Pre-Phase Check Flight

I am getting close, which is very exciting. I took a look at my logbook and realized that I haven’t flow maneuvers/stalls since July 3rd, 76 days and 25.1 hours of flying ago. My plan for today’s flight was to work through all the maneuvers, some extra emphasis on stalls,…

Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
17 Sep 2016

I am getting close, which is very exciting. I took a look at my logbook and realized that I haven’t flow maneuvers/stalls since July 3rd, 76 days and 25.1 hours of flying ago. My plan for today’s flight was to work through all the maneuvers, some extra emphasis on stalls, and to get in some simulated instrument time as well.

I arrived at the airport and found my CFI sitting at his desk. I took a seat and pulled out my knowledge test result to show him. We talked about the questions that I had missed and then moved on to the plan for finishing up my training. He wanted to treat today’s flight as a sort of ‘modified phase check’ where we would work through everything but unlike a normal phase check where he would just observe, today he would provide feedback for me during the flight. If everything went well we could schedule my actual phase check and he would let the school know I was ready to schedule my check-ride. I told him that sounded great, and that I wanted to spend a little extra time on stalls.

We went out to the plane and of course it was parked in back of two others that had to be moved first. It never seems to fail that when the planes are lined up or in the hangar, you need the one in back… My CFI started shuffling planes around while I did the pre-flight. About the time he was done moving planes I was done with the pre-flight. Everything looked good so we climbed in, I adjusted my seat (to the right place this time, I won’t make the same mistake as my last flight), buckled my seat belt, and went through the checklist to start up the plane.

It was a quiet day at the airport, with the exception of the closure of runway 26L according to the ATIS information.

Me: “Chino ground, Cherokee 5800Uniform, at DuBois, requesting taxi runway 26R with informaiton Alpha.”
Ground: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, taxi 26R via Mike, Delta, Alpha, cross runway 21.”
Me: “Taxi 26R via Mike, Delta, Alpha, cross 21, 00Uniform.

With that I let off the brakes, nudged the throttle in and started rolling. We hadn’t gone very far when Ground called back.

Ground: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, would you like to taxi via Papa, cross 21?”
Me: “We can, it doesn’t make a difference.”
Ground: “That’s your choice, it is available.”
(We were just approaching the turn to go between the hangers for Taxiway Papa which it is a little more direct, and you avoid the whole parking area around the tower and Flying Tigers.)
Me: “We’ll take Papa”
Ground: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, taxi 26R via Papa, cross 21.”
Me: “Taxi 26R via Papa, cross 21, 00Uniform.”

We arrived at the run-up area and I continued on through my checklist. While taxiing my CFI had asked Ground why 26L was closed and they responded that there had been an “aircraft incident” and left it at that. Off in the distance we could see some activity towards the far end of 26L which must have been the “aircraft incident” that ground was referring to.

I had told my CFI that I wanted to do a soft field takeoff for the practice. I still have a hard time not popping up through ground effect when I first lift off. I suppose it is something in my brain that wants to keep climbing and not push the nose over immediately after lift off. I know I’m supposed to do it to stay in ground effect to build speed but my brain just doesn’t seem to want to cooperate.

I set the flaps to the second notch, 25°, and started to roll out of the run-up area toward the hold short line for 26R.

Me: “If we were actually on a soft field I would not use brakes.”
CFI: “You know if you wanted style points you could have monitored the tower and contacted them for clearance before rolling. Then you could just roll right onto the runway to take off.”
(I hadn’t contacted the tower yet, I usually do that as I stop at the hold short line)
Me: “Well I guess I won’t get any style points…” (as I applied the brakes and stopped at the hold short line to call the tower)

The tower gave me my take off clearance and I rolled onto the runway holding back pressure on the yoke. As soon as I was lined up on the centerline I pushed the throttle all the way in and very quickly the nose wheel started to lift off, followed shortly by the mains. Once again, I didn’t level off to build speed until I had gone right up out of ground effect…

Speed slowly came up, we gained positive rate of climb, and I took out the second notch of flaps. I waited for positive rate of climb again and took out the last notch of flaps. It was a warm day, 93°, and while the right tank was only up to the tabs (18 gallons), the left tank was full (25 gallons). The extra 7 gallons (42 lbs) combined with the warm weather and my CFI (weight undetermined) made the plane climb like a dog compared to when I flew by myself last time. Eventually we reached 1,100′ and I began my turn towards the south east and the Lake Matthews practice area.

