Friday, September 12, 2008

The Night Before

Wednesday night I went to the airport right after work as planned to go over last minute test prep prior to my Thursday lesson. I brought every book Chris had loaned me, with dozens of post-its with writing marking the pages I might want to reference. I also brought my books, a flight plan to Provincetown and the normal equpitment, such as my headset.

Chris sat me down and told me about the IACRA, a form that MUST be completed for a checkride to take place and for a pilot's license to be issued. As he filled out his portion on the computer I asked him the 10-15 questions I had come with.

Once we'd gotten the first bit of review done, Chris looked at my logbook and noticed I didn't have enough solo time yet: I needed 10 hours and I had less than 9. So he told me to go fly. I could do whatever I wanted, but had to just put some time on. So I went.

During the run-up at the end of the taxi-way I noticed the left magnito was dirty. (The magnitos keep the engine turning, and you need to check both prior to take-off. When one is dirty, the RPMs drop more than they're supposed to when performing a check - max drop should be 125 - and the engine sounds like it coughs.) I pumped the mixture as Chris demonstrated in a previous flight where we'd had that problem, and that cleared it out. I took-off on runway 36 to fly to the practice area and work on some basics, talking (out loud) my way through everything I intended to do during tomorrow's flight.

Everything went just fine, but it was getting late. I decided to head back to Oxford and requested a touch-and-go. I was cleared for the option, which means I could do whatever I wanted, but had to follow a Gulfstream in. I set up for a long final to make sure it had plenty of room, but ended up possibly giving it more than I needed to. Better safe than sorry, I figured.

As I came in I called the tower back and requested to change the touch-and-go to a full-stop, since it was getting dark. I had really wanted to practice short and soft field landings, but I was running out of time. The tower called back and - sounding a little like I was stupid - reminded me I was clear for the option. I knew I was, but I wanted to give them the heads up. As a pilot you need to let ATC's comments not effect you personally; just let them slide right off. (Actually, as I was flying to the practice area I heard the controller telling another pilot off: "Next time let me know what you intend to do before you do it. We don't just do whatever we want to around here." It was harsh, but the pilot clearly didn't didn't sound too upset.) This isn't to say ATC should be ignored; just have thick skin if they're rude.

I performed my landing and taxied back to parking before getting out to finish studying with Chris. We had already reviewed my flight plan to Provincetown and figured out that the weight and balance of the airplane wouldn't allow a flight that long with full feul, so I was going to make a stop through Groton to fill back up to 15 gallons on the way. Chris also showed me how to compute take-off and landing distances, something I had read about before, but he and I never went over.

At about 9:30 I left to go back to my house. I had to review the manuevers, remember the V_x (best speed for distance climb), V_y (best speed for time climb) and V_r (speed to pitch the nose up for take-off) and calculate the flight plans (with weather) and weight and balance. It was going to be a long night. I finally stopped working around 11:40, but didn't fall asleep until at least midnight, probably a bit after.

Thursday was the moment of truth.

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