Mary’s Journal

Mary’s Journal of Flying Lessons

2010

Significant Events:

  • Lesson 1 – First lesson
  • Lesson 4 – Stalls
  • Lesson 8 – First Unassisted Landing
  • Lesson 18 – Progress Check
  • Lesson 24 – Solo Day
  • Lesson 34 – Night Cross-Country
  • Lesson 42 – First Solo Cross-Country
  • Lesson 50 – Solo Cross-Country to Willcox
  • Lesson 52 – One Last Trip to Benson
  • August 16th – Knowledge Test Day
  • September 16th – Check Ride Day
  • October 3rd – Flight Portion of Check Ride
  • October 10th – Full Fledged Pilot

Lesson 1 – March 27th, 8:00 AM – 11:00 AM

This was my first lesson since 2007 when I suggested that I take the Pinch Hitters course. Between finishing up with school and lack of resources, flying lessons were pretty much put in a holding pattern until now. I did get my first student certificate in March of 2008 but never got the opportunity to put it in action. I renewed my medical certificate last month, February of 2010. I think I’ll try and post the weather conditions each time I make an entry. This particular day was calm and sunny. As usual I had the butterflies in my stomach on the way to the airport and walking out to the plane. I believe we were in N6291D. Most of the walk-around was very familiar because I’ve seen Michael doing it every time we fly. To me that’s the easy part but I’m taking a long time going through the checklist. I don’t think that’s a bad thing though. The start-up process is something I can’t wait to be routine. Made my first radio call and taxied out to RWY 12. Michael made all the radio calls the rest of the flight. I think I’m doing a little better with the rudder pedals when I’m taxiing than I did 3 years ago but I still waiver quite a bit. The run-up prior to take off is on another checklist. I went through the motions with Michael telling me each step. Not much traffic that day so we took off pretty easily. I’m remembering back about a month so I can’t write much detail. We headed out to the practice area. We practiced level flight, using the trim wheel, ascents, descents, and turns. Went back and landed on 12. I don’t think I did much of the landing.

Lesson 2 – April 30th, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Weather was calm and warm. This lesson we were in Tango Sierra (don’t recall N number right now). I was a little more relaxed but not by much. The walk-around was good, noticed some missing rivets or screws but obviously not critical enough to change plans. The start-up was same as last time and I wondered if I would ever get my license when I can’t even remember which switch is the avionics switch. We taxied out to 12 for run-up. I went through the checklist and realized (with Michael helping me realize) that I was going through some of the motions without knowing what I was supposed to be looking for. Especially when checking the mags; I clicked 2 left, 2 right, 1 left, 1 right but I wasn’t paying attention at the drop in the rpms. Later on at home we were reviewing the procedures and he explained, again, why that is important and what the purpose is. I think I did most of the take off this time. Michael was probably helping me keep the plane straight and he told me when to apply the back pressure to lift off. He is still doing all the radio calls but I know I have to start thinking about doing more of that. Who you’re talking to, who you are, where you’re at and what you’re intentions are. I know that but it doesn’t come naturally yet. I can’t even remember what plane we’re in half the time. Good thing it’s written right on the panel. We practiced more of the same maneuvers and I can put the plane in a fairly steep bank. I guess I was banking at 45 degrees at one point which I thought would have made me nervous.

Michael demonstrated Dutch rolls and he did them pretty fast. I got a little light-headed. I didn’t think I could do them but I just went a little slower and a little shallower and they were fine. I actually liked doing them.

I’m really trying to set an attitude and maintain it. I’ve heard Michael say that that ability is really important and that a lot of his students don’t get it. We landed on RNWY 30 because the winds changed while we were up. We’ve hardly ever landed on that runway so I was not as comfortable with the outside views. I’m used to the typical 12 runway. All in all it was a good flight.

Lesson 3 – April 25th, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM

We didn’t get up in the air until almost noon today and there was a lot of convection in the air; some light winds too but I’m not sure how strong they were. I have to start paying attention to that. We took off on Runway 30 this time, which again I’m not quite used to. There was another plane doing a run-up so Michael taxied us to the appropriate location. I was going through the checklist pretty slowly and another plane was taxiing toward us so Michael taxied us to the runway and made the radio call. I headed down the runway, keeping fairly straight but Michael had to call out the airspeeds to me and remind me when I hit 53 knots. I probably would have just kept going on building up too much speed. I have to keep an eye on that.

We headed north and to the practice area. Very early on Michael had me totally let go of the controls and watch how the plane stabilizes itself. I practiced some more of the Dutch rolls but for some reason they weren’t working as well as the last time. Duh! I was doing them backwards. I was using the opposite rudder and the nose was going back and forth, I just couldn’t keep the nose pointed at the same spot. So when I started doing them correct it worked much better.

We did turns again and I didn’t think I was doing a very good job but I guess a lot of it had to do with the air currents. Maybe I wasn’t as bad as I was thinking. Then we practiced slow flight. We did a little of this last time too. You’re really just hanging on the prop, at least that’s the way it feels. With the air currents the way they were today it felt like we were not even moving forward. It was an odd sensation. I have to practice this a lot too because this seems like it’s the basis for landing. You want to stall right over the runway just before your wheels touch. The stall horn was making me a little nervous because it would stay on for quite a while. In slow flight I need to react correctly with the controls. Pitch is speed, power is altitude. That just doesn’t come naturally. We spotted a P52 Mustang flying around out there too. Boy that thing can be in and out of your field of vision very quickly.

I’m not sure if Michael was sensing that I was tensing up but he took the controls for a while and told me to just sit back and enjoy the flight. It was good because I needed a sip of water and a few minutes to de-stress. Learning a new skill takes time and it’s a little embarrassing to be so incompetent at something when the expert is right next to you.

We did a few more maneuvers and headed back to KAVQ. Again we landed on 30. I have to get used to recognizing the pattern landmarks for this runway.

Things I feel good about:

  • I feel fairly confident about the pre-flight walk-around.

  • The engine start-up process is becoming a little more familiar and the reasons that you do each step.

  • The run-up is also a little more familiar but if we’re holding up another pilot I feel rushed.

  • I think I am able to use the trim wheel a bit better. I am getting a sense of how much to apply and then how to let go of the yoke to see how it feels.

  • Getting a good idea of what straight and level feels like.

  • I like making turns to a specific heading.

  • Even though I still act timid with the controls, I think I’m getting a bit more confident.

Things I need work on:

  • I may ask Michael to ask me questions while we’re flying like: What’s our altitude or what’s our speed, so that I can get used to the location of the specific instruments and reading them quickly.

  • I noticed that when we’re descending that it is a very gradual action. For some reason I can easily tell when we’re climbing but sometimes the descent feels like we’re in level flight.

  • Don’t let the plane fly me – I am to fly the plane – positive controls.

  • I get confused with the fact that you can fly the plane with minimal pressure on the controls so I try and do that, but then I don’t make corrective pressures soon enough. By that time I have to use both hands and bring the plane back to where I want it to be.

  • That’s probably enough for now. I could go on and on with this list.

Next week we will be flying earlier in the day which will be nice. I know one of these lessons will introduce me to stalls. I’m really dreading those but perhaps they won’t be as scary as in my imagination. All in all, I’m still excited about this. I hope I have the stamina to see it all the way through. But it feels good to know that if I decide it’s not for me, Michael would not put any pressure on me to continue. He’s only full of encouraging words, not criticizing ones, which really helps.

Lesson 4 – May 1st, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM – STALLS

I was terribly proud of myself today. I dreaded the day when we would practice stall recovery and today was the day. I didn’t know ahead of time which is probably a good thing since I get nervous enough on the way to the airport. The weather was nice, no clouds and no wind. Michael said my pre-flight inspections are good and I feel pretty comfortable about those. If I can only remember to close the little door after checking the oil. The start-up procedure is becoming more familiar; all the different steps and where to look for each instrument. We used RWY 12 today so I felt more comfortable taxiing out to that location. My radio call when crossing RWY 21/03 was pretty bad but hopefully I’ll get better at knowing what I’m supposed to say. The engine run-up is also getting easier to do. I think I did pretty much the whole take-off, maybe 90% of it anyway. I concentrate on watching the airspeed indicator and knowing when to pull back. Can’t remember the right term for this.

We headed to the north practice area and did all the previous maneuvers. Since it wasn’t windy it was easier to control the plane and knew when I was doing well. Then after a while Michael described a stall to me. He slowly raised the nose until the stall horn went off and I could feel the plane slightly shudder. Then he lowered the nose. He did that a couple times. Then he told me he was going to keep the plane in that attitude until we stalled. Up and up we went. It felt like we were going at a steep angle, it’s a bit of an illusion. I didn’t know that the stall horn goes up in pitch (as we do) as the stall becomes imminent. Then the nose drops. Michael applied right rudder, let the airspeed pick up and then returned to a climbing attitude. That’s all there is to it. HA HA. That was a power-on stall. We did a couple of those and they were not as bad as I had expected them to be. Then he showed me a power-off stall. These were a little scarier because you feel like you’re pitching forward much more than you actually are. Same recovery steps except this time you apply power. At which point do you add power? I think it was as soon as the nose dropped. Obviously I need to go over this process. With my hand on the throttle, it was very difficult to pull the plane up in order to put it in a stall. My left arm needs to be a little stronger. I have to use more right rudder also. The pedal can go in much more than I realized. Then he demonstrated the turning stalls. The turning stall to the right was a bit unnerving but the left turning tendency of the plane made the recovery pretty quick. The turning stall to the left was a whole nuther story. Since I’m sitting on the left and the left wing drops as the plane pitches down it was really scary. I’m pretty sure I pushed myself way back in my seat or toward Michael and exclaimed “oh oh oh” in a very alarmed voice. That was our last stall for the day. It’s so difficult to do the opposite of what your body and brain is telling you to do. You’re heading toward the earth so you want to pull up – wrong. You have to let the airspeed build up over the wings to start actually flying again. Then you can bring the nose back up.

We stayed out a little while longer and headed back to KAVQ. Not much traffic so I could focus on the landing process. Still not doing much of the landing myself. I was feeling the controls as Michael applied them.

Things I feel good about:

  • Not being too much of a baby about the stalls.

  • I was able to keep altitude pretty well while doing 360 turns today. Lack of wind really helped.

  • Start-up and run-up procedures are feeling a bit more familiar each time we fly.

  • Taxiing is getting a little better and the use of the brakes.

Things I need to work on:

  • Using the radio.

  • Following the checklist exactly. Occasionally I will look back at the list and forget which step I just completed.

  • I always look for traffic before turns but I’m so focused on flying the plane that I don’t have a scanning system in place yet.

  • Obviously I will need to practice many more stalls.

All in all I felt it was a good day of flying. Maybe I really will be able to accomplish this.

Lesson 5 – May 8th, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

The weather was perfect today. I’m really glad we’re getting to fly this early in the morning even though it was the one day a week we used to sleep in until seven o’clock. I didn’t sleep very well last night; probably got to sleep around 1:00. While I was laying there I was going over different maneuvers and procedures in my head. The two things that I can’t wait to be proficient at are stalls and landings and I wasn’t very good at trying either one today. I’m hoping it was a lack of confidence due to being tired and not eating beforehand. I’ve told myself to eat some cereal or something before we fly but I forgot today.

The preflight was good though, I even remembered to close the oil flap. On my start-up I had the checklist flipped to the wrong page and went right to my before take-off list instead of the before start-up. Oops. Michael prompted me for the appropriate radio calls and I didn’t do that great. The one call leaving the shade ports is easy but then we got to the point where we cross 3/21 at Alpha. I totally blew that. I think I said we were crossing Alpha or something.

I did close to 100% of the take-off today. That felt good but my next two radio calls were terrible. I started one call before Michael finished telling me what to say so I got mixed up. I also forgot that you make the call prior to doing the action. That should actually help since I was trying to do both at the same time.

We headed toward the practice area and started with the usual turns and then quickly tried a stall or two. The power on or departing stall doesn’t bother me much at all. But now that I think about it, the first one of the day was a little scary but I got over it. Maybe there’s hope for me after all. The power-off stalls were bothering me today. I even embarrassed myself by grabbing Michael’s arm while he was demonstrating it. We didn’t push it on the stalls after that. We did some steep turns at 45 degrees. Surprisingly those don’t really bother me either. I’m so focused on where the horizon is hitting the dashboard (can’t think of the proper term at the moment) that I don’t look down. It seems easier to fly a steep turn than to observe one.

Michael also demonstrated the stability of the plane by putting it in a turn and letting go. The plane corrects itself both in pitch and longitudinally. That was pretty cool. I thought we were going to do some turns around a point today but we will probably do those next time along with some “under the hood” work. That will be interesting.

I asked Michael if he would do the landing today so I could observe the steps without doing them. I just didn’t feel on my game as they say. We did a touch and go and then landed to a full stop afterwards. We spotted lots of planes in the air today. I feel good when I am able to actually see them.

Things I felt good about:

  • The preflight is getting fairly routine but I’m glad there is a checklist.

  • My 360 and 180 turns feel pretty good too.

  • The departure stalls aren’t as scary as last week. I do have to remember not to pull up too quickly though. Got to let the wings start flying again.

  • The steep turns weren’t too bad either.

  • Some of the radio calls came out good.

Things I have to work on:

  • Some of the radio calls don’t come out right.

  • Try and get a good night’s sleep and eat something light.

  • Taxiing straight is getting better but the turns are not always good. I’m also a little worried I will not put the brakes on at the right time.

  • Power off stalls. This will be on this part of the list for a while I bet. And of course the turning stalls.

  • I’ve watched and assisted in a bunch of landings but I need to get a feel for what is a good approach.

It was a pretty good day and Michael says I’m coming along well. Learning something like this makes you feel so inadequate but I know in my head that everyone goes through the same steps it just might take me longer. I can’t believe that back in WWI they used to send boys up after 10 hours of training sometimes. Yikes!

Lesson 6 – May 15th, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

I was excited to fly today because I’ve wanted to try the S turns. The weather was great again. No wind. I messed up some of my radio calls again. That’s getting a bit frustrating since I think I’m saying the right thing just to have Michael tell me that I got it mixed up. What’s wrong with me? I hope I’m just nervous and not dyslexic. We started off by heading north to the practice area and Michael showed me forward slips, side slips and crabbing. I forgot to take a pillow with me like we had talked about. I really have a hard time pushing the rudder pedals all the way in since the seat is so far back. In fact when I was holding the left rudder in my leg started to get a horrific cramp in it. That’s not good. The two different slips looked the same to me as Michael demonstrated them. I know what the difference is technically. He explained crabbing to me also but I don’t know if there was enough wind to get a real feel for it. We were up for 1.7 hours today but it went really fast. I was pretty flustered when we landed so that probably means that I was getting tired. Michael is right – an hour to an hour and a half is all a new student can take at a time. Then it’s just information overload.

Things I feel good about:

  • I think my 360 and 180 turns are pretty good. Although I was rolling out a little late on most of them today.

  • I was pretty good at the pre-flight until they made up a new checklist. The steps do not seem to be in a logical order like the old checklist. I just have to learn it the new way.

  • Same thing with the other checklists, the pre-start and run-up felt a little more awkward as I had to familiarize myself with the new list.

  • We didn’t do any stalls today.

  • The S turns were trickier than I thought they would be but I like doing them. I just need to practice them a lot more.

  • I think I’m getting better at spotting other traffic.

Things I need to work on:

  • Keeping the nose pointed at the same point and not moving.

  • Saying the right thing on the radio. I really need to get this down.

  • Rolling out of a turn at the correct coordinate. I was doing this pretty well on other flights but I was not very accurate today.

  • Stalls

  • Slips

Lesson 7 – May 22nd, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Wanted to sleep in today but we have the plane scheduled and I don’t want to backslide from what I’ve learned so far. Flying once a week is all we can really afford right now which will ultimately take a long time to finish up. If the average student takes 70-80 hours of flight time that’s about 46 weeks for me since we’re averaging about 1.5 hours a week. I’ll probably be the longest student ever. Michael left me to do the pre-flight check all by myself. I’m OK with that. I followed the new check list as it was written and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. There are a couple things that are not in the same order as I learned but that’s ok. I was determined this week to pay closer attention to my radio calls. I did more of them today except for the unusual, lengthy ones and I only messed up once (I think) when I said “niner one two” instead of “niner one delta”. My bad. I did the take off and had a little bit of wing-wobble but corrected it pretty quickly. We headed to our practice area and did the usual 360 and 180 turns to get the feel for the plane. I like the way Michael teaches; at least for me it works great. Making those turns first off not only gets me used to the feel of the plane and improving my skills but I get a feel for the winds to know what I’m going to be up against. It got a little bumpy as the time progressed but not scary-bumpy. It just requires more attention when trying to maintain a specific attitude. (a confident attitude is always good to maintain)

I don’t think we added anything new today. We flew up to Pinal and landed there but then we took off right away. That was a whole new set of radio calls to make so that was something different. We did some departure and arrival stalls. The departure stalls weren’t too bad. In fact they were practically easy today. We didn’t dip much at all. The arrival stalls were a little worse but not too bad; in fact, it was difficult to stall the plane today. We haven’t done turning stalls again since the first day. I have to admit I did not like them at all but I guess I’ll get used to them too – in time!! Our final landing at KAVQ was mostly under my control (I think). I had a pretty good feel for keeping the numbers in the same spot on the windshield but as we get lower and I change my focal point to the blocks I’m not quite sure how much to pull back on the yoke yet. More practice. Sometimes when we’re flying and Michael starts talking about other aspects of flying I wonder if I can do this. I also wonder if I’m wasting our precious money on something that is basically a good skill to have but will not be a career. It is going to be such a confidence builder that I really want to prove to myself that I can do it.

Things I feel good about

  • Radio calls were a little better today, except not perfect. I’m trying to sound professional too, rather than a timid, female student. Although it doesn’t come out that way all the time.

  • I think my turns were better this week. I was paying more attention to my roll-out and trying to get it right on the money.

  • Surprisingly, the stalls were less scary. That’s what I feel good about.

  • Setting up for the landing was ok right up until the end when I wasn’t sure how to do the “flare?.

Things I need to work on:

  • Radio calls, both giving them and listening to other people.

  • Stalls, don’t pull back and don’t let the nose drop too far.

  • Watch altitude when doing maneuvers. Get a feel for keeping on target.

  • Visual referencing. I guess that is called pilotage. I’m so focused on flying the plane that I don’t always realize where I am.

By the way, the weather was good. Calm winds when we started and then about 8 knots when we landed. No clouds.

Lesson 8 – May 29th, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM – FIRST UNASSISTED LANDING

The weather was so calm today and very clear. We went to the airport and Michael sent me out to 6291D with the flight bag and told me to do the pre-flight. No problems there. I couldn’t push the plane back by myself to check the wings very well but Michael came out after a while and helped with that. Today we did a bunch of low passes over the runway. While Michael controlled the throttle I was supposed to keep right above the runway. It sounds easy but the controls are very responsive at that point. I kept getting low and then too low, bounce, go back up but not too high, oops off to the side a bit, get back over the center of the runway, go back down again then finally add full power and take off for another try. I was doing the radio calls pretty well today. Making the same calls over and over finally starts to sink in. We did about 6 flights in the pattern with the low passes. I did get better as we went along but it was pretty embarrassing. Michael said it wasn’t as bad as I was thinking. Anyway, the last landing set-up looked pretty good apparently and Michael talked me through it but he didn’t provide any assistance. I LANDED MY FIRST AIRPLANE TODAY! We took off one last time and Michael did the final landing while I got to sit back and giggle.

Things I feel good about:

  • My radio calls were coming out good today. I think I only said one wrong. I was coming in on final and I said base by mistake.

  • I was remembering the procedure after the first couple times. Once I forgot the carb heat but the fact that I realized it on my own was good.

  • I think my taxiing is a little better.

Things I need to work on:

  • When departing I need to apply more right rudder.

  • I need to keep my pattern altitude at 2,800.

  • Don’t overshoot or undershoot the runway when turning from base to final.

  • Keep the numbers in the same spot on the windscreen.

  • Look at the end of the runway and land in a nose up attitude.

Lesson 9 – June 5th, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

We went out to the airport to practice more low passes and landings today. I thought I would have done better after last Saturday but I was pretty much the same. We did about 4 or 5 go-rounds and sometimes I was able to get low to the ground but then Michael would say bring it up and I would over-correct and we’d be 20 feet in the air again. One time I was departing way to the side of the runway even though I thought I was over it. Focusing on all 3 axes is more difficult than I thought it would be. If I get the plane low, then we’re not aligned with the runway, when I concentrate on the rudders, I get too high. It’s all a balancing act right above the ground. I don’t want to freak out though and give up. I know I’ll get it but I was hoping I would get it sooner rather than later. I want Michael to be proud of me and not embarrassed. (I know that’s my issue not his). I read different students experiences online and it sounds as though it takes everyone a different length of time. Some students did this same routine for six lessons in a row before they “nailed” it. I will just keep at it until I get a feel for it.

I was wondering if we could do the low passes but not so low, like maybe 20 feet off the ground so that I could just focus on keeping the plane straight with the rudder pedals and not worry so much on bouncing off the runway. I suggested it but I’m not the instructor and I don’t know if it’s a good idea or not. I don’t want to get ground-shy by putting off this type of practice. I’m looking forward to working on this again and if I don’t get it I will keep trying until I do.

We left the traffic pattern to go to the north practice area for a while. Don’t want to beat a dead horse as they say. We did some turns and then went over to Pinal and landed there. I’m getting more comfortable with radio calls, at least the ones that I’m familiar with.

Things I feel good about:

  • The preflight with the new checklist is OK after all. At first I didn’t like it but I adapted.

  • Using a cushion behind me has helped with reaching the rudder pedals. They are very difficult to push all the way in.

  • Take-offs are looking pretty good too.

  • I think I hold my altitude ok on turns.

  • The wind has been really calm on these lessons so I’ve gotten spoiled by not having any bumpy weather. We started to get a few today on the way back but not too bad.

Things I need to work on:

  • Small corrections when landing. I’m obviously applying way too much force on the yoke even though I think I’m just moving it a little bit.

  • More Cowbell LOL. I have to use the rudder pedals much better than I have been.

  • Try not to use the ailerons when landing. If the plane is level and the wind is calm, I shouldn’t have to use them much, if at all. I think part of my problem is having one hand on the throttle while the other hand is on the yoke. As I make my pitch controls I think I’m not aware that I am using the ailerons at the same time.

  • The radio calls are getting easier but I need to expand my use of them. I should start adding Left Crosswind, Left Base, etc. and start making the calls at 10 miles out. Maybe once I get the landings down we will work more on those types of things.

Lesson 10 – June 12th, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

I thought that we would be practicing more takeoffs and landings today but although it was calm at our house the winds were at about 17 knots at the airport. Michael told me we were going to practice emergency procedures instead. I was really glad that I had just finished the Cessna Course section on Emergencies the night before. All the procedures that we practiced were described in the lesson so I felt pretty comfortable with what we were going to be doing. We had to use runway 21 because of the direction of the wind. I haven’t ever taken off from that runway before so it was a bit confusing. I wasn’t getting my radio calls exactly right. Michael actually did the take off. We were up in the air in the shortest amount of time. I messed up some more calls as we left the airspace. I called in saying we were 10 miles out when I was supposed to say “over the freeway”. Sometimes I really wonder about myself.

The emergency procedures aren’t difficult to do but it’s something that you definitely want to be second nature if you need it. If an engine fails and you have to land somewhere, you put the plane in the best glide attitude and trim for it. After that is set up you: PUSH, PUSH, PULL, CHECK, CHECK, CYCLE, 121.5 and 7700. I actually did the procedures (except the 7700 on the transponder) instead of just touching them. Michael would reset the instrument immediately. That way I had the feel for actually doing the steps instead of just touching them. He told me that once he was being tested by Tom Funk and just touched the instruments instead of applying the appropriate action. When Tom pointed it out, Michael was so surprised, he thought he was actually doing the steps and not just touching them.

The weather was a little bumpy but it didn’t bother me much. I’m still not so sure how I will do in real turbulence. I don’t think I will do very well. We spent a lot of time in Michael’s office going over the emergency procedures before flying today so we didn’t stay out too long. We had to land on runway 21 just like we took off. That totally mixed me up. We flew over the airport and circled the high school to set up for our landing pattern. I didn’t remember everything like I thought I would. Just the different perspective made me second guess where I was in the pattern. Michael did the landing, probably due to the wind situation. Today was a real workout. Lots of things to remember but I know they’ll be easier with time and experience. I swear I drank a bottle of water. In retrospect I don’t remember it being very stressful but I kept having to get a drink.

Things I feel good about:

  • This is going to be a short list today.

  • Pre-flight is still good.

  • I adjusted the mixture myself this time. I think I’m getting the hang of that.

  • I’m pretty sure I did OK on the emergency procedures.

Things I need to work on:

  • Taxiing with a crosswind. This was the first time I think I’ve had to deal with this so I wasn’t sure how to keep track of where the wind was coming from.

  • Radio calls from this runway. I goofed up quite a bit and did not sound very confident. Just like in the early lessons, Michael told me what to say and I couldn’t remember.

  • During the emergency procedures, I need to keep the plane from turning. I would reach down to the fuel selector and the plane would get off course.

  • With the power pulled all the way back I have to practice pitch for airspeed. I was supposed to keep the airspeed at 65 knots but it kept going higher and lower.

  • I’m going to print out the area around the airport and see if Michael will sketch out the various approaches for each runway. If I have a visual memory of it, I may be able to plan my approach better.

  • I need to improve my skill at using the rudder pedals. I say that all the time because it’s still true.

Lesson 11 – June 18th, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Today we did 1.6 hours of pattern work. I thought about this all week and was determined to improve but I didn’t notice much. I’m pretty good at the whole set up and even getting down to start the flare, I think it’s called. I land too hard and then I balloon up in the air. I got a couple of them ok on my own, maybe 3 out of the dozen or so that we did. I’m glad we’re going up again tomorrow; maybe the technique will sink in. I was really dehydrated today after having a couple margaritas last night while bowling. I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.

Lesson 12 – June 19th, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Ok so today I wasn’t even sharp when it came to my run-up. I’m thinking way too far ahead of myself and rushing the process. I don’t usually do this so I’m not sure why I did it today except for I’m stressing myself out. We did another day of pattern work. The airport was pretty busy. There was another student doing the same thing in a tail dragger. She’s still in her teens and she already has her private certificate. I really tested Michael’s patience today. I just don’t have the feel or sight for when and how much to pull up on the plane. I feel like I have to use quite a bit of strength on the controls and to put some muscle into it and still just make tiny corrections has been the most frustrating and difficult thing for me. I got a little better at keeping the plane straight with the rudders but not great. One time I was way, way off the side of the runway and Michael took control to get us back where we belonged. A few times today I was able to see what he was talking about to keep the nose in one position – not high – not low. That was after many times around the pattern. Finally we just took off a few around the Tortolitas and I just enjoyed the straight and level flying. It was a good way to unwind. I know I’m beating myself up over this and that’s detrimental to learning. My eyes are tearing up while I’m writing this. Michael tried to make me feel better by telling me that Carrie, one of his other students, had difficulties with this step when she was learning and at one point he was afraid she was just going to give it up. But she didn’t and now she’s going to get her instrument rating too. That’s almost where I was yesterday but not quite. I think of Michael as my instructor when we’re flying and I don’t take his criticism personal but I also don’t want to disappoint him or have him think I’m hopeless. (that’s me talking, not him)

I’m not even going to go into what I’m doing well at and what I need to work on. On second though, I might need some self affirmation.

What I’m feeling good about:

  • My takeoffs are pretty consistent.

  • I’ve been keeping my pattern altitude closer to 2,800.

  • My radio work is good until I have to say something new.

  • My set up for landing is pretty good.

  • I remember to keep my hand on the throttle when starting and taxiing.

  • I remember to keep my hand on the throttle when on base and final.

Things I need to work on:

  • Pitch attitude when landing. Put the nose where I want it and don’t move it.

  • Let the plane come down to the runway, don’t force it.

  • When I let it go too low, don’t over correct and start ballooning.

  • My base to final turn could be better. Sometimes I go out too far and have to turn too steeply to bring it back to the centerline and sometimes I cut it too short.

  • I noticed that I was craning my neck when landing so that I could see the end of the runway. I was sometimes moving my body/eyes to get the correct placement of the nose.

Ok that’s enough berating myself. It may take some more weeks at this. However long it takes is how long it takes because everyone is different.

Lesson 13 – June 25th, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Today I woke up already a bit anxious about the day. I’m not sure why. Michael left ahead of me because he had a student from 6 to 9. I was supposed to be there at nine o’clock. I got there about 20 minutes early and Michael and Mike Maloy weren’t even back yet. I had a little cereal beforehand thinking it’s good for me to eat something before flying. We talked about a few maneuvers in his office before flying. I had to explain spins and stalls and didn’t have the concept down enough that I could describe them very well. I’ll have to review those more often because I know they will be questions I will be asked. I did the preflight and we took off – nothing out of the ordinary. It was hot and a bit convective so we just went out to the practice area. I wasn’t really “on my game” so to speak. It was a little bumpy but it affected me more than it has in the past. When Michael wanted me to do some Dutch rolls they got me a little dizzy and at first I couldn’t even do them. It took me a couple tries and then I got the hang of them again. But from that point on I was really anxious. Michael set me up to do some stalls and that just wasn’t going to happen. I had to ask if we could just head back for the day. No problem. He told me the heat and the bumps can really affect you without you realizing it. We went back to Marana and Michael did about 5 touch and goes on runway 21. I was really focusing on what a good landing looks like and where the nose should be. I didn’t crane my neck to see the end of the runway, I just wanted to see it from my exact reference point.