My CFI had me dial up the Paradise VOR and fly direct toward it just to see me use the Nav Radio. Once I was on the radial towards Paradise he had me change my heading towards Lake Matthews. We stayed at 2,500′ until we crossed the 91 freeway and were out from underneath the 2,700′ shelf of Ontario’s airspace. The tower had given me a frequency change previously so I switched to the Lake Matthews frequency and made my radio call.

Me: “Lake Matthews traffic, red and white Cherokee, over the 91/15 interchange at 2,500′, inbound for the lake, climbing 4,000′.

One other plane chimed in with their location practicing on the south side of the lake so we decided to stay west of the 15 freeway over Corona.

First on the list was steep turns. I pushed the throttle in and rolled into a 45° bank to the left (I like turning to the left more than the right so figured it was a good direction to start). I rolled out of the turn on my heading, pushed the yoke forward to compensate for the added lift of leveling off, and then rolled into a right bank. There is something about sitting in the left seat and being on the “top” of the turn going to the right as opposed to the “bottom” of the turn going to the left that causes me to shallow out my right turn. Today was no different and I waffled between 35°-45° of bank.

The last time I had flown steep turns I had it nailed, but as I said earlier, that was 76 days ago. He had me make another 180° turn to the right at 45° bank just to see me hold the bank angle and this time I kept it right at 45°.

Next up was power on stalls. I pulled the throttle and held the nose up to maintain altitude while letting the speed bleed off. Once I was down to about 65mph (rotation speed), I pushed the throttle all the way in and pulled back on the yoke. I eventually got the stall, the right wing dropped a bit, I stomped on the left rudder pedal and pushed the yoke forward for a nice recovery, wings level, same heading, very little altitude loss. My CFI had me try again, this time being a little more aggressive pulling back the yoke to stall it. The stall came quicker and recovery was the same. One more time for good luck and then we moved on to the next procedure, slow flight.

I pulled the throttle, flaps down to the third notch, 40°, and let the speed bleed off until I was down just below 50 mph. I wasn’t paying enough attention to my altitude and lost about 200′ before noticing and putting in more power to bring it back up to where I started. I flew some turns to different headings and he also had me do some climbs and descents. As I was flying around it still seemed odd that I was moving less than 50 mph without falling out of the sky. After flying around at about 115 mph just a few minutes ago, it felt like were weren’t moving at all. I went through the recovery from slow flight before reversing the procedure to get ready for power off stalls.

With the plane in landing configuration I got into a stabilized descent, pulled the power, and then eased back on the yoke. When I say “eased back,” it was very gentle. The result was that the stall finally came, but there was never a stall light. The airframe was shaking from the stall and the vertical speed indicator showed that we were definitely stalled,  but no stall light. I pushed in full throttle and climbed back up.

Me: “That was the stall, right?”
CFI: “Yeah.”
Me: “There was never a stall light.”
CFI: “I saw that, odd.”

He told me to try again and this time be aggressive pulling the yoke back. I did as instructed and the stall came, accompanied by the stall light, the right wing started to drop, (not sure why it’s always the right wing on that plane as I was still coordinated with the ball centered), left rudder and full power, wings level, and climbed back up for one more try. The third power-off stall went just like the second and I was feeling good about stalls.

