Today’s flight was a Stage II review with a senior instructor. I’ll start out by saying, I passed.
For those who learned under Part 61 rules, the new Part 141 rules require a more structured curriculum with minimum passing rates. My school is using the Jeppesen curriculum which requires senior instructor review after each “stage” of the training.
So, today we went to Cleveland! Airport, that is.
The day started with the standard flight planning, review of expectations, and pre-flight of the plane. The senior instructor made it known that he hates flying the Minion, the little Piper 140 that I usually fly. Why is it called the Minion? The color scheme matches the Minions,
so somebody thought it would be funny to get a Minion sunshade for it and the name just stuck.
The instructor made a valid point about flying the Minion. It’s slow, so when we have to fly out to another airport or to the practice area, it takes longer to get there, reducing the amount of time you have to practice. Other than that, it’s a perfect little training plane and time builder.
The instructor asked me to plan a flight to Alexandria, LA. I knew we weren’t going that far, but I wasn’t sure where we were going to stop.
On the way out, he observed my wayfinding skills and asked a lot of questions to test my knowledge. The first real flying test came as we were passing Cleveland. That was when he chopped the throttle and told me we just lost power. I started running through my ABCs: Airspeed; Begin looking for a place to land; Checklist; and Declare an emergency.
It would have been easier if he had just killed the engine. We were cruising at 3,500 feet and were already pretty close to the airport, so I had to make a big turn to get aligned with the runway at a height conducive to landing. That’s the big loop on the south side of the airport. I managed to land it without incident and even impressed the instructor. Yay for me!
This scenario was pretty important to this instructor. Last year he had to make an emergency landing on a dirt road when the plane he was flying lost power.
We didn’t discuss what the problem was, we just talked about what happened after the engine started having issues. It didn’t die, but it wouldn’t increase rpm with anything over 25% throttle. He started aiming for an open area and found a dirt road to set it down. If I remember correctly, the mechanics made some repairs and he flew it off that same road the next day.
We spent the rest of our time practicing soft field and short field takeoffs and landings. While he said I wasn’t doing anything wrong, he felt I could make better short field landings. The procedure for short field landings is to configure the plane with flaps, slow down, maintain power on descent to keep it from stalling, flare, cut throttle, land, then brake hard once the wheels are on the ground. This guy does it well:
I have instructions to go out over the next few weeks and practice both short and soft field takeoffs and landings. This is the best kind of homework.
On the way back to Hooks, he asked me to do both power-on and power-off stalls. For those who don’t know, power-off stalls simulate a stall when you’re landing the plane. Power-on stalls simulate a stall during takeoff. Pilots practice both regularly so the responses are automatic. The instructor said my performance would pass the FAA check ride, so I was pretty happy with the results.
Overall, this has been the best flying weekend yet. I’m down to two more solos, two more review flights, then it’s time for my check ride.