Things I feel good about:

  • I did a little better on my run-up than I did last week. I followed the procedures and didn’t get ahead of myself this time.

  • There wasn’t much else today that I felt good about.

Things I need to work on:

  • The right frame of mind can make a big difference.

  • I was nervous the whole time up today except when Michael took over the controls.

  • This experience is making me think long and hard about whether I can or have the fortitude to complete the process.

  • I know if I quit now, Michael will not make me feel bad about it. It does cost a lot and maybe I shouldn’t be spending all this money.

  • Thinking about going on a progress check is starting to make me nervous already. I know I shouldn’t be. Everyone has to go through the same thing.

Lesson 14 – June 26th, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

I got a good night’s sleep and woke up in a “good mood” today. I was still a little hesitant about my abilities after yesterday and told Michael that we could cancel today if we wanted to. He chuckled and said noooo. Drat!

So I put on my brave hat, made coffee and ate a nectarine for sustenance. Driving out there I started to relax a little. I could tell the weather was a little cooler and calm. We didn’t dawdle in the office today. Got right out to do my pre-flight check. But where’s the plane??? I thought maybe the previous pilot still had it out but no, I had the flight bag and key. Oh, must be by the restaurant. Walked over that way and didn’t see it. Weird. Kept walking closer and found the plane next to a couple others by the restaurant in a different tie-down area. Yay! Gotta watch for Michael so he doesn’t walk all the way out to the shade ports.

Pre-flight was timed perfectly. As I finished, Michael walked up. Unfortunately I missed him and he did walk out there looking for me. We taxied out to 12 and I made all my calls well. I’m getting more used to the airport calls all the time. Some of the ones I don’t use a lot are still hard for me to remember but I feel I will get them down.

Run up was good and my emergency briefing was better than usual. Let’s see if I can write it.

If something does not feel right when departing, pull the power back, exit the runway and assess. If we are airborne and there is still runway remaining, let the plane back down, pull the power back, exit the runway and assess. If we have taken off and are past the end of the runway we look for a place to put the plane down within 30 degrees left or right. If time allows we do a shut down procedure; fuel selector to off, flaps down, mixture full lean, ignition off, master switches off and unlock the doors.

I did my big ol’ S turn to look for any local traffic and prepared to take off. First take off was good and I did the usual pattern for landing. Michael sat back to see if I could do it without assistance. The set up is pretty easy. I often get too high but today I tried to stay at 2,800 feet and did a pretty good job at it. Ok, setting up for final, getting closer, Michael had to remind me to pull the power all the way back and then we just started to settle to the runway. I lined it up and took a couple deep breaths and landed the plane. I DID IT! It made me giggle to finally do it reasonably well. We did a couple more at Marana and then flew over to Pinal and did about 7 more and I did them all on my own. What a relief to know that I could do it. I’m not kidding myself to think that I’ll never have problems with them in the future but just to get to this point was a great confidence builder. Especially after yesterday when my confidence was pretty much the lowest it’s been in a long while. Perhaps I am just a fair weather pilot. The bumpy days really don’t seem to agree with me.

After the landings we flew to the north practice area and did some turns, some stalls (bleh) and I did a little instrument work to see what that was like. I had a great day. Lots of planes in the area to watch for today. It’s amazing how difficult they are to see.

Things I feel good about:

  • Obviously being able to get a feel for landing. They weren’t all pretty, some were a bit of a bounce and some were really smooth.

  • I had a good attitude today.

  • My emergency procedure speech was better than usual.

Things I need to work on:

  • Some of the less common radio calls.

  • Always work on good landings.

  • Being comfortable letting go of the controls. I’m still not great at that.

  • Stalls, they truly work my nerves but I know we do them for a reason and the more I do the less scary they will be.

Lesson 15 – July 3, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

After a week of walking on air I was obviously curious to see if I could still “land with grace”. At least at this stage of my lessons they feel pretty good. I would tell the wind was up a bit on the way to the airport but I didn’t really dwell on it. I couldn’t find anything good to eat for breakfast so I went with an empty stomach today. I guess I usually do but have recently decided to try and eat something beforehand.

The wind was coming from a different direction today so we had to use runway 21. We’ve only done that once before but I know I have to get used to all the runways. The airport was pretty (very) busy today so Michael did a quick run-up and then I took off. Not bad. We went through about 8 touch and goes but I wasn’t quite as good as last week. Runway 21 is shorter and narrower so it has a bit different look when you’re lining up to land. I had to get used to new landmarks and since the runway is so much shorter than 12 all the steps in the pattern are much more compressed and there were a lot of people in the pattern today. Again, it’s good to have exposure to a variety of circumstances but it does add a bit to the stress level. One plane was way down low and not flying in the standard traffic pattern. Thank goodness Mike McGrady was ahead of us and alerted us to his location. Michael took the controls and we headed out to the cement plant to give the nutball a chance to land and get out of our way.

One of my landings was apparently set up pretty well and then right before the beginning of the runway we dropped a bit. I did not notice it but of course Michael did and he said to do a go around. That was good to practice. Added full power, took out the flaps, turned off carb heat and just set the plane in an ascending attitude. If I hadn’t been as low as I was, I probably could have saved the landing. I also need to keep my hand on the throttle until I know I’m going to make the runway (which in this case, I thought I had)

The airport continued to be busy so we flew down to Ryan Field for my first landing at an airport with a tower. (Class D) I’m really glad that Michael handled the radio calls. The controller was super friendly and helpful though. So not only was this my first landing at Ryan but it was my first right hand landing. I think I did pretty well on that one. We just did the one landing and then headed back to KAVQ. Our final landing there was pretty good and Michael said let’s end today on a high point.

Things I feel good about:

  • Landings are not impossible and I will continue to improve on them.

  • Just in general I’m feeling more confident each time.

Things I need to work on:

  • Radio calls that I’m not familiar with. I still get tongue-tied sometimes.

  • I was not letting the plane get close enough to the ground before flaring today. Not sure why but I will keep that in mind for the future.

  • Sideslips. We practiced some in the air but I’m not very comfortable with them yet. I’d like to get that procedure down before I have to actually do one when landing.

  • I got a little flustered with all the activity in the pattern and one time I was all the way on final without pulling the carb heat or putting in any flaps. Keep the process the same every time.

Lesson 16 – July 10, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Each week after my lesson I feel all excited and confident and then the night before we fly I get anxious and hesitant about the next day. Even in the morning going out to the airport the feeling sticks with me. Then, like today, Michael and I sit and talk about what I have accomplished so far and what we’re going to practice that day and the feeling starts to fade. Then I get the airplane bag and go out to do the pre-flight check and I get less nervous. Not that it totally goes away yet but perhaps some nervousness reveals the seriousness of the task ahead of me and it is not to be taken lightly. That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.

So today Michael told me we were going to go up to the practice area and go over emergency maneuvers again since we’ve been spending A LOT of time practicing landings we haven’t had much time to review some of these other things. He described a maneuver to me called and emergency spiral used to lose altitude quickly if necessary. The description sounded pretty intimidating. He may not have described it this way but this is what I heard: “We’ll go up to about 7,500 feet and bank the plane over to about 45 degrees and we will start losing altitude quickly” So we took off and Michael said it was a perfect take-off. (Cool!) Then he said we might as well get this over with and directed me to keep climbing to 7,500 feet. We don’t usually fly that high so the view was a bit wider than usual. I’m going to have to ask the procedure for this because I can’t remember if we put the plane in slow flight. I’m pretty sure we did. Pull the power back and trim the nose all the way up. I asked him if he was going to demonstrate it but no, we just did it. Bank the plane to 45 degrees. Well, I banked it between 30 and 45 which was good enough for today and just let the plane descend. If it starts getting too fast, less bank, too slow, more bank. It was not nearly as bad as I anticipated. I just stared at the turn and bank indicator and let the plane do its thing. Just before 3,000 feet I slowly leveled the wings and put the plane’s nose to the horizon. I did not look out of the plane very much which made the maneuver fairly easy. I told Michael how I did it and he says “you have to look out the window”. Next time I will look at the instruments to keep the plane in a specific bank and check the airspeed but I must keep an eye out for other traffic.

After getting that over with we did a bunch of emergency procedures. We practiced putting out a fire in the cabin. I actually had to unhook the fire extinguisher and pretend I was spraying it up under the firewall. If you smell an electrical fire, you shut off the master switch, close the air vents and cabin vent, take out the extinguisher and take a breath, spray it up under the firewall and then open one of the air vents to get rid of the extinguisher fumes.

We practiced the engine failure procedure a couple times (push, push, pull, check, check, cycle, 121.5, 7700, unlock door (do not do this until close to landing). And then we practiced lining up for an emergency landing over a road and then over at that dirt air strip that I can’t remember the name of. We didn’t do any stalls today, which surprised me but that’s ok, I was getting a pretty good workout.

After those maneuvers we flew over to Pinal and I did my best landing ever (I think). Then took off again and flew back to Marana. I still get some of the less-used radio calls wrong. I just don’t get all the necessary information in there all the time. My landing at Marana was pretty good too. It felt like I dropped it a bit but Michael said it was fine. I stalled it about 6 inches above the runway instead of 2 inches (that’s what he said). All in all it was a great day and I felt good about it. Even Michael made a comment that I did really good today. Yay!

Things I feel good about:

  • Believe it or not, I like doing landings now. At least in smooth air.

  • I think I’m doing better at the pre-takeoff procedures, except the check list doesn’t mention a couple things that we typically do.

  • The emergency spiral went well.

  • The emergency procedures went well too. Just need to practice them to be able to do the procedure without even having to think about it.

  • I’m a little less nervous about my progress check with Bob. Michael said he is really nice and helps you along the way. Bob seems to be so serious that I just expected him to sit there next to me with a clipboard and tell me to do things. But Michael said it will probably be part lesson and part progress check. I hope I do ok. That might come up next weekend. And then I might solo the week after that. Woo hoo! I think I’m less nervous about the solo than I am the progress check.

Things I need to work on:

  • Radio calls. That will be on this list for a while.

  • Keeping a specific altitude in the landing pattern.

  • We need to practice more stalls and ground maneuvers.

  • Oh, so many things to learn. :-)

Departure stalls – Intentional

Speed 70-75

No flaps

Nose high

Apply full power

Slowly lift nose until critical angle of attack is surpassed

When nose drops let speed build and bring nose to the horizon.

Trim for it

Arrival stalls – Intentional

Slow flight – 65

Put in full flaps incrementally

Keep hand on throttle

Keep plane level and coordinated (yaw)

Raise nose until AofA is surpassed

As soon as nose drops apply full power

Put the nose to the horizon

Take out half flaps (20 degrees)

Trim

Lesson 17 – July 16, 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM

My lesson was a little later than usual since Michael had a student before me. I had a nectarine for breakfast to get something in my stomach but I wasn’t real nervous today. We talked in the office for a while and then I went to do the pre-flight. Today I flew in 593TS which I’ve only flown in once before. They are very similar though. I think the rudder pedals are easier to push in this plane. Plane was parked by the restaurant so I didn’t have to move it with the tow bar. We did a few touch and go’s and I wasn’t great today. I had to do one “go around” because I was too low. I think I’m already concerned about my check ride with Bob tomorrow. After a few of those we headed to the north practice area and I got worked over. We did about 45 minutes under the hood for instrument practice. I don’t mind doing it though. I also had to do unusual attitude corrections where Michael would turn the plane all different directions while I was facing him with my eyes closed. Then he would tell me to look at the instruments and correct for it. Sometimes we were high and sometimes we were low. Once we were angled pretty far over to the left and pointed down. I think I did OK at these maneuvers.

We flew over to Pinal and did a landing there. When we were flying there, I thought we were starting from a different point than where we really were so I was a bit disoriented. Then I realized where we were. There was a helicopter way down low that I had to watch out for. My landing was ok.

Things I feel good about:

  • Just being less nervous in general is a good thing.

Things I need to work on:

  • In the landing pattern, keep altitude above 2,800 but not over 3,000.

  • Do not come in too low or too slow, keep speed at least 65.

  • Sometimes I still tend to pull up too early, keep the plane coming down.

  • Make my turn from base to final a little shallower.

  • If everything is set up correct then you can concentrate on touchdown.

Lesson 18 – July 17th, 7:00 AM – PROGRESS CHECK

I studied a bunch last night for emergency maneuvers, weight and balance and airspace because I knew my progress check with Bob was scheduled for this morning. After Michael told me how good Bob was as an instructor last week I started to get a little less nervous and decided to gain whatever additional knowledge I could from a different instructor. When we got there Bob was just getting coffee so after a little while he says “let’s go fly”. Then he told me we wouldn’t be long, just go up and do 6 or 7 landings. Geez, I didn’t expect it to be that simple. He was really nice and put me totally at ease. My landings were not perfect but most of them were OK. The first one I was really high, then next pretty low. They were not consistently one or the other (just like bowling). He gave me some good tips as well as some general comments:

  • Always test your brakes first thing after starting your taxi.

  • Don’t try and pull the plane into the air, just let it fly itself off the ground. Michael tells me that 55 is the perfect rotation speed so that’s what I usually shoot for.

  • Fly the plane 1st and foremost, if your radio call comes after your turn, that’s OK.

  • Trim, trim, trim… That’s something that Michael is always reminding me to do also. Anytime I adjust the speed or the pitch – TRIM FOR IT.

  • Just before the wheels touch down, make one last slight pull on the yoke to let the main wheels touch down first. Helps to avoid those 3-point landings.

He gave Michael some suggestions as to what I needed to work on (mainly the things I just wrote) and signed me off. What a relief.

Michael had the plane reserved from 11:00 – 2:00 also. He asked me if I wanted to fly again and I was all for it. We went over for a light breakfast and came back to the office for some more ground schooling. Good stuff. We talked about airspace and weather minimums a lot.

By the time 11:00 rolled around the wind had gotten a bit stronger and had changed direction. We had to use runway 30. I did another walk around and we took off on 30. As I made my crosswind call I said “Marana traffic, 91D, left crosswind for 30”. Big mistake – runway 30 is right-hand traffic. Michael immediately made the correction and I got a bit flustered. In my head I can picture a right hand traffic pattern, no big deal but in reality I was thrown off a bit. I didn’t know for sure when my first turn was finished because I didn’t have familiar reference points. I also couldn’t see the airport since it was out Michael’s window and not mine. Then I turned downwind and had more difficulty judging how far past the runway to go before calling base. There were two planes ahead of me on one of my landings and their base legs were way far from the airport so I had t extend and come in after them. I think we did about 4 or 5 landings, each got a little better and then took off for the north practice area. It was really hot and convective. I’m getting a little better at not freaking out when the plane bounces around, which is a good thing. We flew up to 8,500 feet to see if it would cool off. I think it got down to 75 degrees which was still hot. Then we did some stalls, both kinds. The first one that dipped us over to the left had me a little panicky. I think my expression is typically “shit-shit-shit”. Real professional! After I do a few they aren’t as bad so I know in my heart the more you do, the better off you are. The ones that dip down straight ahead are not bad at all. I think I recently got a bit skittish after Michael described a spin to me so now I’m a little (more) paranoid when the wing drops off. We also did another emergency spiral from 8,500 to 4,000. This time I did better because I looked outside as well as watched the instruments. I also got my bank angle closer to the 45 degrees that is required on your check ride. Let’s see, what else did we do? We were up about 1.3 hours but it seemed like longer.

Things I feel good about:

  • Getting my progress check over with.

  • Understanding airspace and weather minimums.

  • Emergency spirals.

  • Straight stalls.

Things I need to work on:

  • Setting up for the landing the same every time.

  • Learning more radio calls and getting comfortable using them.

  • Stalls that dip to the side.

  • Letting go of the yoke and realizing how stable the plane is.

  • Listening to other radio calls while flying and getting a mental picture of where that plane should be.

Lesson 19 – July 24, 7:00 PM – 10:00

Well, I really thought today was going to be my solo day. I slept really well and wasn’t nervous and I just felt good about the day. It didn’t turn out to be my solo day though. We had to fly in 5193TS which is fine with me because they are so similar but there was a mix up in the morning and someone else checked out 91Delta. What can I say other than we did about 18 touch and goes but they were not consistently good. There was an awful lot of traffic today and people were doing weird, unsafe things. All of my approaches and pattern work was fine but sometimes I got too steep and other times I pulled up too soon and some were just fine. Michael told me that this just wasn’t going to be a good day to try and solo. He really wants me to have two days in a row.

At first I wasn’t disappointed because next week will be another try but after a while I started letting myself feel bad and had to “snap out of it”. When we got back Joe asked me if I had soloed and I said “no, I didn’t have my plane today”. Michael thought that Larry may have overheard that comment which made me feel terrible. I didn’t think he had created the mix up or I wouldn’t have said that. I will take next Friday off and maybe the two days in a row will do the trick. Now I’m so excited about it that I want to do it.

Lesson 20 – July 30th, 5:00 – 7:00 AM

Not a good day. I did some pretty good touch and goes but then one landing was good up until Michael told me to straighten it out. I pushed the right rudder a bit and it seemed to go left so I kept applying right rudder all the way until it was fully depressed. We were barely off the ground and off the runway on the right. Michael put in full power and we took off and got out of what could have been a crash. He did the next touch and go and then I did about 4 more after that and some of them were even really good ones.

The whole rest of the day I felt sick. If I knew exactly what I did wrong I could watch out for it but I felt I was putting in right rudder and it was going left. That is not a good thing for a pilot to have a problem with. Do I continue with lessons or am I hopeless? I don’t want to quit. I want to finish what I started and accomplish something that is a real challenge. On the other hand, I’ve achieved a lot of what I originally wanted; to feel safe in a small plane and enjoy it. I also feel I could land the plane if something were to happen while Michael was flying. Should I really spend that much more money on something that I’m not going to do on my own? People have asked me that and I really don’t have a good answer except that I’d like to take this all the way through. It would really make me proud and happy.

Lesson 21 – July 31st, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Saturday we just flew for fun. I didn’t sleep well and was really anxious in the morning. We had a beautiful flight around the north side of the Catalinas and then around the Rincon’s. Flew back right over the city which was pretty cool too. The clouds were fantastic. It was a good way to enjoy flying and not worry about learning anything. I kind of feel like I “rebooted” myself and hopefully this weekend I can continue where I left off.

Lesson 22 – August 7th, 7:00 – 10:00 AM

Today was a pretty good day flying. We stayed in the pattern for 1.6 hours and did touch and goes as well as some low passes. The first landing is always a little awkward but it was ok. The winds required the use of runway 30 which is a right pattern. I felt a bit more comfortable doing a right pattern than I did the last time. Some of my landings were really good. I think we did about 16 of them. It’s a bit frustrating right now because I think I’m ready to solo but Saturdays are crazy out there. I’d rather do it on a weekday but either the plane is not available or Michael is not. Maybe after work one day we can go out there if the weather is good.

Oh I have to write about my shooting star. On Wednesday night (August 4th) I was out skinny dipping around 9:00 or so. It was a beautiful clear night and I love just floating there and watching the stars. When I first got up to the pool I saw a pretty shooting star but not unusually spectacular. So after about 10 minutes I was floating there and thinking about flying. I felt better about it than last weekend but started questioning my abilities. Finally I said in my head “if this is really meant to be and I can do this, let me see a shooting star”. As soon as the thought formulated in my head a really long, slow, shooting star went half the distance across the sky. It was one of the most incredible events that I can recall yet it seemed very personal. I had to put my robe on and come in and tell Michael about it. We sat awhile by the pool and never saw another one.

Lesson 23 – August 13th, 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM

I took the morning off work today because 91D was available and I wanted to fly two days in a row if possible. Michael had an early student so I met him out there at 9:00. He wasn’t back from his flight yet so I just hung out. Gary Pennington showed up so we talked a little while. Then my phone rang and Michael told me to go out and pre-flight the plane. I went out and did my thing and then Michael came over and we took off. We did about 16 touch and go’s and they were pretty darn good. Michael even said if he had had his radio with him he would have soloed me. Cool! That felt good. Tomorrow is going to be the day unless something unusual occurs.

Lesson 24 – August 14th, 7:00 – 8:30 AM – SOLO DAY!

Mary Karlyn Matthews soloed today. What a great feeling. I was starting to think the day would never come but it did. We got here on time and did 2 touch and go’s. They were great. Michael says pull over and let me out. Dum da dum dum. I was OK with it. Oh, by the way, he did say “don’t crash, my headset is in here”. I didn’t get nervous and taxied over to the runway. There was already a guy sitting there so I pulled in next to him to wait. Michael radioed me and said it was ok to go ahead of him so I pulled up to the hold line. There was a plane turning base so I waited for him to land. Then there was another turning base and I waited for him too. He seemed to take forever on final and by now the plane that I pulled ahead of was behind me and ready to go. I didn’t get flustered. As soon as it was clear I took off and did my first solo flight in the pattern and landed. Michael radioed “Sweet…” I had to come to a full stop each time and then taxi back to the runway for each takeoff. All three of them were very good. I don’t even think I bounced at all. Michael congratulated me on the radio and then Joe Harter did the same. It was a good feeling.

mp1_lesson

mp2_lesson25

I taxied over and picked Michael up and he was all smiles (just like me). He got back in and I said where to now? I didn’t know if we were done for the day or if we were going to go back up and fly. He said “that’s it, let’s just go back”. So that’s what soloing is like. The office staff all said congrats and then we got Matt to go back out to the plane with us and take some pictures.

Lesson 25 – August 21st, 7:00 – 9:00 AM

After the big day last Saturday I wasn’t sure what we would be doing today. I asked Michael this week and he said that I would be doing 10 more takeoffs and landings by myself. Ah. I tried not to think too much about it all week, hey that’s just 7 more than last week and I’ve been known to do up to 18 in a day. I didn’t know whether I’d be going out by myself from the get go or if Michael would do a couple with me first. I didn’t want to ask and seem like a big baby but when he said he’d be doing the first few together that made me feel a bit more relaxed. Not that I couldn’t do it on my own but it’s nice to hang onto those apron strings as long as possible. The first landing of the day is typically (for me) a bit rough but today it wasn’t too bad. A little crooked. Same with the second one. Michael said that’s the one thing I need to work on but that the landings were perfectly acceptable. He got out after two T&Gs and I headed out on my own for the next 10. I taxied over to the runway and there was no one around. Cool! I had a perfectly clear traffic pattern for my first take off today. I had a bit of an unsure feeling that maybe my radio wasn’t working and there really were people up there but I carefully looked and I was fine.

The plane really does take off easier when there’s only one person. First landing ok, second landing ok, third time around I was way higher than I wanted to be so I did a “go around”. That was the first of those on my own. Put the power in, raise the nose to the horizon, reduce flaps to half, carb heat off, trim for it and try again. It felt good to know that I didn’t have to try and save the landing. Then some other planes got in the pattern. I really tried to listen and imagine where they were but I’m not very good at that yet. I thought there were planes on the 45 but I think they were announcing that they would be entering the 45. I never did see them which is a bit disconcerting when you’re up there. I’ll have to ask Michael to go over these situations with me again. Most of my landings were good. I had some floating on some but now I know just to hold it and the plane will settle back down. One more was a bit crooked but I think I was getting it pretty straight most of the time. Each time around I’d say the number of landings out loud. I didn’t want to lose track. The 11th time around I got to say coming in on final “full stop” – yeah! I floated a bit but landed quite smoothly and then I messed up a bit. I’m used to getting off on A3 so I started putting the brakes on and was still going pretty fast as the turn off was coming up. I should have continued to the next turn off and had plenty of time to slow down. Next time I will know better. I was making the brakes squeal as I turned off and I took the curve way too fast. I really got worried that I was going to end up in the grass which would have been a devastating ending to a great morning. But the plane stayed with me and we got off the runway. I could smell the rubber though. I felt stupid but I didn’t get all shaky or anything. Taxied back to the shade ports and started securing the plane. Michael came out to meet me and I told him all went well until the last landing. He said others have done that including him and we looked at the tires. There was a little wear but nothing drastic. I remember Bob saying to me if it’s not fun than why do it. Well, right now I’m in the stages where responsibility and staying alert are overtaking what I would call fun. Actually I take that back, to do a good landing and takeoff again is pretty fun, really makes you feel accomplished.

We did the paperwork and hung out a while and then headed home. Next Saturday I will take off, do a couple T&Gs then fly around Picacho Peak and come back. I’ve got to refresh my memory on the appropriate radio calls and where 10 miles and 5 miles out really is.

Lesson 26 – August 28th, 7:00 – 8:30 AM

I will not write about my flight yet. Today was a very, very sad day. Bob Cloutier and a 16 year old passenger crashed at the airport. Michael and I just got home from the hospital but Bob is still in critical condition and may not live through the night. They were in the Remos and witnesses say he took off and before gaining much altitude made a turn back toward the runway and crashed off to the side. I saw them hit the ground from the air as I had just entered the downwind for runway 12. I looked over and saw a tiny white plane hit the ground just off the side of the runway but at first I thought it was an ultralight. Then someone said over the radio that a plane was down and that it was a Remos. Then they said they saw two people walking away from the plane. I was relieved at that point not knowing it was not accurate information. I had to finish my landing. Since they were on the perpendicular runway and away from 12 I had no problem coming in and landing. While I was securing the plane Michael came over and hugged me so tightly with tears in his eyes. I knew that he had had quite a scare when he heard a plane crashed on the runway because I was coming in about that time. Then he looked at me and said Bob may be dying. I couldn’t believe my ears. First of all, I didn’t know Bob, the Chief Flight Instructor was in the plane that crashed? Then I remembered them saying that the people walked away – how could Bob be dying? Michael was there as some staff pulled Bob and the young girl out of the plane with gasoline pouring out all around them. There was never a fire. Michael said Bob looked bad. His leg was at an unusual angle and he was not breathing. Then he took a big breath but then another didn’t come for a long time. He was air-evac’d out to UMC where his heart stopped twice on the way. When we left the hospital, the doctors were waiting for his core temp to reach 36 degrees before they could run another cat scan. He had already been in the OR twice. We heard that he had been given 40 units of blood because he has had so much internal bleeding. Please, please let him make it through this. I might write about my otherwise uneventful flight to Picacho later on.

Sunday

So my flight yesterday went pretty smooth. Michael walked out and helped me move the plane and set up the radio to listen to Pinal if I want. Then he kissed me and walked back to the office. There I sat all by myself ready to start the engine totally alone for the first time. Funny how many times I rechecked things that I had already done. Then I taxied over to the runway and no one was around. It was kind of nice that I didn’t feel rushed for this step. I did a quick turn around to check the skies and then got ready for takeoff. One person had just entered the downwind so I had time to get out there and take off. Michael told me I could do a couple touch and goes or just head out to the north. In a way I wanted to get this over with so I just headed north. It was a very strange feeling being alone and not in the pattern where I could be directed what to do if I needed help. I radioed when I was over the freeway and I was only at 3,000 feet. Then I realized it was time to climb. I put the nose to the horizon as I have learned and just kept climbing ever so slowly while I headed toward Newman Peak. At 5,000 feet I leveled off – viola! I’m in the air and I’m flying somewhere. Pinal Park came up really fast and I realized that Picacho would be in front of me before I knew it so I turned a 360 circle over the little mountain on my left. I did not use very steep banks, maybe 15 degrees. I continued to scan the sky for other aircraft and did not see any the whole time I was up there. After my little circle I headed for Picacho Peak. I tried to stay at 5,000 but I went up a couple hundred feet, I think there might have been some lift at that point. I flew between Newman Peak and Picacho and then around the mountain in a left turn. I did look out at the ground but I was more focused on what I was doing. Oh, but I did reach back and grab my camera for a picture. I’m trying to get more used to being able to let go of the yoke for short periods of time. Luckily the air was pretty smooth so I felt comfortable doing that. After my circle of Picacho I headed toward the east to cross the canal and return to Marana. I had my cheat sheet of radio calls in the seat next to me which I used at each point of radio contact. I think I did pretty well on those. As I got about 5 miles from the cement plant another aircraft called in that they were 8 miles south and then shortly after they were at the cement plant looking for me. I radioed that I was about 3 miles from the cement plant at 3,100 feet. I never did see them which is not a good feeling but I knew they were ahead of me. Then at the cement plant I turned on the 45 and I was at the right altitude. That was something I wasn’t sure about. At 10 miles out I started my descent but wasn’t sure what rate to keep. It worked out perfectly that I was at 3,000 when I reached the cement plant. I was happy about that. Anyway, I was on the 45 and just as turned downwind, I looked out the window and saw a tiny plane “land” in the grass off of runway 03. That was Bob. I’m glad I didn’t know anymore at that point because I had to land the plane which was my first landing of the day and they are usually the touchiest. I have to say it was a very good landing and I slowed the planed down in plenty of time to get off the runway on A3. I stopped, did my radio call and got my after-landing checklist out. Oh shit, my radio was on standby the whole flight. I berated myself and then wondered if I was out of communication for the entire flight and as I was taxiing back I could imagine the “talking to” I was going to get from Michael. Then at least I realized that other planes COULD hear me after all because they responded to my calls. That makes me feel so much better but still not good. I had to get out the check list again to make sure where it said to turn it to ALT. There it was, plain as day. I do not think I will be forgetting that again. Even using a checklist it is possible to skip something and I thought I was being so careful. I taxied back and shut down the plane. There were police and emergency vehicles all over the place and still arriving. Then I had so much trouble moving the plane. I could pull it easily all the way up until the wheels hit the steel cable and then I ran out of strength. I pushed the plane back a foot or so and pulled again. It took me about 15 tries but I finally got the wheels across the cable. That’s when Michael got to me and hugged me intently for a long time and told me about Bob. So that was how my first trip outside the pattern went.

Update: Bob is not doing any better. He was put on a “do not resuscitate” status today and we are just about to head over to UMC to visit with the family. Can a miracle happen and save his life? I don’t know.

