1/09/08 Checkride Scheduled
0 hours today
57.5 hours total (42.2 Dual, 15.3 Solo)

It has been a couple of weeks since my last update. I was on vacation for the week of Christmas. I got back on December 29th (late), and took the 30th to recover from my trip. I didn't want to fly on the 31st (even though I was off from work and the weather was good) because I wasn't sure if anyone had flown my plane since the last time I took it up. I knew it needed gas, and if no one had flown it, then the gas would be on December's bill. If I waited until the 1st, it would be on January's bill. I am trying to contain expenses on the plane until it starts renting a little more regularly.

Well, January 1st comes (happy new year), and the weather is no good for flying. Then I get a cold and can't fly the next weekend (January 5th and 6th). That is why there haven't been any updates.

So today at work, Mike calls me to ask me if I am ready for my checkride. Apparently, the Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), is at SunQuest doing checkrides at the end of this week and has an opening. Well, there is no way I am going to do a checkride if I haven't flown in two weeks! I told Mike I couldn't do it then because I wanted to go up with him at least one more time to make sure I know what I am doing. Since the DPE is there, Mike tells me he will schedule my checkride with him and call me back to see if it will work.

Mike calls me back and asks if February 7th at 8am is OK. It is a Thursday, so I will have to take some time off work, but that is four weeks away, so that should be plenty of time to practice. So now the pressure is on!

I should be flying this weekend. 

1/12/08 Short Landing Practice
0.7 hours today (Solo)
58.2 hours total (42.2 Dual, 16.0 Solo)
26 Days until Checkride

I went out to the airport today to go fly. I hadn't reserved my plane ahead of time for a couple of reasons. First, I was sick and busy at work, and second, the last I looked there were lots of openings for my plane. I figured I could squeeze in somewhere.

When I looked in the appointment book, my plane was booked for the entire day! That was good, since I have accumulated a lot of debt getting the plane ready to rent, but it was bad because I wouldn't get to fly it today. Next, I decided I would just go ahead and rent the other 152 (41H), just to get some flying in. The problem with that plan, was that was booked all day also. The difference, though, between my plane and 41H was that there were lots of students flying 41H throughout the day, but only one person had my plane.

I was talking to one of the other students who had 41H, and he said he was going to be doing at least an hour of ground with Mike, so I could take 41H up during that time if I wanted to. That sounded like a good plan, so I decided I would only stay in the pattern and practice landings today. That way I could get the plane back when they were ready for it. So back to 41H for today.

When I got in 41H, I swear that there is a little more leg room in it. The only difference between 41H and 98M is the seats. Mine must have thicker cushions or sits on the frame a little different. Oh well, it's not a big deal.

It has been three weeks since I flew, so I made sure the follow the checklists closely. For my first take-off, I decided to do a short field take-off. That went well, and I turned into the pattern once I got up to 600 feet. As I got abeam of the numbers, I started to set up to land. There was a lot of activity on the runway (other planes taking off and landing), so I kept a close eye on them. By the time I turned final, I noticed I was still at 900 feet. I was much too high to make the runway, so I did a go around.

The next time around, I was still a little high, but not as much as the last time. So this time I slipped the plane down and did an OK landing. I have still yet to have the perfect greaser landing, but they are still pretty good. I pushed the throttle in and took back off.

The next time around I was also a little high, so I did another slip to a landing. This one was better than the last, but not as good as I wanted to do.

The third time around, I was determined to not be high, so I made a conscious effort to make sure I was descending on downwind, on base, and on final. Well, it worked, but now I was a little low, so I had to add some power back in to slow my descent. This is what happens when you don't fly frequently enough! It was also because I was using runway 26L, which I don't fly very often, so I don't know where all the landmarks are as well. I managed to have a pretty decent landing, though. I looked at my watch, and decided I had better get the plane back so that I didn't encroach on the other students time in the plane.

Overall, my flying was just OK. I think it did serve it's purpose of just getting familiar with everything again, but I couldn't have passed a checkride on that performance. Good thing I didn't agree to do it on Friday!

My plane is booked all day tomorrow again, but I am not going to rent 41H again. The weather is not supposed to be very good, anyway. I went ahead and scheduled my plane for every Saturday and Sunday until my checkride. I also made sure the plane was scheduled for my checkride. I would hate to show up and not have a plane to fly!