I got back to cruise configuration, and he asked me how long it would take to get to French Valley Airport from where we were and how much gas would we burn. I pulled out my TAC from the side pocket of my knee-board which I had previously folded to the area we would be flying. (I learned the hard way quite a few flights back to have the map prepared for where I would be). There is a scale at the bottom so I stretched the fingers on my right hand across the map and then put them to the scale.

Me: “Looks like about 25 miles, that would take us 15 minutes at our current speed of 100mph and burn about 2.1 gallons of gas.”

My CFI looked at me (I had rattled off the time and fuel burn quickly) and I pointed to the cheat sheet I had made and put on my knee-board. It has fuel burn values for cruise and climb as well as time en route for cruising at 100mph and 120mph. I figured that anything around those speeds I could guesstimate.

Cheat Sheet

I told him I had initially made it with the intention of memorizing the numbers, but then thought that I don’t have to memorize everything and there was room at the bottom of my knee-board for it. He said he liked it and then wanted to pull up the distance on his iPad just to see how close I was. Foreflight on his iPad put French Valley 23 miles away.

Immediately following this discussion, there was of course an engine problem…

CFI: “Okay, you have an engine fire, what do you do?”
Me: “Immediately the fuel pump is off, switch the fuel selector off (I simulate those two actions), throttle closed (pull throttle all the way out), mixture to idle/cut off (simulate that action), and we are going to land just past the quarry in that flat area, there’s nothing closer.
(This whole time I already had the plane in a dive headed for the field just past the quarry)
CFI: “What are you forgetting?”
Me: “Oh, change the transponder to 7700, broadcast ‘mayday, mayday, mayday’ on 121.5 and just before we land I need you to un-latch and open the door so that after we land it isn’t jammed shut.”

I continued in my dive, flaring out just a little as we passed the end of the quarry and I lined up my landing. When we were about 15′ off the ground he said “Ok, that’s good” and I went full power and started to climb back up.

We flew along the south side of Lake Matthews as I brought us up to 2,200′ for the ground reference maneuvers. First was ‘turns around a point’ which I used the small island in the middle of the lake for. Turning to the left was perfect, turning to the right I spiraled in a little closer to the island but he said it was good enough. Next I did ‘s-turns’ over a road on the north side of the lake and then we headed back to Chino Airport.

The ATIS on the way back stated that both 26R and 26L were in use, they must have cleared up whatever had 26L shut down. The tower had me enter left base for 26L, cleared for the option. The first landing was going to be a ‘short field’ landing and as I often do on those I was a little too high trying to pass over the imaginary 50′ obstacle and we landed harder than I wanted to. I exited at the first taxi way and contacted ground to taxi back. As we were sitting at the hold short line I asked my CFI about the 50′ obstacle.

Me: “So, how many airports actually have a 50′ obstacle right at the end of the runway?”
CFI: “I don’t think any do.”
Me: “I can see some tall trees or a building somewhere a few hundred feet or so from the runway, but right at the end?”
CFI: “Well, what the owner of the school would like to see on a short field landing is to just come in on glideslope and plant it right on the numbers.”
Me: “That makes sense to me, even if there is an obstacle as long as you are on or above glideslope you are going to clear it right?”
CFI: “Yep.”

I tried another soft field takeoff and did a little better staying in ground effect after lifting off, but still not long enough. That needs more practice before my check ride. We came around for a touch-n-go and then received clearance for right traffic from the tower and a full stop on 26R. This one was ‘supposed’ to be a soft-field landing, but I carried too much speed, then let it bleed off too fast, and came down too hard… Yep, I need more practice.

We taxied back talking about the flight and he told me I was going to have an easy check ride. This coming Saturday I will have my phase check with a different instructor. My CFI is going to have the school check for the availability of the Examiners and get me scheduled. Somewhere between the phase check and check ride I will fly with my CFI at least one more time and we will focus on short-field and soft-field take offs and landings. I still need 0.5 hours of simulated IMC but that will be covered partially in my phase check and whatever is left over we can easily do on the next flight. I also need to set up a time to do a little ground school with him to run through some mock oral exams to be ready for that.

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