Lesson 27 – Sept. 11th, 7:00 – 10:00 AM

Bob was taken off life support the day after the crash and his memorial was last Saturday. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about flying today. I’ve pretty much told myself and others that I was not deterred by what happened to Bob but there’s no way it doesn’t have some impact in how I feel. When sitting in Michael’s office I told him I was nervous like I use to be at the beginning and tears welled up in my eyes. He told me to shut the door and explained to me that it’s most people’s opinion that Bob made one of the ultimate mistakes. Just by talking I started to feel a little better but as Michael was explaining what our lesson would be today, my legs continued to shake involuntarily. Today’s lesson was going to be short field and soft field landings and take offs. He described both types to me but luckily we only worked on the short field take offs and landings. The last landing we did Michael demonstrated a soft field landing for me. I did about 8 of the short field. I thought my first landing would have just been a regular one to get my feel for it again but no, we jumped right into the new maneuver. I’m not sure I quite get it although I did them. They’re very similar to regular landings except the speed is reduced and you get very low before the final flare. It will take a while to get these perfected (and I use the term loosely). There was getting to be a lot of traffic in the pattern so we flew 1.0 hours and headed in. That was a good introduction without tiring me out. I’m glad I went so that I could get over this hesitant feeling. I’m going to have to start knuckling down and get back to studying as I bet I’m going to have to take my test soon. Michael and Joe were talking about Denny Genzman who does the check rides and saying that they think he’s going to retire very soon. I was hoping to get him since he sounds pretty nice. I don’t do well under pressure so the check ride is not something I am looking forward to at all. Does anyone?

Sept. 18th, 7:00 – 10:00 AM

We took the day off today. No flying just hung out and enjoyed the day.

Lesson 28 – Sept. 25th, 7:00 – 10:00 AM

We worked on short and soft landings and a few takeoffs. I’ve been thinking long and hard lately about whether to continue toward my certificate. Reasons being 1) I originally wanted to learn to fly to make me more comfortable in a small plane; accomplished that, 2) I also wanted to be able to land the plane in case something happened in the air that required it; accomplished that, 3) I don’t think I will ever fly by myself afterwards because it doesn’t sound like much fun, 4) lastly is the cost for flying lessons; they run $100 – $150 or more each week that could be better put toward other things. I don’t like quitting something that I’ve started though, and I think getting my certificate would be a great accomplishment. So… for now I think I’ll continue because I did have good time today and I actually missed flying last weekend.

I didn’t think I did that great today but Michael said I did quite well especially after not flying for two weeks. Some landings were ok and some were really good. Once Michael reminded me to look at the end of the runway when I’m close to the ground, the landings got much better. We flew for 1.1 hours which was plenty for today. He said my radio calls were starting to sound a little shaky – go figure. The most embarrassing thing I did today and kind of dumb was apply the brakes full force when we did a short field landing. Michael used the expression “brakes, brakes, brakes” which I took very literally as STOP. I put both brakes on very hard and that was not the right thing to do. It turned out ok, but what he meant was “apply the brakes”.

Things I feel good about:

  • Getting back in the air after a couple weeks of not flying.

  • My landings weren’t too bad and some were even great.

Things I need to work on:

  • Understanding and implementing the methods of short and soft landings and takeoffs.

  • I forgot to follow the check list exactly. I didn’t do the preflight emergency brief and I forgot to set the transponder. Be more diligent!

  • I’m not sure I have a natural feel for flying. I feel like I’m still in that learning mode (well of course I am) but I’m hoping that I make good decisions when necessary.

October 2nd

Brian White came down from Flagstaff to visit this weekend. Didn’t fly. The next flight should be a nighttime flight. I hope that goes well.

Lesson 29th – October 9th, 7:00 – 10:00 AM

Got up a little late today to the sound of cappuccino being made, sure was sleeping soundly. I had a discussion with Michael to tell him how I have been thinking lately – whether to go all the way and finish up with my certificate or save the money and be proud of what I have accomplished. He totally understands how I feel and it sounds like I’m not the only one who gets in these slumps. So we went flying and it was such a beautiful day and the air was so clean and still. We flew to Benson and I landed there. It was difficult to do the very same pattern that I do all the time at Marana but at a different airport. It’s a narrower and shorter runway than I’m used to and now I understand how that impacts the look of the runway as you land. I wish we had done a couple landings there but we just came to a full stop, walked to the office and talked to Andrew the airport “manager” and petted Laurie the dog. Coming back we flew to the north of the Rincons and then went between those mountains and the Catalinas. Then we flew over the Pusch Ridge area where Michael drops ashes for people. For the mountainous portion of the flight Michael took the controls and I got to look around for a while. I took over as we headed toward the cement plant and landed “ok”. A little floating and a little crooked on the touchdown but otherwise I did alright. You really do lose some feel for it when you haven’t flown in a couple weeks.

By the way, I think I’m going to keep flying and see if I can do it. I need to start studying again so I’m not as intimidated by the testing process. Michael says I’m really close to being done but he totally respects my decision no matter which way it goes.

Lesson 30 – November 6th, 7:00 – 10:00 AM

Hadn’t been flying for nearly a month. We were going to work on shorts and softs but after my first landing of the day it was obvious that I needed to work on a few of those before moving on to more challenging ones. My issues today were landing too “flat” as Michael put it. I was coming in pretty steep and then trying to do all my flaring in one swoop instead of little by little. I wish I could just land and take off on one long, long runway instead of going around again. We flew for 1.1 hours and went in. Hopefully getting back into our weekly lessons will get me back in the swing of things. Need to keep studying for my written test.

Lesson 31 – November 13th, 8:00 am – 11:00 am

Back to weekly lessons again. It’s disappointing how quickly one loses their skills after 4 weeks of not flying like I was last weekend. Today was much better. We only flew for .9 hours but did about 8 touch and goes. All of them were acceptable, but a couple were real greasers which made me all giggly inside. I wish they were all like that and with practice I’m pretty sure they can be. I still tend to land flat on all three wheels. Last night I landed in my head over and over with the visual of keeping the nose up on landing. I think it helped. We did about 3 regular landings and then worked on about 5 short landings. Keeping the airspeed between 55 and 60 knots is critical while the power is all the way back. When the airspeed goes down I have to remember to keep the nose down. Pretty tricky stuff. My feet are learning to steer the plane on landings a little bit better but it doesn’t take much to get crooked. I guess our next flight will be a night time flight. I’ve flown with Michael at night but not as a pilot. That should be interesting.

Lesson 32 – November 27th, 7:00 am – 10:00 am

We did not fly last weekend. The winds were up pretty high and even some of the other students that he scheduled for that day ended up cancelling. So today we got up a bit late and barely had time to get dressed and leave. No time for good coffee so we had to have airport coffee – better than nothing. We continued to work on the short field and soft field landings and take offs. I actually did really well today even after skipping a week. Michael thought the same thing. We did mostly short field landings and then got to where I tried some of the soft field landings. A couple times we came to a full stop so I could practice one of the takeoffs. Those are a bit tricky as takeoffs go. The soft field takeoff is where you hold the nose up so that the nosewheel does not dig into the surface that you’re on, like mud or grass. Then after you lift off you keep the plane in ground effect until you build up a speed of 70 then you can start getting some elevation. That wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be but I needed some verbal help in knowing how much to bring the nose down to stay in ground effect. I will need a lot of practice doing them. The short field takeoffs are a bit weird looking. You go out to the very start of the runway and put the throttle all the way in with the brakes on. Then you let the brakes off and start down the runway very quickly. As soon as you hit 55 you lift off at what looks like a very steep angle. I’m so used to the idea of exceeding the angle of attack that it looks like a stall – BUT the airspeed is high enough that it is still getting lift. I think I tried one of them myself and then Michael demonstrated one. His was obviously the technique I need to shoot for. We went in after that. We were up for 1.4 hours even though, to me, it went by fast. The weather was different today too. The winds at the surface were pretty slight but up in the pattern they were pushing me off course so I got to use the crabbing technique to stay on base. That was cool. All in all it felt like a really good lesson day. And next time really is going to be a night flight.

Lesson 33– December 6th, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Last night was my first night flight. I have been looking forward to that for a long time mostly because Michael has always said how beautiful and still it is at night. We had scheduled this a few times but there was always something that came up and made us change the date.

So I got to the airport a bit early and changed from my work clothes. Michael gave me a briefing on what we were going to do. He said we’d go out to the north practice area and do maneuvers under the hood and then come back and do our 10 landings and takeoffs. I had to do 5 with the landing light on and 5 with the landing light off.

We went out to the plane and Michael helped me with the pre-flight by undoing the tie downs. I went through the checklist with a flashlight and did the whole walk around. Michael said that I do that very well. Maybe that means I’m slow at it and he’s just being nice? We pushed the plane back and got ready to go. I was expecting to have to use runway 30 because of the wind was from the NW but I guess when the wind is so slight (3 knots) it doesn’t really make that much difference. So I got to use runway 12 which is what I’m used to. I think that really helped quite a bit.

Taxiing was even different at night. Thank goodness I know the route to the runway pretty well by now. I hate having to wear glasses. Between the reflections on the plane windows and the reflections on my glasses I was seeing moving lights everywhere. That is one thing that takes getting used to. Oh, also the cabin lighting is so dim that it was very difficult to read the instruments. My eyes adjusted a bit by the end of the night but I really didn’t think they would be that dim.

The takeoff was easy but I did drift a little bit so I have to keep an eye on that. Then we headed out to the north practice area. Michael had me put the hood on right away which I wasn’t expecting that soon; that was probably the easiest part but I didn’t know that at the time. We climbed to 5000 feet and then I had to do some turns to specific headings while keeping the plane level. I need much more practice using the attitude indicator. I think I could have improved with time last night but we had lots of things to do so I guess I didn’t really have the luxury of doing it over and over until I got the hang of it. We did do some stalls and it’s been a while since I’ve done those with the sun turned on so I had to get used to them again. Surprisingly they aren’t any worse, and maybe they’re a bit easier with the sun off, you can’t see the ground coming at you. One of them was very uncoordinated and we fell off to the side. Michael corrected that one. One of them I did ok but pulled up too quickly afterwards and put it in a secondary stall. I guess I did a couple good ones. We didn’t even do any unusual attitude maneuvers because I was just not “getting it”.

After a while I took the hood off and we flew over our house. That was fun. It’s so different to try and figure out where you are at night just by the lights on the ground. Michael kept referring to different lights like “go up to that diagonal row of lights and then turn”. Geez there’s lots of diagonal rows of lights! My radio calls were terrible too. Same old story when I’m under pressure. Michael tells me what to say and the words come out different. It’s like I make them up as I go along.

After flying over Mercy’s house and the Foothills Mall and our neighborhood we headed back for our takeoffs and landings. I had read a lot about how to do them and what to expect so I was sort of prepared. It is difficult to judge your height off the ground. The first landing was ok but Michael had to talk me through the process. I landed a bit hard. I think I did pretty well on most of them though and some were even perfect. Landing and taking off with the landing light off is weird. You have to know where you are just by the location of the lights around you. We did 8 takeoffs and landings because it was getting pretty late and when we do our night cross country I will get in the last 2 that are required.

Thinking back to last night I must have been exhausted prior to the flight. I didn’t fall asleep very easily and once I did, I overslept and had to rush off to work this morning. I still feel a little anxious but I’m not sure exactly why.

Things I feel good about:

  • The takeoffs and landings were getting pretty good.

  • Preflighting the plane in the dark.

Things I need to work on:

  • Get used to seeing the instruments in the dark.

  • Flying with the attitude indicator.

  • Stalls in general.

  • Radio calls.

Lesson 34 – December 13th, 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM – NIGHT CROSS-COUNTRY

Last night I did my night time cross-country flight with Michael. I had the day off and spent it shopping and decorating for Christmas. While I was putting lights on the tree I was going to have a Coronita (baby beer) but thought there was a possibility of us flying that night so fortunately I put it away. A little while later Michael called to give me a report of his day so far. Carrie was with him and had just given him a wonderful Christmas gift. Of course that was after she told him she had just won a ride on an F-16 as a member of one of her clubs. Michael said he was green with envy. Boy oh boy if I could somehow arrange that for him it would be such a wonderful thing. He also told me that while flying 6291D with a student, the alternator light came on and shortly (ha ha) afterwards they smelled a burning smell. Immediately they turned the master switch off which eliminated any radio contact. But they both had hand held radios and were able to call in an emergency and fly safely back to KAVQ. Michael said we could fly to Nogales tonight if I wanted so I said yes. Thank goodness no beer.

I met him at the airport at 5:00 PM and we hung out for a bit and then headed to the plane. The mechanics had replaced a frayed wire and the plane was put back on the line. Obviously we were hoping they checked everything out.

The preflight and take off was pretty typical except that we did a right crosswind and departed to the south. There was still an orange glow from the sunset as the stars were coming out. What a beautiful evening it was. While heading toward Ryan Field I climbed to 7,500 feet and leveled off. It took all the way to Ryan for me to get to that altitude. I’m still unsure of how long it will take to reach specific altitudes both climbing and descending. It was a little bumpy over Ryan. I just kept flying like it was not there. I stayed on the south heading until just past Ryan and then turned to the southeast a bit. I was so surprised that we could see the Nogales International (what a joke) beacon from Ryan Field. I wouldn’t have noticed it but Michael told me just where to look for it and then I just had to fly right at it. As we were about 10 miles out from Nogales a plane was radioing that they were departing Nogales to the northwest. That would be toward our direction. Immediately Michael could see their lights. Simply amazing! They would be required to fly at 8,500 feet but just to be safe we contacted each other to make certain we had an eye on each other. Pretty cool. We turned on our landing light to make ourselves more visible. They finally spotted us and asked if we were keeping altitude or intending to climb higher. We said we would be staying at 7,500 and all was good. As we got closer to the airport Michael described how we would fly over at mid-field and then turn to the right, circle back and enter the 45 for runway 21. I was doing my usual conservative banks and Michael said we could turn steeper. Which he did. Next thing I knew we were on the 45, then turning downwind. The landing light made the mountain ahead of us seem a lot closer than it really was. Thank goodness I don’t have to do night flights solo. I turned a left base and set up for the landing. Nogales has a displaced threshold which is marked by green lights along the runway. You don’t want to land before those green lights. I’m sure Michael was talking me through the moves and I did a really good landing. We pulled off the runway and parked on the apron. I don’t know that airport so Michael took the plane for that part. We got out and looked at the beautiful star-filled sky. Wow! We both used the facilities (a bush in front of the plane) and after maybe ten minutes we got back in for the return flight.

The runway at Nogales has a slope to it which is noticeable as you line up for takeoff. The lights in the plane were very dim at this point and I couldn’t really see when I hit 55 knots but Michael said not to worry about it. Finally my eyes caught the needle and we were at about 65 knots and I lifted off just fine. We did a left crosswind and then turned a slight right turn to 330. All this while I’m climbing to an altitude of 8,500 for the westbound flight. Since Nogales is at 4,000 feet it didn’t seem to take long at all to reach 8,500. Then at a certain point Michael had me fly a heading of 326. We were drifting a bit to the left so we adjusted the heading to 330 and then 340 to keep on course. The flight home was also beautiful. The lights of Green Valley look like diamonds on black velvet. Michael took the controls a few times so that I could feel comfortable looking around. It doesn’t take very long to fly to Nogi and back. As we crossed Ryan Field again I changed my heading to parallel Sandario Road. Then I recognized our airport and the high school south of it. Again we went through a slight bumpy area but I was cool. Just dips in the road I tell myself. Oh ya, I started my descent around Ryan to get down to 3,000 feet. A 500ft/min descent wasn’t really cutting it so Michael had me increase it to 750. We were just about the right altitude as we got to the high school.

Oh my radio calls were terrible. Michael tells me the exact words to say and they dissipate before my mouth can say them. I fumbled my way through the 10 mile out call and the 5 mile out call. I even said I was descending to Marana to land on 21. Another pilot radioed back and asked if I meant 12. “Affirmative 12” was the only response I could think of. I really didn’t just turn the numbers around, we had just landed at Nogales on 21 so that was still in the front of my brain.

We overflew the field and turned downwind. Then everything was back to what I’m used to. The cabin lights were still very dim and I wanted to be able to see my speed. On final Michael said I was getting slow but I couldn’t read the speed indicator. He had me put the nose down a bit and we gained some speed but I have to admit I don’t have an ear for how fast or slow we’re going yet – I still need visible verification. I came in a little bit high and had a hard time judging the distance from the runway but landed with a nice resounding clump. We taxied back to the shade ports and tied good ol’ niner-one delta to the ground. Once again she did what she was built to do. It was a truly fun flight but not one that I would have enjoyed if I were alone, at least not at this point.

Things I feel good about:

  • I was more comfortable flying in the dark than last week.

  • My takeoffs and landings were pretty good.

Things I need to work on:

  • Radio calls – still.

  • Getting used to reading instruments in the dark.

  • Relaxing. I tried to compare my flying experiences with something others can relate to and the best comparison I can come up with is driving on the LA freeways. Always watching and always at a heightened stress level while maintaining control.

STAY ON TARGET”

Lesson 35 – January 15th, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Wow it’s been just over a month since the last time I’ve flown. And the last time I flew during the day was November 27th. I guess the good thing is that it didn’t seem like that long ago after I got in the plane. I didn’t sleep very well the night before. That often seems to happen before I go fly, there’s just enough anxiety there to keep me awake I guess. We flew out to the north practice area and did some of the normal maneuvers. Turning to a specific heading each direction, slow flight, slow turns, departure stalls and arrival stalls and even an emergency decent. I was happy because the stalls were less intimidating than they had been in the past. I’m sure I need to do plenty more of them to feel truly comfortable but I’m getting there. They don’t bother me much when the plan dips straight ahead but when it goes over to the side, my verbal reaction is always, “oh, oh, oh”. It really is embarrassing. Michael showed me one stall that we went way over and it was interesting that it didn’t freak me out as much as I expected. I have to start really studying again so I can take my written exam. Probably should have been able to do that months ago. When we headed back to the airport I called in my 10 miles out and 5 miles out and then as I called out that I was over the cement plant, some other plane called out to me asking where I was exactly because he was over the cement plant too. We were about at 3,100 feet and I think he said he was at 3,400 so he had to have been above us. We were the lower plane so I continued on the 45 to the downwind and landed ahead of him. Why don’t other pilots call in their locations? It’s just plain stupid not to. I wanted to answer him back and say “oh, I must have missed your radio calls” but that would probably have been answered with remarks even more derogatory than mine. Radio wars are not very professional I guess. My landing wasn’t too bad. We only did one takeoff and landing today.

Lesson 36 – January 22nd, 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM

We woke up around 6 o’clock to get ready to go fly. Wanted to keep sleeping. Had coffee, threw on some makeup and headed for airport. When we got there Michael realized we reserved the plane for 8:00 not 7:00. We could have slept a while longer! Oh well, that gave us time for a cup of TAC coffee, visit with Larry and get started a little early.

We stayed in the pattern today and did touch and go’s. I didn’t do too badly. After a couple regular landings Michael had me perform some slips to descend. That’s a good way to lose some altitude. Apply right rudder and then bank the plane to the left. The plane is heading slightly off center of the runway, yet the plane (as a whole) is moving in a straight line toward the runway. One thing to remember is that your airspeed is not reading actual airspeed during this maneuver. It is showing a LOWER speed than actual. As you get close to the end of the runway you slowly let out the right rudder, level the wings, straighten out the plane and land normally.

We were up for just one hour so we probably did about 8 T&Gs. The traffic was getting pretty heavy after a while too. Lots of people not seeing each other and not following the recommended procedures so we called it a day and went back to the FBO.

After we went home and had breakfast we sat down to do some ground school. Printed off a couple Navigation Logs and started doing a flight plan for my short cross-country (Seems like a long cross-country to me). We worked at the dining table for about 3 hours. The form is pretty confusing for the beginner. After we finally got the numbers down I was exhausted and had a headache. I was going to do a few on my own yesterday but Mercy and I went for a run and just hung out instead. I still plan on doing some of those as practice though.

Things I feel good about:

  • The whole pre-flight procedure is getting to be fairly routine which is a good thing.

  • The slips were actually kind of fun to do.

Things I need to work on:

  • Always follow the checklist. Michael noticed that I sometimes skip things and that’s not good. The one thing I noticed that I tend to skip is setting the transponder to “alt”.

  • When coming in to land, I need to break up the leveling off into smaller, definitive movements instead of one sweep. He’s told me that many times but I still don’t do it quite right. I will be making a mental note of that next time.

  • I totally cut someone off on the radio today – my bad.

  • I need more practice listening to other radio calls and still focusing on what I’m doing.

Lesson 37 – January 29th, 8:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Well, somehow this day’s entry got erased or saved over so I have to try and rewrite it.

Lesson 38 – February 5th, 8:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Today we did my dual cross country trip to Nogales airport. The trip went fine but I should have been better prepared. I practiced filling out the Navigation Log with different winds aloft so that I knew what I was doing. This morning in Michael’s office I thought we would fill one out in detail and get everything all ready. Then Michael said that form was for practice and we’d pretty much be flying VFR. I totally misunderstood what he was telling me by that. In my mind that meant we’re going to fly visually and not use the radials that I had calculated – WRONG. I should have had my map prepared and ready on my clipboard. I should have noted the VORs and radio frequencies that I would be using. I should have flown the flight with Google Earth. Even though I knew where I was going (generally), that would have been a good idea.

We filled out the flight plan and then called Flight Following. I told him I was a student pilot filing my first flight plan. The man was really nice. I started giving the information really fast and Michael motioned me to “slow down”. I got through the whole sheet and the only question that was asked was whether we were landing at Nogales or just flying over. I said that we were landing so he suggested that I put that in the remarks box. Then I asked for a standard briefing. Wow, that was a lot of information coming back. I’m glad Michael told me not to worry about writing anything down but just to listen so I could get used to hearing it.

We took 593TS today which is almost identical to 6291D inside so it wasn’t uncomfortable flying a different plane. The visors are just tinted Plexiglas and they’ve been broken off so that they don’t go all the way across the windshield. The other thing that seemed different was the way the mixture adjusted. I don’t know if it was this plane or just because it was so cold out but when I went to adjust the mixture during run-up, the engine cut out. I always thought Michael had told me to turn the knob quickly until the RPMs start to drop and then turn back the other direction. Well, as I was turning the knob counter-clockwise and notice the RPMs drop, they just dropped like a rock (so to speak), I couldn’t enrichen it quickly enough to have them come back up. We had to restart the engine and Michael told me to do it slower and as SOON as I notice a drop, start turning the other direction.

The takeoff was fine. In fact the entire flight was great. The air was much smoother than I had expected after seeing the winds aloft. I guess after you’re in the air the winds don’t necessarily mean bumps.

What I need to do when I do this trip solo is to make an outline of what to do at about what points, sort of like a checklist for in the air.

I called in to Prescott Radio after we were in the air to open my flight plan. The transmission from there was very scratchy, I could hardly tell what they were saying. Turns out that is due to the local mountains blocking the transmission tower.

I leveled off at 7,500 feet and everything went as expected. What I want to get familiar with now is using the NAV radios proficiently. I followed Sandario Road until it dead-ended at Ajo Way. Then I lined up on my first compass heading and basically stayed on that until we crossed over the two little airports by Green Valley. At first they were hard to spot and then I saw them really close to each other.

As we approached Nogales there was another plane calling in. They were behind and below us and were also planning to fly over mid-field to land at Nogales. We could spot them but they could not see us. For safety sake, we radioed that we would do a 360 and get out of their way. Michael stated to the other pilot that the plane farthest out should yield and stay away but they did not choose to do so. We got back on course, and saw him and another plane that was at a lower altitude so we had all the traffic in sight (that we knew of). I circled over the subdivision south of the airport and came in on the 45 for runway 21. Michael said my landing was perfect. That felt really, really good. We headed over to the FBO and had some breakfast. I ordered 2 eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast and could only finish about half of it. Funny how your appetite goes away when you’re running on adrenaline. We had a nice chat with a fellow who owns multiple planes and a bunch of army jeeps. Bill Nickerson was his name. I wonder if he is the owner of what used to be the Nickerson Farms restaurant at Picacho.

When we left, there was plane waiting for my tie down space so Michael, took controls and hurried us out of the spot. I taxied to taxiway C and Michael said to make my radio call. Well I radioed that we were “departing” on 21. That was dumb. Not only was there a plane on downwind but I had not done my run-up before takeoff. My radio call should have been that we were holding short for traffic on downwind. Michael made that call and the other pilot radioed back his “thanks”.

Michael did a quick run-up because there was someone behind us and I took off without a hitch. The rudder pedals on 3TS are a bit easier to push which made it great in the air but a little harder to control on takeoff. It wasn’t a problem, just an observation. Michael always tells me not to rush or feel rushed but then sometimes he takes the controls when someone is waiting on us. I’m sure it is just out of courtesy for the other pilot and if I were by myself, the other pilot would just have to be patient.

The flight back was also uneventful, everything went like clockwork. Michael leaned the mixture while we were at 8,500 feet so when we started our descent I had to be reminded to increase the mixture. That will be on my checklist when I go solo.

I made one bad radio call when returning to Marana. I stated that we would fly over mid-field at 3,000 feet when I should have said 3,500. Michael made that correction. Then I wasn’t exactly sure how to plan out my route past the cement plant, turn around and head back on the 45. I think I get it now. Landing was good and I actually lined up the plane at the shade port pretty well.

I spend the rest of the day “processing” the trip in my head. I need to decide whether I feel comfortable doing this solo or whether I need one more dual trip. I feel like I can do it solo if I make my checklist accurately. I know the area pretty well so I don’t think I would get lost going there or back.

What feels good:

  • The whole pre-flight procedure is getting to be fairly routine which is a good thing.

  • The slips were actually kind of fun to do.

  • Visually I knew where I was at all times.

What needs work:

  • I want to get familiar using the communication and NAV radios.

  • Feeling more comfortable letting go of the controls so I can look at the map.

  • Making the correct radio calls.

  • Knowing when to hurry up vs. taking my time with something by being aware of my surroundings.

  • Know to leave the area if traffic is busy and I don’t have visual contact.

Lesson 39 – February 26th, 7:00 AM – 9:00 AM

Got back up in the air today after a couple Saturdays off. To get me more comfortable with flying from one airport to another we just flew to Pinal, did some T&Gs and then flew back to Marana and did a few more T&Gs.

Michael was going to leave everything up to me and not tell me what calls to make. First of all I started to get in a landing configuration for Marana and he reminded me we weren’t landing yet, that we were going to Pinal. So I called my position and headed north. I kept climbing and climbing thinking we were going to the practice area where we usually fly at about 5,000 feet. Michael suggested that I quit climbing because I was just going to have to descend very soon. I switched over to the Pinal frequency. I was still high so I did a 360 to lose some altitude. Made the turn and was right at the pattern altitude of 3000 for Pinal. The wind was strong enough today that I had to crab a bit to keep on track on my base legs. The landings were actually pretty good though. I know to keep the speed at 65 knots but it would fluctuate a little higher and lower. I should be able to hold that a steadier.

After about 3 or 4 landings we headed back to Marana. I made the calls pretty well but forgot to say my location (over the freeway) once. Headed east and then followed the canal toward the cement plant. I was at the right altitude over the cement plant and made my call. There was a lot of air traffic at Marana today. At one point Michael counted 6 other planes that were in the vicinity heading for Marana. I was first in line. The landings there went well too. One comment Michael made was for me to use the phrase “on the go” when we’re doing T&Gs with so many people trying to get in the pattern. I’ll remember that next time. All in all it was a good day of flying to get my feet wet again. I need to do the Nogales cross-country soon though so I can keep on track. I haven’t done any solo time since the day Bob crashed. That is 6 months ago. I would like to have at least an hour up by myself locally before I schedule the Nogi trip. Just for comfort sake.

What needs work: Same as my last entry

  • I want to get familiar using the communication and NAV radios.

  • Feeling more comfortable letting go of the controls so I can look at the map.

  • Making the correct radio calls.

  • Knowing when to hurry up vs. taking my time with something by being aware of my surroundings.

  • Know to leave the area if traffic is busy and I don’t have visual contact.

Lesson 40 – March 3rd, 7:00 AM – 9:00 AM

Solo time! I’m really happy today because I was relatively comfortable flying by myself outside of the pattern. I slept well, which I don’t often do before flying and got up and only went to the bathroom twice. That’s always the first thing that I have to do on the mornings that we fly. I’m much better than when I first started my lessons. My anxiety level back then was usually a 4 pooper. I know, too much information, but this is really just for my own reading.

We got to the airport and Michael made sure I had the endorsements to fly solo and land at Pinal. I intended on trying that today but it didn’t happen. The preflight went well and I didn’t have a hard time pushing the plane out of the shade port like I thought I was going to have. I listened to the AWOS and the wind was calm. Yay! Then I had a little radio confusion. I made my call saying I was taxiing to 12 but then I couldn’t hear anyone anywhere. I kept clicking the COM1 toggle up – middle – down to see if that would make a difference. It was in the middle position so I probably didn’t transmit that first call at all. The AWOS was coming over the COM2 radio. I continued to the run up area but I’m not sure at what point I noticed the COM1 was in the middle position. I followed my checklist as carefully as I could and then took off and headed north. While on downwind I finally heard another pilot on the radio. He asked me if I was staying in the pattern or not, to which I answered that I would be heading north. I was so glad to hear someone else because I was beginning to think my radio was either not working or I was not using it right. Big relief. Next time I will know to have a radio check on the CTAF frequency if necessary.