My next lesson is next Saturday, with Mike. We will be reviewing the practical and oral exams, to see what I don't know. Then I will practice by myself next Sunday. 

1/19/08 Checkride Practice
2.4 hours today (Dual) 
60.6 hours total (44.6 Dual, 16.0 Solo)
19 Days until Checkride

Today was a scheduled lesson with Mike to review all of the stuff on the practical test. I was a few minutes late, since my dog woke me up in the middle of the night to go out, and then I couldn't get back to sleep. I finally fell asleep, and then woke up at 9:30 (my lesson was at 10). I jumped out of bed and got ready, and only managed to be about 15 minutes late.

I got to SunQuest, and Mike's car was there, but I didn't see him. I figured he was out with another student. He showed up about 15 minutes after I did. I asked him where he was, and he said he was looking at my plane. "Why?" I asked. He said the student who had rented it that morning, before me, had hit a bird with my plane and he was making sure it was OK. I wanted to look at the plane, too, so we both went down to look at it again.

The airport sits in the middle of a wildlife refuge, and there is a large population of birds around the airport. Most of them keep to themselves, except for the sand cranes. They like to hang out on the ramp, by the hangers, on the taxiways, and, of course, on the runways. Apparently, one of them thought it was stronger than the plane as it landed. It wasn't. Luckily this happened on the ground, and not in the air. We couldn't find any damage on the plane, other than a little blood. We were extra careful during the run-up, but everything seemed in order.

Once we determined the plane was OK, I did the pre-flight and we headed up in the air. We were planning on doing some instrument work to get my last 0.6 of an hour I need, but during the run-up, Mike realized he forgot the hood. We'll have to get that next time. We took off and headed to the practice area.

The first thing we did was slow flight. I was a little rusty on it, but managed to do it reasonably well. Then we practiced slow turns and power off stalls. We did about three power off stalls just to make sure I was comfortable with them.

Next we practiced steep turns. The first one wasn't very good, so Mike reviewed what I needed to be doing. The next one was better. We did about six or eight steep turns until I could do them without any coaching from him. I think even my worst one was to the PTS, but I wasn't always looking at the altimeter during all of them.

Next, was power on stalls. We did a couple of those, and then did some power on stalls during a turn. I hadn't done those before, even though they will be part of the practical test. They really aren't any different than a regular stall, except you are turning. The one effect that has, though, is the plane may bank very steeply at the beginning of the stall. The thing is, you don't know which way it will bank (it is not always the way you are turning), and you don't know how steep the bank will be. Mike said they can get up to 60 degrees of bank, although the steepest we saw today was probably about 45 degrees. It does surprise you, though. To recover, you just let everything go and the plane will eventually level the wings on its own and pick up speed. Then you recover. The key is not to fight the uncontrolled bank, as that only makes it worse. We did three or four of those turning in different directions until I was comfortable with them, too.

Then we did an engine out exercise. That was OK. I would have lived if it was an actual emergency, but it wouldn't have been pretty. We'll be practicing more of them.

Next we headed out to Pahokee to practice landings and take-offs. First, we did a soft field landing. I haven't practiced these much, and I have never really been able to make a soft landing. I finally learned what the key to the soft landing is. Right before you touch down (and I mean right before), you bump the throttle, and that slows the decent just enough to make a gentle, smooth landing. I tried it, and it worked really good. That was probably my best landing to date. I will have to try and incorporate that technique into my normal landing from now on.

Then we did a short field landing that was actually pretty good. We also practiced soft field take-offs and slip-to-land. All those went pretty good, but none of the rest of my short fields were as good as the first one. But, if this was the practical test, they only as you to do one, and that one was good.

Then we headed back to North County to practice crosswind landings. Today, the wind was at an odd angle that made any runway a crosswind landing. Mike had a student last week fail a checkride on crosswind landings, so he is making sure I can do them well. I think they were passable, but not great. One hint I got today on them was that as the plane slows down, you will need to add in more correction, since the crosswind will get greater as the plane slows down (apparent wind and all that). We did about three of those, and then I decided I had done enough for one day. We were in the plane for two and a half hours today.

As we were walking back to SunQuest from the plane, I asked Mike how he thought I did. He told me that he thought I could have passed a checkride with everything I did today. That was good to hear, but I am not convinced yet. Some of the maneuvers were inconsistent. But, I think there is plenty of time to tweak them a little more before the checkride, so I am not concerned.

