Lesson 17 - Wednesday April 7th

Squawks & Valley Flying

I did have a lesson scheduled for Tuesday, but when I was doing the pre-flight for that, the closure for the engine cowling fell off, so the plane was grounded while that was fixed. 

So instead of flying yesterday, Tanya showed me how to call the FSS for a weather briefing.  It's fairly simple, you just call the number (1-800-WX-BRIEF), press 1 to talk to someone, and then tell them what you are, and where you are going, and then ask for a standard weather briefing, and write down what they tell you.   I did it in the office at Justice, and it went reasonably well.

Today I had the same plane (8148H) scheduled, before I set off I called for the weather briefing.  I'd written a little script for me to say, and prepared a piece of paper with places to write down the info.  The script went like:

I'm a Student pilot, flying VFR, in November 8148 Hotel, a Piper PA 28 slant Alpha.

Departing Santa Monica at 1PM local, flying at 4500 feet along the coast to Point Dume to
practice maneuvers for one hour. then returning to Santa Monica

Request standard weather briefing.

And they gave it to me, basically saying the same as the ATIS regarding current conditions, but giving more details on cloud cover.  Also gave "winds aloft", which is the wind speed and direction at 3000 and 6000 feet.  They told me the marine layer had pretty much burnt off, and there should be hardly any clouds along the route.

I arrive at Justice, Tanya is not there, but calls in as I arrive. Some old dude takes the calls and tells me Tanya wants me to get a weather report, and then preflight the plane.  Aha, I've already got the weather, so I head out for the preflight, plenty of time.

I'm checking the lights, and when I get round to the left wingtip, I feel something is wrong.  I realize it's the wingtip being about five feet up in the air, when usually it less than four.  I step back, and sure enough, the left wing is really high.  Now, I know the plane has just been to maintenance, so really should be fine.  I look closer and see that the left landing hydraulic strut is fully extended, pushing the wind up.

I look around a bit more, and find several screws missing on a couple of inspection plates.  I make notes, since there's a few things wrong.  I also find a missing rivet on the left flap, which looks like it has been missing for a few years. 

Tanya arrives, and I show her the strut.  We go back to the office, and call the maintenance people, who then meet us back at the plane.  I think his name was Mike.

Mike first leans on the wing, to try to compress the strut, then lifts the end of the wing, but it ain't moving.  So he opens something up, and lets out something from the piston, seems like compressed air.   The plane sinks to a normal position.  He puts the screws back on, and then that's it.  Good as new!

So we get in, and firstly the primer is not working. (The primer is a little plunger set in the dash that you use to pump fuel into the engine to start it).   Tanya suggests we just pump the throttle three times.   I then proceed to act like an idiot, and shout "clear" out the window and try to start the engine, without the necessary steps of turning on the master switch, the lights, the fuel pump, mixture rich, crack the throttle.  Only missed five things.  Of course my attempt to start just results in stupid silence. 

I get it right, off we go, take off, fly down the coast.  However it's looking a lot cloudier than the FSS guy said it would be.  Tanya decides we should go to Thousand Oaks, which is fine by me, as I like to do new things.  We turn and head inland.

I see a plane directly ahead of us.  "There's a plane" I say.  I look at the plane closely, he can't be coming towards us, but we seem to be gaining on him pretty quick.  We turn to the left, and continue climbing, and pass him pretty quickly.  When we look down we see that it's actually a powered glider, and his prop is not turning.   It's going so slow it looks like it's just hovering in the air.  Must be looking for thermals over the mountains.

We arrive somewhere near TO, I'm not exactly sure, but over the 101 freeway.  Tanya has me talk to Socal Approach to get flight following, similar to last time, thy give us a squawk code (2201) and we ident.   They give us a few traffic advisories over the next few minutes.

Then we just do a few standard maneuvers, slow flight, power off stalls.  The stall horn is not working.

Then we head back, Tanya lets me focus on the pattern as she does the radio work.   I do another confused landing. It's a bit windy, and we are bouncing around a lot.  We get down, but not particularly well.  I'm not too good at using the throttle to adjust altitude.

Tanya asks me if I want to go around again.  I decide I've had enough for the day, as it's getting rather bumpy.   We taxi back.  At justice I fill in the "Squawk sheet", (in this context, a squawk is something that is wrong with the plane).  I squawk the primer, and the stall horn.

Next lesson Friday at 3PM.