So I flew north and leveled off at 5,000 feet and did some 360s to the left and to the right. The air was really calm. I must have trimmed the plane just right because I was holding my altitude without any difficulty. I flew around Newman Peak and then over to Picacho and did a circle here. Then I flew back towards Newman and did another circle and then back to Picacho. I was going to do a landing at Pinal Airpark but when I put their frequency in and keyed the mic I got a loud squelching sound. I couldn’t even hear myself. I looked around for the squelch adjustment and didn’t see it so I decided to head back to Marana.

The air was really hazy today. Once I was above the level of haze and looked back toward the south, it was kind of strange. Only the tops of the little peaks were visible. It started to freak me out thinking that I wouldn’t be able to find the airport on my way back. I didn’t get too excited though because I realized that as I was over an area it was easy to see down. It was only obscured as I looked through it at an angle. I made my call at 10 miles out and started my descent from 4,800 feet. Made my 5 mile call and over the cement plant and I was right at 3,000 feet. Cool! I set up for my landing and on final noticed I was a little high so I pulled the power all the way back and made sure the speed stayed at 65. I almost did a go-around but decided that I didn’t have to come in “on the numbers” since there’s an awful lot of runway. I just used the blocks as my first aiming point. My landing was really good so I wanted to try another one. I had planned on coming to a full stop but since I didn’t call it as such I put in the power and took off again. I should have said “on the go” but I had to concentrate on flying the plane and once I was airborne I radioed that I was upwind. On my downwind this time I said I would be making a full stop. The second approach was also a bit high but I pulled the power back and watched my speed. All was well. Taxied back to the shade port and put the plane away. Even now I’m sitting here thinking “did I turn the fuel selector to both?” but I followed the checklist so I know I must have. Parking the plane was not hard this time either. Filled out log book with SOLO TIME and had to rush home, change clothes and get to work by 10:00 for a meeting – just made it.

Things I feel good about:

  • Anxiety about going up today by myself did not happen.

  • I flew, I circled, I flew back, I landed, I lived.

Things I need to work on:

  • I felt a bit uneasy when I wasn’t sure the radio was working. That’s something that I should be able to verify and know for sure it’s working. Next time.

  • Need to locate the squelch adjustment.

  • I had to double check the check list a lot to make sure I didn’t leave anything out. I don’t know if that’s something I need to work on or if it’s normal for students.

  • Judging distances to make my calls.

Now that I’ve done this, I’m hoping I am brave enough to do my Nogales trip this weekend. I’m trying to think in a very positive manner.

Lesson 41 – March 5th, 8:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Today might have been my short cross-country trip to Nogales by myself but the winds were reported to be 12-18 knots. Instead we decided to get in some practice time flying in windy (to me) conditions. By the time we got out to the airport the winds were only at 3 knots. We found out from Jackie Thomas who was going to fly to Nogales that even though the winds were calm at Marana, by the time she got over Ryan Field the wind was gusting to 28 knots. I’m glad that I didn’t try the solo trip after all.

We took off from Marana and flew to Pinal and practiced soft and short takeoffs and landings. I did most of them pretty good but my first soft field takeoff was pretty bad. The next one was better since I had a better idea of the process. There was a bit more traffic at Pinal than usual, meaning there were two or three other planes there. We probably did about 6 turns in the pattern and then headed to the north practice area to do some stalls. I know I need to get used to them so I can’t avoid it. The more I do, the more I will just accept them and not be intimidated. Of course we did the turning stalls which are my least favorite. Michael did one to the right and one to the left and then I did two each direction. I did ok. We headed back to Marana after the maneuvers. I did all the calls on the way back and they came pretty naturally. Did a normal landing and went back. Not much new today, just practicing the things I don’t get to do very often.

Lesson 42 – March 16th, 6:00 AM – 10:00 AM – FIRST SOLO CROSS-COUNTRY

Today I did my short, solo cross-country trip to Nogales and back. I didn’t fly last weekend because we spent the entire time getting the house and yard in order for Kathleen’s visit. I didn’t realize at the time that Michael had planned on my doing this trip last Saturday. I was actually kind of bummed out thinking about the next few days so I asked Michael if I could go on Tuesday and just take the whole day off. Well the plane went in for maintenance so I couldn’t do it that day but he said Wednesday was available. Unfortunately I had a class scheduled for the afternoon so I couldn’t take the whole day off but Michael scheduled the flight from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM so I’d have time to get to my class in the afternoon. Had to get up at 5 to get to the airport by 6. I told Michael that I had two distinct emotions and they bounced back and forth between nervous and calm. I envisioned the flight in my head so many times and I’ve traced the route on Google Earth a bunch of times. I didn’t have any worries about getting lost, most of my anxiety was about using the Navigation systems and saying the right things on the radio. I had a little difficulty falling asleep the night before and then I woke up at 2:30 and never fell back asleep. I just didn’t worry about it because I knew the adrenaline would kick in and I’d be okay.

So, we get to the airport and check the weather again. Michael was giving me some last minute tips and I could feel some anxiety coming on but I just tried to be calm and pay attention. I filled out my flight plan and called Prescott Radio to file my plan. The man who helped me was really nice. Then asked about any unusual conditions that may have changed since last night’s briefing and he said “no, everything looks good for your flight”. I guess there was a fire west of Nogales but it was not supposed to be any problem for me. I gathered up all my loot; flight bag, purse, cushion, and we went to the front to get the airplane bag with the keys and documents inside. Michael walked out to the plane with me, untied it while I did the walk-around. Got the guys to fill it up and even got the windscreen washed. Sometimes those dead bugs look like little airplanes in the sky. Then Michael kissed me and said to call him when I get there. Okay then. I pushed the plane out and proceeded as usual. I pulled the right seat forward so that my paperwork would be easier to reach. Last time I soloed the seat was pushed back and it made things a little harder to get to. Such a simple little adjustment, but it made a big difference in the air. By now it was almost sunrise and it was a gorgeous morning. I taxied out and took off without a second thought.

My first radio call in the air as I was turning right crosswind was probably not the best. I think I should have said I was climbing to 7,500 but I forgot. Many of my calls today were less than perfect but I’m sure they will improve with experience. I headed toward Marana High School and then lined up over Sandario Road for the first part of my leg. This is about where I called Prescott Radio and opened my flight plan. It was easy peasy.

I noticed that I was directly over Sandario when I should have it visible out my window. I lifted my right wing and banked to the right a bit to get on the right side of Sandario then straightened back out with a heading to the south. I kept looking at my speed to keep at 70 knots for my initial climb. All the power was in and my climb rate was pretty much 500 fpm. Sometimes the speed would start to slow down so I would level out a little bit to try and keep it at 70 but I also wanted to make sure I reached my cruising altitude within about 14 miles. It all worked out though. I followed Sandario until it dead ended at Ajo Way. I kept looking at the map too to make sure I could recognize landmarks when I saw them. It is a bit different up there. I also kept scanning for other traffic. The only other plane I saw on the way down was at about 1 o’clock, about 1,000 feet above and maybe a mile away. Those are my estimate of distances but I don’t know how accurate they are. Oh, the plane was heading the same direction as me so I was not concerned.

At the south end of Sandario I headed toward the east a bit. Michael was right, I could see the tailing ponds in the distance already and I knew where the end of the Santa Ritas were so I just flew by pilotage. I kept checking my heading though and it was a good way to verify that everything works as it should. I put in Ryan Fields CTAF in and listened to that traffic for a while. Then I tried to work the OBS but wasn’t sure exactly what I was doing so I didn’t worry too much about it.

Even though the time between each landmark was only 6-10 minutes, time seemed to be going slowly. I would check my instruments, look for traffic and then look for fun. That was pretty much the pattern all the way down there. I saw an airport in the distance and actually wondered if that was Nogales already even though I knew better. Then I realized I was coming up on Ruby Star and its twin airport that I can’t remember right now. Son of a gun, I was doing great. I adjusted my heading slightly according to my flight plan. I could see the area that I wanted to fly between the end of the Santa Ritas and the mountain to the west. I went on and crossed 1-19 and soon I was over the foothills of the Santa Ritas. It looks so different from the air (obviously). I knew I would be flying just west of Patagonia Lake and there it was. I think this was about where I made my first call to Nogales traffic. I said everything except my altitude. Another plane heading for Nogales had previously made a call and I knew they were ahead of me. That plane called to me and asked my altitude. In a very professional manner I said “Oops sorry, altitude is 7,500 feet”. I kept checking my cell phone to know when I was 10 miles and 5 miles out. Just after my 5 miles out call I saw the airport. I knew I was to overfly midfield at 5,500 feet. Doh! I was still at 7,500, I totally forgot to start my descent at around 10 miles out. Okay so a little problem here but not unfixable. I radioed in that I was approximately 1 mile north of the airport and I was going to do a 360. In retrospect I should have added that I was doing that to descend to 5,500 but I didn’t. I made a standard turn to the right with my power pulled back somewhat, watching and listening for any other traffic and watching my speed. I remember Michael said not to build up too much speed while descending. By the time I finished my 360 I was right at 5,500. Pretty cool, at a 500 fpm descent for 2 minutes it turned out just right.

I called again that I was overflying midfield at 5,500, golf course, 45 for 21. I proceeded to the golf course, made a tighter turn to the left and there I was on the 45 for 21. By that time I had dropped to 5,000 feet which is the pattern altitude at OLS. Called that in. Now I had to focus on my landing. I imagined that it was the Marana airport and envisioned how far away I would be as I turned downwind. That worked pretty good, as I looked out my window the runway was where I was used to it being. I pulled the carb heat and watched my altitude. I was heading right for the foothills. As I was abeam the runway numbers I pulled the power back to 1900 rpm and put in my first 10 degrees of flaps, indicator needle reached the white zone and I put in my second 10 degrees. Trimmed the plane up. Watched until the end of the runway was about 45 degrees behind me and turned left base, put in full flaps. As I turned final I was lined up just right which I often don’t do at Marana so that felt good. I kept the speed at 65 but I felt pretty high. Pulled the power back some more, kept the pitch adjusted so that it stayed at 65. I thought a minute about doing a “go around” but didn’t think that was necessary. There was plenty of runway and I just kept it coming down even though I was past the bars. What helped reassure me that I was doing ok was seeing all the tire marks on the runway right at the point I would be touching down. I figured “hey, that’s where everyone else seems to land”. I looked out at the end of the runway and let her down, came back up just slightly but didn’t over correct. I felt might good to have my wheels on the ground. I pulled off at Echo and radioed that I was clear of 21. I taxied over to the tie-down area and picked the farthest away spot to try and park. I didn’t line it up very well. I was probably about 8 feet off-center but I knew I wasn’t going to be there long and there were plenty of other spots if someone else came in. I went through the after landing process and put on the emergency brake. Then I checked the fuel levels first thing before I forgot. Barely used any it seemed.

I grabbed my purse tried to call Michael on the cell phone. Call failed, call failed… I tried about 6 times with no luck. I sheepishly walked into the office knowing that at least someone in there heard my amateurish radio calls. There was a pay phone at the FBO but since Marana was long distance I didn’t have a whole lot of change. Finally the guy at the desk offered to make the call for me. The land line went through right away and it was so good to hear Michael’s voice. “I’m here” I said. We didn’t talk too long. I told him I’d be heading back soon and that everything went well.

I bought a cup of coffee and sat at a table by myself trying not to look too self-conscious with about 4 other men in the café. Finished my coffee and headed out to the plane. Did a quick check to see that all was well and got in. Took the brake off, went through the checklist just like I did in the morning, listened to the AWOS and radioed that I was taxiing to 21. A woman radioed that she was on downwind and asked me what my location was again. I told her I was at the tie-down area. I taxied all the way to run-up area at the end of the runway and used my checklist to do my “before take-off” procedure. The other plane landed while I was doing this. Then I circled around and held short to look and listen for other traffic. I was a bit hesitant there to really, really make sure no one else was around. I pulled out on the runway and took off. That was a strange sensation. I’m so used to doing that at Marana but this was my first solo landing and takeoff anywhere else. I turned right crosswind and right again to see the mountain that I would be going around. Oh ya, there it was. I radioed to Nogales when I was over Patagonia Lake and stated my altitude and that I would be climbing to 8,500. I set up the same rate of climb as before but since I was already at 5,000 it didn’t take long to get to my cruising altitude, about 8 minutes I would say.

I was watching and listening carefully on my climb out of the Nogales area. At Marana I’m somewhat familiar with the areas that people fly into and out of the airspace but now I was thinking I was climbing through the same area that I recently descended and thought “gee maybe someone else could be doing the same thing”. I just continued to be diligent in my scanning and I started to monitor Ryan Field also. That got a little confusing so I turned off Nogales after a while and monitored Ryan. I knew I was going to have to lose quite a bit of altitude on the way back to Marana so I was planning that out ahead. As I got past Ryan I tuned in to Marana’s CTAF and I started my descent so that I would be at 3,500 by the time I flew over mid-field. Marana looked really different from that direction. When Michael and I flew this together I was paying more attention to flying the plane and not so much navigation. This time I had to do both. I radioed at 10 miles out and then 5 miles out knowing that Michael was probably listening to me and I surely wanted to do it right. I could see Picacho Peak ahead and then I saw the cement plant over to the right and zeroed in on KAVQ. Okay now I’m starting to feel more at home. There were actually a lot of pilots in the area on my way back. At the time I was paying attention to where they all were (at least trying to) but now I couldn’t tell you who was where.

As I got over the high school I was right at 3,500 and called in that I would be flying over mid-field for 12. Over mid-field I called in and then headed east to circle around and come back over the cement plant. It all went really well and I was glad that no one else was in the pattern at the same time. I went out past the freeway and made a right turn toward the cement plant. As I was over it I was just at 3,000 feet – perfect. I called my 45 and downwind and then someone else was on downwind behind me – number 2. I set up for my landing as I have done so many times. On downwind, pull the carb heat, abeam the numbers, power back, flaps, more flaps, trim, base, full flaps, turn final, line ‘er up, speed at 65, stay on target… down, down, nose up and squeak – there I was home again.

I cleared the runway and headed back to the shade port. There was another plane on Charlie taxiway so I just continued to the one farther on down. I was so happy. Then I saw Michael waiting for me at the tie down area. He was beaming. He waved to me and I pulled the plane up right to the cable and shut it down. Oops, forgot to do a mag check. I was so excited to see him and I got the biggest hug ever. First thing he asked “did you close your flight plan?” Darn it, I was so focused on the descending process that I totally forgot. It’s not that big of a deal as long as you do it within the appropriate time frame, and I had plenty of time. I also realize that I had just done a really intimidating thing. Woo hoo!

We finished putting the plane away and I think this was the first time I really felt like the PIC. Walked inside and went to finish the paperwork and close my flight plan. Everyone was very congratulatory to me.

Lesson 43 – April 16th, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Last night I asked Michael if we were flying today and he said he hadn’t scheduled anything. But then after my shower, he said “yep, the plane was available so we could fly”. Notice the date; it’s been 4 weeks since my last flight. I slept okay but this morning I was as anxious as I used to be a long time ago. Michael said that is totally normal. This weekend is also the Warbird Exhibit by the Collings Foundation. We decided to get up and out of the area before the airspace got too crazy. Preflight and takeoff went fine and we headed out to the north practice area to practice stalls and slow flight maneuvers. I felt like a beginner again. I can see why it is important to keep lessons close together, you really do lose skills. After 3 or 4 stalls they don’t seem as bad and I even did one that dropped off and recovered pretty well. One of them though that went over to about a 90 degree bank pretty much scared me and Michael calmly got us out of it and explained how it’s done. After a while we headed over to land at Pinal and I did not do a good landing at all. Michael pulled it up at the last minute or we would have had a hard nose landing. We pulled off the runway and taxied back to take off again. I wanted to try again but we were running out of time so had to return to Marana. My landing there was a little better but Michael talked me through it. It was good that I got out for practice but I certainly would not have done well if I were soloing today. Skills must be kept up. When we returned we were talking about when to start the flare on landing. It occurred to me that I was so focused on keeping the plane at a pitch to stay at 65 knots that I didn’t start leveling out soon enough. Practice, practice, practice. All in all I remembered some things well but not everything.

Lesson 44 – April 23rd, 7:00 AM – 9:00 AM

I was excited to go fly today just to prove to myself that I hadn’t totally lost my touch at landings. Once we talked over my problems I realized two things had gone wrong. I had focused on keeping the pitch at a point in order to keep the speed at 65 a little too long and too close to the ground. The second thing didn’t come up until last Saturday evening when Michael mentioned about looking from the blocks to the end of the runway. That’s when I realized that I did not use that method to judge my landing. He had to remind me of that once months ago when it had been a while between flights. Now I think it will sink in permanently. So we went up and did about 8 landings. About half were short field landings which are a bit trickier but I get the concept. It’s the coordination that needs perfecting. Next week we’ll be in Philadelphia so I guess we won’t fly for another two weeks.

Lesson 45 – May 14th, 6:00 AM – 9:00 AM

The last two Saturdays were not for flying. On April 30th we were in Philly and last weekend we drove to Safford to visit Michael’s dad. Today the plane was scheduled at 8:00 so Michael got us on the schedule from 6:00 to 8:00. Up early but that’s okay. When we got to the airport Michael found out that the 8:00 person had cancelled so we weren’t as crunched for time as we thought. Good thing because the plane was low on fuel and it took nearly an hour to just get ready to fly. Michael said we were going to fly down to Ryan Airfield to get me used to talking with the control tower and landing at a controlled airport. I wondered in the back of my mind if this was going to be the day that I do my 3 solo takeoffs and landings at a controlled field. I wasn’t going to worry about it though, if it works out that way – great!

So we depart Marana and head to the south. Ryan is so close that it only takes about 10 minutes to get there. On the way, Michael told me where I’d make my first call and like the very smart instructor that he is, he made me practice the phrase over and over until I really had to make it on the radio. I doubt if he has others do that but he knows how tongue-tied I can get. So my first call would be “Ryan Tower, Cessna 6291D is at Sandario and the canal with Charlie inbound for touch and goes” I repeated it about 4 or 5 times. One of those times I said I was at Sandario and the tower – LOL. I didn’t even realize it until Michael told me what I said. Then I could hear it back in my head and knew he was right. As we got to the initial communication point I clicked my radio button and said it just right. (at least I’m pretty sure I did). Before we even left Marana, Michael had drawn the airport on his board and told me what would be the most likely scenario for landing today. That helped me visualize quite a bit. So back to the air… The control tower told me to do a left base to runway 6R and stay in a right pattern for my touch and goes, just like Michael prepared me for. I set up my plane in the landing configuration and all went well. Michael was right about some things being easier at a controlled tower. You don’t have to call all your turns and say your intentions, you just do what the controller tells you. The most stressful thing for me as a newbie is saying back the instructions to the controller, Sometimes I don’t repeat everything I should but I was shown much kindness and patience by the controller.

Surprisingly as we touched down, the controller told us to keep in a left pattern. That was fine by me because that’s what I’m used to doing at Marana. We went around the pattern about 8 times I think and each landing was pretty good. A few suggestions here and there from my instructor but generally OK. He radioed the tower and said we were coming in for a full stop for his student to do her 3 solo takeoffs and landings. Oh my! I felt pretty comfortable with my flying but now I was going to have to listen with only my own ears and respond to the controller without prompts. Time to join the big-girl club.

We landed and switched the frequency to Ground Control who told me which taxiways to take to the restaurant where Michael would be getting out and waiting for me. On the way there, we met another plane who pulled to the side and I had to avoid colliding with. Oh that sounds worse than it was. He had not called in to Ground Control to get his taxiing clearance so when the tower saw us he just told the other plane to give way to us. Planes have wide wingspans and I was very cautious not to get them close to each other. I let Michael out at the restaurant and he said he’d be listening on his radio. That was sort of comforting and sort of not. Knowing that he would hear all my amateur radio calls was going to be embarrassing. I tried not to give it another thought because I had some work to do.

My first call was not very good. Ground Control was telling me I had to repeat my entire call sign, Cessna 6291D when holding short at Runway 33. I thought I got that but my reply back sounded confused. He sort of repeated that a few times and again I thought I understood. So I headed back to the runway by taxiway Bravo and Bravo2 and thought I was getting lost on the taxiway. Rather than run the risk of taxiing where I shouldn’t I asked for progressive taxi instructions. They gave me turn by turn directions but it was still a little unnerving.

I got to the hold short area of Runway 33 and was told to switch over to the Tower frequency. (They were so nice to me). I waited there while the plane in front of me was given clearance to take off. Then I was given clearance to hold short at Runway 6R. I did that and watched while another plane came in for a landing. Here I am waiting for my clearance for takeoff. “Cessna 6291D cleared for takeoff on Runway 6R for a right-hand pattern. Oh man, I just practice 8 takeoffs and landings with a LEFT pattern. Plus, as soon as I got out there everybody and their brother and their sister decided to either takeoff or arrive. I didn’t freak out but I did momentarily wonder if I could ask for a left hand pattern. I’ve done right patterns before but not in a while. I just told myself to think “mirror image”. I did okay. Luckily back in Michael’s office he had drawn out on paper where I would most likely be making my turns for a right pattern so when I got up in the air by myself and turned right crosswind, his drawing popped in my head and I knew pretty much where I would be doing my turns.

I did my first landing and had to get off the runway for this to be considered a full-stop landing. I switched to Ground Control who directed me back to hold short at Runway 33. That’s where I switch back over to Tower Control. I went through the same routine except this time there was even more traffic and I was told to extend my downwind until he told me to turn base. Okay, I’ve heard that come up before so I understood what he meant. I confirmed the instructions. I was flying downwind for what seemed like a long time. I knew the controller wouldn’t forget about me but still… Finally he came on and told me to turn base. During this time I forgot about setting up for landing, but since I was about 2 miles out it gave me time to pull the power back, get my flaps down and line up the plane. I noticed that I was getting pretty slow, under 60 knots but I was still pretty far out. I increased the power and lowered the nose slightly and there I was at 65 again. I was slightly high on one of my landings but I think it was the last one. Anyway, I landed again and pulled off the runway. The Tower told me not to bother switching to Ground Control this time but just to taxi to 33 and hold short. I did that. As I was waiting for my approval to cross the hold short line, the Tower came on and said “last one right?” “Yes” I said, probably sounding very happy – yet serious. He told me to proceed to 6 Right and something about takeoff but I didn’t understand. I asked for him to repeat and he cleared me for takeoff and said I could use the pattern of my choice. I repeated that back saying that the direction was my choice. He probably expected me to tell him right then which way I’d turn but I didn’t. I just got upwind and decided to do a left pattern. I guess he was okay with that. The last takeoff was different because it seemed I got airborne really fast but I wasn’t climbing very much. I looked down and my VSI was at about 300 feet per minute so I pulled the nose to the horizon and trimmed the plane for that. Then everything seemed normal again. I did my last landing and the Tower congratulated me. They couldn’t have been nicer. As I pulled off the runway and switched to Ground Control they directed me back to the restaurant. As I taxied by the actual control tower they asked if this was my first solo. I told them yes, at a controlled airport anyway. They said they could see a big smile on my face so I waved up at them like a little kid. Michael was there waiting for me and I parked the plane, got out and was extremely happy. Another milestone met and passed. We went in and had really great Eggs Benedict but I was almost too excited to eat.

We finished up our breakfast and I asked Michael if he wanted to fly back. Okay so I was wanting to take it easy at that point. He said no. Darn. I guess I had to actually finish the entire flight myself for it to count. No problem. We departed to the north and headed toward Marana. Just north of the ZOO (meaning there were lots of planes in the air) I headed east to fly to the cement plant from the southeast. That was a route I had never done before. It started getting really bumpy on the way back. I really don’t like bumpy air, so I had to make myself relax. I’m sure it didn’t seem bumpy to Michael but he’s so used to it. Once I got to the cement plant I felt like I was in my own back yard. I landed the plane and taxied back to the shade ports.

Yeah! I did it. We hung out a while and looked at some of the planes at the “Expo” and then came home.

Things I feel good about:

  • The radio calls were not perfect but they were good enough.

  • When I realized I was going to do my 3 solos I just took them all in stride.

  • I flew a right pattern without much concern.

  • Control Tower people can be really nice and really encouraging.

Things I need to work on:

  • Knowing what to say and when to say it.

  • Relaxing in the plane – getting used to bumpy air.

  • I did let my speed get a little slow that one time, never stop checking instruments.

Lesson 46 – May 28th, 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM

We flew early today because the planes were in use later on. Had to fly in 3TS which is okay with me these days. I used to think it was stressful going from one of the 172s to the other but it’s good to realize that other than the placement of a few things, they are identical. We stayed in the pattern so I could keep in practice with my takeoffs and landings. I still tend to land a little crooked even though I feel I’m lining up the plane straight. Finally after a few landings I landed what looked “off-center” to me and Michael said “perfect”. Okay, so it only took me 14 months of flying to realize that what looks straight to me is actually off-center. I knew that I was sitting on the left side of the plane but I didn’t realize that it was enough to the side to make that much of a difference when determining what a straight landing looks like. I did get really stressed once today when Michael was telling me to hold the nose up and add right rudder while we were flying low down the runway. I had visions of the time that I almost made us crash. I wasn’t exactly sure what he really wanted me to do… pull off on the side and stop or what? It got a little squirrelly and then we took off for another go around.

The next time he explained it a little better and he just wanted me to hold the nose up and go from one side of the runway to center and then from center to the other side in order to get a feel for what it takes to stay straight. That made a little more sense and I was getting the hang of it.

Traffic at the airport was starting to pick up and it was getting a bit congested so we stopped after an hour.

Things I feel good about:

  • Realizing that 3TS and 91D are very similar.

  • Knowing that a straight landing looks off-center.

Lesson 47 – June 11th, 7:00 – 10:30 AM – FIRST TRIP TO BENSON

We didn’t fly last Saturday because I didn’t sleep well the night before. Plus we weren’t scheduled to go until 11:00 and it was a hot day. I dreaded a bumpy flight on top of my efforts to fly over Tucson airspace.

Today I’ve been awake since 3:00 but I didn’t feel so tired that I couldn’t fly and I wanted to get in practice flying over class C airspace and talking to ATC. Last night I was doing my flight planning and Michael typed up a sample script for what to say to ATC for our flight. I didn’t know that was what he was typing but it was a nice surprise. I really feel like my memory works better once I have visualized the words on paper rather than just hearing them. Michael is different from me in that way I think. He can hear a piece of music and whistle it note for note right back; or work up a little ditty on the guitar and actually be able to play it again. If I made up a melody once I don’t think I could play it again the same way. That might be why (I’m just speculating here) Michael will tell me what to say in the plane and it just gets lost in my head. Anyway, back to today’s flight.

We went to his office and I had my flight plan already written up from last night. The current winds aloft report was so slightly different from last night that I didn’t have to recalculate any of my numbers. I called in to Flight Service and filed my flight plan and received any relevant Notams for the area. There were none to interfere with this flight.

We were scheduled in 593TS today and walked out to do the preflight. There was no pitot tube cover or control lock in place. The rest of the walk around was fine. We got ready to go and taxied out to 12 for departure. No one else around using the radio which was surprising. Run up went well except I forgot to set the transponder to ALT (more on that later).

I took off and headed to the east. Radio calls are okay at this point since I’m pretty familiar with “my airport” but even those took a long time for me to feel confident about. As soon as we passed the cement plant we switched the frequency to Prescott FSS and I opened my flight plan. I have done that before and it’s pretty straight forward. I had my map, my nav log and my script in my lap preparing for the ATC communication. I had read over the script quite a few times last night (before the power on our street went out). I knew what I was saying and had an idea of what to expect back from Tucson Approach. I made my initial introductory call. They responded back and I gave my intentions. So far so good. Then they asked what model plane I was in. Uh, I don’t even know what I answered back. Michael said to say 172 N model. I answered 72 N model. I didn’t hear him say the 1 so I didn’t say it. I corrected myself and ATC gave me a transponder code. Michael actually dialed it in for me but I did write it down as part of my CRAFT notes. ATC came back and said they couldn’t identify me. Michael and I both noticed that I hadn’t set the transponder to ALT during my run up so I did that right away. ATC came on to say that I was in radar contact and told me to proceed as requested and I think I responded back appropriately. The flight over Tucson toward the fairgrounds was perfect. Every landmark was recognizable and I knew where I was headed. My calculations were right on and I was maintaining my altitude at 7500. Cool. We got over the fairgrounds and turned to our next heading toward Benson. After a few minutes Michael asked me if I could see the airport. Yes, I spotted it but so far it didn’t look like an airport, just a brown patch in the green landscape. I contacted ATC and told them the airport was in sight and terminated Flight Following. I can’t even remember the phraseology for that right now but it went smoothly. We switched radio frequencies to Benson CTAF and AWOS and listened to the AWOS first. I thought we would be landing on runway 28 but the winds were such that Michael thought we should make a circle and come around to runway 10. I called in 5 miles out and I think it was okay. Then I called out 2 miles out and said I would be circling around from the east for a 45 entry to 12. I didn’t even know I said the wrong runway number until Michael told me. Now I’m really starting to question my memory and recall ability but I focused again on the traffic pattern and landing sequence. Another plane made a call and Michael said he spotted it. It was very low so it must have just taken off. I didn’t spot it until Michael pointed it out to me.

I flew to the east and was descending to the appropriate pattern altitude of 4800 feet. As I entered the 45 I was a little high still but by the time I was abeam the numbers I was pretty much at the correct altitude. Michael told me the runway was narrower than Marana so it would make me think I was higher than I was. I turned base and final and lined up with the runway. It was not a bad landing. We pulled off the runway and taxied over to the apron. There was no other traffic in the area. I parked the plane and we walked over to the FBO.

The door was slightly ajar even though there was a sign that read “be back soon”. We went in to the office and I used the bathroom while Michael looked around. The manager came in after a few minutes and offered us something to drink and chatted a while with us. Very nice man who took over the place about a month ago. We hung out about 20-30 minutes maybe and then headed back. We only had the plane until 10:30 so there wasn’t a moment to be lost :-) .