My next lesson is tomorrow, where we will do the instrument work (finally), and the ground reference maneuvers. We will probably also practice landings again. 

1/20/08 Paperwork
0.0 hours today
60.6 hours total (44.6 Dual, 16.0 Solo)
18 Days until Checkride

The weather this morning was not very good, so no flying today. Mike decided we should start getting the paperwork together for the checkride, and do a review of some of the material for the oral exam.

The first thing we did was start filling out the paperwork for the plane. One of the things you have to prove to the examiner is that the plane you are taking your checkride in is legal. So there is a basic form that asks for the dates of the last annual, oil change, transponder test, etc. We went through the logbooks and marked the pages that contained the pertinent information, in case the examiner wants to look. Mike says he never does, but this way I'm ready just in case. We didn't put down the date of the last oil change, since those are every 50 hours, and most likely my plane will have one before the checkride. I'll fill that in right before the checkride.

We also did a formal weight and balance for the checkride. This is something that is required for the checkride, but most important to me is that it allows me to figure out how much fuel should be in the plane. The 152 has a very small useful load, and it is unlikely that you can completely fill the tanks with two people on board. So once I had all the info from the plane, I calculated how much useful load was left, and then figured out how many gallons of fuel I could get with that weight. As it turns out, I can have 17 gallons of fuel with both me and the instructor. That is about two hours of flying, with a one hour reserve. The plane can hold a total of 26 gallons, so we are mostly full. Mike says the checkrides rarely take much over an hour, so there should be plenty of fuel.

Next, we reviewed some weather and airspace stuff for the oral. Not too bad, but I have to learn the airspace visibility and cloud clearances a little better. Mike showed me a table that spells them out a little clearer than what I have seen so far. The weather stuff was pretty easy, since it was basice METARs and FAs.

Finally, I got the list of airports for my checkride cross country planning. I have to plan a complete cross country flight to either Sarasota, Venice, Ft. Myers, or Naples. I need to look at the chart and see which one gives me the best first couple of checkpoints. What happens during the checkride, after a complete review of the flight plan, is you take off from the initial airport and start flying your cross country flight. After the first or second checkpoint, the examiner diverts you to another airport. I already know that he is going to divert me to either Pahokee or Belle Glade. I also know that all the manuevers are going to be in the practice area. So I just need to pick checkpoints that get me to that area as quick as possible. That will mean a short cross country part of the test. I also need to pick checkpoint landmarks that are easy to see, since I will be nervous and I don't want to miss them. So, whatever route that best fits those criteria will be used.

I asked Mike how many more times he wants to fly with me before the checkride, and he said as much as possible. Since I have already scheduled my plane for 10am each Saturday and Sunday, that is when it will be. Unfortunately, Mike was already booked at 10 on Saturday, so I scheduled a flight for 4pm Saturday with Mike. I was going to erase my 10 am flight, but decided to keep it so I could practice. So next Saturday I will be flying in the morning by myself, and in the afternoon with Mike. 

1/26/08 Practice, Practice, Practice
3.3 hours today (1.3 Solo, 2.0 Dual)
63.9 hours total (46.6 Dual, 17.3 Solo)
12 Days until Checkride

I flew twice today, once by myself and once with Mike. This would give me a chance to practice some of the stuff we did last weekend, and also get some more instruction with Mike.

My first flight was at 10am this morning. The weather was really good, for a change. Based on what Mike and I went over last weekend, I decided I should practice my landings. I went out and pre-flighted the plane, and then headed for the runway. My main goal was to practice soft field landings and short field landings. Everything else I felt I had down pretty good.

The first time around, I just did a normal landing. This was just to get in the groove, and make sure I remembered how to do everything. That one went pretty well. As I took off the second time, I noticed how good my climb rate was. I noticed on the first take off, but I wasn't looking at the Vertical Speed Indicator (VSI) closely and didn't really know what my climb rate was. The second time around, I was paying attention. I was climbing at 1,000 feet per minute (fpm). The best I have ever seen with my plane was about 700 fpm. Each time I went around, I tried to see how much better I could make my climb rate. The best I did was around 1,200 fpm. That was great.

The reason the climb rate was so good was the cooler weather and high altimeter setting. The barometer was 30.25", the highest I have seen it so far. When the weather is cool, and the humidity is low, the air is more dense. The denser the air, the more lift is created with the wings, and the better the climb rate. It was fun to climb at a really fast rate for once!

