Some Days Are More Work and Less Play

Yesterday I received a call from the school that my CFI was sick and they needed to reschedule me. They gave me the option of flying with a different CFI, flying solo, or scheduling a different day. The plan was to go through maneuvers to see where I was in…

Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
3 Sep 2016

Yesterday I received a call from the school that my CFI was sick and they needed to reschedule me. They gave me the option of flying with a different CFI, flying solo, or scheduling a different day. The plan was to go through maneuvers to see where I was in my preparations for my check ride which I can’t do by myself, I didn’t want to just practice landings again, and due to schedule conflicts I am not able to fly on the 10th. If I didn’t fly today then it would be three weeks between flights, too long. I decided that it would be good to fly with a different instructor to have a new set of eyes on my flying and get a different perspective so I asked them to schedule it.

My original flight time was noon, which was to give time for the morning haze and clouds to burn off but they moved me up to 10am. When I left my house at 9:25am for the drive to the airport it was still overcast and not looking promising, but usually on the other side of the hills from my house it is clearer, today wasn’t one of those days. The weather at CNO was variable winds, visibility 6 miles with haze, and overcast at 1,800′. That would be good enough to fly the pattern but that is about all. I met the new CFI and we talked about doing some real instrument time through the clouds to get up on top and work stalls and steep turns, but that would be a lot of time to only work on a couple things so we scrapped that idea.

We spent the next hour and a half just talking about flying which was great, I learned a lot from him. Finally we decided that it just wasn’t going to happen today but that I would wait around to see if it cleared enough for me to at least get in some pattern work on my own (no sense paying the CFI to fly the pattern with me). The overcast had broken up but the minimum visibility that I am signed off for in my additional 90 day solo endorsement is 7 miles, soooo I had to wait for that one more mile of visibility. There I was, sitting in the lobby of the school, checking in every 10 minutes or so on the current conditions. Outside the overcast was completely gone and I could see the mountains 7 nm to the south and 11 nm to the north, but the weather still said 6 sm visibility. I checked Ontario 5 nm to the north, Corona 5 nm to the south, and Riverside 10 nm to the east and they all listed visibility of 10 sm but yet Chino still said 6 nm.

Finally about noon it updated to 7 sm visibility and I was good to go, I thought… I went out and did the pre-flight on the plane then asked one of the ground crew to pull it out of the hanger. I finished up the last few items on the checklist and was about to start it when a twin engine that is kept in one of the hangars along the row came around the corner at the end. No sense starting up the plane and paying to sit there so I waited until the twin it was put away in its hangar.

At last, everything was clear and I was ready to start the plane up. I started going down the start-up checklist, engaged the starter, the engine kicked over, the propeller started spinning, but something wasn’t right. I went to back off the engine to 1000 rpm but it was rough and started to die so I put a little more throttle in and it started racing. Went to back it off a little again and the same thing happened. About this time the owner of the school and one of the mechanics were walking up from behind the right wing, I looked over and gave them a ‘cut it?’ motion and they shook their heads so I pulled the mixture to idle cut, let it die, turned off the mags, took the keys out and put them on top of the dash. (The school wants the keys there so there is no question the mags are off when someone is around the plane.)

The owner said it sounded like the plane was only firing on three cylinders. They opened the cowls and felt the cylinders and sure enough, one was cold. The mechanic pulled the plugs on that cylinder and one of them was bad, the insulator was broken. When the plane is started it is on just the left mag so only one of the two plugs in each cylinder is firing. I hadn’t switched to both mags yet and because it was the plug connected to the left mag that was bad, the engine was only firing on three cylinders. The mechanic got a new plug to replace the bad one and installed both of them.

We started the plane up again but the owner still couldn’t get it to idle smooth. After some more trouble shooting he determined that the primer was leaking a little but said to go fly it and they would fix that later. By this time there was another Cherokee from the school that had been pulled out in front of me and I was waiting on them to start up and go. They got their plane started and then the Apache that belongs to the school came around the end of hangar row returning from a flight. Sooo, I shut the engine down again and they pushed both myself and the other Cherokee back so they could put the Apache in the hangar to make room for us to leave.

