Friday, October 31, 2008

Fine Tune The Skills

What a gorgeous day outside! I put in a slip to take a half day in order to get in my flight lesson. I was up early but really wished I could have slept in, maybe tomorrow. I took care of the Maggie Mutt mean Maggie Girl, that pretty little puppy then loaded the truck. I brought along a jacket and a sweatshirt just in case. When I arrived at the airport I called AeroWays for fuel and started my pre-flight. Everything looked to be in order and the fuel sump looked fine. I had pulled 679er out so that the sun was hitting the wings square in hopes of melting away the frost. I made a quick time check and decided to give my CFII a text message to let him know there was a frost delay and that I wished I had a Darn hangar.

A typical taxi out to runway one nine via taxiway kilo for my run up provided the warmth of sunshine invading the cockpit and a chance to hear 679er's engine just lope along. I gave 679er some extra time for the oil temps to come up as I monitored traffic on both the tower frequency and ground. I thought to myself it's about time to install the oil cooler plate as the needle slowly started to climb. My run up completed I called to advise the tower and was soon climbing out of Wilmington.

A smooth flight to Brandywine, hands off, needing only to make my feet tap on the ruder a time or two for corrections. I changed to CTAF at Brandywine and copied the AWOS report. I announced a 10 mile position report and a 5 mile since there was helicopter traffic departing the area. The fling winger and I exchanged info and I made visual contact advising I was at his 10:00 low, 1,500' now turning left down wind two seven. I continued in and made one of my best landings in months, plenty of stall horn and just as soft as could be.

Brian and I had a short discussion on some goals to get to my check ride and today we were going to work on fine tuning procedures and precision flight. We were off of KOQN in short order climbing out, minding the noise abatement and pointed north. My first task was GPS runway 9 at Brandywine. I chugged and plugged to get set up and dig out my approach plate, dam I wish the Autopilot was working. I chased the needles a bit and had to make some altitude corrections to keep on course. I was inbound to Eczel followed by Cefsy then initiated my procedure turn. I tracked out bound "ok" and once turned inbound I had to make a large wind correction to get on course. The Garmin 300XL GPS would not cycle past Cefsy to the Final Approach Fix Waccy. I am not sure why but I climbed out and retracked back to the IAF Eczel. This time I flew the course and Brian said no procedure turn which made life easier. I will have to work through the Garmin manual and see why I could not get it to cycle.

After going missed I was given radar vectors for the ILS 29 approach at Chester County (KMQS). Vectors are easy, turn, burn and acknowledge. Once you receive the vector get the turn started, twist the heading bug and acknowledge ATC. I reviewed my Approach plate a second time and since Brain just stared spouting out vectors I completed my pre-landing checks and configured the aircraft. On the last vector to intercept the ILS I read back the instruction to Brian as he role played ATC. I responded, "turn right two six zero, maintain 2,500 until established on the the ILS two niner, 679er. Soon the localizer needle came alive and I was turning right to two niner three and tracking the ILS. Things looked good, so far, as I was on course and speed, waiting for the glide slope to come to me. I flipped on my marker beacon so I could hear the tones and double checked my radios so that I was set for my missed to the Modena VOR. Wait, whats this, I'm loosing altitude and tracking off course almost half scale. Brian instructs me to STOP fixating and get where I belong at altitude. Ughhh....I get the feet tap dancing and get on course along with "getting back" to the correct altitude, surely it would have beem a check ride bust. I regain control and we go missed after I got a sneak peak as a reward for who knows what, maybe not killing us (ok, a bit extreme but I'm ticked).

Out to the Modena VOR for a few laps around the hold track. I dial in 120* and off I go. Double check to make sure I retracted the flaps and now cruise at 2,500'. I take a few deep breaths, shake my head in disbelief and wonder whats happening to my pilot skills. Brian again reminds me that my procedures are spot on, it's the fixation with the heading indicator and the scan slowing to a stop that is messing with me. I hear him, I just hope I can get it right. Two laps around the hold and we're off to the GPS 27 approach at KOQN. My outbound and inbound headings were good and I was reconfigured for ninety knots and flaps prior to crossing the fix.

I tracked the GPS 27 approach fine as I made my way from the initial approach fix Dasde to Gonve (no procedure turn here, woo hooo) and now on to Celpa. From Celpa I was good to descend to 1020' and the missed approach point was Rudme only 4.5 miles away. Again I was starting to chase the needle but at least my altitude was rock solid. I was given the ok to lift the hood and get us on the ground. I was lined up pretty good and added in another notch of flaps as I slowed for my landing. Nice flare and nose up, a gentle squeaker with a long roll out. Finally on the ground and my lesson complete.

I am working on my oral test prep study time and Brian thinks a few more tune up flights and I should be ready. We are on schedule for next Saturday into Allentown for some additional ATC work and a change of scenery. I walk out to 679er and climb aboard almost feeling like the glass half empty guy. It seems I'm stuck at this plateau and need to clean it up so I can show what I can do. 679er takes me home to Wilmington making some great speed without much of any tailwind, I think she's trying to make me feel better. I have traffic at my 10:00 going my direction, almost a flight of two. It's a Cessna maybe heading to ILG but not talking to them. I am already instructed to report a 3 mile final for one nine so I continue on. 679er takes the bit and runs down the Cessna leaving it in our wake, yeah, she wants me to know all will be ok. I start to laugh and report three mile final and really have to rein it in to get slowed down. Over the fence last notch of flaps, across the numbers, stall horn, hold it off until I hear the sweetest little chirps and hardly a bump, I'm feeling better already.

I taxi into Red Eagle and secure 679er for the day, she treated me well. Who says we don't bond with our aircraft? I have that same affection for 679er as I did for my corvettes, hard to explain, maybe even harder for some to understand. No matter, I do and that's all that counts!

Log Book totals to date:
Total Flight Time 251.2
Cross Country 114.2
Instrument Approaches 66
Day landings 443
Night Landings 21

Until my next lesson.....

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