My landings, on the other hand, were not so great. Well, they weren't bad, per say. I wasn't bouncing the plane off the runway, but I wasn't meeting my goal of improving my short- and soft-field landings. My soft-field were OK, but I just couldn't get the plane to land where I wanted it to. Almost always, I was landing short of my intended point. That meant my aim point wasn't close enough to the target point, but I just couldn't seem to get it right.

A lot of the problems were caused by the traffic in the pattern today. Since weather the last few weekends has not been great, I think everyone wanted to get up in the air in the nice weather today. At one point, there were two planes waiting to take off, three planes in the pattern, a Citation jet on final, and a banner plane just south of the airport. You really had to be paying attention to keep track of everything!

Of course, this disrupted my pattern, and I had to make the base and final turns at different locations each time around. That made it more difficult to be at the correct height at the correct time to make my spot on the runway. It was a total loss, though, as I was more familiar with the landings than I was when I started.

When I arrived at the airport in the morning, Mike was there and said the student he was supposed to fly with at 2pm in my plane had canceled, so we could do my second flight of the day at 2 instead of 4 as scheduled. Instead of going home after my solo flight, I just hung out at the airport waiting for Mike to get back from his lesson before mine. Well, he was running late with that student, and didn't get back until 3pm. Then, my plane needed gas and the gas truck took forever to arrive (did I mention the airport was busy today?). By the time we were ready to go, it was 4pm. So much for saving time.

We departed North County Airport and headed to the practice area. The air had heated up and the barometric pressure had dropped, so my stellar climb rates from this morning were a thing of the past. I only managed a measly 700 fpm with Mike. One of the main objectives of today's lesson was to wrap up my aeronautical experience requirements. The last thing I needed was 0.6 of instrument time. Right after departure, I put the hood on and we did a little straight and level for a while. That went pretty well. I managed to stay on course and altitude pretty good.

Once we got out to the practice area, we did some "unusual attitudes". That is where Mike (or the examiner), has me look away from the instruments and then flies the plane into either a climb or descent, with or without turning. Then I have to look at the instruments and figure out how to get the plane back to straight and level. We did that three or four times, and I successfully figured out what I needed to do each time. After that, I removed the hood so we could practice some of the maneuvers in the practice area.

Next, we did some slow flight, which went well. After that was a power off stall. The recovery of my first one was a little slow. Mike reminded me that the power off stall was supposed to teach you what to do if you stall during landing. In that case, you may only be 100 feet off the ground, and if you don't recover quickly enough, you will crash. He showed me how quickly I should recover, and then I did about three more until I could keep the plane from dropping 100 feet.

Then we did some steep turns. I had more trouble with them today than I did last week. I keep busting my altitude (+/- 100 feet). Finally, Mike said, "let me show you how they are done." And the he did a steep turn that used 150 feet. He busted the maneuver, also! I did a few more until I could keep the altitude changes within the specification. Those will need more practice.

The next thing we did was power on stalls. These are to simulate a stall during take off. They went pretty well, as now I was recovering as quick as I could. We did three or four of them, and then flew to Pahokee to practice landings.

The first time around was a normal landing, and that went fine. Next, Mike wanted me to do a soft field landing to a soft field take-off. That is where you do a soft field landing, and then keep the nosewheel off the runway until you take back off again, using a soft field take off procedure. Sounds interesting! We did one, and it went pretty well, so we did another.

Then we practiced short field landings, and Mike gave me a few tips of getting them set up better. These were better than the ones I did earlier in the day by myself. We tried a couple different techniques to try and get me better at them. It is coming along, but I still want to practice them more, and probably will until the checkride.

Finally, we headed back to North County. I put the hood back on, and we flew to North County and then down the ILS approach on instruments only. My ILS approach was not great, but by the time we got to the airport, I had my 0.6 hour. Now everything is done and ready for the checkride.

When we were done, I asked Mike how he thought it went. He thought I could pass the checkride with my performance today, even though I messed a few things up. He said the examiner is looking for you to be safe, and won't bust you if a steep turn is 101 feet from the starting altitude. As long as I fly safe, not everything has to be perfect. However, if too many things are out of the standard, then I would fail. But today's flying was not that bad. Mike also said that now we are just trying to perfect everything. So I am still on the right track.