We did a quick walk-around of the plane, checked the fuel and started up the plane. Michael said we could take of on 28 (which I kept having to ask him to repeat) since the winds were calm and that would head us in the right direction.

Taxied down to 28 and did my run up. Guess what I forgot to set AGAIN, yep, transponder to ALT. I headed toward the takeoff point without checking for incoming traffic or making a radio call. Michael said he couldn’t believe I did that. I stopped the plane and did both of those.

I lined up on the centerline and put in full power. We did not seem to be building up speed as quickly as I was used to. I kept looking at the end of the runway and checking airspeed back and forth. It was building up speed, just very slowly. Finally at 55 I rotated the plane and we were in the air. There was another plane coming in to land. They indicated that they had us in sight so all was well. Michael said that if you’re halfway down the runway and haven’t lifted off you need to pull the power back, get off the runway and try again. The reality of that statement didn’t kick in until a little later because I thought we were way past the mid-point of the runway when we lifted off.

As soon as we got some altitude I felt the plane being bounced around. Even though it was very slight, I guess I’m still uncomfortable with it. I was very focused on trying to stay level. Michael must have noticed my death grip on the yoke and encouraged me to loosen up and let go with my hands and fly with my feet. I was doing a timid job of it so Michael took over for a few minutes to show me (once again) how the plane will go up and down and side to side slightly but that it will correct itself and not to worry so much about it. I have to be able to do that so I can use my hands for things like reading maps.

I headed west and Michael said to fly a little closer to the freeway so I could easily follow it. We were only climbing to 6500 feet on the return trip so it didn’t take very long to reach our cruising altitude. Michael was pointing out all the local landmarks.

As we got closer to Tucson a lot of things were in my head. I thought it was bumpy which got me a little nervous and I kept thinking what I would have done if we hadn’t reached takeoff speed when we did. I did not even know to look for a mid-point marking on the runway to make a decision to abort the takeoff.

I should have looked at my script before hand and practiced what to say on the reverse trip but I didn’t. Big mistake. When it was time to contact Tucson Approach I made my initial call and they responded back with a transponder code. I asked them to say again because I didn’t catch it (even though Michael did). I looked over and saw the transponder was not on ALT so I switched it over before they could come back and tell me they couldn’t locate me on radar. Then I just blew it. They called my tail number and even though I was listening for it I didn’t hear it. Michael prompted me. I started to say my intentions and the correct phraseology would not come to me. I kept the mic keyed while I was trying to think of the words, which is a big no-no because no one else can use the radio. I said my altitude twice and never said I was a student pilot or that I was headed to Marana or anything. As I was fumbling with all this, Michael looks at our altitude and we were way high, like 1,000 feet, which put us on the same flying level as planes flying the opposite direction. He reached over and pulled the power all the way back and said “look at your altitude”. Geez, I hadn’t realized I was climbing all the while that I was trying to talk to ATC. We got back to 6500 feet and then ATC called my tail number again. I did not hear it. Michael prompted me to respond and they said ok to proceed and gave me an altimeter setting. We flew across Tucson and after a while Michael told me to call ATC and ask if I could change my transponder code as I was clearing their airspace. I started out by just using my call number when I should have first said Tucson Approach. They responded back and told me to stay on this frequency until told to change and that I could start my descent. I wasn’t sure what that really meant because I hadn’t asked them if I could descend. I should have just said “repeat” but I mumbled out something like 593TS descending. All in all it was a giant blur and I should have said something to Michael like I was overwhelmed or whatever. The feeling of total incompetence while doing something so serious is not a good feeling. My recall to even write all this down may not be all that accurate but it is how I remember it.

We could see the cement plant by now and we were still talking to Tucson. Michael radioed in that we needed to change frequencies so that we could close our flight plan and they said it was okay to do so. Michael dialed in Prescott Radio and I made my call to close my flight plan. I could see out the corner of my eye that Michael sort of had his head in his hand so I thought I messed up again. Actually I made the call okay but he was going to give me the opportunity to practice what I was going to say. In that particular case I pulled it off.

Once I got near the cement plant and switched to the Marana frequency the radio calls came much more naturally. Of course Michael noticed that and commented that it’s good to be back in familiar grounds – which it was.

My set up for landing was okay but a little farther out than usual. I called downwind, base and final and it seemed like we were just hanging in the air. I lined up the plane but got off center as we got closer to the runway. I came in a little steep which is a tendency that I have. As I brought the nose up we started to float up a little but I didn’t let it get too high. I held it level and we touched down slightly crooked but acceptable. Michael said that I saved the landing pretty well.

I taxied back and we parked the plane. I was pretty disappointed with my performance on the way back especially since I felt I did really well on the way to Benson. Michael said we would do this again before I do my trip to Wilcox to make sure I feel comfortable with it.

Things I feel good about:

  • My flight planning had me on the right headings.

  • My flight to Benson was good, altitude was consistent.

  • My landing at Benson was good.

Things I need to work on: (long list)

  • Radio communication should not be as stressful as I am making it.

  • Rehearse what I’m going to say before keying the mic.

  • Don’t hold the mic on.

  • Always say who I’m talking to when making a call.

  • Listen more carefully for my call sign.

  • Focus on flying the plane even if the radio calls are distracting me.

  • Pay attention to how fast speed is building (or not) on takeoff.

  • Pay attention to when to abort a takeoff.

  • Learn to fly with my feet.

  • Don’t have a death grip on the yoke.

  • If I don’t know what the controller said, ask him to repeat.

  • Remember to set the transponder to ALT.

  • Better organize my flight information.

  • Use the CRAFT system to write directions down.

  • Don’t drop my pen.

Lesson 48 – June 18th, 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Today we did the Marana to Benson trip again for practice. I have to admit that I felt more confident this time than last week. I got a good night’s sleep and we got to the airport about 6:15. I called Prescott Radio and filed my flight plan. The winds were supposed to pick up quite a bit around noon so we wanted to get there and back as soon as possible. We walked out to the desk and discovered that we didn’t have the plane until 7:00. Oh well, that just allowed some more time to prepare.

The plane we were in today was 6291D which is the plane I usually fly. It got back from a flight a little before 7:00 and the crew went out and filled it up with gas. We did the preflight and there was no pitot tube cover in place (turned out it was on the ground over by another plane).

Last night I went through the Class C script that Michael typed up for me and modified it for the flight back from Benson. I should have done that last week also. Michael looked it over before we left and it was okay. Taxied out and did my run-up and actually remembered to turn the transponder to ALT – Yay!

The temperature was already in the high 70s. We took off without any issues and headed east. I was flying toward the cement plant and Michael recommended that I fly a bit to the left so as to avoid any possible incoming traffic on the 45. Made sense. I was climbing at the standard rate. Just passed the cement plant I called in to Prescott Radio and opened my flight plan. Should have noted the time but forgot. My clipboard was a little better organized this time but I forgot to make some Velcro wrapped pencils. I stuck two pencils in the little plastic pocket on the left side of the cockpit but during our climb out they both fell out and onto the floor.

After opening my flight plan, I rehearsed what I was going to say to Tucson Approach. I’m slow at it because I have to focus on what information is vital. We listened to the ATIS and got information Charlie. I made my initial call. They called back and gave me a squawk code. I think I heard it correctly. Then when they made radar contact I gave my intensions and mentioned I was a student pilot. I did fine. He came back and asked my model number. I heard the call but wasn’t sure what he asked. Michael said model number. I said 172N. They gave their blessings to continue as requested. And I responded back “as requested”. I think I had an easier time recognizing 6291D as opposed to 593TS on the radio. The flight over Tucson was good. I kept my altitude, spotted Davis Monthan and Tucson International and flew between the two. The fairgrounds were straight ahead. My headings were a little off because the winds were different from the night before when I did my Nav Log.

When we got to the fairgrounds, I headed east toward Benson. The fires were making the sky a little hazy so we had the landing light on. Now I can’t remember if I contacted Tucson Approach or if they did in order to terminate Flight Following. Either way, that went smoothly.

As I saw the Benson airport, we listened to their AWOS and decided to land on runway 28 since the winds were still mostly calm. Michael told me to swing out toward the freeway to lose some altitude and come back on the 45 for 28. Then I got all mixed up about where the 45 would be for runway 28. I even had Michael confused for a minute. I finally got it in my head where the 45 was for 28 and my altitude was decreasing appropriately. By the time I was on the 45 I was at pattern altitude of 4800. I called downwind, base and final and prepared to land. My speed was higher than it should have been. Normally the final approach should be at 65 kts but I was between 70 and 75 even though I had pulled the power all the way back. I touched down but oscillated a couple times. I knew to try and hold the plane level and not give in to responding to the up and down. We landed okay but passed what was the last accessible taxiway. The end was blocked off so I had to turn around and back-taxi a little, always stating what I’m doing on the radio.

We parked and went into the little FBO for a quick break. We only stayed about 10 minutes in order to get back to Marana before the winds picked up. Since it took us a while to get off the ground last time, we decided to use runway 10 and take advantage of the slope of the runway as well as any upwind conditions that were out there. Since we couldn’t get to the end of the runway without back-taxiing, I did my run-up on the last available taxiway and then made my radio call that we were back-taxiing to runway 10 for departure but I should have stated that we were back-taxiing ON runway 10 for departure. Always let people know exactly where you are.

I lined up for departure and put in full power and before you knew it we were at 55 kts and lifted off. Much faster than last week. I did my crosswind, downwind and announced that we were departing to the west.

It didn’t take long to reach the return trip altitude of 6500 feet. Put in the new frequency for Tucson Approach (it’s different for eastbound and westbound traffic). Then we listened to the ATIS and got information Hotel. At about 22 miles out I practiced what I was going to say. I made the initial call at 20 miles out. No response. They were contacting a lot of other planes but not me. I was just giving them time to respond thinking they were busy, but by now we were about 14 miles from Tucson. Michael told me I could not go on until they made contact with me. Oh ya, I knew that but didn’t put 2 and 2 together to realize that I could not enter their airspace yet. I made a 360 turn and called them again. This time they responded back right away. They gave me a squawk code and I heard it wrong. I repeated it back and they said it again. This time I got it right. They called my tail number and I gave my intentions remembering to say I was a student pilot. I actually abbreviated it a bit because I didn’t need to ask for Flight Following. This time I really focused on hearing my call sign. I also maintained my altitude much better. I got 100 feet high or low a couple times but tried to rein it in quickly. As we were reaching the outer limits (ha ha) of the Class C space, they called to me and told me to stay on this frequency but okay to descend. I didn’t catch the frequency instruction, I was going to switch over to VFR but Michael caught it. Then I replied back “descending to Marana Regional”. All I needed to say was “descending” or just give my call sign back as a confirmation.

As we got closer to the cement plant I called and requested a frequency change so that I could close my flight plan. I was given approval. I changed the transponder to 1200 and we put in the frequency for Prescott Radio. I called up to close my flight plan. Typically they confirm with a time and give any quick updates on the destination airport. This time I had a woman who went on and on with almost a standard briefing. Michael and I looked at each other and shrugged.

The flight from there on was fairly routine and I landed fine at the correct speed. The difference in the size of the runway really does affect how close you think you are (or aren’t). I embarrassed myself a little trying to slow the plane down and make taxiway A3. Always slow the plane first and then turn. If you need to, there’s usually another taxiway a little farther down.

We parked the plane and found the pitot tube cover on the ground. After securing the plane we just headed back to the office for our usual debriefing.

Things I feel good about:

  • I’m not perfect at it but the radio communication felt much better.

  • At least I heard my call number this time even though I turned the numbers around. Good reason to read information back to them.

  • The area over Tucson got a little bumpy and I tried to let it go and fly with my feet. My hand wants to keep reaching up for the yoke though. It has a mind of its own.

  • The takeoff from Benson was much better.

Things I need to work on:

  • Relax more.

  • Learn to accept the bouncing around without getting nervous.

  • Make sure my landing speed is appropriate. I should have done a go-around when my speed was high on final. Always be prepared to do a go-around on a first attempt especially at an unfamiliar airport.

  • If the plane oscillates, just try and keep the nose in one place, don’t over react.

  • Pay attention to the instructions from ATC.

  • Keep checking the map to verify landmarks and know exactly where I am.

  • The railroad tracks looked like the freeway at first glance, know the difference.

Lesson 49 – June 25th, 6:00 AM – 10:00 AM – TO BENSON AGAIN

Last night I was preparing to do my long cross country trip to Willcox. I didn’t get home until 8:00 at night but I jumped right into doing my flight planning. I was asking Michael some questions while I was doing that and he started to question my readiness for this trip. He said he expected to do the Benson trip together one more time before I did the solo trip. That was actually fine with me since I felt a little rushed and sleepy. I got up and relaxed for the evening knowing that I would definitely get a better night’s sleep with that information.

Saturday morning we were to be at the airport by 6:00 AM. Thank goodness it gets light out so early; it makes getting up at 5:00 not so bad. I had been having some serious thoughts recently about not completing the process of getting my actual license (again). Michael had mentioned a few weeks ago that I could stop at any time, and that I had accomplished what I had set up for myself (landing the plane if something bad should happen). So I had put the idea in my head that this was going to be my last lesson, but I still wanted to do a good job and end my lessons on a “high note” rather than quitting because I felt discouraged. I was going to talk to Michael about it later on.

Back to today’s lesson. I called in my flight plan using one from a previous trip. Duh, I started by giving the wrong airplane tail number. Then I couldn’t think of 6291D for a second but it all worked out. No new Notams that I hadn’t heard the last two weeks. We got out to the plane and again the pitot tube cover was on the ground but the rest of the walk around was normal.

We taxied out to 12 for departure and there was a shitload of planes in the air. Not everyone was calling their locations on the radio but most of them were. One person called in that they were on the 45 for 21 which is the perpendicular runway. Michael said that a lot of people turn the numbers around like that. Yikes. At least the person taking off in front of me actually asked on the radio if someone was really coming in to land on 21. The pilot came on and corrected his call to 12.

I pulled out on the runway after one person landed and took off while another one was on base. That was the only way to get out of there without waiting forever. The takeoff was fine and I departed to the east. I tuned in Prescott radio to open my flight plan and someone was getting a very long standard briefing. On and on. Finally they ended their radio transmission and I got a chance to hop in there and open my flight plan. Meanwhile we’re getting closer to Tucson airspace. I should have rehearsed my call at least once. If I had I would have realized that I had not listened to the ATIS. I made my initial call and they responded right back. I started saying my intentions and stopped when I said enroute Benson with ????. I looked at Michael and he said I forgot to listen. I did remember to say student pilot so maybe that’s why they didn’t ask me if I had the latest ATIS report. I was expecting them to ask me though.

I did much better communicating this time. They called and asked me to repeat my cruising altitude which I answered back 7,500. I did good.

The rest of the flight to Benson was uneventful, smooth air. ATC called to warn me of traffic at 11 o’clock. I responded “looking for traffic” then when I saw it I said something like “traffic identified”. Duh! There are better terms but I couldn’t think of them.

Since I’ve described this trip two weeks in a row, I’m only going to say that the landing at Benson was good. We hung around for about 20 minutes and took off for the return trip. The flight back was better than last week. I was hearing my call sign and responding accordingly. Maybe not perfect but good enough. What I didn’t do was repeat that I was to maintain my squawk code until landing at Marana but he didn’t get on me about it.

The air got a little bumpy as we got into the Marana pattern. I was hoping I would be able to land without any kind of crosswind problems. It all went well and I did a really good landing. Once off the runway Michael had to tell me to reset the transponder to 1200. I definitely would have forgotten that.

So we get back to the office and Michael starts to tell me about how much to expect the final costs to be to get my certificate. I said “let’s go in and talk”. I told him what my feelings were about being happy about what I’ve accomplished and maybe I don’t really need to finish up. He totally listened without any judgment but when I was done, he said I was so close that I should really finish. If he were counseling any other student he would tell them the same thing. Okay. I was really having a good day today thinking that the pressure was off and that I was just flying for the fun of it. Maybe I should think that way more often. It made me much more relaxed. So now I’m going to study my butt off and get my written exam over with. Then plan for the final examination. I don’t want to think too much about it or I’ll get nervous so I’m taking one day at a time.

What feels good:

  • Again, I’m not perfect at it but the radio communication felt much better.

  • I heard my call numbers and responded correctly – mostly. At least I didn’t transpose the squawk frequency this time.

  • The landing at Benson was better but I didn’t have to speed up to 65 kts – 60 kts would have been fine on such a short runway.

  • I was more relaxed.

What needs work:

  • Pay attention to the instructions from ATC.

  • Keep checking the map to verify landmarks and know exactly where I am.

  • The railroad tracks looked like the freeway. I flew along them for miles before realizing it.

Lesson 50 – July 2nd, 6:00 AM – 10:00 AM – SOLO TRIP TO WILCOX

After 3 weeks in a row of flying with Michael to Benson today I did my long cross country to Willcox-Benson and back. Parts of the trip were downright scary to me.

I woke up in the wee hours of the morning and wasn’t able to fall back asleep. This is a pretty routine occurrence these days. We got up at 5 o’clock to be at the airport by 6. I knew my adrenaline levels during the flight would keep me alert so I didn’t really worry about it. We stopped at the Quik Mart on the way to the airport so I could get some yogurt. I thought I should have something to eat for this trip but I could only take a couple bites. My stomach just doesn’t want food that early in the morning.

I had filled out two nav logs; one on Thursday night for the trip to Willcox and one on Friday night for the trip back. They both had different winds aloft compared to the current reports for today. Today the winds are forecast to be 15 -16 kts. at the altitudes I’ll be flying at. Surface winds at Marana were 5 kts. Michael didn’t think the winds would be a problem so I filled my flight plan with Prescott Radio and we went out to the plane. Matt filled it up and towed it over to the restaurant for me which was nice.

The preflight check was good. 19 gallons in each tank. I organized my paperwork on my clipboard and felt fairly comfortable about the trip. I taxied out, one plane had just landed and another was on downwind but abeam the numbers so I took off before he turned base. Up, up and away! I headed east and just over the freeway I opened my flight plan. Soon after accomplishing that I listened to the ATIS and received information India and wrote that down. Then I rehearsed what I was going to say to Tucson Approach and made the call. They immediately gave me a squawk code, I wrote that down, entered it and waited. They called and corrected my squawk code. I had the last digit as a 3 instead of a 4 when I dialed it in. I thought I had entered a 4 but it must not have “clicked” into place and bounced back to the 3. Anyway they were nice about it. After I was in radar contact I said my intentions and got the whole thing right (at least I think I did). After a few minutes they called my number and I thought she said “stay altitude” so I repeated back “stay altitude”. Then she came back and more clearly said “SAY altitude” Oh. I stated I was at 3,500 climbing to 7,500. If I hadn’t already given her my altitude I might have realized what she said but since I had given my altitude I thought she was saying to stay at that altitude. Another good lesson; knowing what terminology to listen for. So now I’m on my way across Tucson heading for the fairgrounds and I’ve been given permission to proceed as requested. She did come back and ask if I had requested Flight Following and I replied “affirmative”. I headed between DM and Tucson International as we had been doing and I could see the fairgrounds. I forgot to take my iPhone out of my purse so I had to reach back and get it off the floor behind my seat. I wanted to use the Foreflight program to verify my distances. It was working fine. I could see the sky was very hazy off to the east where I would be flying. I told myself to turn on my landing light when I got to that area. ATC called out an aircraft to me but I was not able to see it. I responded “looking for aircraft”. The flight over Tucson had a few bumpy areas but nothing that made me nervous. I got to the fairgrounds and headed east. My calculations for this trip were done on Thursday night but the winds were different this morning which made my headings slightly off.

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Since we flew this part of the trip for 3 weeks in a row I pretty much remembered the headings and knew where I was going. I followed the freeway and ATC came on to tell me that they would hand me over to Alb. Center soon but if I lost contact with them before that due to terrain interference, I could contact them on XXX.X (they gave me a real number I just don’t remember it). I repeated, wrote it down and put it in the standby side of COMM1. Good, I was feeling like a pilot. A little while later she told me to switch to Alb Ctr and I did. I called them up and they got me on radar. I could see the Benson airport so I just stayed at my altitude and flew along the freeway. From this point on I was in new territory. The sky was really hazy from this point. I could see the freeway passing between the two small mountain areas that were on the map. That’s the way I wanted to go. I listened to the Benson AWOS and monitored the CTAF. Not much going on in the area.

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The air was getting a little bumpier but not too bad. As I passed over the two mountains and there was a mine out the window to my left. I checked the map on my phone and saw I was coming close to my 10 mile out point from Willcox. I contacted Alb. Ctr and asked to change frequency. They terminated my Flight Following and told me I could squawk VFR. I changed my transponder to 1200. I made my first call to Cochise (Willcox) about 8 miles out. I also noticed the playa for the first time about now. Holy cow, I knew it was big but not that big! I checked my paperwork and noted what pattern altitude I needed to be at. I had to descend from 7,500 to 5,200. I started my descent but I was getting too close to the airport. I decided to make a 360 to the right and loose some altitude that way. I was doing that over the playa. I headed back to the airport and my altitude was just about right. I tried to listen to the Benson AWOS for winds but it wouldn’t come through. Then I listened to the Cochise CTAF for traffic so see what runway was being used. The AFD said that runway 21 was the calm wind runway. I called in that I was on the 45 for 21. Thank goodness there was someone manning the radio because she called me back and said the winds were at about 18 kts and runway 03 was a better choice. I repeated back that I would circle around to the east and come in on runway 03. Lesson learned, when in doubt, overfly the field and look at the wind sock. I did not do this and I should have. My set up for landing went pretty well. I was concerned about any gusts that might occur but just concentrated on what I had to do. I turned base and final and was lined up pretty well. It is a narrower runway than Marana so the visual clues to how high you are, are a bit different. As I got lower to the runway I tried not to come in too steeply like I have a tendency to. I had pulled my power back all the way but I was still at 65 kts. I landed a little flat and it took about 3 very small bounces before I settled completely. I slowed down, pulled off the runway and called “clear of runway 03”. I was planning on just taxiing back and taking off but I needed a little break. I taxied over to the tie downs, got out and put the parking brake on. I should have tied it down but I didn’t think of it at the time. (no issues thank goodness) I called Michael and it was good to hear his voice. The first leg went pretty smooth and I would be heading out to Benson shortly. I went in to the office, used the RR and bought a ginger ale; even though I only had a couple sips it tasted good. I went in to thank the dispatcher for telling me to use runway 03. She said the usual procedure is to overfly the runway and look at the wind sock since they don’t have an AWOS. She asked “they told you about that right?” I said yes but that I had forgotten to do it. Another plane was radioing that they were back-taxiing on 03 for takeoff. I just confirmed with her that that was the usual process and she said yes. She said one plane was coming in for a landing and that he would be staying a while so I could get ready to back-taxi after he came in. She just reminded me to listen for traffic and visually check the sky since some people still don’t use the radio.

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I got back to the plane and checked the fuel. I had used 9 gallons. Checked the plane visually, got in and prepared for my next leg to Benson. I reorganized my paperwork and taxied over to A2, parked so I could see any incoming traffic and did my run-up. Everything went smooth so I called that I was back-taxiing ON 3 for departure. Had to slow down when I realized I was taxiing a bit fast. Got to the beginning of the runway and took off. The winds were still about 18 kts so I got up really fast. I turned crosswind and was climbing at about 1000 fpm so I brought the nose down a little bit. Then turned downwind and called that I was departing to the west. I called out one more time and I don’t think it was the most professional since it took me two separate calls to get out the information that I wanted to.

I followed I-10 again and was really starting to feel the winds at this point. I just maintained as level flight as I could and tried to relax. It wasn’t long at all before it was time to call in to Benson. I listened to the AWOS and knew which direction I wanted to land but couldn’t remember the runway numbers. I knew I wrote them down but they weren’t where I thought they were. I felt stupid because I was already on the 45 for the runway I knew I wanted. I called in that I was on the 45 and left off the runway number. It was only a few seconds later that I could actually read the number 10 10 10! Duh! I called left downwind for 10. Even though the AWOS stated that the surface winds were 05 I felt I was getting bumped around. I turned base and final but did not feel that I was set-up for a good landing. I called in that I was doing a go-around. I haven’t done a go around in a while and did not do it exactly right. I put in the power and started to climb slowly. Then it was coming back to me. The carb heat was still on. Turned it off. Oh, the flaps are still down. Took out half the flaps. Okay this was feeling a little better but the power did not feel sufficient even though it was all the way in. This was a scary part for me. Took out the rest of the flaps and knew to watch that the nose didn’t go up too much. That’s when Roy called me and asked if I was by myself. I was really focusing on what I was doing so all I answered back was “yep”. I turned crosswind and downwind and this time I felt more comfortable with the set up. As I turned base and final there were a lot of bumps but I just focused on my speed and getting the landing straight. I think this landing was better than Willcox but not perfect. I taxied off the runway and over to the tie-down area. I had beads of sweat all over me. It was good to be on the ground. I went to our usual spot and Roy met me in his golf cart. He congratulated me and took my picture for their website. I got him to take one of me with my camera too.

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I went into the office and again used the RR and had some water. I called Michael and told him where I was. He said to hurry up before the winds pick up so I didn’t stay long. I checked the plane and the fuel levels. My tanks were still over half-full so my usage was about right on.

I left Benson and my radio calls here felt a bit more relaxed. I set up my radios to call ATIS and Tucson App. I reached altitude pretty fast and listened to the ATIS. Information Kilo this time. As I was 20 miles out I contacted Tus App. They gave me a squawk code. Came back and asked my intentions. I didn’t rehearse this time and I don’t know if I got everything out that I meant to. I was given approval to proceed as requested. The flight over Tucson was bumpy. The plane tipped to the side a couple times so I was busy trying to keep at 6,500 and stay level. My palms were really sweaty by this time. I lost 200 feet at one time but brought the plane back up slowly. I just kept following the freeway but I was anxious to get back to Marana. I called ATC to get permission to change my frequency to close my flight plan. They approved the change in frequency but I don’t remember them saying squawk VFR so I left my transponder to the code they gave me. I could have asked but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to leave that code in, they could always call and tell me to change it.

I called Prescott Radio, said I had Marana airport in sight and wanted to close my flight plan. That was approved followed by a string of information which was probably a standard briefing. Didn’t need that at this time. When finished I thanked them and said “G-day”. I tuned in Marana CTAF and AWOS and listened to the conditions. At least the winds were favoring runway 12. I was descending to be around 3000 by the time I got to the cement plant. Then I called that I was on the 45 for 12. At this point I realized that I hadn’t flown the 2.9 hours that I needed to meet my 5 hour minimum cross country time. Oh crap! I’m already in the pattern, the winds are just going to get worse and I’ve pretty much reached my limit for the day. What do I do? Leave the pattern and fly around awhile? I could have and probably should have but I chose to land. Maybe I subtracted wrong or maybe I’m close enough to make it count? My landing at Marana was one of my best. Even though I overshot on my base to final turn, I was able to straighten it back out and came in so smoothly. It was the highlight of my day. I taxied off the runway, changed the radio to standby and Michael said “welcome back”. Whew! I did it.

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After I stopped the plane Michael and Matt were there and put it in place for me. The first thing I said was “I came back too soon”. We figured the times and I’ll have to do one more short trip to meet my minimum. Jesus Christ! I guess I’ll be visiting Roy again pretty soon. At least it will be a familiar route and hopefully I can get it done on a smooth morning. All in all, I’m very happy that I did it and I had to tackle issues that pushed my comfort zone. I realize that experience is the most valuable learning tool when it comes to flying.

Things I feel good about:

  • I did it.

  • Radio work was ok.

Things I need to work on:

  • Relax more.

  • Review the go around procedure.

Lesson 51 – July 30th, 9:00AM – 12:00 PM

It has been 4 weeks since my trip to Wilcox and I haven’t flown. I didn’t realize it had been that long. Today we couldn’t get the plane until 9:00 and it was already about 94 degrees by the time we got up in the air. Whew! The plan for today was to go out and practice emergency maneuvers. I haven’t done those in a while and even though I don’t like doing them, I know it’s a necessary thing that could save my life someday. And I need to be able to do them for my check ride. We were flying in 593TS which always catches me up when I get on the radio. Three Tango Sierra just doesn’t roll off my tongue like Niner One Delta. We headed out to the north practice area and started out with slow flight maneuvers. Michael had to walk me through the set up and then I got the hang of it again. There’s not a lot to write down except that we did power on stalls, power off stalls, turning stalls (bleh), dutch rolls and emergency landing techniques. At one point I almost said that I wanted to head back and call it a day but I kept my mouth shut and kept at it. I know I need to get proficient at these maneuvers and if I don’t do them I’ll never get there. We headed back and did some power off landings which went okay. The last one of the day was the best of all and it felt good. All in all we were in the air for two solid hours and I was drenched with sweat when we got back; partially because of the heat and partially because of the stress level I was probably at. When we got home, I whipped off my clothes, put my swimsuit on and was in the pool in a flash. Ahh, that really helped to cool me down and make me relax.

Lesson 52 – August 6th, 6:00 AM – 10:00 AM – ONE LAST TRIP TO BENSON

Today I finally finished my solo cross-country requirements. I was short 3 tenths of an hour but I had to fly to an airport at least 50 miles away to be counted as cross-country so I headed to Benson once again. I woke up early again, around 3:30 but tried not to let it influence my readiness. I also mentioned some slight dizziness to Michael but he reminded me that that happens to all of us occasionally. That actually made me feel better and I didn’t have that sensation the rest of the day.

