Got in 0.7 hours of flying before the thunderstorm arrived. Before that time, the ceiling was at about 1700 feet--or at any rate, Mike, (the instructor) and I agreed that at the 1200 foot pattern altitude we were a good 500 feet below the clouds. The only 172 available was VFR only, so we just stayed in the pattern instead of heading for a grass field to do the landings and takeoffs.
I learned another lesson before even starting the engine. In preflighting, I saw that the last renter had left the fuel selector on the left tank, so I turned it to both--actually I turned it to right and then back to both, and noticed that it turned very easily--and went on with the checklist. Empennage, right wing, drain right tank, check right tank fuel level, check oil, drain sump--whoops! No gas came out. Tried again, and again. What the--?!
"Hey, Mike. You see any gas coming out?
I yanked on it again. Then Mike gave it a good pull. Nothing. A few drops now and then, but no real drain. Finally Mike went to get a mechanic and came back. While we were waiting, he looked inside the cabin--and all of a sudden the fuel drained normally.
"Fuel valve was off."
Aw, hell. That was me, of course. I realized that the fuel valve had been on RIGHT, not left, and I'd turned it to off, thinking it was on. Damn.
Damn. Mike was kind to point out that there's no feel to the OFF position on that airplane. Yeah--but there's clearly a long and short end to the handle. I just wasn't thinking.
Okay, so that woke me up, and we finally got going. Did a soft-field crosswind takeoff and landing, a short-field takeoff and landing, a normal takeoff, and a no-flap landing. All of that was in a crosswind, so Mike cut me some slack. But in general it all went well enough.
By then the rain had gotten heavy and the sky to the north--upwind--was low and dark all the way to the ground. We parked on the ramp and shut down the engine--and then heard thunder rumbling, so it was definitely time to stop for the day. Just after we got inside the terminal, the cats and dogs arrived and I had to dodge them all the way to the car.
Unfortunately, I had forgotten my logbook, so I had to drive home to get it and then back to the airport so that Mike could sign it while we still remembered what we'd done today. Another go at it next Friday, to finish this Wings session and do the instrument one on the way to and from that grass field.
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