My next lesson is tomorrow morning with Mike. 

1/27/08 Crosswinds at Belle Glade
1.3 hours today (Dual) 
65.2 hours total (47.9 Dual, 17.3 Solo)
11 Days until Checkride

It was raining when I awoke this morning. That usually doesn't bode well for flying. It was still overcast when I left for the airport. I figured if we couldn't fly today, we could review for the oral exam, so I brought my books with me just in case.

We checked the weather when I arrived, and the ceilings were around 2000 feet. Mike thought it would be OK to fly, but I probably wouldn't have if it was just me. The winds were out of the north, so we took off using runway 31. We immediately turned west to the practice area. When we got in the air, the clouds were low, but the visibility was good. Our plan for the day was to review the ground reference maneuvers and then practice some crosswind landings, since the winds were higher than yesterday. Neither of those require a lot of altitude, so the cloud height was fine for our purposes.

We practiced S-turns for a while, and then we headed to the Belle Glade airport. It's runway runs east to west, so there was a direct crosswind with the winds out of the north. I was glad we were going to do a little landing practice, since the examiner sometimes goes there, and I didn't want it to be my first time there on my checkride.

The Belle Glade airport is really interesting. It is a single, paved strip. The taxiways are grass only. The major users of this airport are the cropdusters for the sugar cane fields. It is right off the main road through town, and you can drive right by it and not even notice if you aren't paying attention. It is very small. It also is the narrowest runway I have landed on so far.

There was one other plane in the pattern at Belle Glade, surprisingly enough. He was also doing touch and goes, as was our plan. The first landing was OK, but I turned final a little early, and didn't have a lot of time to get the crosswind landing set up. I made it down fine, but it was as "controlled" as I would have liked.

The next time around, it was much better. I watched to see where the other plane turned base, and turned the same place as him. That was a better distance to get everything stabilized. That landing was better, although my takeoff was a little shakier than my last one, for some reason.

Then we headed back to North County. On the way back, Mike pulled the engine on me so I could do a simulated emergency landing. That went pretty much perfect today. We took the plane all the way down to about 50 feet off the ground before climbing back up, and I could have put the plane down in the field if I had to.

Finally, when we arrived at North County, Mike wanted me to do a short field landing. I set it up and landed right on the mark! That was great. That time I really felt like I knew what I was doing, and not "guessing" at the touchdown point. So the practice is starting to have an effect.

Once again, Mike thought I could pass a checkride with my flying today. I thought everything was good, except the S-turns. It took a couple of times until I had them down. I need to be able to perform everything the first time correctly. But I don't know how critical the examiner is going to be, so I am trying to do everything perfectly.

I also found out this weekend that my checkride might be in the afternoon of February 7th, instead of in the morning as originally scheduled. Apparently, the examiner is also doing a checkride for an Instructor student, and those take longer than the private checkride does, so he wants to do that one first. I will find out for sure this week. It doesn't really matter to me, since I am taking the whole day off, anyway.

One other note about my airplane I am renting out at the flight school. Even though I had a shaky December (it only rented for six hours), January seems to be going much better. Everyone who flys my plane seems to like it, with some students only flying in my plane now. I really don't have a feel for the number of hours it has rented this month, but it should be a pretty good number. I have only heard positive things about the plane from everyone, so that is good. I still am in debt for all the initial maintenance done on the plane, but hopefully I will get out of the hole either this month or next.

I scheduled a lesson with Mike for Wednesday night so we can review the oral materials again. I fly again next Saturday and Sunday. Those will be my last chance at practicing the flying before the checkride.

1/30/08 Oral Exam Review
0 hours today 
65.2 hours total (47.9 Dual, 17.3 Solo)
8 Days until Checkride

Tonight's lesson was just a ground lesson to review everything on the oral exam portion of the checkride next week. Basically, what we did tonight was go though each page of the Practical Test Standard (PTS) oral section, reviewing each item. I'm not going to review each thing we went over, so I am just going to summarize the stuff we reviewed.

We talked about the FAA "special emphasis" subjects. These are things the FAA wants to make sure all private pilots know. This is pretty generic stuff like using checklists and understanding how land and hold short operations work.

Next, we talked about the aeromedical factors when flying. That is hypoxia, motion sickness, hyper ventilation, etc. and what a pilot should do when either the pilot or passenger has any of the symptoms associated with them.

