trying to wait on it. I don't want to add power-- because we'll just shoot up in the air. So I keep waiting. Then, all of a sudden, our wheels touch. What the...? With the 20 degrees of flaps, I forgot that our pitch angle would be lower... so I wasn't expecting to land so soon. Luckily, the landing was nice and soft anyway. I should have finished it off more by keeping the nosewheel up. But at least it was soft (he said that thanks to all the extra airspeed, I didn't need to add any more power). So it was a good learning experience, and not a bad landing. Just not a good softfield!

I passed! He says I'm ready for the real checkride! Yay!

After wrapping up with ACFI and going over the stuff I need to review (not too much), I headed for home. Halfway there, I realize I had forgotten all about the stall horn. So I start calling around as I know that Husband is trying to get in one last solo cross country in the morning. To my dismay, I learn that it is required for flight. To make a long story short, the horn is busted. And it's now too late to get anything done about it till Monday. Not only will Husband and I not get to fly Sunday (and we had a fun flight planned for after his solo), but now the 4 revenue flights that were scheduled won't be able to go, either. Argh.

Sunday, after verifying (in person) that it really was broken (to do this, you have to get up on a ladder and put your lips on the wing and suck air through the opening to try and get it to make a noise-- kind of like a giant kazoo), Husband and I decided to take a field trip-- by car. We went out to the College Park Airport. There's a restaurant there that overlooks the runway, sort of, and a neat aviation museum. We've been thinking of going for a while... but wanted a nice day that we weren't planning to fly (you can't easily fly there any more because it's inside the prohibited area around Washington). The Sunday brunch buffet was surprisingly good. Not great, but very good for the money. And we really enjoyed the museum. Apparently, College Park was the site of some of the first US military aviation training. We even got to "fly" a Wright Brothers plane in a simulator.

After all this fun (and a nap!), I headed out to the airport to... drumroll please... go through all the paperwork for my checkride! M had big news for me, too. I knew he had taken Saturday off-- but I didn't know that he was on an interview with an airline-- and he got the job! He leaves for training on July 9! Very exciting for him... a very cool sounding-job. But, selfishly, a little sad for me. I'll miss flying with him-- he has a great temperament for flight instruction. I just hope he'll stay in touch so I can hear about all of his adventures! I know he'll make a great airline pilot.

So-- I'm all set. My paperwork is filled out. I have all the requirements met. M gave me the phone numbers for a few examiners... and... the date is now set! I called a few, and my checkride is all scheduled for Sunday, July 1 at 9am! Now, I just have to keep my nerves in check while I keep studying! Luckily, Husband is pretty busy this week on a proposal, so hopefully, I won't him drive him crazy with my nervousness!

Speaking of Husband, while looking through the paperwork, we discovered an uh-oh. Not for me... but for Husband. It looks like his written exam expires at the end of June (Saturday!). So he either has to pass his checkride by then, or retake the written. Given his crazy schedule this week, and the fact that he still has the Stage Check and another solo to go, I don't know what he's going to choose to do. Of course, knowing him, it won't surprise me if he eeks it out and gets his license on Saturday!

Whew. That was a lot of news! Thanks for sticking with it. I'll keep you posted on the studying!

No comments: