Saturday morning – A gap between the thunder squall line that just passed over and the next incoming block of rain. Ceilings at 5000 overcast. I evaluate we can squeeze in a lesson but must stay local. Greg agrees. It is still raining a little during preflight. I go over 503SP very carefully. I’ve flown her so often she is like MY plane at the school. Well I like to treat her that way. I clean off the grease and oil streaks more than really necessary for preflighting and check her over carefully. I know her wrinkles and dents and can spot anything new immediately.
She is all set and Greg and I clamber in. Though we have done this countless times – I brief him about seatbelts, air vents and door closing and tell him he is part of the team and should help keep a lookout. I start up and out we go to warm up. We are going to the training area to do steep turns. We get a new taxi route to runway 5 – the ground controllers must get bored handing out the same ones! We set up to go and though the wind is indicated as right cross wind at takeoff – we experience some left part way down the runway – I get on it but I don’t think very well. We climb out to the training area and look at the rain showers over Providence and the roiling mess above. The bank of cloud towards Danielson looks lower than our altitude. Wish we had a weather radar. We get the weather on the radio at other airfields to the west and keep a close eye on the clouds and rain around us.
We skirt the rain and get to Scituate where I set up for steep turns. I haven’t done them in a while and they are the first thing to go in your skill set. I perform my clearing turns and then around we go. Greg chivying and prompting and nudging me to do better. We go right and we go left. About eight times. I like about two of them. “Enough” calls Greg – “let’s go do some landings.” Now when Greg says “Enough” that usually means he thinks you are getting tired and you will be back up again to do better. My last one to the right was not great. “No” – I say – “I want one more”. I dial around to the right again. It is locked in and nearly flawless. Well for me. I’m much happier. We head back to Providence for landings. I’m happy with about three of the nine turns.
We discover that at 3000ft the wind is blowing about 30 knots on the nose. It is a long haul home. We have called for pattern work. We are cleared for the option on runway 5. “Short or Soft Fields” says Greg. I need Short Field practice. I listen to the wind factor and the gust factor the controller reads me up. I elect for soft with only partial flaps and a 10 knot added landing speed to account for gusts. Shorts would not be appropriate in the conditions. Right gusty crosswinds. I don’t do right a lot – usually left. Down we go. I wrestle and wriggle and get after the plane the whole way down to final. The kids’ soccer game on the right hand corner of the safety area seems awful close. I set up, bank the wings, correct on the rudder and wriggle down and soft her onto the runway. There is some cross wind. I’m at nearly full yoke to hold her but I get stopped in about 2,000ft at the 5,000ft remaining marker, flaps up – good to go and off we go again. Four times in total. Each one a joy in staying on the plane in the gusty wind. Flying and skill practice. Love it. Each time the controller calls me up the landing wind it is stronger and gustier and each time I manage to wrestle her down on the centerline. The last one was not perfect but it was a 12 knot cross gust as I put her down and I’m pretty happy.
We taxi in. I checklist and shut down. “What did you think?” asks Greg? I say I liked about three of my steep turns and had a lot of FUN with the landings. Greg tells me my steep turns were ALL to PTS except perhaps one and he liked the landings too. “It is probably time to end our relationship.” This is code of my Stage III Checkride from the Checkride instructor before the ride with the examiner. “What do I think?”
I actually think and enunciate that an examiner’s job is to check that the instructor’s opinion is valid and that this means he has in effect passed me as a private pilot – even though I now need to demonstrate this to two others. I also don’t think of it as the end of the relationship. I want to pass my Checkride and then fly on with Greg for my IFR rating – but yes – I want this and I am ready.
We go in and book my Stage III Checkride for Sunday morning (probably get rained off) with a fall back of Tuesday morning.