CFI Endorsement Day

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I spent a couple of hours on Thursday in the skies over Ionia in the mighty SGS 2-33A with Lee Larder. Seven flights. I think that I’m becoming comfortable in the back seat. It’s a constant struggle to keep the tow plane above the cowl on the climb (especially when the tow plane hits sink and tries to disappear), but I’m not going to add a cushion to the seat now because I’d have to get used to a new sight picture and new muscle and inertial memory. And, as much easier as the whole thing is in the front seat, I don’t think I’d fly the ride from the front even if I had the option.

Still, I’m constantly put in mind of the Mike Meyers bit from So I Married an Axe Murderer:

We started with a tow to 2,500 to demonstrate all of the high airwork. Naturally, the dive brakes became jammed with a mixture of ice and extraterrestrial fauna, so I flew it sideways to that landing, happy with my slip and the control on the roll-out.

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Next came what I had in mind for most of the flights of the day. I’ve long been a little worried about my ability to land the glider precisely. It’s always reasonably safe, but it doesn’t always come to rest on the runway where I want it to. So we did five pattern tows to try to dial in the precision of my landings. We set up a pair of cones along the runway edge about 400 feet apart, with the idea of touching down after the first one, but coming to a stop before the second one.

The first touchdown was a little short and the second one rolled out a little long, but I was generally happy with things. I had been avoiding slamming on wheel brake out of some aesthetic sense, but Lee suggested that I throw elegance to the wind if it looked like I had too much energy in the rollout. After all, it’s an emergency maneuver and you should expect a little brute force. And, as long as the wingtips are well off the ground and you don’t have a substantial side load, there’s little chance of a ground loop. So, if the second cone appears to be advancing too quickly, I’m going to be full-on the wheel brake and I can also let the stick come forward to dump a little more weight on the skid to get it stopped.

Otherwise, I’m doing things like a real CFI candidate. Get stabilized at 60 mph in the middle of the approach cone with half to three-quarters dive brakes. Get that aim point 200 feet short of the first cone (and on the other side of Lee’s head) to hold still in the windshield. Then flare and use the rest of the dive brakes once I have the first cone made. Then throw out the anchor and hope really hard.

The last flight was a 180 abort from 200 AGL. Lee pulled the clown nose at or above 200 AGL (and after my callout) and I know that the altimeter was correct, but we sure looked low at the 135-degree point in the turn back. As a TG-7A driver, I push pretty hard and pretty long for airspeed on a 180 abort because the TG-7A is a draggy beast that loses energy prodigiously when the thrust quits. The 2033A soesn’t slow down as quickly, so waited too long to bank for the turn. I need to get the turn going sooner next time. But we made it back with no problem and I even managed to retain the right amount of energy to get it back to the start point and even taxied off to the side using rudder so there wasn’t as far to push back.

CFI 2015-05-28 03At the conclusion of flying, Lee and I went through the items I missed on the FOI and FIG knowledge tests, then he signed me off. My IACRA application had already been in for a day, so I gave him the application number and FRN so that he could approve it. And I left with all of the required endorsements in my logboog.

So it’s on the the ride!  With CAP NLOC in Atlanta coming up June 10-14 and the River Days airshow June 19-21, I’m probably going to have to do the ride this coming week or push it until after the airshow. And, if I push it, I’ll probably fly one more time with Lee before the ride. I called Carol Dehnbostl (an FIE in the West Michigan FSDO and one of the main reasons that I went to Ionia to train) and I expect to hear back from her on Monday.


CFI Update: Possible Checkride Looms

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I got some good news yesterday.  It looks as though I might be able to get a checkride in the TG-7A here in the D after all.

Those following this space – and hearing the pre-roll on the Tony Condon episode might be familiar with my woes.  I’ve been trying since November to get a CFI-G checkride.  The fact that it’s an initial checkride and the fact that I’d prefer to do the ride in a self-launch glider makes it hard to find a qualified check airman.  Although the guys at the Michigan East FSDO have worked hard to find someone, they’ve been unsuccessful.  But a lead that I received on Friday panned out and the check airman is in the process of getting approved to do the ride.

So that means another abrupt changing of gears.  I had switched over and was training up in the ASK 21 to do the checkride as an aero-tow guy.  (With only 26 total aero-tows to my name, that would have involved a lot more time and money than I really wanted to spend when – after all – I’m ready to go in the TG-7A.  But one does what one has to do.)  But that also means that I haven’t flown the mighty Terrazzo Falcon for for awhile – Since December 2, to be precise.  So I needed to get back in the saddle.

So I loaded up my favorite right-seat counterweight – FOD – and launched for some practice this morning.  10 trips around the patch letting FOD take it except for the takeoff and landing (and except for the no-spoiler landings, which start downwind abeam).  On a couple of them, we flew a few miles upwind and then pulled power to idle, made a 180, and flew back to land.

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I took the controls for the no-spoiler ops.  It’s the thing that most rapidly deteriorates when I don’t fly, so I wanted to get a few of them in.  True to form, I stank up the joint on the first one, but they got better immediately.  I’m pretty consistently getting the aircraft down and stoppable by 1,700 feet down the runway.  The key is to be a quarter-mile out and on glideslope and airspeed with wings level.  From there, downwind rudder to the floor, upwind aileron to coordinate, and aim for the threshold.  I can take out the slip and check things if I need to.

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This essentially means a two-step process.  Go a little long on downwind, then outside rudder and inside aileron the make the big sweeper onto final.  That places me where I need to be for the landing phase.  In a day like today, flying left traffic on Runway 15 with a moderate wind out of the west, it was a left sweeper into position, then a reversal to slip the other way for the landing.  I should probably do that another dozen times or so before the ride, but I think that I have it dialed in.

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I also spent some time working on my instructor patter, including distractions.  I’ll get a little more realistic with the distractions at some point, but this was a fun father-son moment in the pattern.

So it’s fly and study like it’s my job for the next week and a half.  I might or might not use the blog to keep you updated.  In any case, my Facebook feed is usually pretty reliable.