Last Flight with my CFI??

This could be it, the last time I fly with my CFI before my check-ride. It is odd to think about that possibility. I arrived at the airport a little early as usual and found my CFI waiting for me in the lounge. We chatted a little about my stage…

Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
2 Oct 2016

This could be it, the last time I fly with my CFI before my check-ride. It is odd to think about that possibility.

I arrived at the airport a little early as usual and found my CFI waiting for me in the lounge. We chatted a little about my stage check the previous week and went over the plan for today. We would do a more detailed pre-flight walk around, not more detailed in the sense of what is done, but him asking me questions about what the different names are of parts of the plane, what functions they perform, telling him what kind of engine is in it, how it operates, different aircraft systems, etc.. more prep for my check-ride. After that we would go fly and work through all the maneuvers as well as finish up the last 0.5 of simulated instrument flying I need. Whatever I need work on we will do again next week as well as going through all my paperwork and some ground school prep for my check-ride.

The pre-flight was a good refresher, and I also learned a few things. The pre-flight check list goes through everything to make sure the plane is safe to fly, but you don’t recite the names of everything or what their function is. Those are things you should know, but for a normal pre-flight you are just making sure that they are in good working order. You always check the flaps, but what kind of flaps are they? Slotted. You always check the wing tips and lights for damage but what kind of wing tip is it? Hoerner (more efficient then just a rounded wing tip). You check the nose wheel, strut, and faring, but what is the name of the nut and arm that control the steering? You get the picture of what our pre-flight was today. It was like the first time I went flying when he went around and explained everything about the plane, but this time it was my job to do the explaining.

With the pre-flight finished up it was time to get in and start up the plane. We taxied out and I completed the run-up and talked through the abort procedures (It’s always good to verbalize them before every time you take off). The first thing that he wanted to see was a soft field takeoff. It was oddly quiet for an afternoon weekend flight so I thought I would see if I could score some “style points” by getting my take-off clearance before reaching the hold short line so I wouldn’t have to touch my brakes at all. (On a true soft field you don’t need the brakes as long as you stay slow because the grass/dirt/gravel will slow you down, but we were on pavement). I switched over to the tower frequency and listened for a few seconds to see if there was anyone in the pattern, there wasn’t, the radio was quiet.

I put in two notches of flaps and just before I started to roll out of the run-up area I called up the tower and asked for my clearance which I fortunately received before getting to the hold short line where I would have had to hit my brakes. With my clearance I rolled right onto the runway keeping full back pressure on the yoke (simulating trying to keep weight off the nose wheel as we pretended we were on grass) and received a “very nice” comment from my CFI. (Style Points) Once I was lined up on the centerline I added full power and we were rolling down the runway. Very soon the nose wheel lifted off followed shortly by the mains. As soon as the mains left the ground I pushed the yoke forward to level out. “Perfect” was the comment from my CFI as I kept it in ground effect and we accelerated toward Vx and then began our climb out. Having the CFI on my last flight help me with my soft field take-off to get the proper ‘sight picture’ was a huge help.

I turned crosswind and then as I left the pattern to head toward the practice area he handed my my foggles.

CFI: “Here, go ahead and put these on and then take us direct to Paradise (VOR).”

I turned the Nav Radio until the radial came in and then flew us more or less direct there.

CFI: “Once we get to Paradise then track the 150 radial out.”

As I tracked the 150 out he had me climb and then wanted me to use my Nav Radios to tell him where we were. I pulled out my TAC and made sure that 2nd Nav Radio was tuned to the Homeland VOR and then turned the knob on the Radio until the line centered on about the 270 ‘from’ radial. I looked back down at my TAC and traced a line out from Homeland on the 270 until I got to about where it intersected the 150 radial from Paradise.

Me: “Looks like about right here” as I pointed to an area just west of Lake Matthews.
CFI: “Okay, take a look outside.”

I looked out to my left, and there was Lake Matthews, right where I thought it would be. He had me make a few turns to different headings and climb a little more. At this point we were looking for a way to kill off a little more time to get my 30 minutes of simulated instrument time in.

CFI: “Go ahead and do some slow flight with the foggles on.”
Me: “Okay.”
CFI: “You won’t have to do it with foggles for the check-ride, but it will be good experience.”

