Welcome back for another daily blog! I am going to walkthrough the flight I embarked on yesterday evening with my CFII Matt Danicker. I left my house around 1545 on the 22 Mile journey towards KMIC (Crystal, MN) that took well over an hour to complete since I managed to hit every bit of construction and accidents during rush hour. Arriving about five minutes late, I quickly dispatched my aircraft which was a fuel injected Cessna 172N (N2436W). After doing a thorough preflight, I realized that my Ipad was on 4% Battery.. However, no need to rely on modern technology when we have the Bendix King! (Very sarcastic). The preflight procedure on this C172N wasn’t too different from the preflight I have done on any other Cessna and generally only takes around ten to fifteen minutes to complete in a precise manner. The only things that vary are the amount of fuel sumps located under the wings and nose. Inflight Pilot Trainings aircraft generally have only one sump per side underneath the wing while Thunderbirds have thirteen… yep… Thirteen…….
I grabbed some popcorn and a bottle of water before Matt and I hopped into the airplane and got things going. Once the airplane was in takeoff configuration we got our ground clearance using Runway 06R via Alpha, Echo. We did the run-up real quick and experienced a bit of roughness when checking the magnetos, but after playing with the fuel mixture it smoothened out. We lined up and waited on Runway 06R which is a grass strip marked out by cones. Soft-field takeoffs and landings are always really enjoyable to me as they are very forgiving, unlike concrete or asphalt runways. After reaching 400′ AGL, we turned right towards the west and climbed up to 3,000′. (Foggles ON) I initially
started out by doing a few partial-panel maneuvers (Matt covered my directional gyro and attitude indicator) which required the usage of a little calculation towards how long to stay in a timed standard-rate turn based off what my current compass heading was and cross-checked by my turn coordinator. I performed all of the turns very well and was only off by a maximum of about ten degrees off the desired course.
This is where the flight got very interesting and I experienced a bit of induced spatial disorientation. Earlier in my flight training, unusual attitudes were always set-up by the CFI and I would recover after closing my eyes for a good amount of time. Matt had me shut my eyes and fly the airplane based upon my kinesthetic responses and believe it or not, this was NOT easy!I did fairly well throughout theturns and surprisingly only lost 100′ of altitude throughout the entire maneuver. Who says you can’t fly completely blind?! After having a little bit of fun for a while trying to get the gyro to precess by doing some very aggressive lazy eights (It never did precess… maybe another time.) I entered a direct flight path towards the Gopher (GEP) VOR to initiate a procedure turn on the VOR-A approach into KMIC.
I was shocked with how much I still remembered about instrument flying and how precise my flying abilities were in a sense that I hardly let the altimeter needle move off the 3,000′ indication. After turning inbound towards GEP, I descended down to 2,500′ where I proceeded to get the TO/FROM indication on my VOR and a DME (Distance Measuring Equipment) starting to increase in distance rather than decrease. (We call this the “flip.”) I shot the approach all the way down to minimums at 1,310′ circling to land. We were cleared to land on Runway 14R, but for some unknown reason, I was fixated on the fact that we were going to land on the grass again and started to make my downwind turn towards a short base for Runway 6R. It was at this point that tower was a bit confused and said, “36W are you still taking 14R? Cleared to land?”. Mid-transmission from the tower, Matt pulled the power and took a steep 60 degree bank, lining us up on the approach for 14R that should have been a super simple straight-in to begin with. At this point, tower was probably head in hands… “ummmm…”. We floated about 1200′ of runway before touching down and finally coming to a slow roll at the numbers on the opposite end 32L. I am sure we all make mistakes, but I try my best to fix them before they become uncorrectable. Honestly, mistakes are what allow us to learn quickly and efficiently as long as they aren’t TOO bad. Of course, we are all human which mistakes should come naturally. Finally, after a quick taxi into Thunderbird and a sweet park job right on the yellow lines in a fairly tight corner, I shut the airplane down and cleaned everything up. Overall, I thought this flight was very valuable to my education as partial-panel work is always a good thing to practice and understand just in case an actual emergency were to develop.
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