Back in the saddle – at last!

Well, after a few days of weather-induced delays, I finally got in a training flight yesterday.  Hey, it’s only been 9-1/2 years since my last flight! No matter that no CFI who has ever flown with me is still a CFI… and who cares if half the planes I have flown are no longer flying?

So I preflighted N5533F, tucked my new CFI (John) into the right seat and off we went. I was able to taxi much better than I remembered doing before. This was my first time flying from a tower controlled airport — Eppley (KOMA) instead of Millard (KMLE) where I’ve flown before, so I got to put my ground school self-study knowledge to work. We got taxi clearance and I was able to follow the signs and tell John (before he asked) where we’d be stopping, and why. Cleared for 14L, and up we went… after a little veering and white knuckles. Let’s say it was not my smoothest takeoff, and that stall warning light will definitely get your attention, but we got off the ground and out of the area.

The weather was not the best. 6 mile vis, overcast at 3500 AGL so we stayed under 3000 (2000 or so AGL). Flew up to a practice area and did some basic maneuvers, and after getting over the initial jitters I was pretty comfortable. I had forgotten how much flying a Cherokee feels like piloting a soda can in the ocean. I did OK, though, especially holding altitude in turns and such. The ceiling was dropping and visibility was getting noticeably shorter, so we headed back. John took the yoke on the base leg because by now the crosswind was a bit more than he thought I was ready for.

I have two previous training flights in the log book — one from 1999, and one in 2002. Hopefully now that some of the pre-emptive priorities are not as big a factor, I’ll be able to get scheduled regularly and finish up soon. John’s feedback during the post-flight debrief was that he thought I’d be ready to solo in a pretty short time. On the next flight we’ll likely go up to Blair (KBTA) and do some touch-and-gos.

While I was not able to meet my goal of doing an unassisted landing on today’s flight, at least I was prepared for the sight picture on approach and knew what to expect — John just felt that it wasn’t a good day for me to make my first landing. The other two times I lost confidence on final and asked the CFI to do it. I hadn’t done an approach in a small plane before; airliners come in with a significantly nose-high attitude, and it kind of freaked me out to point the nose at the runway and fly it into the ground. This time I was ready for it, and even was able to watch the PAPI lights and know we were a little low and needed power. But… I’m confident I’ll be able to bring it in all the way on the next flight.