Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stage Check Uno and Some Actual!

I had my first of three stage checks a couple days ago. The basic idea is to ride with a check instructor to ensure your regular instructor has you on the right track. I was a little apprehensive and, when given the option, asked my instructor if we could delay it. Later I realized she'd sounded disappointed and figured that she had already set it up, so I called her back and said "look, it's your call... I really don't know what he'll want from me and it's impossible to embarrass ME, but I don't want to embarrass you..." She said she thought I was ready so we went ahead and did it. It's really supposed to be a learning experience and not a test anyway.

The guy was fine to fly with. He's very old but not frail either physically or mentally. I remember him from somewhere that I can't put my finger on when I used to be based at Merrill - in the mid 80's I think. I asked my instructor if I should brush up on my CPR skills before the check ride but she didn't think I was as funny as I thought I was and told me to be nice.

He was enthusiastic about unusual attitudes... really confusing me and then handing it back to me on the edge. I laughingly told him "Whoa man, if I tear the wings off this thing you're not going to like it..." but I did fine. Somehow along the way I learned to automatically NOT pull up from a dive and level the wings at the same time, which is good since I think that's pretty much the only way to get killed in a high altitude recovery. He told me the next day that he'd had a good time, so I obviously hadn't scared him too bad.

He also told me that I had to make procedure turns away from the fix, which I'm not so sure of. Clearly they have to be on the 'safe' side indicated, but somewhere I got the idea that you can turn either way. You have to stay within the distance limit... but why would you have to turn only one way? I mean they don't tell you where to start the turn, right? So as long as you're on the safe side and within the distance limit, who cares? What if there's a strong tailwind or you accidentally flew a long outbound leg? Turning inbound might make sense. If you completely space out and find yourself at the distance limit, you BETTER turn inbound... lol. I have to try to look this up.

The guy made me go through everything I'd done to date and I did better that I expected... we had more crosswind than I'd experienced so it was good tracking to the NBD - I hadn't ever had to put in any serious x-wind correction and occasionally turn to the heading to see how we were doing. It was educational. My steep turns elicited a bump on rollout (well, one went a bit awry...) pretty much the only thing I did wrong was blow a couple altitudes a little bit. I'm not flying to the checkride standards yet, but am sure a lot more aware and accurate than when I started.

If I was an instructor, it would be hard for me to not nag the student to do things MY way (the ONLY correct way of course!) but neither he or my regular instructor is like that so they're pretty easy to fly with. I can take any sort of criticism as long as it's preceded by the phrase "I might have done that bit differently..." lol.

Then, on my next lesson, we filed a pop up and I flew a little (VERY little, lol) actual. It was great fun looking out the window and not seeing anything but clouds. Too bad it didn't last longer and too bad it was mostly enroute and not on the approach. But it was still a lot of fun. When I could sort of see the ground and was in and out of the clouds... I can see where that might bite you. Better to just not look out. Hopefully we can get some longer actual on my cross-countries.

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