Friday, April 30, 2010

Good Times In Calm Skies

I had a good night last night, flight with one of my airport friends. If you remember from my April 11th post, Hank owns part of a 1970 Mooney M20-C, and is preparing for his instrument rating flight test. I went up with him as a safety pilot again yesterday evening. We took off and he set a course for Charleston, WV. We picked up flight following from the local TRACON (air traffic control), and he got situated and put the foggles on (glasses that limit vision to the instrument panel only). Luckily for me, my job was to look out the window for other air traffic and to keep an eye on things. Not a hard job yesterday, it was a beautiful evening. The hills are finally, really green again. The water of the rivers looked amazingly clean and blue, and everything was lit up very well - there was not a cloud in the sky to block the increasingly golden rays of the sun.

We arrived in Charleston's class Charlie airspace, and were given vectors to the ILS approach for runway 23. Right as we crossed the Kanawha river, I covered up the artificial horizon with a post-it note. Simulated instrument failure! This is the one instrument that does not lag behind what the airplane is actually doing, and is the most useful in instrument conditions. I played it a little nasty too, I covered it up right as we passed over a factory and then the river, which Hank couldn't see. I knew we would hit an up draft, then a down draft, then back to calm air in quick succession. You know, just doing my best to help prep him for the examiner, who may also play such a trick. It didn't phase him even a little bit though, and we made a nice approach to 23. ATC turned us onto the final course a little late, and by the time we were established on the localizer, the glideslope had already dropped out of the bottom. Down we went, and it all came together beautifully, with soft morse code-music playing over the NAV 1 radio. (for the non-pilots, air traffic control (ATC) made the approach a little tricky for us, but this is a situation that is only as common as it is annoying, but not dangerous at all. The controller was very busy at the time, so a forgivable oversight).

Gear down, approach flaps in, trim setup, Hank made a very soft touch and go out of the bottom of the ILS, and we began following the missed approach procedure. After switching to departure frequency from the tower, we were cleared to hold west of the Charleston VOR (a ground-based radio-navigation station) as published. Entry was good, made it around the race-track pattern once, and exactly half-way around the outbound turn, I covered another instrument, this time it was the heading indicator. This is a fair thing to do, he has to do an approach with both of these instruments covered for the test, and since they are driven by the same power source (vacuum power), they often fail together in real life. This made things very interesting - the plane is a little more work to control with 2 out of 3 gyroscopic instruments out of service. Of course, its good to practice with a safety pilot onboard while in beautiful clear skies rather than in some crud and scud some rainy day on an approach to minimums. We came back around, intercepted the final approach course inbound, and Hank shot the VOR-A approach back to the airport. At the appropriate time, distance, and altitude, he called the end of the approach, I said "look up!", and he then could see what I could see - that we were exactly where we were supposed to be.

We turned back west and headed home. Flew a long, VFR, straight in approach at home base, and shut it all down. The sun was just setting as we were touching rubber to pavement, there were 2 or 3 people sitting on the front porch of the FBO, and all was right with the world. Hank and his wife Deborah invited me to eat Mexican with them - of course I couldn't turn that down, and it was an enjoyable (and spicy) meal.

Hank called today around 2:00pm to thank me for the help in getting ready for the test, and to let me know that he passed with flying colors today. Passing a flight test is always a nice feeling for somebody, and its infectious.

In other news, Russ let me know that I can take charge of one of the students at the flight school - the same guy I flew with a few weeks ago - now that I'm on the insurance. Excellent news, I'm excited to get started.

Also, a Cessna 310 (8 or so passenger twin engine plane) is going to be in the shop this coming week, and it needs washed, waxed, and the interior detailed. Oh, all right, for $15 an hour I'll wash planes all day. I'm expecting a good job to take about 20 to 24 hours if I work hard at it. Thats about double what I have usually made at the restaurant in a week, which is good, because tomorrow (Saturday) is my last day of working in restaurants. I can't stand it any more, and I reason that a college graduate (as of May 8th) and commercial pilot can surely find something else to do to pay the bills.

More to come this week I hope, so stay tuned. Washing the 310 (I'll try to remember to snap some pictures) and a possible trip to Detroit, which has been brewing for several weeks, are both coming up. Who knows what else may happen?

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