Flight Test Revision - Wednesday June 14 2006

I had to hurriedly take a day off work. The Aero Club rung me up at work and confirmed my PPL checkride for Monday June 19. During this time I will have to learn how to do a weight and balance for the Cessna 172R I'll be flying in my flight test. There really is a great deal of paper work to be done. I spent most of this afternoon doing it. Getting my logbook verified and all the exercises signed off by the various instructors who flew with me has been a bit of a mission. I also had a rather comprehensive form to complete to sit the flight test (not to mention some money for the Examiner).

I have to be at the Aero Club early Monday morning as 3 of us plus instructor Maree have to fly to New Plymouth to do the flight test. The others get to fly some of the C-152's that the New Plymouth Aero Club own and use. I get to use WAM which we will be flying down in.

On the flying side I have a lot of revision to get through, just to polish off any of the loose ends I have (and there are a few). I have realised that there is a lot I have to learn now, and thats after 80 hours. For one, I have to conduct a complete passenger briefing, from teaching them how to get into an aircraft and strap in to where to put their hands and what to do in an emergency. I wish I had been taught to do this earlier so it wouldn't sound as hesitant and forced as the things I have been doing for the past 2 years.

Today I had a first, my first flight in the clubs Piper Twin Comanche, ZK-DOK. I got to sit in the back while newly minted Instructor Jonathan got to have a lesson from Instructor Paul about engine outs and critical speeds. After climbing away from Hamilton we went through the rather interesting engine out experience. After being convinced that a twin could barely maintain altitude on one engine at full throttle Paul finally simulated a full engine feather and we could climb on one engine (albeit rather slowly). A dead engine and free wheeling prop really provides a huge amount of drag.

After sitting through the endless litany of cockpit and engine checks I promise never to complain about the checks I need for a single. The circuit in a slow single engined fixed pitch trainer aircraft can seem a busy place (and indeed to the novice student it is) but I swore that in a twin you spend more time eyes inside checking off lists than eyes outside flying the plane. The performance is such that you don't seem to fly a rectangular circuit that smaller aircraft fly. The reason for this is that by the time you complete the turn to the upwind leg you are ready to turn downwind. The result is you fly more of a racetrack course instead of a rectangle. I was told that the Comanche is difficult to land well, and after watching it I agree. Instead of a gentle approach you seem to fly at the ground at 90 knots, pull up at the last second, flare, close the throttles and hold it as straight as you can. Because both props are constant speed you get a lot of unwanted yaw as they slow down at different rates.

Later that day I got to go up with Instructor Jonathan and the tables were turned. Instead of him getting brain fade from all the checks he had to memorise, it was my turn. The weather wasn't the best but it was surprisingly smooth up their even though the visibility was poor in places. I did a max performance takeoff. JGP did something I didn't expect. When I planted my feet on the brakes and went to full power it was obvious after about 2 seconds that the brakes were not sufficent to stay stationery so I had to let her roll. Then trying to set a nose attitude for Vx was problematic because JGP wouldn't maintain Vx at the "normal" nose attitude for Vx so I kept bringing the nose back until we got 57 knots. The climb rate was impressive to say the least. I've said it before and I'll say it again, JGP is a rocket ship.

We did some steep turns in both directions, I nailed the left hand perfectly but it took me two goes in the right hand to get it right. The compass turns went fairly well. I screwed up one rollout heading calculation but at least I got the direction of the turn right. The basic stall went well, as did the power and flap stall. We had gotten over some rather hilly ground so we set course to the northwest and headed for some better ground and weather. I said I needed practise in forced landings and boy did I need it. We must have done quite a few before I realised that I was choosing fields too close to the plane. Once I expanded the search a bit I found it easier to fly and get to the field. I was still high on final but another couple of lessons should see me nail it.

We did some wing drop stalls and they were just as fun as I remembered except I am still a touch overzealous on the forward movement to unstall the wings. I had no problems on the rudders and the power though and it only took me a couple of goes to get them going nicely again.

Then we headed back to Hamilton. It must have been fairly late (I left my watch at home and didn't know what the time was) because it was getting rather dark. We were cleared into the zone for a straight in landing and Jonathan said he wanted to see a flapless landing. I'm pretty good at these and did a fairly nice one. We taxied to the tie down area and I gassed JGP up and tied her down while Jonathan wrote down some pointers for me to take home and consider.

A nice day spent at the aero club, 1.4 in the logbook, another day close to checkride day, and another first to write about. Fantastic!