I pulled power back, kept the nose up as the speed bled off, put full flaps in, then continued to let the speed bleed off. It settled in between 55-60mph and I adjusted the trim to take the pressure off the yoke. Slow flight in visual conditions is easy, in simulated instrument conditions, not so much. When I can see outside the only instruments I am really looking at are my airspeed indicator and altimeter. Without any outside reference the workload goes up, and my ability to perform the maneuver goes down. He had me perform climbing and descending turns to headings before telling me to recover from slow flight and we returned to normal cruising speed.

CFI: “Okay, now do steep turns.”
Me: “Really?”
CFI: “Sure, you won’t have to with foggles on during the check-ride, but I know you can do it.”
Me: “Okay…”

I took a look at my altimeter and heading, then pushed the throttle in and rolled to the left. I was able to keep it right at a 45° and maintained altitude but I rolled out late and overshot my starting heading by about 15°. Next was a turn to the right with the same results, I just don’t know exactly where to start rolling out and how quickly to roll out without looking outside.

CFI: “Not bad for your first try with the foggles on. Go ahead and take them off and do the steep turns again.”

I took the foggles off, picked one of the mountains in the distance, and then rolled into a left bank. About three quarters of the way through the turn I realized I had made a critical mistake to performing the maneuver correctly. I never really look at my heading before beginning my steep turns because I just pick a landmark to start and end on, but about three quarters of the way through my turn I realized I wasn’t sure ‘which mountain’ I had started with, and I didn’t know the heading either… As I rolled out of the turn I confessed my mistake to my CFI which got a laugh out of him.

CFI: “Try it again.”
Me: “Okay, but I won’t make that mistake again. I’m lining up on San Gorgonio.” (the tallest peak in Southern California which was just about 20° to the left of my current heading)

I got lined up, began my turn, and rolled out right on heading and altitude. Then I began my right hand turn rolling back out lined up with the distant mountain peak. Next up was a power on stall. I pulled power and kept the nose up to maintain altitude as my speed bled off. I informed my CFI that this was to simulate a stall on take-off (practicing for talking my way through my check-ride) and as we reached rotation speed I added in full power and pulled back on the yoke. The stall light came on almost immediately and I continued to hold back on the yoke. As the speed bled off and the plane started to shake the right wing began to drop on me. I added in left rudder and then the left wing really dropped. I quickly gave it full right rudder and pushed the yoke forward at the same time to recover from the stall.

CFI: “I think you got the stall on that one…”
Me: “Are you sure?” (Sarcasm)
CFI: “Yep, you just need to get to the point that you feel the buffeting.”

After the power on stall I performed a power off stall with a nice clean recovery.

CFI: “Okay, pull your engine.”

I pulled the throttle all the way out.

CFI: “Huh, looks like you just lost your engine. Now what are you going to do?”
Me: “Well, first I’m going to angle for best glide speed, 83mph,” as I push the yoke forward and start scanning around for a place to put the plane down. We were still about 3,000′ AGL (Above Ground Level) so there was plenty of time. “The quarry in front of us won’t work,” I began a left turn back towards the fields surrounding the lake. “And we can’t reach the fields on the other side of the lake so I’m going to put us down right there in that field on the other side of those power lines” and I pointed to a field back behind my left wing.
CFI: “You’re going to land back there?”
Me: “Yep, but first I’ll try to restart the plane. I’ll switch tanks, make sure my fuel pump is on, full throttle, mixture full rich, cycle the mags,” simulating each step “but what do you know, it’s not going to restart, looks like we’re going down.”
CFI: “Now what.”
Me: “I’ll squawk 7700 and we aren’t on flight following so I’ll broadcast on 121.5 ‘mayday, mayday, mayday, Cherokee 5800Uniform, engine out, we’re going down, landing in a field to the southwest of Lake Matthews.’ Before we land I need you to unlatch the door and open it, I’ll turn off the fuel selector, the pump, and pull the throttle and mixture.”
CFI: “Sounds good, we’re still landing in that field back there?” As we are flying away from it.
Me: “Yeah.”
CFI: “Which direction is the wind coming from?”
Me: “Behind us, I’m going to take us up to that point up there and then make a turn back into the wind.”
CFI: “Okay.”

I brought us a little further downwind to where I thought I could make my turn and bring it down where I wanted to. I put us in a shallow left bank, keeping my airspeed right about 83mph, and then lined us up for the landing.

