So after an evening of all you can eat Chinese with Tsin-Tao’s paid for by Alan (The Welsh guy who passed his test yesterday) it was back with Gerry and more training. Oh, before we get to the flying: six guys eating all you can eat Chinese food – and good it was too! – 2-3 beers per person: $65 before tips… It is not just the flying that is cheap over here.
So we started in the pattern and Gerry was pretty impressed. I was now doing the whole thing by myself just having Gerry step in with a little rudder when I needed it, which was not every time. After six touch and goes, it was off to the training grounds and steep turns, stalls etc. This was coming along nicely. I did 2×45 degree angle turns with 0 drop of altitude both to the left and to the right. Clean and landing stalls ok too. So now, I just have to get the whole ting down routinely to ensure it will be right every time. On the way back to the airport, we were cruising at 3,500ft. Gerry put on Carb heat, pulled throttle back and informed me that I have had an engine failure and what would I do about it? There is a checklist for this (There is a checklist for everything, you should know by now) and I could not remember anything. I went on by common sense… which just is not good enough when you are under extreme stress. Adjust speed to best glide speed and trim (logical, eh?) Get downwind so you can cover as much ground as possible looking for suitable forced landing. Check for cause of engine failure (Well, I knew that already – I saw Gerry turn off the power!) but still; one has to go through the checks. Look for suitable site. “I’m going to land at that airfield over there”. “You spotted it, well done. Can you reach it?” “Yeah”. “Yes, I think you can too… go for it. I need to get to it downwind at 1,000ft altitude, turn base and final and make a nice forced but controlled landing. I am converging to the downwind leg and I feel really nice. “Eh, you’re a bit left”. I am not! “Er, it looks OK from here”. “Nope, you’re definitely missing it”. “I’m going for that one” I say pointing out the windscreen. “I wouldn’t, it’s a driveway with a ditch at one side and lamp-posts at the other. I thought you had seen the grass airfield over there!” “Oh, s***.. I forgot airstrips could be made out of grass as well. Quick change of plans and the field there looked pretty inviting. I was allowed to go to 300ft (and for you non-pilots out there, 300ft when you have been zooming around at 3,000ft is bloody close) before I was instructed to “go-around”. Full power and I was so happy when I saw the VSI (Vertical Speed Indicator) go positive. Two more of those, getting a bit better but still some work to do. Later that day on our second flight it was back to the pattern. I did a total of five landings. The first was near perfect. Obviously, a fluke but it could not have been much better. On the centre line with the aircraft pointing that way too at touchdown, smooth in spite of cross winds etc. I saw Gerry do a double take, wanting to know if I had practiced during lunch. The second landing wasn’t bad but a bit off centre. Third was on centre with a bit too early flare but not by much. Fourth was ..erm.. interesting. The worse ever, actually. I had come in a bit too much to the right. Just before the threshold there are bushes and you get a lift (thermal) screwing you up with respect to your path. So there I was, a bit too much to the right and a bit too high but not enough for Gerry to interfere. I was trying to get us more towards the centre while pitching down. Gerry was trying to help on the rudder to get us to the middle and I was flaring to early. Oh f***. This is definitely a situation where I should have applied full power and gone around… unsalvageable. We ended on the runway at a bang so hard I am really happy we did not leave bits of the undercarriage behind us. Full power and take off for final pattern and full stop. The fifth and final landing was pretty good though I was a bit shaken from the hard landing. We had to tell Chuck, our wonderful resident mechanic, that he had to look the aircraft over. He came over to the flight centre and saw Gerry and myself in conversation. “Who was the pilot?” “He was!” Gerry was quick to point out, albeit with a sly grin. I was estimating in my mind what a new undercarriage could possibly cost. “Well” Chuck said, if you walk away from a landing it’s supposed to have been a good one. “Did you walk away, sir?” I confirmed that I did indeed make it from aircraft to centre under my own bi-pedal power. “Well, it must then have been a good one” Chuck comforted me while explaining to the instructor that replacing some fluid in the oleo and brakes would leave the aircraft more or less as we found it.
Hey, this is fun. I am feeling more cheerful today. If I do reasonable well on landings all day tomorrow and Thursday I’m pretty sure I’ll be soloing at the end of Thursday or first thing Friday.
I also had to do my FAA medical today. “Can you hear me” “Yep”. “Can you see me?” “Yep”. “Close your eyes and stay vertical.” That’s about it. What really outrages me is that on an FAA license I can fly at night. In addition, he never checked if I was colour-blind. Fantastic….