I seem to have lousy luck with aircraft these days. And tomorrow, it’s supposed to have snowed nearly 2 feet, so there’s no aviation for me tomorrow, even though it’s on the calendar.
It was bizarre, too.
Before you solo, you’re required to conduct three take offs and landings and one go around with an instructor present. Then the instructor endorses your logbook, hops out of the plane and then you do three more landings on your own.
Today was perfect. Winds calm. Temperature around 24 degrees Farenheit. Nice dense air — perfect day to do this.
The first two takeoffs were great. Landings….? Well, I still don’t quite have the hang of it, so I was glad to get in a little more practice. But I got it down without too much trouble.
It was the third approach, and I was supposed to do a go-around, or an aborted takeoff. Once you throttle up and the aircraft starts to climb, you’re supposed to raise the flaps incrementally as your airspeed increases. Well, I hit the throttle and reached over and raised the flaps once, then twice, then a third time which is how it’s supposed to go. But I was still pushing like crazy on the yoke trying to keep the nose down where it belonged. All the while, Brad is trying to correct me on the go around procedure.
After a short while, I finally said to Brad, “Hey, did you adjust the trim, Cause I am pushing like crazy here.” He took the controls and felt how much I was pushing down to maintain the attitude of the aircraft, and looked to see if the trim was somehow reset. But there was no doubt that neither of us touched it for the previous three approaches.
Then Brad says “Look at your flaps.” I look over my left shoulder and the flaps are still fully extended. Whoops! Brad recycles the flaps, but they stay frozen — probably literally, cause it’s cold — in the extended position. This makes for a lot of extra drag on the airplane, and it flies slower and climbs faster.
Once we figured out that the flaps were not going to go back up, we called the tower and told them we’d be going to the west ramp instead of taxiing back to do it all again.
It was a little different to handle, but it wasn’t difficult once I knew what the problem was. By the time I was on final, the flaps are supposed to be extended anyway, so it became a normal landing.
Once on the ground, we parked the airplane near maintenance to see if another aircraft was available, and it was, but Brad’s wasn’t. Another instructor was a definite maybe, and there was a question about whether the replacement aircraft would have been ready in time for me to go up again. So I just said “You know what? Let’s just do this another time.”
Unfortunately, “another time” will probably be mid week, since the snow’s coming, and coming fast.
Everything’s a learning point. If you succeed, you learn how to do something. If you get it wrong, you learn not to get it wrong again. If there’s an equipment failure, you learn how to deal with it systematically instead of panicking. So it’s my opinion that even though I didn’t get the solo endorsement today, even though I met the requirements and was verbally cleared, I gained so much from both the practice and the experience of yet another in-flight anomaly. It’s like old adage, anyone can steer the ship when the sea is calm.
But even rough seas have value if you learn from them.