I had done my flight calculations the night before and they always turn out to be nearly the same final figures for magnetic heading. This morning the winds aloft were different from last night but since I pretty much knew the route in my sleep I didn’t recalculate. I know I’ll have to do that for my final examination so I think I’ll practice those for some different airports to get better experienced. Michael told me we’d do a couple take offs and landings before I headed out which was reassuring. We had 593TS today which I’m actually starting to like. I think the rudder pedals are easier for me to push. We did the pre-flight check and headed out to runway 12. I did my run up and taxied to the hold-short line. While I was holding short one plane landed and we heard another plane call final. We looked up at where that plane would be and there were two planes on final. One guy, in a Bonanza (go figure) totally cut off another plane. Thank God he realized what happened and announced he was doing a go-around. That was a close call. After the other plane landed there was someone on downwind, probably the Bonanza, but that gave me time to depart. Always, always look for planes that could be landing without announcing. So my first landing was probably one of the best I’ve ever done – stall horn going off as I touch down straight. Yeah! Michael complemented me on that one. Took off and did another turn in the pattern and the second landing was a bit flat but acceptable. Darn it, I wanted to do another great one.

Michael had me taxi over to an area where A3 intersects with A and he gave me a kiss, and his good headset and sent me off. Immediately I wondered “where am I?” I got on the radio and said I was on Taxiway A taxiing to 12 for departure. Probably not the right call but that’s all I could think of saying. I got in line behind two other planes. I think they were planning on doing some formation flying. One of them announced to the other that he forgot to do his run-up. He pulled over to the run-up area and the second plane did the same to give me a chance to depart. Okay, here I go. The take-off was uneventful (the best kind) and I called in that I was upwind departing to the east. I made my final Marana call over the freeway but forgot to say my altitude I think. Bad Mary. Then I tuned in to Prescott Radio to open my flight plan. Someone was actually filing their flight plan over the radio. Since contact with ATC is expected within 20 nm of TUS I feel like there is not much time to open flight plan, call and listen to the ATIS and then contact Tucson Approach. They were still talking so I switched to the ATIS and got information Bravo. Then I switched back and tried the other FSS frequency 122.4 and it sounded open. I made my initial call and they told me I was number 3. Pretty soon they came on and made contact with me. I opened my plan with no problems. I tuned in Tucson Approach and made my initial call to them. After being acknowledged I stated my intentions without any stammering. I was given a squawk code and I wrote it down correctly, entered it and was located on radar. They came back and asked my altitude and model number. “Altitude 7,500 and model 172, 3 Tango Sierra”

The flight over Tucson went fine. I was alerted to traffic and one point but did not spot it. Then they said traffic was no longer an issue. Then the called traffic at 4 o’clock and I did see a commercial plane heading to TUS. I called in that I spotted it. Just as Michael had said, while I was looking around, I gained 1,000 feet. Pulled the power back a bit and got back to 7,500. A little ways past the fairgrounds ATC terminated Flight Following and said I could change to local advisory but to keep the frequency until I landed. I should have asked them to repeat just to be sure I was hearing it right. I repeated ok to change radio but did not repeat back about keeping the frequency until landing which I should have. I tuned to the Benson CTAF and called 10 miles out. No one else on the frequency. I called 5 miles out and requested airport advisory but there was no answer. I should have called Unicom and asked about the conditions but since it was the same frequency I thought Roy would have answered. I needed to lose altitude to get to 4,680 so I pulled the power back. I made a stupid call at 5 miles out that I was on the 45 for 28. I wasn’t even at pattern altitude yet. Eventually I got to the correct altitude, or close to it, and called 45 again. Flew downwind, base and final and was way high. I did a go-around. When putting in all the power I always think it’s going to sound “powerful” but it doesn’t always. Took out ½ the flaps, trimmed, carb heat off, 10 more degrees of flaps out, trimmed, all the flaps out. I made sure my speed was at least 70 and building.

Flew the pattern again. This time on final there was another plane waiting to depart. I was high again and announce another go around. They took off while I did that turn in the pattern. The third time around I still felt high but I know that the runway is narrower so it automatically gives that impression. I was probably a bit high but pulled the power back and settled to the runway. I probably landed about 1/3 the way down the runway and would have had to struggle to get off on the first taxiway. I just went all the way down to the end of the runway and called that I was “back taxiing” on 28. I was planning on just heading back out but decided to park the plane, compose myself, use the restroom and then head back. I’m glad I did. The only reason I wanted to leave right away was to avoid doing another run-up. I told myself that was not a good reason. Roy met me at the plane with the golf cart and drove me to the FBO.

Didn’t mention that while I was doing my turns in the pattern, there were radio calls from one person who was seeing virga in the area around Douglas and was heading back to Benson. Turns out it was the young girl we met a couple months ago who is getting her license. She was on her first solo cross-country. Roy says she’s tried to complete it a couple times and something keeps her from doing it. There’s nothing wrong with returning if the flight does not seem right. Michael has told me that before.

I didn’t stay long; just used the restroom got a couple drinks of water, and saw my picture on the Benson Airport Facebook page. Cool!

Roy drove me back out to the plane and I called Michael on my cell to tell him I was safe and sound and heading back. Even though runway 28 is the calm wind runway and would have headed me in the right direction, Roy said taking off on 10 was good because it was slightly downhill. Okay, I’ll take that as a recommendation. When I did my start-up checklist I noticed that I did not turn the transponder back to VFR when I landed. Bad Mary. I did that right away. I did my run-up at the hold short line on the taxiway because I knew I had to “back taxi” to the end of 10 for departure. Another pilot asked me to confirm that I was back-taxiing and I said yes. I don’t know where he was calling from, whether he was in the air or on the ground.

I took off pretty easily and turned crosswind and downwind. I called that I was upwind, departing to the west. I headed toward the freeway to follow it back. I watched to other traffic that might be in the area. It didn’t take long to get to the 6,500 for the return trip. I tuned in the ATIS and got information Charlie and wrote it down. About 23 miles from TUS I called Tucson Approach. I should have practiced this radio call out loud a couple times but I thought I had it down. I didn’t really mess up but it came out kind of staggered as I thought about what I was saying. I was given a squawk code and wrote it down and dialed it in. Radar contact was made. I was told to continue enroute to Marana. My ground speed was slower heading west and it seemed like forever to get across Tucson. I looked down at one point and I was over the railroad tracks instead of the freeway, which is not a big deal but the railroad tracks go really close to DM. I got closer to the freeway and continued along my path. As I got about 12 miles from Marana I could see the airport. I asked to cancel Flight Following but they said they’d come back in a little while to cancel that but that I could descend as needed. So that’s what I did. I could have descended at a faster rate than I did because I was still pretty high when I got to the cement plant. Anyway, TUS came back and told me I could change frequencies. I tuned in to Prescott Radio and made my call. Michael came on and told 3Tango Sierra to check their frequency. Doh! I forgot to switch from standby to active. (Well at least he knew I was closing my flight plan) I called and closed my flight plan, tuned in to Marana again and made my calls. I think they were pretty amateur and I knew Michael was in hearing range – Damn! Oh well, I’ve heard others making bad calls. I was the only person in the pattern and got set up for my landing. Everything went well but it wasn’t a perfect landing – slightly crooked and a bit of a drop. Pulled off the runway, and this time I remembered to change the transponder back to VFR. Taxied back on Alpha because there was a plane on Charlie. Now I’m noticing these things. When I stopped the plane there was no welcoming committee. Usually Michael is already out there waiting for me. I started putting stuff away, marked down my times and kept looking for Michael. It seemed as though I waited a long time so I got out the plane puller and started wheeling it into its spot. The nose wheel went over the tie-down cable fine but the main wheels wouldn’t go over. I kept looking for Michael to see if he was on his way – nope. Okay so he’s either busy or seeing if I can to it by myself. I rock the plane back and forth to get some momentum. Finally after many tries the wheels roll over the cable – yay! Just then I see Michael walking toward me. He said “if you waited just a few more minutes I would have helped you”. Ha ha. Next time I’ll definitely wait longer. But it did feel good knowing that I was still able to do it even though it was tough. I flew 2.2 hours of solo cross-country today. Now I have almost 2 hours more than the minimum required time. Nothing wrong with having more experience.

Things I feel good about:

  • Meeting my solo cross-country requirements

  • Radio work gets better all the time even though there is room for improvement.

  • I kept the plane trimmed up well enough that I was just using one hand on the control for most of the flight.

  • Except for the one distraction I stayed at the correct altitude within 100 feet.

  • I knew when to do a go around and to even do a second one if things don’t look right.

  • The go around procedure was more familiar this time.

  • My routine for looking for traffic and checking the instruments is getting better.

  • I’ve been working on picking a spot on the horizon and flying toward it rather than watching the heading indicator.

  • More comfortable will reducing the power to descend then once at my desired altitude putting the power back in for level flight.

Things I need to work on:

  • Relax more. I was more relaxed on this trip than the last one. The air was smoother which helped.

  • Ask ATC to repeat an instruction rather than being “pretty sure” that’s what they meant. That’s just stupid.

  • Don’t forget to reset transponder to VFR.

  • Don’t forget to switch from standby to active frequency.

Now I will be getting ready for my check ride. That wants to scare the bejesus out of me but I’m trying not to let it. I will schedule my written test this week if possible to get it out of the way. Then I will be studying and flying with Michael to hone the necessary skills to pass the test. I don’t feel ready at all at this point. There are so many maneuvers that I still rely on Michael to walk me through prior to doing them. I’m hoping that once I get more practiced and feel more confident then the anxiety about taking the check ride will be lessened a bit.

Lesson 53 – August 13th, 6:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Today was a good day for flying. I know that I need to practice quite of few of the required maneuvers so I was looking forward to getting up and working on those today. We had to fly in 9549F today because the other two 172’s were checked out already. I’ve never flown that plane and it is a bit different. It’s actually kept in a hangar – wow! It also has a fuel pump switch so the startup procedure is a little different. And it has a GPS unit and an autopilot which really came in handy today.

Our goal was to work on divert techniques and some “under the hood” practice. Right after we left the downwind and started to head north I got the visor treatment. Geez, that was quick. I’m really trying to do well and learn as much as I can. We did 360 turns and 180 turns and climbing turns and descending turns all under the hood. I did okay but it really is hard to make yourself rely on what you see. When descending, it really sounds like you’re going so fast. I have to keep the little dot just in the right spot. I also tend to turn to the right so I have to watch that too.

After about 45 minutes of that we did some divert techniques. That’s the procedure that you go through to quickly alter your course to a different airport. The process it not difficult but doing it while flying makes it more of a challenge. If I were really good about trimming the plane and flying with my feet I would be able to focus more easily on the task. This is where the autopilot really came in handy today. I set it on a specific heading and the plane just tracks that heading. It was so cool. Of course I’ll not get to do that again since that’s a more expensive plane to fly and I wouldn’t be able to use it for the check ride anyway. I just have to learn to manage all these things at the same time.

The divert technique starts with identifying where you are on your map – exactly. Then you use your pencil or straight edge of some on your map with one end where you are and the other end at the airport you want to divert to. In our case we were diverting to San Manuel airport. Then you slide the pencil at a parallel angle over to the nearest VOR radial compass and determine what heading you want to be on. Then quickly calculate the distance, by using your thumb or some other unit of measure, to that airport. Circle where you are and mark down the current time. After you know the approximate distance, and using 120 mph as an approximate speed you calculate how long it should take to get to that airport. Add that time to your current time and mark on the map the time you should be at your alternate airport. So if San Manuel were about 36 miles away and you’re flying about 120 mph then that’s 2 miles per minute. To fly 36 miles it should take 18 minutes. That’s what you add to your current time.

Then while you’re progressing toward where you think you want to go, you set the plane up to fly straight and level (which you should be anyway) and take out your measuring devices and perform a more accurate calculation. Hopefully the two will be very close in number. Yesterday’s calculation worked out pretty close. We were about 3 minutes off the ETA but our heading was right on.

With the autopilot set and the plane trimmed up I felt more comfortable working with the map in my lap. When the time comes to do this without an autopilot I have to be more comfortable flying with my feet and allowing the plane to have gradual ups and downs or side to side bumps.

We turned around at San Manuel and using the map, headed back to Marana. Michael was stressing how important it is to know where you are (basically) at all times and to recognize landmarks on the map. It’s easier for me to do that when I’m just a passenger. I drew a line on the map from where we were to Picacho Peak which was the direction I was heading. Then as I confirmed various landmarks, I could circle my current location as we flew along. It worked out pretty well. We called in our location and headed back to Marana. The one landing of the day was okay, I started to float a bit and wasn’t on centerline. The plane we were in today doesn’t have a carb heat and only has 30 degrees of flaps so the landing set up is slightly different.

August 16th, KNOWLEDGE TEST DAY

I scheduled my written exam for today. I’ve studied and practiced sample tests so much that I just can’t do it anymore. I’ve been getting scores in the 90’s but there are still some questions that I miss repeatedly. I’m going to be screwed if my random test questions contain the entire list of the ones I usually miss.

Went down to the testing center and Michael was right. It’s just a little dinky house attached to a warehouse. One guy in there running the place, Bob was his name and he was really nice. He set me up by myself in the back testing room that had not had any cooling turned on all day. It was really warm but he said the place should cool off pretty quickly. We went through all the paperwork and he logged me in to the testing system and said good luck.

I started the test and clicked away at the answers I knew were right. Before I knew it I was on number 30 something, which is over halfway through. Then I started reading some questions that made me second guess myself. I flagged one to come back to. When giving me instructions for the test, Bob had told me if I go back to review an answer to remember “people’s first responses are correct about 67% of the time”. I did not change any of the answers that I was hemming and hawing over. I finished pretty fast and clicked “end the test”. The screen said “are you sure you want to end the test?” then I clicked yes. Then the screen said are your really, really sure you want to end the test?” then I clicked yes again. Immediately a screen popped up that said “you have incorrect answers on your test. If you would like to see those questions, have your proctor sign in with his password”. I thought “do I get a chance to correct some that I missed?” Nope. Just then Bob came in and seemed surprised that I was done. He had just come in to check on me. He entered his password and up pops a question that I missed. He said something like “only one question”. I was thinking the screen was going to show me one at a time the questions that I missed but it turned out that I only missed that one question. Damn, so close to perfection. Actually I was very surprised and happy. I thought for sure that I had missed more than that. Woo hoo 98%. Of course I had to text Michael right away. I was waiting for the reply to be “whore”. No reply. Finally after a couple minutes I got a reply “whore”. Inside joke, not to be taken with anything less than a smile. It was really good to get one more thing out of the way in preparation for the big day. I know I’m going to be super nervous but I’m really trying to be positive about it.

Lesson 54 – August 18th, 6:00 AM – 9:00 AM

I want to get in as many lessons as I can for the next few weeks to improve my skills as much as possible. Michael says I’ll do fine but I can just imagine myself making stupid mistakes or simply blanking out when asked to do a specific maneuver.

We were in 91D today and the preflight went fine. There was a different gasoline sampling bottle than I was used to. Luckily it was the same type that was in 49Foxtrot last Saturday and I knew how to use it.

I thought we were going to do more under the hood work and unusual attitude recovery today and I was right. First we did some slow flight and some stalls. I still get unsure of the steps to take once Michael says put the plane in slow flight, or set up for a power off stall. Once he shows me or talks me through one I’m okay though. I’m sure the examiner does not “talk you through” a maneuver though.

I don’t mind the under the hood flying as much as I used to. I think I’m more comfortable with it. I did pretty well at that. And then I closed my eyes and turned toward Michael and he took control of the plane and turned this way and that, and up and down and then said “okay, open your eyes”. Then with just looking at the instruments alone (not looking outside) I have to recover the plane to straight and level flight. Those were actually pretty easy. I think we did 3 of them. 2 times we were in a descent and 1 time we were in a climb. If I look over and we are in a turning descent, I have to pull the power back so we don’t start picking up speed, then level the wings and then bring the nose up to a level attitude. If I look over and we are in a climb, I can lower the nose at the same time as leveling the wings and I don’t have to worry about the power setting. I think I do better at those because I can’t actually see the outside. I probably am what Michael referred to as “ground shy”. As soon as I see the ground coming up toward me I get a little nervous.

After we did that for a while we flew over to the cultivated fields and did some S turns. I haven’t done those in a long time. He did one full S and back and then I did two more. I would have liked to do another set but we needed the time for other things. We flew over to Pinal and did 2 takeoffs and landings there. They were pretty good too. Then we headed back to Marana and did 2 more.

We were back around 9:00 and I had to go home and shower and get ready for work so I couldn’t dawdle very long. Just enough to get the paperwork finished. Michael leaves for a trip to Virginia on Friday morning so I’ll be flying with his boss, Eliza, on Saturday. I’ve met her a couple times briefly and she seems nice but we’ll see. Michael said she was a stickler for doing some maneuvers a certain way. I know it’s good experience to work with a variety of instructors though because I’m sure they all teach a little differently. I hope she doesn’t make me cry. I’ve not cried while flying yet, just one time after we got back and I had done something stupid while trying to land. I’ll miss Michael while he’s gone. I can’t believe he’s going to fly all the way to Virginia right into the Washington, D.C. area. I would be totally freaking out but he seems pretty darn calm about it. He’s my hero. It was a good day of flying.

Things I need to work on:

  • Remembering the steps for doing those maneuvers.

  • Remembering to do clearing turns between every maneuver.

  • Keeping on a specific heading and altitude.

Things I feel good about:

  • Working under the hood was less stressful this time.

  • Unusual attitude recovery went really well.

Lesson 55 – August 25th, 6:00 – 9:00 AM

All week long I’ve been excited to get up and improve my skills and then this morning I got nervous as usual. I wish my brain would just let me be. I woke up at 4:00 and rested until 5:00 but never really fell back asleep. That’s okay though because I did feel pretty rested, it’s just annoying.

Got up, dressed and started the coffee – gotta have coffee. Then we headed to the airport in separate cars since I have to go to work after we fly. At least I don’t have a meeting scheduled that makes me feel pressured.

Today we stayed in the pattern in order to practice and improve the various takeoffs and landings that I must be able to master for my check ride. The check ride has been scheduled for September 16th and I’m trying not to think much about it. I don’t even want to tell anyone in order to avoid any expectations. I slipped and told Jill but I don’t think she’ll say anything to anyone else.

During the run-up Michael showed me how to use the EGT instead of just the mixture control to set the fuel mixture to rich. We did 3 standard takeoffs and landings just so I could get a feel for them first thing. Michael said they were all three very good landings. I felt so too. I probably won’t get these details exactly right but… next we did some short field landings. The set up is almost identical to a standard landing but you come in high and let the speed drop to 60 kts instead of 65. Then when you touch down you apply the brakes and there you are. Sounds simple huh? I know we’ve practice these with speeds down as low as 55 kts but I don’t think that is advisable for the check ride.

Then we did a few soft field landings. Those are a little more difficult, physically, because just as you are ready to flare the plane, you add a teensy bit of power and hold the plane off the runway as long as possible. You should really have your hand on the throttle so that you can add power immediately if necessary but I have to use two hands to hold the elevator back. Michael said I could explain that during my discussion with the examiner and see what he says. These types of landings are used when you have a grass or muddy runway and do NOT want the nose wheel to dig in and stop you suddenly. So while you’re landing, you keep the nose off the ground as long as possible without lifting it up so much that you balloon. I did that on my first try today. It’s such a slight difference between holding the nose up and holding the nose up too high.

We also did a couple slips to land. I’m not sure I have that down very well yet but they went fine with Michael giving me pointers along the way. About this time we came to a full stop and taxied back to practice some takeoffs.

The short field takeoff is used to clear a 50 foot obstacle at the end of the runway such as trees or power lines. In order to maximize the runway length you start the takeoff at the very end of the runway (I guess beginning of the runway makes more sense). You stabilize the plane and hold the brakes on while applying full power. After the engine has reached full power you take your feet off the brakes and proceed down the runway. The rotation speed is slightly less than normal. Normal is 55 kts and short field is 53 kts – nope, not much difference. As soon as the plane lifts off you put the nose in a higher than normal attitude to reach a speed of 59 kts. Hold that until you are sure you have cleared the “50 foot obstacle” and then you can lower the nose to the horizon and let then speed build up to the normal 70 kts. Everything after this point is a routine takeoff. I think we did a couple of those in the pattern.

Next type to work on was the soft field takeoff. I haven’t done these very often but I was better at it than the last time we tried them. With this type of take off (like a soft field landing) you don’t want the nose wheel to dig into the soft surface. You want to keep the plane moving at all times so you don’t bog down any of the wheels actually. So, you apply some power, keep the elevator pulled back and taxi out onto the runway at a steady speed. Not sure exactly how fast this part should be done exactly. It’s faster than a normal taxi speed but definitely not full power. Try not to make any sharp turns as you enter the runway and as soon as you’re on centerline and stabilized for a straight departure, while rolling, you put in full power and keep the elevator pulled back. As soon as the plane lifts off, you lower the nose slightly so that you stay in ground effect and pick up additional speed. When the speed reaches 70 kts you can bring the nose up and start your upwind climb. At this point the normal procedures are followed for the rest of the climb out. Now I’m trying to remember if either of these takeoffs uses any flaps. I’m pretty sure that the manual says no flaps for both of these but I should double check. So we did a few of these today too.

I think the last type of landing we practiced was a power off landing. As the plane was abeam the numbers, I pulled the power back all the way, put in half the flaps and noted the point on the runway that I wanted to reach. Then I did a good size bank to the left, noting my airspeed and planning where I want to touchdown. Then I put in the remaining flaps, watch airspeed and allow the plane to come down to the runway. There was one additional thing I’m supposed to remember on this one. I think it’s holding the nose up slightly and letting it settle to the ground and then braking.

There wasn’t much traffic in the pattern today which helped me focus on what I was doing without having to worry too much about other pilots. There were a couple planes that took off or landed while we were up but they seemed to be following proper procedures pretty well. We finished up and did out paperwork and then I headed for work. Now I’m getting sleepy again. That must be my coping mechanism when I get through with stressful situations. Actually today felt really good and even though I was getting tired by the end of it, I didn’t feel overwhelmed like some other lessons have left me.

Things I need to work on:

  • Remembering all the correct procedures for each type of take off.

  • Holding the nose up on the soft field takeoffs and landings.

Things I feel good about:

  • For the first time I think this list might be longer than the preceding one.

  • I felt pretty good about my regular landings.

  • The short field takeoff used to scare me because they seemed so steep that they made me think of stalls. Today I focused on what attitude the plane needed to be in and also on the airspeed which made more sense to me today than it has in the past.

  • I was also better (not perfect) at holding the plane in ground effect on both takeoffs and landings.

Lesson 55 – August 27th, 7:00 – 9:00 AM – PROGRESS CHECK

Today I flew with Eliza for my progress check. I was expecting to fly to the practice area and do a diversion and maybe some takeoffs and landings. Well, yesterday at lunchtime Michael texted me that Eliza wanted me to plan a cross-country flight to Wickenburg. I wasn’t sure where Wickenburg was but I still wasn’t really excited about the prospect. I looked on the sectional map and saw where Wickenburg was; it’s on the northwest side of Phoenix. Now I was officially freaked. I had asked Michael if I was supposed to just do the flight plan or was I actually supposed to do the flight. He wasn’t sure. The flight would take at least 3 hours and we only had 2 hours scheduled but with Eliza that isn’t always an indication since she sometimes runs overtime on her lessons.

The night before the flight I got home had my coffee and got right to working on the flight plan. It takes me a long time to do those so I didn’t want to be up half the night working on it. I had to plot a section of the flight from the south side of the map to the north side. I never thought of that as being an issue before but once you start doing it you realize it’s a real pain in the butt. Michael showed me how to do it and the process almost looked like he made it up. Then he showed me on the other side of the map that there are actually instructions to do it and they were just as he showed me. I tried to follow the instructions and do it by myself but it was so frustrating. The instructions were on one side about 3 folds away and upside down, so I had to keep flipping the map over, read a step, go back turn it upside down, read another step, flip it over, turn it upside down, do the step, etc… I thought I could find the instructions online and just print them off but it was taking me too long to look for them and I didn’t have the time to waste.

I finally finished what I thought was as complete as I could get. I asked Michael to check it over for me. He looked at it and asked “how far apart are your checkpoints?” I told him they were pretty far apart, one was even 50 miles. He explained how a person can get pretty far off course in 50 miles especially if the instruments or calculations are off a little bit. Good point. He said he realized how hard I had worked on it. I knew I had to do the right thing and redo my plan with more checkpoints no more than about 20 miles apart. Since I didn’t change my routes, there were some pieces of information that I didn’t have to recalculate. It was difficult to pick out checkpoints that were easily spotted landmarks. I finished up around 11:30 at night and had Michael look it over again. It was a much better flight plan this time.

Now, back to Saturday’s flight. We were scheduled to fly at 7 o’clock. I should have gotten up extra early to check the current winds aloft and adjust my flight plan accordingly. I didn’t do that and hoped it would be okay. Got to the airport at 7 and Michael found out that Eliza and Cassie didn’t take off until around 6 o’clock so she would probably be late coming back. I spent the time reviewing some emergency procedures in case she asked about those. I was much more anxious about today’s flight than I was last week when she cancelled on me. I think it started when I thought I’d have to do a 3 hour flight into territory that was unfamiliar to me.

Eliza came in and I showed her the plan that I had worked up. I explained how I should have started my heading calculations farther to the north of the airport instead of directly from the airport. That would have allowed me to clear the parachute drop area and then pick up my heading from there. She said that was a good observation but not to worry about it today. She also said we’d head out and then do a diversion to another airport. I told Eliza that I hadn’t filed the flight plan and she said not to worry. I picked up the airplane bag and went out to the plane to do the preflight inspection. That went fine but the oil was a bit low so we added about ½ quart of oil when she came out to meet me.

We pushed the plane out of the shade port and got in. She pretty much gave me a briefing saying that if something happened to the engine and we were above 500 feet I would be PIC but she would be there to assist. Geez, that made me feel good!

I went through the start up process and we taxied out to RWY 12. I did the run up and with no problems, did the pre-takeoff brief and I taxied over to the hold short line. There was one plane on downwind so I asked if I should wait for them to land but Eliza said we had plenty of time to take off. I taxied out to the runway and took off. I turned crosswind and downwind and then asked if I should just follow the flight plan that I worked up. She said yes. Okay, so now I have to fly toward a direction I have never flown before. I took up my map and flight plan and read the heading that I planned for the first section of the flight. My first mistake was to read the magnetic heading of 295 instead of the compass heading of 285 that I had calculated. The difference between the two was a full 10 degrees. The funny thing was, I was trying to maintain the heading of 295 but I kept letting it drift off toward 285 and then I would correct it back to 295. We reached my cruising altitude of 6,500 feet right about the time that I thought I should. That was pretty cool. Eliza asked me to check my flight plan and tell her what my first checkpoint was and how long would it take us to get there. The first checkpoint was a mountain peak straight ahead with some street patterns off to the left. I couldn’t see any street patterns but I thought I knew which mountain peak I was heading for. Eliza said to just be patient because we had a few minutes left to go before the checkpoint. As the time passed and we got closer to the mountain peak (very low mountain peak) Eliza pointed out some houses and streets off to the left just where the map showed it.

Then she looked at the map, and the direction we were headed and figured that we needed to be a little more to the left. That was most likely because I was not on the 285 heading like I should have been. So for a little while I headed toward the left (westish) until the landmarks and our position lined up better. The next checkpoint was Lake St. Clair. Eliza said that was a bit of a misnomer because it was typically just a dirt pit. As we went along we looked over to the left and sure enough there was a small lake over there. She said that was the first time she’s ever seen it with water in it. The time that we got to that checkpoint was really close to my calculations also. Hmm, pilotage and dead reckoning at work.

When we got to my second checkpoint Eliza told me to divert to Phoenix Regional Airport and we’d do a couple landings there. Phoenix Regional sounds like a big airport but it’s just a single strip about 20 miles away from where we were. I pulled out my map and by reading the VOR compass figured we should fly toward a heading of 345 and it looked like it should be about 20 miles away which would take about 10 minutes. I circled where we were on the map and wrote down the current time next to it. Eliza reminded me to fly toward that heading as quickly as possible while we knew where we were. Oh ya, I headed toward 345. Eliza told me to check the heading with my protractor. I got out both protractors and tried to use the spinning one but I’m not used to using it. I put it away and took out my E6-B and used that one. It was difficult because the distance I had to work with was hard to see under the protractor. I looked at it a couple times while checking my instruments to make sure I was staying on my current heading. It turns out that the VOR compass rose on the map is not really lined up with true north. I remember learning this before but it was a really good reinforcement of that information. The actual heading that I wanted to divert to was more like 358 not 345. The reason all this needs to be verified as quickly as possible is so that you don’t get too far off away from your original location which would make your calculations inaccurate. Also Eliza showed me how to reset a digital timer every time you reach a checkpoint, that way you have a quick reference to know when you should reach that checkpoint.

