Lesson Twenty One
12 January
1.4 hours

Throttle to full.  We're rolling. Everything feels good.  Okay, take a look at the oil gauges.

"Engine instruments are in the green," I say in the intercom.  "Airspeed is...   Airspeed is..."

What the hell.  It isn't moving.  We're doing thirty of forty knots already.

"Airspeed is zero."  We're doing at least fifty knots now.  Could Adam have figured out some way to disable the airspeed indicator?  Nah.

I just read the other day that you shouldn't take off if your airspeed indicator doesn't work.

Throttle to idle, apply the brakes, and steer off the active runway  That's the routine.  I just got through chanting it before coming out onto the runway.  Okay, then. pull the throttle back.  Okay.  

"Damn," Adam says.  It's the first time I've hear him swear.  "The pitot tube cover is stuck.  "It did that the other day, too."

I apply the brakes now, and suddenly there's a vibration from the front of the plane.

"What the hell's THAT?"

Adam hauls back on the yoke, lifting the nose a bit, and I see that it was the nosewheel shimmying.  I read about that recently, too.  As we slow down and the nose comes back down, the shimmy is gone.

"Good for you," Adam says.  You did exactly the right thing."

I was feeling good about it, too--because I HAD done the right thing.  And it was a real emergency--something of a relief after all those simulated ones Adam has been pulling on me.

I turned off the runway and he said for me to go around to the end and take off again.  "It came loose after we got airborne the other day, he says.  "Maybe it will today, too."  The irony is that I checked the pitot tube cover during preflight--tapped it, as I always do, to be sure it's not stuck. 

So I take off again--only it doesn't come loose, and pretty soon we're going pretty fast and I rotate and we're off the ground.  But without knowing how fast we're going, I feel REALLY uncomfortable.  Finally I see that the vertical speed indicator is stable at 500 feet per minute, and I feel a little better because I know this plane climbs comfortably at 750 feet per minute.  I hold the pitch to keep to 500, though, because I really don't want to get into trouble.

At 900 feet I turn left and start going around the pattern, still climbing to 1,200.  Turn downwind, do the pre-landing check, announce we're downwind for 1 5.  Set up for the landing.  Adam says to land without flaps, to be sure that we don't get close to stalling speed.

All this time, I'm feeling VERY uncomfortable about the airspeed.  We come in fairly fast, level off, flare, and we're down smoothly.

Back at the ramp, I'm still feeling a bit uncomfortable about that flight.

Adam asks a couple of times if I want to go up again in another plane, and I say yes.

But I do feel a little uncomfortable, and that surprises me, because normally I don't get frazzled by little things like that.

So we get the dispatch for another plane and to save time, Adam says he'll preflight one side while I do the other.  I'm on the left side, but for some reason I start at the tail--oh, because I untie the tail tie-down--and work my way forward.  That's exactly the opposite from the order I normally do the left side, and I realize that it's making me feel uncomfortable.  It's my intuition, I suppose, not finding things going normally.

We get in, and I'm feeling even more uncomfortable because I didn't preflight the whole plane myself.  Sure, I trust Adam--but all the same...

Adam says then that it's a good idea not to fly again that day when something goes wrong like that.  Or when you're upset about something.  Well, I've heard that before--but today I can really believe it.  My body knows it's so.

But I feel okay--after all, it wasn't a serious problem at all--so we go up, and the plane flies fine.  We do some maneuvers, and then Adam gets out the hood--a pair of safety goggles with he tops of the lenses frosted, so that you can't see anything outside.  Only the instrument panel is visible.  I manage to get the plane more or less stable and trimmed, and we fly around for a while.  He has me do some turns, level, climbing, and decending.  I never get into any real trouble, but it's clear that flying by the instruments is a bit trickier than you'd think.  You really have to trust them--because, as I found, your senses can't tell you what our attitude is if you can't see something outside the plane.  I realize that now I understand why Microsoft's Flight Simulator is so hard to control--or to keep from overcontrolling.  It's just like flying by the instruments.

After .4 hours of the hood, we fly west and do some steep turns.

As I'm coming out of a turn, Adam pulls the throttle back to idle.  Another emergency.  Okay, I pitch for 60 knots.  I spot a clear field a little to the left and head for it.  As usual I'm having trouble keeping the airspeed down to 60 and try trimming for that speed.  Just then Adam asks me about the rest of the emergency procedure, and being distracted I stumble a few times in saying it all.  There's no wind to worry about today, so I can just set it up as if it were a normal landing, coming in on downwind.  I turn base and then final.  We're a little high, so I slip it down, the slip feeling easy and natural.  Straighten out and head in.  We're down to about 150 feet AGL when Adam says to go around.  The landing was going so well that I'm a bit sorry to shove the throttle open, and that distracts me momentarily, so I raise the flaps too soon.  Fortunately, they were only at 10 degrees, so it's not a problem, but it mars the otherwise good approach.

We climb back to 2,500 feet and try to figure out where we are.  Yes, we've been heading west--but where are we?  Even Adam seems not to know exactly, so I get my first VOR lesson.  He tunes the VOR to the Flat Rock VORTAC frequency, 113.3 mhz, and sets the indicator to 125--the 125 degree radial.  I won't try to describe the rest completely now because I've got to figure out some things about intercepting radials first.  Eventually, though, I saw that we followed the reciprocal radial "TO" Flat Rock and watched the TO change to FROM as we passed over the transmitter.  Cool!  It really works!  Then we followed the 122-degree radial right to the airport.  Cool again!  A big day for instrument flying.

I have to say that I was feeling pretty good by then.  I called in our position west of the field (but forgot to check AWOS first to see if the active runway had changed--dumb!), got us into the pattern on upwind, did the pre-landing check, turned crosswind.  Another plane called that he was on upwind, second for landing, and we then saw him coming in right behind us.  Things were going okay.  Turned downwind.  Adam said to come in without flaps again, to get the feeling of it solid.  Turned base a little early for the speed, but we were okay.  Turned final, lined it up early--good.  We were a little high, so I slipped just enough to get onto the glidepath.  Good slip, everything felt right.  Throttle to idle, down to the runway, leveled off, flared just a tad too much but corrected before it could float, eased it down.  Smooth, no bumps.   Good landing.  Flying is such fun!

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