Then we reviewed the required equipment for day and night VFR flights. This is something I really need to do some more work to memorize, since I know I will be asked about it.

We also reviewed cloud clearances for the different types of airspace. Once again, this is something I need to work on before my checkride. I finally got them all correct, but it took a while to pull them out of me.

After that, we reviewed weather reports, which I thought I handled pretty well. This was stuff like reading METARs, TAFs, and FAs.

That was about all we did. It took about two hours to review this stuff. I will have to say that the nerves for the checkride are starting to appear. I'm sure I will do OK on the oral, but I need to put some serious time in studying before my checkride, in a week and a day. I also found out that my checkride has definitely been moved to the afternoon. The advantage of this is I can finalize my flight plan with the most current weather in the morning, and I don't have to get up early. The disadvantage is that I have all morning to worry about it!

I will doing my last practice flights on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. I can't believe my checkride is next week. Yikes!

2/2/08 Lots of Practice
1.8 hours today (Dual)  
67.0 hours total (49.8 Dual, 17.3 Solo)
5 Days until Checkride

Today started out a little foggy, so we started by doing some more oral exam review. I haven't done a lot of studying since Wednesday, but I surprised myself on how well I did on the topics I had trouble with on Wednesday night. I only had trouble with one of the items on the daytime VFR equipment (acronym A TOMATO FFLAMES), still missed two on the night requires equipment (FLAPS), and I still need to study the airspace cloud clearances more. Overall, though, I felt better about it than I did on Wednesday night.

Once the fog cleared up, we took the plane up. One thing Mike has been doing lately is going over things that probably won't be on the checkride, but should be practices or discussed anyway to make sure I am a safe pilot. As Mike says, he might not have another opportunity to impart this knowledge to me once I pass my checkride, since I will no longer need to fly with an instructor. This morning, we practiced an aborted takeoff. Nothing too difficult, but something I should try at least once. I started the takeoff roll as I would normally, and took the plane up to the rotation speed (50 kts). Once there, I attempted to stop the plane by pulling back on the throttle, bringing up the flaps, and hitting the breaks. It wasn't difficult, but it was something I wasn't used to doing. After that, we took off and headed to the practice area.

We worked on just about everything on the practical test except steep turns, slow flight, and stalls. We'll get them tomorrow. Everything looked pretty good. My ground reference maneuvers are still weak, but I don't think they are weak enough to fail a checkride over them. We went out to Pahokee to practice some landings, but it was busier there than at North County, so we did one landing and then headed back to North County.

We did three practice landings at North County, but they were a little harder than the standard landing. Mike wanted me to try to do a short, soft-field landing with no flaps. That is about the most difficult type of landing I can encounter. I did alright on them, but they sure weren't perfect. Mike said this would be something to practice on once I have my license, since perfecting them will show a mastery of several different techniques. Of course the checkride will not have me doing all those as one landing.

I found out my plane flew 44 hours in January. That's not as many as I have planned for a normal month, but January started out slow with New Years in the middle of the first week of the month. It is a lot better than December was (6 hours), and this month should be a lot better. Those 44 hours also include my hours in the plane, which I estimate at around 8-10. Once I pass the checkride, I will have more control of my hours, since I won't have a deadline I am working towards.

Tomorrow will be my last flying practice before my checkride next Thursday. Almost there! 

2/3/08 Last Chance Workout
2.3 hours today (Dual)   
69.3 hours total (52.1 Dual, 17.3 Solo)
4 Days until Checkride

Well, this is it. My last dual instruction flight before the checkride. The weather today was better than yesterday morning, so there was no worries about visibility. The wind was pretty light, so there won't be many opportunities to practice crosswind landings. I can only hope the wind is similar for my checkride.

Before taking off today, Mike told me that he wasn't going to say much today. He just wanted to tell me what to do and watch me fly. If I had problems with something, then he would help me out.

First off, Mike didn't buckle his seatbelt. He wanted to make sure I was paying attention to the little details. We took off using a shortfield takeoff. No problem there. As we headed out to the practice area, Mike asked me about my cross country flight plan, and where my checkpoints were. Mike didn't like my first checkpoint, so after some discussion, we decided to use a canal. It is easy to spot from the air, but my concern was that it doesn't really tell you if you are on course, since you could be anywhere along the canal when you cross it. Mike's solution was to program the RNAV unit in my plane to the exact point on the canal we should cross. We tried it and it worked good. I will just need to remember to program it before the checkride.

