This is a continuation of my multi-part series on learning to fly. You can read the whole Fly With Francis series here.
A few weeks ago, I completed the written pre-solo exam and Cessna 172S checkout paperwork. Both tests are specific to Galvin’s flight school/rental program. The former test covered lots of flight-safety topics, while the checkout test covered aircraft-specific things like performing weight and balance calculations, flight planning, fuel consumption, takeoff and landing distances based on hypothetical weight and balance figures, and so on.
I’ve had to back off the frequency of flight training a bit; this is definitely an expensive exercise. I’ve gone from flying two or three times a week to three times every two weeks to stretch the budget a bit. This is, based on conversations with fellow students, also nothing out of the ordinary.
That pacing, though, has made me feel like my skills have been stagnating a bit. I had a frustrating flight a week or so ago, where nothing seemed to go smoothly and my memory of the required procedures needed refreshing by the instructor, rather than my just doing them without prompting; it was disheartening.
There have been a couple of flights like that.
My most recent flight, however, was a great morale booster. It was a glorious Seattle afternoon – crystal-clear skies, mostly smooth air, and the wind was blowing straight down the runway. We flew to the Tacoma Narrows Airport (TIW), a lovely tower-controlled field on a bluff near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and phenomenal views of Puget Sound and the mountains.
And it was there that I became convinced that I finally have a handle on landings. I made five of them in the pattern, and all five were good – a couple were actually really good. Carl, my instructor, said he didn’t touch the controls once during any of them. It was a great feeling. The landing back at BFI was also pretty good.
Handling the radios for the different towers, maintaining clearance from Sea-Tac’s overlying class B airspace, recognizing landmarks for checking in with the control towers, correctly reading back their instructions, and then following them while performing the required pre-landing checklist items, and then following pattern protocols and landing procedures (i.e., flying the plane), all went pleasingly well.
Now if I can only consistently repeat all of that, plus all the required stage check maneuvers, I’ll be well on my way toward being qualified for solo flight.
Until then, it’s practice, practice, practice.