The sky was a clear blue when I left for the airport this morning but the temperature was a brutal 8 degrees with a wind chill below zero. The calendar may say that this is the first day of winter but it started weeks ago here. Cold as it was, today was actually the warmest day of the last week or so. Warrior N8447L had spent the night in a warm hanger so the cold wasn’t that big a problem, although later we would find that the windows kept fogging up.
Tim, my CFI, pulled the airplane up in front of the office and then came it to check my passport and make the required entry in my log book to satisfy the TSA. By the way, I am using the same log I used for the few hours I got back in 1989. To avoid confusion, when I refer to numbers of hours they are only for my current training. My log book actually shows 5 hours more than that.
We went out to the airplane and did a complete but quick preflight in the cold. Once in the much warmer cabin, we took our time going over the pre-start checklist and I started getting familiar with the switches and gauges. It’s going to take awhile before I can find them without thinking about it.
Thanks to that warm hanger, the engine started right up and I made my first attempt at taxiing in 15 years. I wasn’t very good at it then and I certainly haven’t improved in the mean time. As we weaved our way toward runway 27, I realized that my hands just naturally want to turn the yoke. How long will it take to train my feet to do what my hands are so sure is their job? Keeping my hand completely off the yoke helped straighten us out somewhat. No doubt I’ll get better with practice. Braking was also a problem. For some reason I was pushing harder with the left foot than the right so that we veered left every time I stopped. Still we did manage to get to the runway and did the run up and pre-takeoff checks. Tim made the radio call and then it was onto 27 for takeoff.
We accelerated down the pavement with only moderate S-turns (I’m not sure how much CFI help I had), I eased back on the yoke when the airspeed reached 60 and up we went. As we climbed, it quickly became obvious that the clear sky was not so clear any more. The visibility was going down rapidly so we decided to stay close to the airport. I did turns in both directions while trying to maintain altitude and airspeed – just getting a feel for the airplane. I also tried yawing the nose left and right to get a clear picture of what the rudder does.
After too short a time, there wasn’t much of a horizon to reference anymore so Tim took over and got us pointed back toward Campbell. We ended up headed straight in for the runway. I kept us lined up the best I could while Tim guided me through power reductions and flap settings. He let me fly us to the end of the runway before he took over and landed. As we pulled off the runway, Tim complimented me on how well I had flown the approach and asked if I wanted to try another landing. I told him I was game so I subjected him to another session of zigging and zagging back to the runway. This time, after I took off, he talked me through the whole pattern and almost to touchdown. As it turned out, I probably should have quit with the first approach since this one didn’t go as well. I think I was trying too hard the second time and was overcompensating. We decided to end the session there with .9 hours in the book.
Back in the warm office, we went into the classroom to debrief. I thought I was sloppy but Tim kept telling me I did great after such a long layoff. All in all, I think we were both satisfied with our first lesson together. I got back in the air and found that I hadn’t forgotten everything. I got a chance the see how Tim instructs and I like his style. He is hands off enough to let me make mistakes but doesn’t let me go far enough to get us into trouble. I realize that it isn’t easy to maintain that fine balance but he does it very well. Thanks for a great first lesson Tim.
This post got pretty long. I will try to keep most of them shorter than this. Next lesson is scheduled for Friday morning so stay tuned.