Thursday, 30 October 2014

Calm and confident

Two words that Bob keeps repeating to me.

“Be calm and confident, WMAP. Give the examiner the excuse he needs to pass you.”

Good advice but words I’m not capable of parsing at the moment.

The night before I’m my usual pessimistic self. Overwhelmed by the numbers in my planning, the sheer enormity of all the stuff I need to remember. I'm firing off a text a minute to Bob.

“Calm and confident” Bob texts me back.

“I’ll take ‘two words that have never been used in living history to describe me’ for $1000” I quip back.

Bob doesn’t dignify it with a response.

The thing is though, somehow; miraculously that is what I become during my flight test.

It starts with LE breaking the ice and putting me at my ease for the ground portion. I know that the first question he’s going to ask is about the documents for both me and the plane. This I can talk about in my sleep.

I forget I’m being questioned and just start chatting about the documents. I run through some of them briefly, telling him to stop me if he has questions about what I am saying.

I take my time with the journey log, I run down all the items to show that the plane can be flown legally. I also tell him that I like to glance through to see what the latest maintenance work done was, just so I know what to pay extra attention to on my preflight. I also show him that, interestingly, the current limit on the legality of this plane relates to the first aid kit needing replacing soon rather than the number of hours on the engine.

For the flight planning portion, I show him my planned routes and talk him through my decisions as to why this is a no go. I talk about the possibility of refueling in Muskoka but that I discounted it as being too close to the initial takeoff point to be truly useful. By the time I’ve taken off, flown a little bit in cruise and landed again, I don’t think I’ll have gained much.

I also show that I could add an extra gallon of fuel to the ramp weight but if I do only burn up the 1.1 gallons on taxi and runup that the POH says I run the risk of being overweight on takeoff.

Either way this flight is a no go.

I sum it up by saying that I could leave the baggage behind but to be perfectly honest I’d be happier leaving a passenger.

So I blag my way through the ground portion, no surprise there I guess.

But amazingly I do manage to be confident in the air too. He tells me to pick a landmark for my steep turn. I tell him that I’m going to swing around to the south as I prefer to use a cardinal heading rather than a landmark.

During my diversion, I decide to go via a very prominent local landmark that is due south of me and then follow the shoreline rather than directly back. As I tell him, it gives me space not to have to worry about inadvertently busting the control zone. I keep him appraised of our ETA to both the intermediate point and our final destination. I even make the remark that I know I said I’d follow the shoreline if this was a real diversion but the actual VFR route out here requires me to be north of the shoreline.

Once I’m back in the circuit, I even manage to take the time to point of the vagaries of our local airspace. I indicate the noise sensitive area over the island that I’m not allowed to fly over. I’m having spacing fun with the Porters. Almost chatting now, I say “it gets a little weird, there’s a whole bit of the circuit you just can’t fly over. Either you have to tuck in real tight or extend all the way out to the gap.

No sooner than those words have left my mouth ATC tell me “JES extend to the eastern gap”

“aaaaaaand there we go,” I laugh to LE.

For my softfield landing I inform him that although I know better than to use brakes, operationally though Tower is going to want me off the runway ASAP. Actually I realise that I haven’t even broached the subject of stop and go versus full stop, exit and taxi back round. The latter is the safer, if more time consuming option. That’s what I’ve decided to do.

Somehow my confidence seems to translate into better flying. I actually feel the slightly excess rate of sink as I come into land. I react by adding a touch of power to arrest the descent rate. This has the added bonus of cushioning my touchdown , exactly as you’d want to for a proper softfield landing.
I keep the nose way up high and allow it to gently lower. Once it is down he tells me that it is fine to brake as needed. I’m mildly stunned that I felt the subtlety of what I needed to do.

Looking back, I actually did exactly what Bob told me to do. I stayed calm, I projected confidence and somehow a pilot emerged.

Where the heck was she 6 months ago? 

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