I started the plane, again, and was finally taxiing on my way down the hangar row. I received my clearance and taxied out to a crowded run-up area. After a short wait one of the planes left but it was still crowded enough that the tower told a Cessna waiting on the taxi way that there was nobody behind him and he could do his run-up there on the taxi way. The run-up went well, I finished up my checklist, and after a short delay was given clearance and on my way down the runway and up in the air.

I will say right now I am not a fan of ‘variable’ winds. The winds were variable at 6 knots which means they were coming from anywhere and everywhere. I made my way around the traffic pattern following a different Cherokee, the whole time bouncing around and compensating for the changing wind directions. I turned final and realized, this doesn’t feel right. With the flaps all the way deployed the lever was too close to my right knee and hitting my knee board. The throttle was right next to my knee (too close) and I had to rotate my right knee out to keep the yoke from hitting it. (Dang it, I had the seat one notch closer than normal. I had gone back and forth with where to have the seat on the ground before starting up the engine but just wasn’t quite sure about the distance until I was up flying. It was the ‘Am I too close, is this too far away to push the rudder pedals all the way in’ debate. Once I was flying, I could tell it wasn’t where I normally have it.)

I landed, it wasn’t very pretty, brought the flaps back up, and pushed the throttle in for the touch-and-go. I thought ‘The seat is just a little too close but I can still fly like this’ except as I was climbing out it was really starting to annoy me. There was no way I was going to try and adjust it while flying, that’s just asking for disaster, so the next time around after landing I exited the runway, came to a stop, and then adjusted the seat. With the seat finally in the right place I taxied back and waited for my clearance to take off again.

I made another trip around the pattern for a touch-and-go still bouncing around with the variable winds. It was another sub-par landing with the shifting winds causing me grief as I tried to stay lined up on the centerline and keeping my descent rate stable. I thought ‘I’m just going to ask for a full stop next time around.’ Then I reconsidered and told myself I would do one more touch-and-go just for the experience. I was on the downwind when the tower gave me my landing clearance.

Tower: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, you are number one, 26L, cleared for the option.
Me: “Number one, 26L, cleared for the option, 00Uniform, after this one can I get right traffic for a full stop landing on 26R?”
Tower: “00Uniform, we have your request.”

I continued on the downwind and as I was turning base the tower got back to me.

Tower: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, on the go make left closed traffic.”
Me: “On the go make left closed traffic, 00Uniform.”

I guess they weren’t going to get me into the right traffic pattern. I made the landing, put flaps up, throttle in and a little right rudder. I had just lifted off and was climbing out when the tower called again.

Tower: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, extend upwind, turn right crosswind at the power lines for 26R.
Me: “Extend upwind, make my right crosswind at the power lines for 26R,  00Uniform.

I continued the climb and had cleared the end of the runway but had not yet reached the power lines.

Tower: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, contact the tower on 118.5 and check in with your location.” (They had the runways split on separate frequencies.)
Me: “Contacting tower on 118.5, 00Uniform.” (Switch the radio frequency)
Me: “Chino tower, Cherokee 5800Uniform checking in, just departed 26L and extending upwind to the powerlines.”
Tower: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, go ahead and make your right crosswind when able.”
Me: “Beginning right crosswind turn now, 00Uniform.

I continued to get bounced around by the variable winds which now had some gusts to go along with the shifting directions. As I was passing about midfield I was given my landing clearance, number two following another plane on short final. I saw him landing, let the tower know I had him in sight, and then continued downwind, turned base, turned final, and again was fighting to stay on center-line with the winds pushing me around. Here the winds were coming from the right (as given by my effort to keep from drifting to the left). I managed to put the plane down about 20 feet to the left of the center-line (it’s sometimes really nice to be landing on a 150′ wide runway).

Some days it’s a nice relaxing flight, and some days are a bit more work. Today was the latter.

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