Wednesday, October 26, 2011

170A......

The 170A as its called is the official test done by the school where you are training and cannot be carried out by your instructor. Usually the chief pilot or someone in that capacity carries out this check.
So mine was scheduled for this morning. This basically the same as the CPL test that will come next but I can only be signed off to apply for my test if I pass this one.
At the appointed hour I met the chief instructor to be given my navigation route that I had 1 hour to plan out. So I was given my airport down to the south near West Palm, and having to navigate through the class D airspace and restrictions en route.
With the flight plan organized and the paperwork done, I went to meet my passenger and escorted him to the plane giving him the safety briefings all passengers must receive. We taxied off for take off as the nerves were there and the heart thumping.
What had been really nice is that the school's Head of Training came to see me prior to departure and sat and had a chat with me how to channel the stress of these moments, it was a nice touch, and helped a lot, to put it all in perspective and helped me feel ready. Its one of the things about this school that I really like, the instructors top to bottom are helpful, have 5 minutes for you to help with something, when there are 50 or more students here to still feel like an individual makes a lot of difference.
So we took off and headed south for the first part of the route, it was good for settling down to get into the right place to start from, and then see that everything is where it should be, sea to the left departure airport behind you. We were on the way and hopefully about to arrive and Palm beach county airport in 20 minutes.
Change of radios and a quick identify on radar and we were well along the leg. A small adjustment halfway down the track and it wasn't long before the destination airport was on our nose to my relief. With the first stage done it was time for the diversion which means on the spot flight planning and navigation and then brief the passenger on when we will arrive. We started off ok, I went a little left with the wind pushing me over but corrected along route and arrived into the right area to try to find a small grass air strip in the middle of a lot of fields, I knew it was there somewhere but literally couldn't see the wood from the trees situation, I circled for a while and with a small hint from the passenger was able to confirm I was over the area, so had managed to get myself there but really need to get a lot better at spotting these grass airstrips which I am not finding easy at all. Which I will come to later.
After getting to the strip it was time to simulate mistakenly head into cloud and carry out the drills involved and get a fix on the VOR from 2 sources. Following this was various manouvers under the goggles, climbing, turning, and my favorite, unusual attitudes diving and heading up to the sky like a rocket, all recovered and we were on our way.
Next was stalling the plane in 3 different stages of flight which went to plan, then we were flying along and it was engine fire time.... fire drill done and full flaps and a spiral dive until it was out, to be followed by an emergency power off landing with a bit of MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY, I have to say I am so glad of the training Matthew has done with me on this as it was always something I found tricky, but this was possibly the best I have ever done by keeping to his guidance. We were 300ft from touching down safely and it was time to push full power and climb out, only for the simulated engine failure after take off and find a new field which also went well.
It was now time to head back to the airfield for a few circuits and different landings, a flap-less approach followed a glide approach where I put the undercarriage down early but made the runway ok, and finally it was time for a normal landing. I hate to say this myself but it was possibly the best landing I have managed yet in this heavy aircraft, a swift taxi back and I was parking the plane up.
I had the debrief with my "passenger" which was very constructive and I came away having really enjoyed the flight, in the debrief the CFI made some very valid points and some suggestions on how to bring down the work flow help things along and also how to improve things heading into the test. He wants me to do some extra practice with the diversion practice and finding the airfields, which I am finding really tricky, but hopefully practice makes perfect.
But the good news is, I have passed my 170A test and have been signed off to go for my big test at some point next week. No going back now !!

Confidence, where is it, I know it was here the other day ?

Any non pilots out there know what this is .... ?
Well its been a few days since I wrote on the blog, over the weekend just gone I was suffering a slight crisis of confidence over the whole thing here, I went to visit my friend Blake and his wife in Fort Lauderdale whom I did some hour building with. Blake is a great guy and been through all of what I am going through (aswell as his wife supporting him) and had a knowing smile on his face and some words of advice.
It was nice to get away from it all for a couple of days and get my head into the right place.
Here we are on Wednesday and things feel a whole lot better, the drive and desire is there and I am smiling once again. Its funny really I have spoken to a few pilots here and who are friends and each of them so far has told me the same story that they have reached the same moment themselves. The chief pilot here put it in the right phrase for me to say that this course is very much a battle with yourself in your own head not against the plane or anything else.
So I flew on Monday and Matthew pretty much had the same thing to say to me, "You are the Captain, make the decisions, you know the answers, have confidence and follow them through".
I have been pushing on with this as much as possible, yesterday we had a technical problem with the plane that I hadn't come across before, when of the power checks there was a problem that had to be dealt with and I was pretty slow off the mark with what to do in that situation, so I have been away reading up on that, but I passed the lesson and that was meant to be my final lesson with him and I was going to be allowed to do my 170A check ride. This is a mandatory test to be carried out by the chief pilot to see if you are going to be allowed to be put forward for your test and is carried out to the letter as the test will be..... to be continued......

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