So we started looking at the map and trying to spot the landmarks. There was a small ridge of mountains and then a double lane road. Everything looked good so far. The map showed some railroad tracks right next to the airport we were trying to get to. I saw the railroad tracks, the time had been 10 minutes so the airport should be right there. I told Eliza, “it should be right here but I don’t see it”. She said dip your right wing. Ha ha, it was just hidden by the cowling. We were right where we were supposed to be just at the right time. That was pretty darn cool. Eliza helped me out by reading off the radio frequency for Phoenix Regional and setting it. She also told me the runways were 30-21. I asked if they had an AWOS and she said no. She asked me what would be the correct way to decide which runway to use. I told her that we should fly over mid-field and look for the wind sock. That was the correct answer but she said if you fly mid field you’re usually flying over the wind sock so we should fly far enough away to see the whole field. I had descended from our cruising altitude of 6,500 to 3,300 to circle the field. She told me the field elevation was 1,300, which would make the pattern altitude 2,300 so flying over the field at 3,300 was routine. We flew around and just barely saw a tattered windsock, well she saw it and pointed it out to me. Right after we saw that we saw a tractor in a field stirring up quite a bit of dust which was floating off. I would have thought runway 30 was the appropriate runway by the looks of the dust. Eliza said that runway 21 was the one we should use. The dust was blowing away from 21 at an angle which made me think that using 21 would have had a quartering tailwind. I should have just come out and asked about it but the breeze was so slight that I didn’t think it would make much of a difference either way. I descended to pattern altitude and lined up for left traffic on 21 (turns out it was supposed to be right traffic but I went with what Eliza told me). I made my radio calls but it was hard to get used to saying Phoenix Regional; at the end of my calls I would say Phoenix…….Regional. My first attempt to land was not set up very well. It’s a narrow runway which makes you feel high and I was high. I was also too close in on downwind which is something Michael has told me to avoid. I did a go around and my second set up was better. But I didn’t feel right about it so I did another go around. Eliza took the controls and did the first landing herself. Then I taxied back to the runway and took off. The next landing I did myself. It wasn’t my best landing but it was acceptable. I did a little bit of floating and touched down a little hard. We just did a touch and go so next thing I knew we were upwind and leaving the airport.

On the way back to Marana Eliza said just parallel the railroad tracks and stay at 5,500. I was thinking we would head back and that was going to be my progress check. Wrong. After a few minutes Eliza asked me to do a steep 360 degree turn. I thought she wanted me to do a steep emergency descent. So I asked her how far down she wanted me to go. She said just do a 360 turn. So I thought I’d just do a steep emergency descent until I went a full turn. I banked the plane to 45 degrees and put it into a descent and started my turn. About halfway through the turn she said “my plane” and took the controls and asked if I saw how the nose was going down. Duh, I thought, emergency descent. Then I realized what she wanted me to do is a LEVEL 360 steep turn. Oh. I told her that was why I asked her how low she wanted me to go and the miscommunication was clear. We climbed back up to 5,500 and I did a normal steep turn, first to the left and then to the right. I thought I did them pretty well and she said “that was pretty good”. I’m pretty sure I maintained my altitude but I don’t think I kept at a steady 45 degree bank. I bet I leveled out a bit a couple times.

So after that she asked me what I would do if the engine quit. I told her I would put the plane in a best glide attitude and trim the nose up all the way then look for a place to land the plane. She asked me where I would pick from where we were right there. Out my window was an airport maybe 2 miles away so I told her I would pick that airport. She asked me if I thought I could make it to that airport and I said yes. She agreed. Then I went through the push, push, pull, check, check, cycle, routine verbally. She reminded me to always use the checklist afterwards to make sure you thought of everything. That’s why they’re checklists. She also said to declare an emergency. Right then I remembered that I should have said to set the radio to 121.5 and transponder 7700. She told me if we were near an airport I should look up the frequency and communicate the emergency to them rather than the 121.5.

Then we continued along the railroad tracks back to Marana and she had me do a clearing turn in each direction then asked me to put the plane in slow flight. I fumbled through the process to the point that she asked how long it had been since I did that. I was honest and said within the last couple weeks. She talked me through the process. Then when we were in slow flight she had me do a 360 in each direction. This was about the point where I was wishing I had these maneuvers down pat. I just don’t get the set up right so I have to work on these.

I knew what was coming next. Stalls. She asked me to do a departure stall. Again I fumbled through the steps and performed a weak attempt at a stall. She had to talk me through it. Same thing for the arrival or power-off stall. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t remember how to set up for them but I was okay at recovering from them. Except she told me to keep one hand on the throttle at all times so I could put the power in when needed. I knew that was the case for the power-off stall but I didn’t think it was necessary for the departure stall. I really have a hard time pulling the yoke back with just one hand. When I do that I have a tendency to bank the plane which is not good.

I was feeling pretty inadequate by this time. We headed back and she took the controls for most of the way so I could kick back for a while and relax. I actually thought that was pretty nice of her. For about 15 minutes I was just a passenger. Between Pinal Airpark and Marana she gave me back the controls and said we’d do a short field landing (touch and go) and then a soft field landing. I did those just a couple days ago so I thought I’d do pretty well. Since we had been up so long and it was getting hot, she changed her mind and said we’d just do a short field landing to a full stop and call it a day.

I radioed in at 10 miles out and 5 miles out and 1 mile out from the cement plant. Then just before the cement plant I turned on the 45 for Rwy 12. My altitude was good, and as I intersected the downwind leg I pulled the carb heat. As we got abeam the numbers I pulled the power back to 1900 RPMs and put in my first 10 degrees of flaps. I remembered Michael telling me that Eliza usually did not put in full flaps until she was on final so I turned base and put in 10 more degrees of flaps. I was at 65 kts as I turned base. As I turned final I put in full flaps and kept the speed to 60 kts. I landed okay but floated a bit and then let the plane land. I applied the brakes and we slowed down to get off the runway. She said first of all I should not land with both hands on the yoke. I should always have one hand on the throttle. Michael lets me use two hands once I know I’m going to make the runway. I have to retrain my brain and try to use one hand but that’s going to be hard. She also asked me what I picked out for my landing spot. I told her the numbers but she said that was probably a little too close and that I could have picked out the first line. I’ve got to see what she meant the next time we go up, I didn’t quite get that. She said for the exam you can land after the 1,000 feet but not before. At least I think that’s what she said. I didn’t ask her to explain even though I should have. I felt like I had asked her so much already that one more question was going to expose even more of my ignorance. I know that is a stupid way to think but what can I say.

We taxied back to the shade ports and I shut down the plane. I forgot to turn off the avionics master first so she reached over and did that. We pushed the plane in place and secured it. When I logged the time turns out we were up 2.1 hours today. What a day. I did some things wrong that I never do wrong. I was and still feel disappointed in my performance and knowledge base. Michael told me that Eliza said I did good but I don’t feel like it. I would have failed the practical exam 10 times over if I were doing it today.

We went to her office and finished the paperwork. She told me the things I need to work on are knowing how to set up for the maneuvers, and reducing my power more on my landings. She said the cross-country planning and the diversion went really well.

Michael had to stay and work with a student so I came home by myself. I felt terrible. I teared up all the way home and for a couple hours afterwards. I didn’t feel like I was crying but tears just kept coming out.

Things I need to work on:

  • If I can get the procedures down to set up for slow flight, power on stalls and power off stalls I will feel so much better.

  • I need to hold my headings more accurately.

  • Decrease my speed more on final approach.

  • Try not to get overly nervous.

Things I feel good about:

  • The flight planning worked out much better than I though. I had a difficult time spotting some of the checkpoints but I think that will improve with experience.

  • The diversion to Phoenix Regional also worked out pretty well.

Lesson 56 – September 3rd, 7:00 – 10:00 AM

I looked forward to this lesson so that I could work on my setups for the slow flight and stalls that I did so poorly on last Saturday. Actually I can’t say I looked forward to doing them but I want to be able to do them without coaching. We were up a full 2.1 hours today. Started out with 3 normal touch and goes and then headed off to the north practice area. I won’t be able to recall what order we practiced all the maneuvers in and I guess it doesn’t really matter anyway. I did some turns and unusual attitudes under the hood and those went pretty well. I don’t mind hood work as much as I used to (I’ve probably stated that in the last few entries). Then we did some clearing turns and Michael told me to put the plane in slow flight. I talked through it first which helped a little bit. Pull the power back, don’t let the nose drop, 10 degrees flaps, nose to horizon, 10 more degrees of flaps, speed is reducing, full flaps and put in full power. Keep the nose to the horizon. Michael also had me use the CDI today. I saw how it worked but I’m not accomplished at it.

I did a couple 360 turns in slow flight and they were okay. Then we did some power on stalls, some turning stalls and power off stalls. I still have to get the sequence down pat but I did better than last week.

Let’s see what else did we do? Oh yes, we flew over to the fields and did some S turns. My first figure 8 was not great. I started out at 3,000 feet but did not maintain my altitude very well, okay not at all. I was at 2,850 almost the whole time. Next time around I kept my altitude at 3,000 and got my turns in a bit better. Then we flew over to a tower of some sort that I’ve never noticed before and practiced turns around a point. This is the first time I’ve done these. It sounds pretty simple and without any winds today it was not real difficult. I was making more of an egg shape than a circle though. I kept my altitude for most of the circles.

We headed back to the airport after those maneuvers. Climbed up to 4,000 feet to head back to Marana. I got to the cement plant at 3,000, got in the pattern and on the 45 there was a small ultralight type plane in the vicinity. He heard my call and called back that he would follow us in on the downwind. Okay by me. My final landing for the day was my best one. It feels good to do a good landing. Then we secured the plane and did our paperwork. After the usual paperwork, Michael got out the maintenance logs for N6291D and showed me how to go through them. There are 3 major sections under separate covers. One is the Airframe maintenance logs, one is the Engine maintenance logs and one is the Propeller maintenance logs. The Annual and 100 hour mandatory inspections are done at the same time by TAC. In other words, every time they do a 100 hour inspection, which is required for planes that are used for teaching or rental, they also do an Annual inspection. They do more than one “annual” inspection every year. We also saw the ELT and transponder, and altimeter inspections. After those 3 major sections is the area dedicated to ADs or Airworthiness Directives. This is a spreadsheet-type form that lists any of the ADs issued that would pertain to this model airplane or this specific airplane. The ones that we focused on were the recurring ADs. Then there were the ones that were NA or one time only. I’d like to review this again next week when we go up. After seeing it just once I might not remember what is what.

Things I need to work on:

  • Maintain heading and altitude.

  • Sequence of steps for maneuvers.

  • When landing, make more frequent and smaller adjustments.

  • Look at blocks and then the end of the runway.

  • Always use the checklist. (I usually do this anyway)

  • Using the CDI. I have to read up on that again and then practice with it.

Things I feel good about:

  • My work under the hood is getting better.

  • My recoveries from the stalls were pretty good. I exclaimed once when the wing dropped off pretty suddenly but I recovered from it myself.

  • My S turns got better as I practiced them.

  • My turns around a point weren’t too bad for a first try.

Lesson 57 – September 10th, 7:00 – 10:00 AM

We had the plane scheduled for 6 hours today but only put in 1.7 of flight time. It was pretty windy today so I got in some practice in windy conditions and did okay. My check ride is scheduled for Friday the 16th. Of course I don’t feel ready. We worked on slow flight which went a little better today and stalls which were pretty typical for me. I still don’t feel like the set up comes naturally. I have to really think about it. We also did some short and soft takeoffs and landings which were okay. I wanted more practice but I do get stressed out after a while. I don’t know how I’m going to manage on the check ride. I really don’t. I will just do my best and if I don’t pass on the first try it’s not the end of the world. We’re scheduled to fly on Thursday morning and that will be my final practice day. I pray that some of these maneuvers gel in my mind. I’m not going to write much today because I don’t want to overthink this anymore than I already have. I’ll be doing a lot of studying tomorrow all day. Michael told me he will be my “instructor bitch” as much as I need all this week.

Happy Birthday Mercy.

Lesson 58 – September 15th, 6:00 – 10:00 AM – DAY FROM HELL

Tomorrow is my check ride so I took the day off to get in some flying time and then I figured I’d go home and finish my flight plan and study for the oral exam. The day didn’t turn out to be quite like I had planned. We took separate cars since Michael would be with students the rest of the day. Got out to the airport and talked about what we’d practice – everything possible. We spent 2.8 hours in the air. We did VOR settings, emergency procedures, short field landings and takeoffs, soft field landings and takeoffs, stalls, S turns, turns around a point, and slow flight. We planned on doing instrument work but forgot the visor. The day was tiring but I felt good by the end of it. As ready as I’d ever be. We got back to the airport and Michael had a message from Billy that he was at the restaurant and wanted us to meet him over there for breakfast. Unfortunately, Michael had a student scheduled at 10 o’clock and told me to go over to meet Billy and he’d meet up with us after his lesson.

I went over to the restaurant and had breakfast with Billy and we decided to help each other study until Michael got back. He is taking his check ride tomorrow also. He asked me which part I was more nervous about, the oral or the flying. I told him both. He said he wasn’t worried about the flying part but the oral scared the heck out of him. We went over to Michael’s office and Billy quizzed me on different subjects. There was a lot I couldn’t answer, so even though it was good practice for the exam, it was making me realize what I didn’t know.

Michael got back to the office and then we went back to the restaurant so he could get some lunch. So it was getting on toward 1:00 and we hadn’t finished with my paperwork or go over the aircraft logs. Oh, what I didn’t mention yet is that 6291D was going to be in for its 100 hour inspection on the day of my check ride so I have to use 593TS. That means I have to recalculate my flight plan for that plane and familiarize myself with the aircraft logs for that plane. After Michael’s lunch I was hoping we would finish up so I could leave but it took a while to get the logs and Michael was so busy since he had to divide his time up between Billy and me and everybody else who wanted a piece of him.

Billy started working on his flight plan and it was a process that he wasn’t as familiar with as I was; I’ve done so many of these over the last few months that I’ve almost started to enjoy it. Sick, I know. I went in the other room to go over the logbooks. The inspections weren’t tagged as clearly as they were for 6291D so I had to go over it pretty carefully. There was one AD that I could not find documented as being completed but Michael was so busy I wasn’t getting chance to ask him about it. Finally after a while he sat down with me and I showed him what I was trying to find. He couldn’t find it either. He took the book out front and after a little bit came back saying that all the mechanics had left for the day so he couldn’t get it taken care of. By now it’s 4:30 and I’m still here and my paperwork is not done. This logbook issue was going to be a problem for the guy who was going to do his check ride before me in the morning. The mechanics would have a chance complete the inspection before my flight but they wouldn’t be there at 6 in the morning when Scott was coming in for his check ride.

We worked on the 8710 form online which is a required form prior to taking the test. That took a while longer and Billy was trying to finish up his flight plan. All in all we were there until 7 o’clock at night and I still had to work on my own flight plan. I had really hoped to have all this done and be able to relax for the evening and get a good night’s sleep. We left the airport and I had to swing by the bank to get the $400 cash for the test fee. We got home and had cereal for dinner and then I went right to work on finishing my flight plan. I think I got done around 10 or 10:30 and headed for bed. This is about as nervous as I’ve ever been.

September 16th, 8:00 AM – CHECK RIDE DAY

Woke up at 4:30 by Michael. He was very upset that he may have miss-interpreted the cross country requirements for Billy and that he didn’t think his trips to California counted as cross country trips. He told Billy that he’d meet him at the airport at 5:00 so he headed out before me and said “I’ll see you at 8 o’clock”. Gulp! I tried to get in a little more sleep but that wasn’t happening – I just laid in bed until about 6. Got up and dressed and tried to eat something since I didn’t have much to eat over the last couple days. I tried cereal but could only eat a couple bites, I tried yogurt, I tried just a plain piece of bread but nothing was going down. I don’t even think I was able to have my coffee.

I headed to the airport a little before 7 to get there in plenty of time. I bought a box of donuts for the FBO staff on the way thinking I could eat one of those but it didn’t work either. My test was scheduled for 8:00 but Glen was flying with another student from 6 – 8. They ended up getting back about an hour late so we didn’t really start until 9 o’clock. Glen started off by asking for my paperwork, meaning my photo ID and my student medical/certificate. He also needed my knowledge test results and $400. He asked if I had a current FAR/AIM which I showed him I did. He asked if I had a visor or foggles, which I did. Okay so we got all the important things out of the way. He had me give him my knowledge test and said that I just probably cut a half hour off of the oral part of the exam by having a score of 98%. Cool! We were sitting at the long table in the instructor’s office and Greg, one of the other instructors, was going in and out and settled in to his cubicle. I think we talked a little about how the day would proceed and then he told me I was entitled to a private exam. I didn’t really care if Greg was in there but we asked Michael if we could use his office and of course he said yes.

We moved all our stuff over there and I got ready to be grilled. He asked about my flight plan and I showed him what I had put together for a trip to Prescott. I said that I had done two different routes, one totally around the B airspace and one above the B airspace. My reasons for completing the one over the airspace were explained thusly (is that a word?); I told him that being a new pilot, it didn’t seem like the area surrounding the B airspace was very conducive to an emergency landing if necessary but if I flew over the B airspace at 10,500 and I had any problems I could contact ATC and they would most likely direct me to one of the many airports in the area. I showed him my flight plan and that looked okay. I showed him my weight and balance sheet. I had calculated the CG for takeoff with full fuel and I had calculated weight for landing (minus the fuel used) but he asked about the CG for landing; would we still be within the acceptable envelope or would we be too light? Something to think about he says. I had called in for a standard briefing before he came in the office so I had that data written down to show him.

He moved on to other questions most of which I wasn’t expecting to tell you the truth. He asked me a lot of questions on specific airplane systems. He said tell me about the hydraulic system. I knew the brakes were hydraulic so I mentioned those. I couldn’t remember what else and he asked if the flaps were on that system. I know they are electric because you have to turn on the master switch to lower them but since he asked, I thought that maybe they were both so I said “I think so”. I wish I had concentrated more on all the systems because I didn’t answer most of them very well. I also wish he would have asked about the pitot/static system, I would have done well on that. But you don’t dare offer information if he doesn’t specifically ask so I kept my mouth shut. He asked which instruments were on the vacuum system. I know this and I answered attitude indicator as one of them and then got confused. No, I’m thinking of the gyro instruments. Turns out I was right, they are gyros but they are also on the vacuum system. I’m trying to recall the other things we talked about. I know there was more but the ones that are coming to mind are the things that I didn’t answer correctly. There was so much information that I was prepared to answer that he never covered.

He asked about Land and Hold Short Operations and I knew that pretty well. He asked about how the plane reacts to a forward or aft center of gravity. I knew it would be nose down and more difficult to pull up to flare, etc. but when he asked how it affected the stalling speed I stumbled. I guessed that it would have a lower stalling speed and he said “that’s interesting”. We talked about airspace but not the normal airspaces, he asked about all the Special Use airspace. I had a general idea of what each type was. I knew you could not fly in Prohibited airspace and that you had to call and get permission to fly in Restricted airspace. He asked “how do you call them?” I looked at my chart thinking that there would be a radio frequency in the airspace box but there wasn’t. Hmm. It wouldn’t be in the ADF because it’s not an airport. I didn’t know. Then he asked about the Alert areas, Warning areas and MOAs. I knew something about each one but I didn’t know all the specifics.

He asked a lot of questions that I did know but I was feeling more and more stupid as the time progressed. He showed me the list of special emphasis areas in the PTS booklet and focused mainly on those. Unfortunately I didn’t focus on those in my studies. I went over and over the Ride Ready program for Oral Exam Preparation and thought I was doing okay. The part on the special emphasis areas is definitely pretty weak when it comes to that computer program. If Glen is to be your examiner, I would focus on those first of all. Of these areas, he asked a lot about spin/stall awareness, weather hazards, wake turbulence avoidance, LAHSO, runway incursions and CFIT.

I had to go over the maintenance logbooks with Glen. The issue of the missing AD for one of the instruments was updated by one of the mechanics very early in the morning. I was able to go through the logs and show Glen all of the required inspections as well as any recurring ADs.

Finally we got to the point where he said let’s go out and fly. He asked what the meteorological conditions were like for our flight. I showed him the radar on my iPhone and there was just a little splotch of green (rain) over towards Benson. I told him it looked good. As we walked outside there were little puffy clouds all over but not very low or nearby. I asked Michael, since he was right there, if he thought the weather looked okay and he said we’d only be out there for maybe an hour and a half so I should be fine. We went out to the plane and I did a good preflight check. The clouds started to build right over the airport. As we pushed the plane back and I got in to do my pre-start checks, it started to sprinkle a little bit. Shit. I’ve only flown in the rain once and it was not a big deal but still… I radioed that I was taxiing to 12.

Glen told me what we’d do on the flight. We’d start out with a soft field take off and then head out as though I were actually doing my cross-country flight as planned. We’d go to a couple checkpoints and then he’d have me divert to a different airport. Then we’d do some work under the hood and a base to final turning stall. Okay this caught my attention. I’ve done power on stalls, power off stalls and turning stalls in a climb attitude but nothing that sounded like this. I was a bit concerned. He mentioned other maneuvers like turns around a point, steep turns and emergency procedures. Then we would come back and do some landings.

As we crossed runway 3-21 I looked up and the cloud right over the airport was getting much darker than it had been just 10 minutes ago. Okay so here’s what I’m thinking. Yesterday there was a sudden storm in the south of town that caused wind damage. I don’t have that much experience judging whether the current conditions will clear up or get worse. Typically, when see a raincloud forming it doesn’t just go away. I want to get this over with so bad but if we go up and the weather gets bad, will he say, “why did you choose to take off?” That’s probably a big part of the “using good judgment and decision making” concept that he will be evaluating. I told him that I thought I should postpone this part of the exam due to the weather. He accepted that decision (it’s my call anyway) and I turned around by the hangars and taxied back. I was feeling very disappointed at this time. A stupid part of it was that Michael told me the office was going to have a little party for me when I finished and I felt like I was letting everyone down, not just myself. We secured the plane and he said he’d meet me inside after I tied it down. I really wanted to cry but just wouldn’t let myself.

I walked back in the office with all my stuff and felt everyone’s eyes on me. Not sure if they’re thinking I failed right off the bat or what. I told them I was postponing the flight due to the weather and they seemed to understand.

Glen and Michael and I did a debriefing and he gave me a whole list of things that I did not answer as well as I should have. He said to be sure and know these things next time because he would be asking me again next time. I guess I passed the oral part of the test or else we wouldn’t have gone out to fly right? I don’t know now. Glen wrote up the continuance and we said we’d call him when we got back from Chicago to reschedule. He was nice enough to waive the extra $200 fee partly because of the weather and partly because he was an hour late with the start of my test. (had we started at 8 o’clock like we were supposed to, the weather would have been fine when we went out for the flying part). Didn’t finish check ride. Flying portion rescheduled for October 3rd. Left for a week in Chicago on Sept 18th.

September 30th, 7:00 AM – 8:00 AM – PRACTICE DAY

Winds 20 gusting to 25. Only did 4 takeoffs and landings went back to FBO. Disappointing day, now I only have Sunday to try and bone up all my skills.

October 2nd, 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM – PRACTICE DAY

Since Friday didn’t work out very well for flying practice today was my last chance to practice. I thought I was flying early but I checked Schedule Point and I wasn’t scheduled until 10:00. The weather looked okay throughout the morning even though a chance of rain was predicted. Michael left for the airport early to meet a student so I told him I’d meet him at 10. He said to make it around 11 because he would be with another new student until then.

I didn’t start studying because I knew I’d have the afternoon and I just wanted to unwind. I headed out to the airport around 10:30 and on my way out there Michael called me on the cell phone. He said he didn’t think I would be doing my test tomorrow because now the Attitude Indicators were out on both N model planes. Wow, even though I want to get it over with, I started to totally relax knowing that tomorrow wasn’t THE DAY. I got to the airport with all my stuff and Michael was in his office with a new student. I told him I’d be in the other office studying. I went in there and looked over all my paperwork and maps and reviewed some things I had with me. I was going to go over to the computer and work on that but it needed a TAC password. I was in there until about 1:00 and had just put my head down for a little nap when Cassie Bax came in the office. She had just finished her check ride and didn’t pass. Poor thing she was pretty disappointed and was telling me a little bit of what went on. When Glen came in to do her debriefing, I got all my stuff to go in Michael’s office but it was locked. I went out to the lobby and watched some TV and napped a bit. I wasn’t sure if Michael was up flying with his new student or what. But I knew I couldn’t leave so I just hung out. Finally around 2 or 2:30 Michael got back and went back to the office with the student to finish up. I apparently dozed off again because next thing I knew he was on the sofa next to me saying “you poor thing”. The day was not going well. This same sort of thing happened before my last check ride day.

Before Glen left the building he said he’d see me at 7 in the morning. I still needed some time in the air for practice. We went out to 91Delta to go fly and then Michael realized that the attitude indicator was not placarded anymore but there was no notice of repair in the logs. Would we be able to take that plane tomorrow or not? He took the flight bag back to the office to get the one for 3TangoSierra since that would probably be the plane I’d be in tomorrow. Better practice in the same plane if possible. I tied down 91D and went over and untied 3TS to get it ready to fly. Michael came back and said we were back to using 91D because the mechanics had replaced the attitude indicator but didn’t write it down. Geez! I re-tied 3TS and went back to 91D to get IT ready to fly. Michael helped me do the pre-flight and even did the pre-taxi part of the checklist. He’s much faster than me and we needed to get up in the air.

So, I’ve had a long day, Michael’s had a long day, it’s hot outside and it’s 3:00 in the afternoon. The winds were from 310 so I had to use runway 30 which I haven’t done in a coon’s age. Not a big deal just different and I didn’t feel like “different” right then. Takeoff was fine and we did a right turn out toward Marana. Then I headed to the north practice area.

Most of the maneuvers that I’m not comfortable with are stalls, slow flight, and soft field takeoffs. We got in a base to final arrival stall going both right and left. They were actually pretty easy I thought. The plane did not drop off to the side like I always worry about so I must have kept it fairly coordinated. Then we did some departure turning stalls and those went well too. Actually we didn’t get in much time it seems before we notice big storms to the southeast and southwest. Quite a bit of rain was obvious and lightning. We headed back and I think I just did a regular landing. I wanted much more practice but it wasn’t going to happen.

We went back to the office and I told Michael that I’d postpone the test if I could. He said it would be a last minute change to Glen’s schedule which is not a nice thing to do. In my head I agreed that I didn’t want to tick him off by postponing the check ride without a really, really good reason. So I’m resigned to take the test tomorrow and do what I can to do a good job. I headed home before Michael and actually thought “what if I had a car accident on the way home”. Not that I was thinking of intentionally running into something but what if someone hit me? What a crazy thing to think about. I was overstressing myself with worry at this point and started to force myself to relax. I got home and by the time I had 2 cappuccinos made Michael got home and we had our evening coffee.

I knew that I had to redo my flight plan for tomorrow so I got up and started on that right away. I didn’t want to be doing that well into the night. While doing the flight plan I realized that I had to redo my weight and balance sheet also for 91D if that’s the plane I would be in tomorrow. The paperwork took about an hour, maybe two and then I was done for the night. I got all my stuff together and kicked back for the evening about 8:30. Michael had offered me a head rub earlier in the day so I took him up on that now as we listened to some good music. I just can’t study anymore but I went over all the things that I had on my debriefing list from Glen because he said he’d be asking me these questions the next time we got together. It’s 10 o’clock and I’m off to bed. Please let me get in a good night’s sleep.

October 3rd, 7:00 – 10:00 AM – Flying Portion of Check Ride

Last night I recalculated my flight plan and my weight and balance sheets not only for the new winds aloft information but also for a different plane. I was in 593TS for the first part of my check ride but I will be in 6291D for today’s flight. Not that big of a deal, at least I was done by around 8:30 instead of 11 o’clock like the last time. I got a pretty good night’s sleep surprisingly. I really tried to listen to Michael’s words of wisdom – “just do the best you can”. That was a comforting mantra as I dozed off to sleep. A few times I woke up thinking of things I wanted to remember to do in the morning. I jotted them down on my iPhone so that I didn’t have to worry about them through the night.

We woke up around 5 in the morning. My test was scheduled for 7 so we lazed in bed for another half hour. Then up for coffee and Michael was out the door. He wanted to make sure that there would be no issues with the plane this morning. I got ready and headed to the airport around 6:15. I knew I should eat something but I never have much luck eating this early. On my way to the airport I stopped and got some applesauce. That did the trick – no chewing involved.

On the drive in, I was more nervous than I’ve ever been in my life. Maybe even more than the day I did the oral portion of the test. I got to the airport and met Michael. While he got me a cup of coffee I called in for my Standard Briefing. No significant weather issues, no NOTAMS, no TFRs. Everything was good. I had some last minute questions for Michael which we were going over when Glen arrived. I really want to get this over with while at the same time I would have put it off in a New York minute. We went in to the instructor’s office and had a little chat about what today was going to be like. He started off by asking me to go over the PAVE acronyms. So I start out by telling him Power Back… He stopped me right there and said that was the PARE acronym not the PAVE. We went over the list, Pilot – Aircraft – enVironment and External Pressures. Then we went through the next acronym IMSAFE. Illness – Medication – Stress – Alcohol – Fatigue – Emotion or Eating. Eliza came in while we were going through this and got a debriefing on Cassie’s check ride which was yesterday. I felt uncomfortable listening in to someone else’s review and asked if I should leave but they said no, maybe I would get some tips from it.

We did not go through the maintenance logs this time, we just checked the info in the “tin” to see when the next inspections were due. All good. He sent me out to do the pre-flight and said he’d meet me out there. Being out there alone was a good way to try and relax. The process is routine and you have a checklist to use plus Glen wasn’t there for most of it looking over my shoulder. Everything looked good and when he got out there we pushed the plane back. Deep breath… Getting in to the pilot’s seat at this point is the real start of a flight for me. I pulled out the other checklist and went through the list. I expected the winds to be 160 at 6 since this is what I listened to on the way in to the airport. When I listened to the AWOS now the winds were at 110 at 18 but I didn’t hear the entire recording so I listened to it again, now the winds were 120 at 20 gusting to 25. That change was all in a matter of 15 seconds. I was glad the wind was at 120 though and told myself not to think about the velocity, just do my best.

