KRYV 292257Z AUTO 18005KT 10SM BKN065 OVC075 12/04 A2975 RMK AO2
The last time I flew, it was summer. Warm, sunny, summer. It's been a while. Today was chilly, overcast, with some scattered showers wandering through. I originally intended this to be a solo practice session, but Adam had added himself to the whole time slot, and I had no problem having him along for some practice evaluation. Turned out to be a good idea. When we departed, winds were from 160, so Runway 11 was the choice. By the time we came back, the winds favored Runway 23, and a nice little crosswind at that.
My great fear today was how rusty I was. I took plenty of time with the preflight walkaround, and by the time I strapped myself in, I was ready. We were up and heading north, and we can see virga in the distance. It would certainly add realism to the simulated instrumented flying we would do later. Level at 3000' and after the clearing turns came the first order: steep turns. Toughest stuff first as usual. The turn to the left started out a little shaky, but I recovered quickly. The transition to the right turn was flawless, and the turn and roll out were very satisfactory. The key to my success? I never took my hand off the throttle. And that goes back to that instructor in Santa Fe. And because of the obvious variations of engine power I noticed while running through the mountain updrafts, I now can tell just through listening that the engine is running too fast or too slow. So now when I do a steep turn, I can concentrate more on the visual horizon and manage the plane by touch and feel.
After slow flight practice, Adam gave me the hood for the first time and told me I just flew into a cloud deck. The fancy name is Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC). There I practiced a procedure turn and controlled descent to get us out of the "clouds". I tell you what, that is an unsettling feeling indeed to not be able to see the outside references. But just like everything else, I'm sure practice makes it familiar.
Back to Watertown, and the wind had shifted to give us a nice crosswind option for Runway 23. Entered on the upwind, hit all the marks and greased the landing. I can't recall a previous session that I nailed the first landing. Nothing sounds sweeter than the stall horn going off just as the upwind main gear hits the pavement. I cleaned up quickly and went around two more times. On the third circuit, another instructor came into the pattern just behind me, so I knew we wanted to clear the runway at the first taxiway. So I was just a little distracted as I touched down, a small crosswind puff making for some side loading on the gear. Not a great landing, but ok. Adam then hit the brakes so we can make the turn (inducing a little skid in the process). Then, all of a sudden, a loud klaxon noise came through the radios. Well, let's just say I know what the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) sounds like. We had to deal with that noise all the way to the ramp. We jumped out of the plane once I shut down, and we got at the ELT in the baggage compartment and turned it off. We both laughed about it, after all it wasn't a bad landing. I had certainly had much worse. We both knew that this long journey was entering its final phase. If only the weather would cooperate.