Thursday, 25 September 2014

Establishing limits

 Although not as successful as I’d like in some ways, today’s lesson was good in others. Amongst other things it was good in helping me explore some personal limits.

The winds were “fresh” leading to some “feisty” conditions. Upper winds of maybe 30+ knots. I’d already been warned by several people that the approach to landing was a little on the fun side. This didn’t come as a surprise, the crosswind was a healthy 10 knots at least and due to get sportier as the day got on.

Conditions at the practice area weren’t great either, I’d dodged my way around some scattered cloud and had to level off before my pre planned altitude and even descend at some points. The usable altitude was hovering around the 3000ft ASL mark, enough so that I could set up for some slow flight but not high enough that I felt comfortable practicing stalls.  Maybe I could have found a hole to work in but the slow flight was problematic enough. Every time I tried to get stabilised, a gust of wind would knock my wings or jostle my nose. It was hard work for sure.

Strangely though, even though doing the airwork bothered me, the actual flying per se didn’t. Yes it was bumpy, yes progress was painfully slow at times with the massive headwind but it was totally flyable. Even when coming into land, when Bob had asked me what I was expecting the crosswind to be, given the latest info from ATC (some quick mental math gave me a rough and dirty figure of about 11 knots) I quickly realised that I wasn’t bothered at all, even when Bob decided he wasn’t going to give em a speciality landing to practice “the cross wind is enough,” he explained “just…”

“Get the plane down in one piece?” I helpfully finished for him.

A year ago I would have balked at even attempting a landing like that but I knew I could do it, carefully maintaining just the right level of slip to land one main first then the next, keeping the aileron input in right through the roll out.

Bob looked suitably impressed.

While I was secretly feeling a little smug about my crosswind landing abilities, I did have a couple of concerns. On paper today’s conditions weren’t too bad. Visibility was fine, ceilings maybe a little low but nothing that screams “not VFR”, yet at the same time there’s no way I’d want to do my flight test under those conditions.

I needed reassurance from Bob that “these conditions would make passing my flight test sufficiently challenging that I don’t think it is a fair reflection of my flying capabilities.” Is a legitimate reason for not wanting to take my flight test on a particular day.

He assured me that was a legitimate way of thinking and that if I discussed it in those terms with the examiner I’d be fine, the examiner may or may not elect to do the ground portion on that day but ultimately the decision to fly would be mine.

To be honest, if I was flying around for a bit of fun, I’d probably be okay with it. I might think twice about taking a nervy passenger but for me I’d be Ok.

But I wouldn’t do my checkride.

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