CFI: “Where are you going to touch down?”
Me: “See those two bushes up in front of us?” There were two big bushes about 100′ apart.
CFI: “Yeah.”
Me: “We’re going to touch down right between them like they were the sides of the runway.” I continued a nice descent until were were about 20′ off the ground.
CFI: “Okay, take us back up.”

I put in full power and we began a slow climb up to 2,200′ to begin ground reference maneuvers. I flew turns around a point using the island in the middle of the lake and then s-turns over the road that runs parallel to the dam. My first s-turn was nice, tight like I normally fly them with about a 35-40° maximum bank. Then I thought I would try to fly it a little wider like the other CFI had suggested but I misjudged and didn’t shallow out my bank enough coming back into the wind and rolled wings level before reaching the road. My third turn was much better, but I did get a question from my CFI about what happened on the second one. I explained that I was trying to make a wider turn and just banked too much.

We climbed back up to 3,500′ and did a simulated cabin fire, running through the procedure before heading back to Chino for some landings. First was a short field landing. My target was the numbers and I floated a little past them before putting it down.

CFI: “That was close, you got that in about 20′ before the 200′ mark.” (For a short field landing the standard for Private Pilots is within 200′ of your touchdown point.) “On your check-ride if you are going to miss your mark just go around and try again. Go around as much as you need until you know you will hit it so you don’t bust, but try not to go around too many times.”

We went around the pattern again and I did another short field landing, this time with about 50′ to spare. Still not as good as I want, but I’ll work on that this Saturday. Next up was a soft field landing and he wanted me to use the 1000′ mark as my aim point so that we could roll out and exit at taxiway Lima.

On your check-ride you are supposed to have a diagram of the airport, which I did have on my kneeboard but never use because it is almost always the same taxiways. My CFI told me that for the check-ride I don’t have to take the diagram out except to show the examiner that I have it and if I need it I will use it. He wanted to not tell the tower we were going to make a full stop because then they would move us over to 26R. Instead he wanted to land on 26L and exit at Lima because it’s a weird intersection of taxiways and runways and would likely require me to use the map and pay close attention to the signs.

We came around the pattern and I got lined up on final. However, habits die hard and I was focused on the numbers, not the 1000′ mark. As we got closer and it was obvious I wasn’t aiming at the 1000′ he asked what I was doing. I confessed I forgot he wanted me to land further down the runway. I finished the landing, put the flaps up, full power, and we were off for one more trip around the pattern. He made sure to remind me as I rolled onto final approach that I was aiming for the 1000′ markers, and it’s a good thing because I was already thinking of landing on the numbers…

I touched down just past the 1000′ markers and as we slowly rolled past the turnout to taxiway Papa (which I could have easily made) he said “Darn, looks like we missed Papa, you better turn right up here at Lima.” I exited at Lima, went through my after landing checklist, pulled out the airport diagram because I had no idea where I was sitting in the middle of three runways, and contacted Ground.

Me: “Chino Ground, Cherokee 5800Uniform, clear 26L at Lima, requesting taxi back to DuBois.”
Ground: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, taxi via Lima, Delta, Mike, cross 21, hold short 26R.”
Me: “Taxi via Lima, Delta, Mike, cross 21, hold short 26R, 00Uniform.” As I marked a couple notes on the diagram.

Normally I exit 26R at Delta which is an easy taxi back, but you can see from the diagram where we started that there was an odd 3 way intersection ahead as well as the need to cross two runways, one which was active. Before I reached 26R Ground had given me clearance to cross.

CFI: “You know why he initially told you to hold short 26R?”
Me: “He was making sure there wasn’t traffic taking off or landing?”
CFI: “Sort of, Ground controls the taxiways and Tower controls the runways, so before he could clear you to cross an active runway he had to check with the Tower to get the clearance for you to cross.”

I love the little extra info that he throws into the conversations throughout the flights. We taxied all the way back and I got out my checklist and shut the plane down. We went inside and he told me that all my maneuvers looked great. He said that since I would be flying pattern work on my own Saturday and working on my landings that we would just spend my lesson Sunday doing ground school prep for the check-ride and going over all my paperwork to make sure everything is in order. It looks like this was the last time that I would fly with my CFI before my check-ride. That’s an odd feeling. I looked at my log book and I have 45.3 hours, after Saturday I will be somewhere between 46-47 hours. Minimum is 40 and I wanted to take my check-ride before 50 hours. I will have met that goal, now I just need to pass…


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