Chesapeake Disaster

So you probably don’t know (or don’t care) that I have been forced to continue my flying in Virginia.  The military has sent me to Norfolk for the next two months and since I’m only about 6 hours away from a checkride, I didn’t want to to stop flying.  So now I am flying with Horizon Flight Center at the Chesapeake Regional Airport.

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The name of that airport would have you believe that it’s a fair sized airport with all kinds of bells and whistles.  It isn’t.  The runway is about 5,000 feet long, which is about 10,000 feet too short for me.  Only one end has a glide slope indicator and the way they run their pattern ops is pretty crazy, even for a non-towered airport.  That’s right no tower.  It’s all on you to not screw up, which is the way it is for the majority of General Aviation… but I don’t have to like it.

My flight training has transitioned from Part 141 with it’s structured syllabus, to Part 61, which is more free flow.  One of the differences is the hours requirements are all different with Part 61 training.  I need a bit more solo time, a few hours of dual prep time, and a night cross country before I will be legal to even attempt a check flight.

Today was my first flight with them.  I was flying with an instructor, so he can evaluate my skillz and make sure that I am who I say I am.  I knew this flight was going to be rough.  For starters, these airplanes are the 180 HP versions of the C-172, which is much less than I’m used to.  I didn’t think that it would be that bog of a deal, since we’re at sea level here and not the ungodly high 6,000 feet at Colorado Springs.  I thought that it would be about the same.  The lower altitudes, but less horsepower, it should all come out in the wash.  I was wrong.  I completely underestimated the power available at sea level.  These 180 horses are much more powerful than the 210 horses at the high altitudes.  I can only imaging what a 180 HP engine would fly like in Colorado.  As a result I was all over the throttle all day long, and I don’t believe I was ever trimmed.  Ever.

Secondly, the cockpit arrangement was all different.  It was correct.  The planes that the Rocky Mountain Aero Club flies are all beat to shit and their cockpits are messed up.  The airplanes here are pimp.  These guys are a licensed Cessna dealer as well as a flight school so they can’t have any aircraft that are more than 8 years old.  What a difference flying a new airplane made.  But I was not used to the good cockpit arrangement.  So I was always looking for the engine instruments, the flap handle, the airspeed.  I was off all day.

C172sp-navII-cockpit-hi-res

Also, these airplanes are a bit bigger and heavier than the T-41s that I’m used to.  I was literally man-handling the controls all day and I felt like a weakling trying to fly it.  I actually felt that I wasn’t strong enough to move these controls. It was very heavy.  Combine that with the wind knocking my ass all over the sky, I’m not sure I was ever really in ‘control’ at all.  I actually could not do a power on stall.  It wouldn’t stall.  It just kind of mushed around at 40 knots.  I don;t know if that was me, the wind, or the airplane.  But it was very disconcerting.

So the wind, the different cockpit, the heavier controls, and I haven’t flown in over a month all sums up nicely to the simple fact that I flat out sucked it up in the skies over Chesapeake today.  I admit it.  I sucked.  I’m not one for making excuses to cover my poor performance… oh wait, yes I am.  Damn you wind, you ruined my flight today!

My landings were rough.  All ‘safe’ and ‘effective’ but none of them were impressive.  I actually did a for real go-around.  That’s how bad I was.  It’s all okay though.  I needed about 3 hours of checkride prep time anyways, and this counts for that.  So no money wasted… yet.

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