Current again

This morning Jim and I met at the airport to do some flying. Because I’d done a bit already yesterday, I let him go first. It’s always interesting flying with another pilot, because everybody does things differently. First difference – because this was a practice flight, he decided not to “cheat” with his GPS – and he actually hand-flew the whole time. Second difference – he decided not to pre-heat the engine, even though it was below freezing. Third difference, and this was a doozy – he overcranked the engine like hell. I’ve always been taught not to crank more than 4 or 5 blades at a time, but he cranked a good 20 or 25 blades. That just about killed the battery, and when he couldn’t get it started after a couple more short cranks (because that’s all it would do) he decided to pre-heat. We dragged out the pre-heat cart and heated it up, but then he put the cart away before trying again. The battery was still shot, so I dragged out the pre-heat cart again and used it to jump start the plane. It started in 2 blades that time, and so I got my first taste of getting in the plane while the prop was turning. I also clonked the back of my head really badly when I stood up while coiling the extension cord for the pre-heater cart and hit the hangar door. I have a big scab there now.

When he did the take-off, he used two notches of flaps like it was a short field take-off, and was airborne right off the hump that’s about 1/3rd of the way down Runway 7.

He went out to the Geneseo VOR and did the published hold for the Canadagua VOR-A approach. Or at least he tried – I don’t think he intercepted the inbound radial more than half a mile from the VOR once in three tries. The reason I “cheat” with a GPS was abundantly clear – each time round, even though he was south of the inbound radial, on the outbound radial he was still correcting to the south. Then when it came time to do the actual approach, he dialed the heading in wrong by 5 degrees on the VOR (even though it had been set right while he was in the hold). And yet, in spite of that, he managed to end up closer to the airport than I usually do when I do that approach. So maybe he knows something I don’t.

Then he came in to Rochester to do the ILS 4 a couple of times. Another difference between him and I: he slowed down to 90 knots for the approach – I like to do them at 110 to 120 knots, since an ILS is generally to a nice long runway and you never know when some kerosene burner will be breathing down your neck.

He did two, and both times he a fine job of holding the localizer, and a not quite as good job on the glide slope. But it was bumpy and it’s easier to criticize than to do.

I was a bit surprised when he requested a circle to land on runway 7 and a full stop for his second ILS. I thought he was going to do a full 6. But he’d had enough and it was my turn. I decided to skip the hold and the non-precision approach, and just do 4 ILSes to get current. And in spite of the bumps and everything, I think I did pretty good on them. They kept turning me onto the localizer about 2 miles from the outer marker, and sometimes I wasn’t even properly established by the time I got there. One time they didn’t switch me over to the tower, leaving me on the approach frequency right the way down to decision height. Another time, I heard the approach controller about to give a regional jet behind us a speed restriction and then change his mind, and then the tower controller cleared us for “the option”. If we’d taken the option and done a stop-and-go, I wonder what would have happened to that regional jet?

By the time I’d finished my 4 ILS 04s, I was well and truly finished. The bumps weren’t as bad as yesterdays, but there is only so much bumping around at low altitude wearing foggles you can take. I’m glad that’s over, and hopefully I can get some real approaches and stay current that way.

Well, I’m not going to get current like that…

I need to get IFR current again. I let 6 months go by without doing 6 approaches (actually, only did one). I wanted to fly to KAGC to pick up Laura on Friday, but I couldn’t because of a very thin looking broken layer at about 1500 feet – if I’d been IFR current I could have punched through that and been in VFR on top the whole way. This weekend was pretty clear, so I wanted to go up with a safety pilot and get current again. Saturday, I had to work. So it was Sunday or nothing. I had a brunch to go to earlier, so the plan was to get to the airport at around 1pm, and do some approaches with a safety pilot. My original plan was to do it with Jim, who wanted me to be his safety pilot as well, but he had to cancel. So I called another guy, Lance, who wanted to see what it was like to be a safety pilot. He was available.

When I got to the airport, I found the next problem: the plane I had booked, the Lance (yes, really) had a nose gear strut was almost completely flat. And even worse, the very slow leak of hydraulic fluid in the prop has turned into a veritable shower. There are red spatters all over the cowl, and a red streak covering most of the spinner. (Actually, I just this second got an email from a more experienced person who told me that the red oil is probably from the gear strut as well.) There is no way I wanted to be doing approaches in that. So Lance and I waited until one of the other pilots came back from their flight, which fortunately didn’t take too long.

Once we got into the air, I found the next problem: the breezy conditions made it quite turbulent, especially down low. I should have realized that this would be the case, but I’d put it out of my head. I went out to Geneseo VOR and did one turn around the hold – it was quite bumpy and hard to hold altitude and heading. There were two other planes doing holds there, one at 3,000 and one at 3,500, so I went to 4,000. It wasn’t any smoother up there. One turn was enough, and because of the bumps I decided to skip my usual non-precision approach to Le Roy or Canadiagua and go straight into the ILSes.

The first ILS went ok, except at about 300 feet above decision height there was a tremendous bump and suddenly the localizer needle went several dots off. I wasn’t at full deflection before DH, but it was bloody close. Getting vectored around for the second one, I was starting to feel airsick, so I told approach that I was going to make this one a full stop. Once again, I was right in the donuts until about 300 feet above DH, and it suddenly started going all wrong. At about 100 feet above DH I took off the foggles and landed uneventfully.

Now to figure out what to do with the Lance and its mystery oil leak.