Wings Program, Level II

So year four rolled around this year, and brought with it my need for another BFR (Biannual Flight Review). The WINGS program seems to be a lot more benificial (and fun), so I've been taking lessons from Donn to get that completed. Today was the third of the three required hours of training.

There was another comedy of errors getting a plane, almost as bad as my checkride. I reserved a plane at Rancho Murieta at least two weeks ago. Then earlier in the week I went and checked it, just to make sure, and that plane was off the schedule completely! Wunnerful. So I called the office and found that that plane was in for maintenance, something about the altitude indicator. So I went to check out the other 172 at Rancho (1209F, the one with just a two place intercom), but someone already had it.

About the only option I had left was the 172 at Cameron Park, 1215U, so I reserved it. That plane is one I have never really liked. I've flown it a couple of times, but just never cared for it. The push-to-talk switch is flimsy, it never really had a lot of power, and things just generally weren't up to my normally high snooty standards. Talking to Stan, the guy at the Flying Vikings desk, I found that that plane would be moved to Mather Field (formerly Mather AFB) on Friday so someone could do his checkride in it on Monday. No big deal, I'd either meet Donn there, or go get the plane early and meet him at Rancho.

Then Stan told me he thought the original plane would be back by Saturday, so maybe I could use it. He signed me up for it (cuz the reservation system we use won't let me have two planes reserved at the same time), and I waited. The day before, I went and checked, and the plane that was to come back did come back, but to Jackson airport, so my only option was the Cameron Park plane which was at Mather.

So basically I had to work at getting a plane I didn't like reserved at an airport where it's not usually based. Cool, huh?

Donn didn't have to be at Rancho right after our flight, so we met at Mather. I got there early and preflighted it, and it needed fuel. Flying Vikings still had an account there, so they filled it for me. Donn got there and we took off. Donn wanted to know what we had covered last time we went up, so he asked me if I had my log book. I said "Yeah, it's.... on my desk at home..." :-( Oh, well. He asked me if we'd done any instrument training, and since we hadn't, that's what we started out with.

Instrument training for a private pilot without an instrument rating consists of wearing special goggles that let you see the instrument panel, but not outside. You have to make course changes and hold your altitude and things like that by just looking at the panel. I did pretty good, I think, but not perfect. The point is to make you do three or four things at one time, it's good practice. We did that for almost half an hour and went to Franklin.

Somewhere in here I realized the plane was behaving nicely. It still has a pretty wimpy push-to-talk switch, it's mounted on a thin piece of metal on the side of the yolk, and you have to hold it with one finger while pushing it with your thumb, but otherwise the plane was pretty nice. A couple of the instruments seemed to be pushed back in the instrument panel a little far, which was kind of odd, but not so far that it was a problem. Power was there, the seats actually looked new, and nothing was falling off of it. So it's back on my list of planes I like to fly.

During my first landing, Donn asked me if there was anything I wanted to do, or felt I needed to practice. I told him I would like to do some unusual attitudes, which is where I close my eyes, Donn puts the plane in some oddball configuration like climbing wildly or diving straight down, and I fix it using just the instruments. It's kinda fun! Someday I want him to do it when I have my eyes open, it must be quite a site to have the plane jump around like that. Anyway, he said "Why didn't you say that when you still had the goggles on?" Well, I hadn't thought about it until he asked. :-)

We shot a few landings, most of which were good. One time I hit the flap switch wrong and left them about halfway down, and when we took off again the plane kind of jumped up. I thought I had just messed up the trim, so I fixed it and said "I guess I had that wrong." Donn said "Or something...." in that tone that means I'm missing something. I looked around and saw the flaps, and fixed them. He told me that if the plane isn't doing what I think it should be doing, figure out why! I thought I had figured it out, but there were TWO things wrong. The trim wasn't that big a deal, really, but I thought it was. The point is basically situational awareness. Know what's going on, and keep an eye out for anything weird.

Then we took off, and Donn gave me the goggles back so we could do unusual attitudes. We did five or six of them, they're still fun. It's a little weird to be sitting in a plane with your eyes closed while someone sends it into gyrations for you to fix, but it's a lot of fun.

We made it back to Mather, and other than almost landing on the wrong runway, it went fine. We put the plane up and Donn signed off my WINGS certificate. I had to go home and get my logbook and take it back to him at Rancho Murieta later in the day, but I did and he signed off in it, too. So I'm good for another two years.

Oh, and Donn quit smoking, too! It's been around a year. Good for you, Donn!

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