I made my first radio call and started my taxi. I actually used my control surfaces properly for taxiing. I’m so glad we concentrated on this the last few flights – thank you Michael. Glen told me the first thing I would do is a soft field takeoff. Okay, I know this is one of my most challenging maneuvers. Just do my best. We taxied over and I performed my run up without any comments from Glen. I did remember to check the time and write it on my Nav Log sheet. Then I taxied into place at the hold short line, checked for traffic and made my departure call. Elevator pulled back, brisk taxi speed, line up on the center line, no brakes, put in full power. As soon as the plane lifted off I lowered the nose to stay in ground effect. I thought. We were already gaining altitude. I really tried to keep the plane low and level and thought I was doing an okay job of it. We picked up airspeed and I put the plane in a standard climb. Here we go.

I will be writing all the things that I did good and bad. I made my radio calls and my final one was that I was departing downwind to the northwest. The cross-country part of the test is first. My destination was Prescott and my planned altitude would be 10,500. I wasn’t sure how high we would go today before he “diverted me” to another airport. I looked at my log to see what my initial heading was supposed to be. It said something like 160. What the hell? That is the opposite direction of where I wanted to go. My brain started to try and figure out how I had made such an error in my calculations. While I’m fumbling with that I made sure that I was headed toward Newman Peak which I knew was my first checkpoint. Then I noticed that I had an old Nav Log that I had done for a flight plan to Wickenburg. Jesus! I pulled those two pages out and threw them in the back seat. I looked down for my heading again and saw another incorrect heading. It was another old flight plan. I remember looking at all those old flight plans last night but did not think that I had put them on my clip board. I found the Nav Log for today’s flight and put all the others in the back seat. I re-entered my departure time of 7:58 on the correct Nav Log and read the compass heading that I should be on – 322. Okay that sounds right. I got on that heading, checked my rate of climb and felt better about this part of the flight. Then Glen asked if I had opened my flight plan. Nope, I hadn’t. I put 122.2 on the radio but didn’t change from standby since we were just pretending. He switched it from standby to active. Whatever. I pretended to call Prescott Radio and open my flight plan. He responded back about a weather situation from Globe to Buckeye. I didn’t process everything he said so he asked me what I would do. I looked at my map, keeping on the correct heading, and told him I wouldn’t make the flight as planned. He asked me what I’d do. I said I’d go back to Marana. He said what if there was a dust storm over Marana and I couldn’t see the airport to land. Before I could suggest Pinal he said what about diverting to Ryan Airfield. So that was going to be my divert. I circled my actual location on my map and noted the time. I used the pencil on the VOR technique to quickly estimate a new heading of 140. I measured with my thumb and estimated it was 50 miles away so that would be approximate 25 minutes of flight time. He asked me what altitude I would fly to get there. I looked at my map and since we were on an easterly heading I said 6,500. STUPID! I know that easterly headings use odd levels of altitude, what was I thinking? He said something like “so you’re one of those people who fly blah blah blah” Then I realized my error and said no, I needed to be at 5,500. Glen asked me what our ETA would be. I told him 25 minutes. He said that was my ETE. It was now 8:20 so our ETA would be 8:45 and wrote that on my Nav Log. I pulled out my E6B (which I couldn’t find right away and thought I had left at home) and used the compass to measure the heading to Ryan. I corrected my heading according to that reading.

Now Glen asked what other way I could fly to Ryan besides using a heading. I said visual references. He asked what radio function I could use. I knew there wasn’t a VOR at Ryan so I was totally at a loss for an answer. I even looked at the map and didn’t pick up on the NDB that was at Ryan. He gave up asking me but made a note of it.

At this time he had me turn toward the east, descend to XXX altitude and put the plane in slow flight at the same time. I kind of did this. I pulled the power back and made my turn. I overshot 90 degrees by a bit but told him that I was correcting for it. I put the plane in slow flight without too much stress. The power was in and we were in slow flight. Then he had me perform a turn to the left. I’m not remembering all the details right now so some of this will probably not be in the order it really happened. I think my slow flight turns were okay. We got back to cruising speed and my next maneuver was steep turns. He didn’t wait for me to announce my clearing turns, he basically had them included in the maneuvers, at least that’s what it felt like. Glen would say “let’s do a turn to that direction” and then we would do a maneuver. My first steep turn was not a consistent 45 degrees and I think I leveled off a bit early but I did hold my altitude within standards. My turn the other direction went better and luckily this time I noted my starting point so I went the full 360.

I’m not sure what we did next but I’m going to say we did the instrument work. He took the controls and had me put the hood on. Then he told me to close my eyes and put my head way down. I did that and then he gave me back the controls. He said to turn the plane in what I thought was a right turn. I put it in a gentle bank to the right. Then he said left turn. I put it in a gentle bank to the left. Not knowing if I was climbing or descending I tried to hold the controls level. We stayed in that left turn for a long time it seems. Then he told me to open my eyes and correct the attitude. We were slightly high and in a shallow, maybe 20 degree bank. It was an easy fix. Then I closed my eyes again and he took the controls. He made a few attitude changes and after a half minute or so had me open my eyes and correct. Again we were high and banked but nothing as extreme as what I’ve practiced with Michael. I guess I did well on those. He did have me do some VOR settings under the hood. I tuned in Tucson, centered the needle TO and read the heading. Then I turned to that heading. After I took the hood off he asked me if I knew where I was. Duh, I’m right here! Actually I told him I did know where I was since I could see Pinal Airpark from where I was. He asked about lost procedures. I started to talk about cross-referencing two VORs but he was going for another answer. I mentioned using the map to locate landmarks. He agreed but there was something else I wasn’t getting – and never did apparently because we moved on to something else.

I think we did the stalls next. First was a base to final arrival stall. I’m glad he mentioned the last time that this would be one of the maneuvers because I had never practiced this before. I told Michael I wanted to try this before the test so at least it’s one thing we fit in yesterday afternoon. I put the plane in the landing configuration and started my 20 degree bank to the left. Okay time to pull up on the control. I had my hand on the throttle, my foot on the right rudder trying to keep the turn coordinated and pulling up with my left hand. I was really pulling as hard as I could, and we’re not stalling. He said “are you going to stall it or what?” I told him I had the control all the way back. He reached up and was able to apply a bit more back pressure and then I held it there until a stall occurred. I recovered correctly (I believe). The he wanted me to do a right departure turning stall and said “not to fool around with it”. I took the flaps out and got to the takeoff speed, banked the plane 20 degrees and pulled up. It still took a while to create the stall but at least I did it myself. Recovery again was okay. Then he said, “you don’t like stalls do you?” What am I supposed to say? I said “not really”. He asked what that meant. I told him that it meant I needed to do more of them to be comfortable with them. He agreed. I don’t think he dinged me on them though.

Sometime about now he asked what I would do if the low voltage light came on. I told him I would check the circuit breakers and turn off the master switch. He asked then what? I said I would not have lights or radios but I would head back to Marana and land as soon as possible. He asked is that all? Then the emergency checklist popped in my head. I don’t know if he suggested it or if I thought of it on my own. I’d like to think I thought of it on my own but I can’t trust my memory at this point. I pulled out the checklist and I was on the right track but had left out a few steps. I told him all the things I’d do by following the checklist. That seemed to suit him.

I think we did turns around a point next. He had me descend to 3,000 feet and fly over to some houses. I was looking at different houses so next thing he said was I overshot them. “Not the houses I was looking at” I thought. I told him which house I picked and started my turn. Unfortunately I didn’t pick a reference point prior to my turn so I would know when I had done a full 360.

I leveled off when I thought I was done and he asked why. I told him I did a full turn. Apparently I didn’t. We picked another house and this time I had Picacho Peak directly ahead on the start of my turn. I kept my altitude until the very last minute when I climbed about 100 feet but I corrected it and stopped the turn at the appropriate point. This one was better.

Next we talked about emergency procedures. We climbed back up to about 5,000 and he described a scenario of the engine getting rough. What would I do if it got rough? I put the plane in the best glide attitude and told him I would check the mixture… he said I could go ahead and do it. I pushed the mixture in (he fixed it), pushed the throttle in (he fixed it) I went to pull the carb heat but it was already out. (Hm, I don’t remember pulling it out ever. Maybe he did when we were in slow flight – I don’t know). I told him I’d check the mags and he said I didn’t have to actually do it, then I checked the primer. Before I could continue with the rest of the procedures he had me tell him where I would land. I looked around and Twin Hawks was right outside my window. That’s where I thought I would land. I started a decent but was too close to the airport and too high by the time I lined up for the strip. I would have overshoot and he basically failed me on that. He asked why I picked that little tiny strip and I said that I had practiced with it before and it was nearby. He said that at the altitude we started at I could have made it all the way back to Marana. I did not even consider that. We had dropped in altitude by this time and he asked where I would land now? I looked at Pinal and told him I didn’t think we could make that airport so I mentioned some roads. He said what about that dirt over there (towards Pinal). I agreed that would be a good spot. He asked specifically and I told him just past the row of trees where the ground was clear. I think that suited him.

Right about now he asked how I could slow the plane down even more to lose altitude. He wanted me to say flaps but I didn’t think of it. It was probably about this time that I was getting tired. I should have known that answer and felt stupid when he mentioned “flaps”.

I think we headed back to the airport about now. I headed for the cement plant and he asked why. I told him that was the route I took for runway 12. “How did I know that was the appropriate runway” he asked. I tuned in the AWOS and the winds were at 120 HA! He still wanted me to overfly the airport. Okay, whatever. I headed toward midfield and he said to stay to the right of the airport. We were at about 4,200 and he said I could redeem myself if I could do a good emergency landing. I thought I could too. While over the airport, I headed to the south to give myself time to lose some altitude and follow a typical left traffic pattern. He asked me where I was going which made me think I was making a mistake. So I turned crosswind and downwind while trying to lose altitude. If I had only thought this through I could have been done with this test. But, visually I tried to duplicate the power off emergency landings that I did with Michael. Unfortunately those were starting from pattern altitude and not way up where I was. I remembered Michael saying that the mistake people make is that they don’t turn soon enough, so I turned base and final really early and obviously really high. I don’t think we even tried to land. I did a go around. But had I announced a go-around and tried it again I believe it would have been ok, at least that’s what the handbook says. I wish I had thought of that. We did another landing and I totally misunderstood what he was asking me to do. I think my mind was still on the botched landing. Anyway, he told me to land after the blocks and I did a really good short field landing – before the blocks. He was stunned. Why did I do that? I just had to be honest and told him that I misunderstood and I associated the term blocks with a short field landing and just automatically did that. Next we did a true short field landing and I did that pretty good but he had to remind me to apply the brakes. Then we did a short field takeoff which was acceptable. And he told me to pick a touchdown point, do a forward slip and land within 400 feet of that point. He asked me if I understood and I said yes. I put in 10 degrees of flaps because I remember the POH saying not to do slips with flaps in, and I was paying so much attention to getting my full rudder in while using opposite ailerons that I didn’t realize until I was flaring that I was up at about 85 knots. The landing was, to use Glen’s words “exciting”.

I was so done for by now. My last 5 or six radio calls would barely come out. We taxied back to the tied down area and shut the plane down. Michael came out about that time and I told him I was about 9/10 of a pilot. I was/am very disappointed that I didn’t perform as well as I have in the past but I can’t say Glen didn’t give me every opportunity to do the right thing. I should have done better and I don’t feel like I was cheated or judged too harshly. We went back to the office for a debriefing and Glen listed the things I did well on and the maneuvers I didn’t do well on. It was embarrassing because all the things that he told me to work on are things Michael has brought to my attention over and over. I’m a timid pilot and that isn’t always going to cut it in the real world.

So, now I have another continuance to do an emergency landing, a soft field takeoff and probably a forward slip to landing for another fee of $200. I couldn’t sleep last night thinking that I only get one shot at each of these and what if I don’t do them properly? Another continuance and another $200? If I had known how long it was going to take me to get this rating and the money that we’ve put into it, I probably would not have started it. Maybe a lesser rating without all the Private Pilot requirements would have been enough. I’m really going to be glad when I finally pass. Now Michael and I have to go up again so I can practice these until they come so natural that I won’t have to worry about them. God I hope!

October 8th 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM – PRACTICE DAY

The weather was beautiful today and we went out to the airport to get in some more practice. We did some soft field takeoffs which are much easier than I was making them out to be. Once I am on the takeoff roll I can let the nose drop enough that I can see the end of the runway. All the other times I was under the impression that I had to keep the elevator pulled all the way back right up until we were in the air. Every time I did that we went – whoosh – up out of ground effect. Unfortunately I didn’t know to question this, I just struggled with pushing the nose back down and trying to stay in the ground effect. I feel a lot better about the prospect of this maneuver on my check ride Monday. Then we did a bunch of forward slips to a landing. They were more manageable today than I had remembered. It’s easy for the airspeed to drop significantly once you put in your flaps and apply full rudder. Michael made a really helpful suggestion. He said to call out my airspeed as we go along. That made a big difference because I was much more aware of when my speed was getting too fast or two slow. Once I was lined up and had the runway “made” I could straighten out the nose and do a regular landing. When I did this on my first check ride, I was so focused on the cross controls of the rudder and aileron that I didn’t notice I was way fast and came in at around 80 kts. So you can get fast or slow if you’re not paying attention.

We also did a bunch of emergency power-off landings in the pattern. Some were from pattern altitude and some were from a higher altitude. Most of them I did pretty well but it is a challenge to know when to turn back toward the runway without getting there too late and overshooting the indicated touchdown point or even worse, undershooting and not making the runway. At least during the practices we can add power if needed to get to the runway, which is not the case in a true emergency.

All in all I think today went really well and I’m feeling better about these three maneuvers that I have to do over. Michael said we could come out extra early on Monday to get in a little time in the pattern. I usually can’t sleep before these tests anyway so I might as well be out here flying instead of lying in bed.

Tomorrow is Sunday and we’re not flying. Michael has a full schedule and I’m supposed to meet Mercy for lunch. I haven’t seen her since before we went to Chicago last month. Then the rest of the day will be for studying the items Glen thinks I should be more familiar with and relaxing. I have been going over those items all week but tomorrow will be Buckle-Down Day. At least I don’t have to do any flight planning this time.

Things I feel good about:

  • Soft field takeoffs.

  • Forward slips.

Things I need to work on:

  • The emergency landings and judging distances and altitude.

October 7th, 7:00 AM – 9:00 AM – PRACTICE DAY

I thought we were flying at 7 o’clock this morning but we were supposed to be there at 6. I have been awake since 4 o’clock or maybe earlier so I could have gotten up on time if I had realized what the schedule was. We took separate cars to the airport since I have to go to work and Michael has his day filled with people who couldn’t fly yesterday due to the high winds. I had my applesauce again. That is about the only thing I’ve found that I can eat before flying this early.

Got to the airport and Michael brought me a cup of coffee since we didn’t have time for any at home. It was 47 degrees out this morning so the warm coffee felt good. This is the first brisk morning since summer started, I even took my leather jacket with me this morning.

As a side note, on Wednesday Michael told me there might be a couple packages at the door when I got home but that it was okay to open them – it was a “congratulations, you’re a pilot” gift. There was just one package and it contained an iPad Smart Cover. Hmm… hopefully the box that is missing didn’t contain the best part of the gift. Michael got home right after me and told me the other part of the gift wasn’t arriving until next week but that “yes, he got me an iPad”. What a sweetheart I’m married to, and a darned good flight instructor too. He’ll be able to use it for flight navigation too next time he has to do a long flight.

So anyway back to flying. We didn’t dawdle around at the FBO since we were already a bit late. Went out to the plane and it needed gas so Reisa came over to fill us up with the fuel truck. The winds were 160 at 4 kts. and we taxied out to runway 12. First thing we’re going to do after the run up is a soft field takeoff which I need practice at. During the run up, Michael said that Glen suggested a different way to set the mixture to rich. He said to keep the RPMs at 1700 rather than full power to do it. I tried it and it wasn’t showing much of a change so Michael tried it too. He doesn’t like the way it reads when trying it like that. I don’t know which method I should use on Monday. I guess I’ll have to talk to Michael about that. After the run up I taxied in a circle to check the airspace and put in 10 degrees of flaps and pulled the elevator back all the way. Since there was no one in the pattern I didn’t stop at the hold short line but just continued onto the runway for takeoff. Once on the centerline, I smoothly applied full power and kept the elevator back. I had a hard time telling when we were actually airborne.

Once the wheels are off the ground I have to lower the nose to basically straight and level flight right over the runway and hold that attitude until the speed hits 70 kts. then I can lift the nose and get into my climb attitude and then take the flaps out. Everything after that is normal. We did a couple of those today and the second one was better but I wish I had a better feel for how much to pull back or release on the elevator. Practice, practice, practice I guess.

We did forward slips for about the first 4 landings. They went pretty well but I’m not sure if I was using the controls exactly right. I think I was. The left wing was the low wing and the right rudder was all the way in. I have to watch my speed on these because it can drop below 60 pretty easily. Each one went okay but I need to work on my touch downs, they still tend to be flat.

There was another girl in the pattern and we both just kept doing touch and goes. We wanted to practice the 180 precision, power off landings and she was going way out on her base legs so that we couldn’t get set up very well for the practice. The next couple times we extended our upwind leg to give her time to get ahead. We did 2 or 3 of the power off landings and they turned out good. Except the first one. I misunderstood Michael’s instructions. I thought he said to flare over the 3rd stripe and land before the blocks. My set up was good but as I got close to the runway and doing my flare Michael tells me to hold it up, hold it up. How could I hold up the nose and get the plane down before the blocks. Turns out I flare over the 3rd stripe and land on the blocks or within 200 feet after them NOT BEFORE. That made much more sense. Needless to say the next couple turned out better now that I understood.

About that time another plane was taking off to stay in the pattern which would be 3 planes now. I think we just finished up one more landing and went in before it got too crazy out there. I wish I had more time to work on these maneuvers. We’re going to fly tomorrow pretty early and then Sunday will be a “no fly day”. Monday at 7 o’clock is when I’m supposed to finish this check ride up. We may get out to the airport earlier than that so that I can do a couple times around the pattern and get a feel for the winds of the day. Please God, let me do well enough to pass. Glen’s a nice guy and everything but I don’t want to make this a weekly event.

October 10th, 5:00 – 9:00 AM – FULL FLEDGED PILOT

I slept well for part of the night last night. Woke up around 1:15 and couldn’t fall back asleep right away. The last time I checked the clock was 2:45 and my alarm was set for 4 o’clock. I must have dozed off soon afterwards because I remember a strange buzzing sound in my dream. Of course it was my iPhone under my pillow telling me it’s time to get up. Michael walked in right afterwards and I woke up pretty wide awake. I threw on my jeans and a shirt and went out to make coffee. As much as I love my morning cappuccinos, I couldn’t finish it this morning – too nervous. We didn’t dawdle around the house much. Checked the news and headed out to the airport in separate cars. Of course my gas light came on again like last Monday but at least I was still in town and pulled in to a station. I brought some applesauce with me to get something in my stomach but can’t even get that down. I don’t think I’m more nervous than the other two times I’ve done this but with just 3 things to accomplish, there’s not going to be much leeway for overlooking a poor maneuver.

It was totally dark when we left the house at 4:30. I figure it will be morning twilight soon so I should be able to see what I’m doing. Got to the airport and got ready to go fly. We both went out to preflight the plane and finished up pretty quickly. I taxied out to runway 12. The winds were from 110 at 8 kts which are pretty good conditions for me. During the run up Michael had me enrich the mixture at 1700 RPM the way Glen told him to. This method doesn’t seem to give the same usable feedback as the way Michael taught me but we did it anyway. My first practice takeoff was the soft field takeoff and I did much better again. Now I think I’m getting the hang of it on my check ride day. I just did a normal landing first thing to get the feel for it. We did some emergency landings and forward slips just like on Saturday. Some of them were good and some were mediocre but this was my last chance at perfecting my skills.

We headed back and parked at the restaurant about 6:45 and Glen was due at 7 o’clock. We were in his office going over any questions I might have. Soon afterwards Glen got there and had a seat. He and Michael chatted for a few minutes and then he got on the computer to do the paperwork. He got to a point where Michael had to enter some data but Michael didn’t realize that he had to do the paperwork from scratch if the student (me) failed the practical test. It took quite a while for that paperwork to get done and in the meantime Glen took the opportunity to ask me a bunch of questions, some of which I was prepared for and some I wasn’t. This week I had been going over my list of subjects that Glen had told me I needed to review. I prioritized the subjects in the order of what seemed to be most important from my exam. He asked again about how a foreword or aft center of gravity affects the way an airplane handles. He also asked about the different systems in an airplane and to list the various instruments or components that were within each system. I started to work on this last week but only got so far with it. I told him some of the systems and hoped that he’d move on, which he did finally. He asked about different special use airspaces again and spin recovery and I had to go over the PAVE and IMSAFE acronyms. This morning I didn’t call for a weather briefing since we were just staying in the pattern. When we got to the V in pave I told him what the weather conditions were from the AWOS (winds 110 at 8) and he said something like “maybe we can use another runway to get some crosswind practice in” or he was saying “maybe the wind will change so we can get some crosswind practice in”, I’m not really sure what he said. Then he went back to the PAVE and said the V also stands for airspace. What? I thought he was going to ask me what airspace Marana was in but he started talking about NOTAMs and TFRs. I told him there were no NOTAMs or TFRs reported for today. I don’t know why I didn’t just tell him that I hadn’t checked on those but I could if he wanted me to. Apparently he had already checked on them and said something about a TFR in the Phoenix area blah, blah, blah. We were supposedly staying in the airport vicinity today so I really didn’t think it necessary to check on those.

He also asked me some questions that I had already given acceptable answers to last week and some I wasn’t expecting at all. He asked nothing about CFIT, hypoxia, weather hazards or runway incursions that he has stressed before. I realize that I should know all these different things so I can’t say that he went overboard.

Michael was still working on the computer and apologized to him for not having that paperwork done and made a comment that it wouldn’t happen again. Glen seemed a bit annoyed and just agreed with Michael that it was his fault and didn’t really make light of it. Then I had to sign on the computer but I didn’t know my sign on or password for the IACRA site. Had to submit a request to the website and have a temporary password emailed back to me. Luckily that didn’t take very long.

After we finished the necessary paperwork Glen told me to go out and do a speedy preflight and he’d meet me out at the plane. Since we parked the plane at the restaurant it saved a bit of time getting out to it and the preflight went quick. He came out and asked what the fuel situation was and I told him 11 and 13. He asked if I had a fuel gauge because he likes to check himself. He didn’t do that the last two times that we got to this point. As I was doing the start up procedure he told me what we were going to do today. We’d take off and fly up to my favorite practice area, do some emergency maneuvers and come back and do a couple landings. Shit, I thought we were staying in the pattern and we’d be done quickly. If we went out to the practice area, what other maneuvers would he have me do that I’ve already done? Oh well just do my best, I told myself. Start up went pretty smoothly but the engine didn’t start right away even after 3 pumps of the primer. I turned it off, waited a few seconds and tried again. This time it turned over but not right away.

I made my radio call and we taxied out to runway 12. Apparently he didn’t mean for us to use a different runway for crosswind practice after all. I got out to the run up area and went through the checklist. When I got to the “mixture rich” line I did it as Michael told me to at 1700 RPMs. There wasn’t much of a change in the readings but I had to just go with how Michael and I did it this morning.

Finished the run up and did my little taxi dance to look for any local traffic. He had told me I would first do a soft field take off so I had already set my flaps to 10 degrees. Since I knew I would be stopping at the hold short line I didn’t think it was necessary to pull back on the elevator until I was actually ready to roll out to depart but he reminded me that we were in muddy terrain. So I pulled the elevator back as I pulled up and stopped at the hold short line. There was traffic on final and I radioed that I was holding short for the landing aircraft. I watched them do a touch and go and once they were in the air I made my call to depart. Put in a little power, feet off the brakes, line up on the center line, put in full power and slightly lower the nose so I could see the end of the runway. I could feel when we were in the air and kept pretty low for a little bit and then as I checked my airspeed I let the nose go up a teensy bit but not out of ground effect. I lowered the nose and tried to stay as low as I could. We hit the magic 70 kts. and I let her climb. Once in the air and stable I took out the rest of the flaps and headed upwind. I made my first crosswind turn and remembered not to bank it more than 20 – 30 degrees. I turned downwind and Glen said to go ahead and keep climbing to 4,500 and we’d head to the north practice area. Geez!

Right about abeam the numbers he changed his mind. I’m pretty darn sure he did this because we were running a bit late and he had a 9:00 appointment. (Thank you Michael for having to do the paperwork from scratch). Glen said to stay on this heading and keep climbing to 4,500 and he’d tell me when to turn back to the airport and we’d do our emergency landing right here. After a minute or so I turned left toward Silverbell Mine and then turned back toward the airport. He said to fly to the right side of the runway so he could see what was going on.

We got close to the end of the runway and he radioed in that we were going to do a simulated emergency power off landing for runway 12. A woman getting ready to take off called to us to verify our position. Glen called back and told her what altitude we were at and that it would not interfere with her take off. Just about then he pulled the power back. I looked around to see our position and we were just passing over the blocks. I kept flying downwind for a moment and Glen made a comment (like last time) about how I was going to keep flying downwind? This time I told him I needed to lose some altitude and he acted all surprised, “oh that’s what you’re doing?”. So I thought back to Michael’s instruction and started to make a crosswind turn so I could lose some altitude on that turn. When I made my turn Glen looked out and said “oh I thought we were farther down the runway, I may have had you turn too soon”. I flew out to the downwind path but may have turned in a little too soon not allowing myself to really judge the distance to the runway. I was still pretty high so I put in 10 degrees of flaps before I turned base to try and lose some altitude. I won’t be able to recall every decision I made but generally I was getting lined up to the runway but I was pretty close to it. I really think that without his comments along the way I would have planned the descent better than I did. I know I am considered PIC during this flight but it’s difficult not to follow the examiner’s leads when he makes comments. I was watching my speed carefully to keep it at 65 but I was still high so he asked what else can you do? I put in 10 more degrees of flaps and we came down a bit. I can’t remember if I put in the next 10 or the next 20 (full flaps). I wanted to keep the last 10 degrees of flaps for the very end like I had been practicing but the runway was coming up fast. I flared over the 3rd stripe I think but didn’t quite make the blocks before touching down. I’m thinking at this point that he’s going to fail me again but I’m trying not to worry about it.

We took off again, normal takeoff and he had me do a forward slip to landing and told me to land within the first 200 feet of the runway. I don’t really remember practicing those so close to the end of the runway but I’ll try to do it. My set up was not too bad and I was watching my speed very closely. As I got close to the runway he reminded me that I had to touch down within 200 feet. Oh crap, that was going to be a challenge. I was probably long on my landing but I couldn’t tell you for sure.

I think this is where he had me come to a full stop on the runway to do a short field take off. I did this last time and he said I did okay so I’m not sure why I have to repeat it. I set the flaps to 10 degrees, put my feet on the brakes and put in full power. Once the power was developed I took my feet off the brakes and planned to rotate at 55 kts. Seems like it took a while to get to speed but once it did I pulled up and tried to keep the speed at 59-60 while climbing out. For some reason this take off is a blur in my mind. I reduced the flaps once we were on a normal climb and continued my circuit in the pattern. I’ve done lots of short field landings so I wasn’t overly worried. He asked me where I was going to touch down and I told him the blocks. “Okay” he says “but remember there’s a big pit right before the blocks”. I did get high on my turn to base but whenever we practice short field landings I thought was supposed to come in higher than normal. Anyway I got lined up pretty well and was coming in but I could tell I was going to touchdown before the blocks. Normally I would have put in some power to extend the descent but in this case I got mixed up with which landing I was doing and thought I had to do it without the availability of more power (emergency landing still in my head). I just held the nose up as long as I could and touched down just a bit before the blocks. Of course I was focused on that and did not apply my brakes right away. Glen said “brakes” which snapped me out of my tendency to fixate on something I had just done poorly instead of just letting it go.

Glen said something about not the best outcome but that we would call it good enough. I think that meant he was going to pass me. I pulled off the runway and did my after landing checklist. I looked up and saw a plane taxiing at the intersection of Charlie and Alpha and thought I should wait for him. I radioed that I was waiting for the taxiing traffic and then I noticed he was on that little apron area. I still waited not knowing that another plane was behind me. The other plane taxied by and apologized for holding us up. In retrospect I should have noticed that he was not actually on the taxiway and I could have proceeded back to the shade ports. As soon as he taxied by me Glen said lets expedite because there is a plane right behind us. I did just that.

On the taxi back we talked about the things I could have done better. He kept telling me today to be assertive and I was really trying. He asked me what I could have done to reach the blocks and I said put in more power. I was pretty sure at this point (but not positive) that he was going to pass me but I really didn’t want to get my hopes up. We parked the plane and after he helped me push it place he said I was Tucson’s newest Private Pilot and that he’d meet me in the office after I was done out here. Hallelujah! I was so happy, and partially in disbelief as I finished securing the plane. I almost walked away without tying it down. I thought Michael was up flying with a student but he met me at the FBO door, told me I passed and gave me a big hug and kiss.

We went into Michael’s office and did a debriefing while Glen took care of the paperwork and printed out my temporary certificate. He said I could put these hours in my logbook as PIC. Cool. I filled it out with the 1.5 hours that I flew today and handed it to him so sign. He asked how I got 1.5 hours? Oh, that was the total of today’s flying but about an hour of it was with Michael in the morning not as PIC. He seemed to be a little perturbed that I had filled it out that way. I could have made a correction and divided the hours into part dual and part PIC but he said oh well we’ll just leave it. I signed the temporary certificate and gave the man his fee. Oh my gosh, this is it – I did it! (and we didn’t even get any pictures) Michael did have a student with him so I didn’t hang around long. I grabbed all my crap, loaded the car and headed back home. About the time I reached Sandario Road I realized that I hadn’t paid Larry for the flight. I did a big U turn and went back to the airport, paid for the flight and headed back home once again.

The End – or is it?