So after many days of reschedule due to personal issues or weather, today I finally got airborne with the chief flight instructor for the pre-solo checkout. Basically this is a ride to make sure that I have fundamentals down and am safe. There were quite a few things about this ride. I would be quizzed on aircraft systems, club rules, aerodynamics… a wide range of things. I was a bit nervous but once we got started everything went fine.
Adding to my trepidation was the fact that the aircraft that I would be flying was the only 152 in the fleet that I have not flown before. Not a huge deal but definitely weighed on my mind. I pre-flighted as normal and everything checked out. Once finished, I headed in to grab our Chief.
As we walked out he said we would walk around the aircraft and go over a few things. I knew that this meant the quiz. I am pretty mechanically inclined and I geek out on these sort of things so I figured I would be fine but I studied none the less. Sure enough, he asked me about parts of my pre-flight, more specifically the engine compartment. “So, what is it that you are looking for?” I go through each step, alternator belt, general inspection of the engine for rodent nests, check the flywheel, prop, spinner. “What are you looking at the engine for?” I explain that I generally look at the push rod covers, around the head gaskets looking for anything shiny that could be a leak. He seemed pleased with the answers. He then put me through the paces on the alternator. “What would be the symptoms of an alternator failure and what would you do to try and remedy?” I’m boring you aren’t I? I’ll skip it and just say, my answers were satisfactory and we got in the plane to go fly.
I go through the startup process… this particular plane was hard to start but after 4 tries, I got it rolling. Went through the motions… taxi’d to run-up, then to Runway 3. “Go ahead and let’s do a couple of landings then we’ll head out to the practice area”. Righto! I make the pertinent radio call, position on the runway then showtime.
I had about a 6kt wind 30 degrees off to my right which translated into a slight crosswind. Not a big deal but I fought the airplane on center line. As I lifted off I had to do a bit of a crab, more so than I expected. I think I had a strong wind than I anticipated. Some bumps around the pattern made me nervous about my landing. I focused on hitting my numbers around the pattern, talking all the way through it and the landing turned out fine. I bit of a bump but not too bad. “You can either full stop or touch and go… your choice.” My choice was full stop since my normal instructor normally helps me clean up the plane for the touch and go and I have never done it myself. So I erred on the side of what I know.
As we taxi’d back, I asked for feedback and it was really good, no real constructive criticism. “You did really well, let’s just head out to the practice area”.
I make the calls, lineup, throttle up and away we go.
“Once you get all settled, let’s do some steep turns”. I get us to 3000 ft, enter cruise flight. I perform a clearing turn to the right and line up on the best visual marker in the area, the Sharon Harris Nuclear power plant. I get set stable, garbage in garbage out and then set out to tackle my nemesis maneuver. I flight the right hand steep turn with very minimal loss of altitude. I then setup for the left hand steep turn and perform it with about 20 ft of lost altitude. Not bad, maybe I am getting them figured out.
“Go ahead and give me some slow flight”. I inquire to clean or dirty and airspeed and he responds… your choice. So I inform him that I am going to do 60kts clean. He nods and I begin my setup. Carb heat on, reduce power to slow down, pitch for 60 kts. As I reach 60 kts I start to apply throttle to maintain speed and altitude. I pretty much nailed it. YAY.
“Give me a turn in slow flight”. I have the aircraft trimmed out nicely and begin a slow right hand turn 360 degrees. “Nicely done”
“Ok, go ahead and give me slow flight dirty”. I go ahead and add full flaps and prepare to push in the throttle to maintain altitude with all of the drag that I just added. The Chief inquires as to why I gave it throttle and we talk through angle of attack and the relation of speed to pitch and throttle for altitude. He seems pleased with my answers.
“Let’s do a power off stall”. I inquire to configuration and again he responds that it is my choice. Since I am already dirty, I tell him that I will do it dirty. I pull the throttle back and slowly add back pressure and as my special stall instructor taught me, once close to the stall, I pull back to make it break. As it breaks, I push in the throttle and recover. “Nicely Done” Yay!.
“Now give me a departure stall”. I clean up the airplane and get us configured for takeoff speed of 65 kts and climbing. I pull back to bleed off speed and again near the stall, pull back to the stop to get the break. As before, I add throttle and recover.
“Let’s do a departure turning stall” Same thing as before except I am in a shallow left turn. I go through the same steps and recover.
At this point he is pleased with what he is seeing and we talk about spirals and secondary stalls. He shows me some pretty gnarly secondary stalls and recovery techniques. A lot of these my regular instructor tries to avoid. It was good to go through the motions so I know what they feel like and how to recover.
“OK, let’s go ahead and head back to the airfield at around 4000 ft and we will do an engine out and we will be done” Spiral down engine out!!!! I like these.
I setup and when I got to downwind, he made the radio call and I pulled my own throttle…. that was weird but whatever. I talked through the ABCDE for engine out and set out on my spiral down over runway 3. Once I hit about 2000 ft. I decided not to circle one last time fearing that I may get too low. I sort of felt him out on the subject and he said “Do whatever you think” I erred on the side of altitude and started my down wind. As I turned base I was high so I dropped full flaps and made my turn to final. It was kind of beautiful, I was on a perfect glide ride down to the numbers, flared, floated and dropped down on the runway flat as a pancake. “Crap, I didn’t have the nose nearly as high as I needed.” He responded, “Yeah it was a little flat but you recognized your fault”
As we taxi’d back we talked over some of the maneuvers and I got a lot of positive feedback. Not a whole lot of negative, he seemed quite pleased with my ability to handle the aircraft. He even commented that if I was on my check ride today, My performance would have easily passed. Double Yay! I am not going to get a big head because I know I have a lot to learn but it was a real confidence boost today. I also got to know someone with a ton of experience and hopefully started a friendship.
I saw my normal flight instructor in passing and she didn’t even ask how it went. Just said “Make sure he signs your training card and your log book” I responded, “What if I failed?” “Oh please, get him to sign it.” I am starting to think that she knew I would do well. As she heads out to take a student for their first flight she says “I wouldn’t have sent you if I didn’t already know the outcome. Stick with me kid, and I will take you places.” I smiled and she bounded away with her new student. I really do have a good flight instructor and so far, this has been a great experience.
I just got a text from her, it reads “Time to start wearing white shirts. :)” I feel completely ready because of the great instructors that I have. Can’t wait!