Then we did some S-turns and turns around a point. Next we headed over to Pahokee for some landings. There was no one in the pattern, and since the wind was light, I selected the easiest runway to get to. First, Mike wanted to see a short field landing. The first one was too long, so we took back off and did another one. This one was right on. As we were flying the pattern, I noticed the windsock was showing a tailwind during final. That was probably why my first shortfield landing was long. We flew around to land on the opposite side of the runway.

This time Mike wanted to see a soft field landing. I haven't been feeling too confident about them lately, since they have been really inconsistent. And the first two I tried were not good. Mike decided to show me how to do it again. His landing was good, and I noticed he trimmed the plane more during final than I did. One disadvantage of a really small plane, like the 152, is that the average person is strong enough to overcome the force of the wind on the elevator without trimming. The problem with this is it makes it harder to hold a consistent force on the elevator during landing. I have been trimming the plane with a slight nose down force. Not on purpose, but it was easy to hold the yoke like that. What that did, though, was prevent me from pulling the yoke all the way back at the end of the flare, and it made the nose of the plane want to come down on landing. Both of those work against you when doing a soft field landing.

After Mike flew one, I aggressively trimmed the plane on final to have as little elevator force as possible. That gave me more sensitivity and less of a tendency for the plane to pull the nose to the ground on touchdown. My very next landing after I watched Mike was perfect. So, I will be trimming for all landings on the checkride.

Next we headed back to North County, but stopped to do some steep turns on the way back. These have also been inconsistent lately. Some days they are good, and some days they are not. This was one of those days where they were not. We did a few and then we discussed how to make them better. A month or so ago, I was using the trim to lesson the force of the elevator on the rudder during the steep turns. Around that time, Mike wanted me to stop using the trim because he thought I would be able to fly them better if I could "feel" the amount of force needed to fly them. We decided to go back to using the trim because I am much more consistent with them. So trim for steep turns and landings on Thursday. Check.

Then we went back to North County and I did another soft field landing. It was also good. Then back up to the office to do the last thing before the checkride. The paperwork!

Whenever you apply for a rating or certificate (aka license) with the FAA, you have to fill out a for 8710. This is basically an application form that gives your name, address, etc., what you are applying for, and lists your experience. There are two ways to fill out the form, with a pen, or on a FAA web site. We used the website, since it is easier, and is supposed to make getting the real certificate quicker. The website is called IACRA, but I have no idea what it stands for (and I don't really feel like looking it up). First, I had to create a login, since I have never applied for a certificate before.

Once I had a login, I filled out the form, including all my hours of instruction, solo, cross country, instrument, and night flying. I also fill out the number of my student pilot certificate and medical form. Once I am done with it, Mike logs into his account, and links my written test results and his account to my application. Then he approves the application, and we are done. It sounds simple, but it took us about an hour to get it done. Finally, Mike endorses my logbook for my checkride. Basically saying I have done all the requirements and am ready for the checkride.

So that's that. I probably won't do anymore flying until the checkride. The only exception to that might be the morning of the checkride. If I am feeling nervous, or if there is too much gas in the plane for the weight and balance with the examiner, I may take the plane up around the pattern a few times.

All I have left to do is complete my cross country flight plan and study for the oral exam. At this point, I feel I am ready for the flying portion. As long as I can keep my nerves in check, I shouldn't have any problems. I am more worried about the oral exam, now. I know exactly what I am going to be tested on during the practical portion and have practiced that. For the oral, on the other hand, there is a lot of stuff that could be asked, and there is no way I can review all of it. I know what major portions I should study, but after that, I can be asked anything.

I have spoken to a lot of other students at the flight school who have had checkrides with this examiner recently, and have a pretty good feel for how he will be. Everyone says he is fair, but everyone has said he tries to rush you to get through the flying as quick as possible. I will have to make sure that doesn't rattle me. Everyone also tells me that the instructors are harder on you than the examiner, and that everyone thinks it is going to be harder than it actually is. I hope so. Mike says I was ready two weeks ago, so he is not worried at all.

The checkride is Thursday, February 7th in the afternoon. I will try to post something here as soon as possible after the checkride. Wish me luck!