Note: I half-finished this blog post, I'm posting it as such. I ended up becoming so busy I didn't write for over a week, and now I can barely remember what I ended up doing, other than getting beat up by the wind.
Saturday I headed down to Hayward to prepare for my checkride with some ground work with my instructor, followed by solo manuevers in the practice area. As luck would have it, Hayward was covered in clouds, preventing my departure.
Frustrated, I headed back home in a down pour the likes of which are not common in the East Bay.
I reserved a plane to take out the following day, Sunday, to ensure that I would at least fly once over the weekend. Due to my checkride preparation, I had skipped flying the Tuesday prior, and had my knowledge tested on the ground instead.
I was eager to fly again.
My wife needed the car for some errands, so I was dropped off at the office almost a whole hour before my scheduled departure time. This left me plenty of time to get a weather briefing, watch planes land and stress out about my flight.
Nothing out of the ordinary there.
What ended up being out of the ordinary is that my plane was late returning from its previous reservation. Things like this happen, but in the 30 minutes delay, I became more and more worried that I wasn't going to have a plane, and wasn't going to get to fly. The stress of a solo flight is something I'm used to, but the stress of not flying is not something I want to accomodate myself to, especially so close to my checkride.
Fortunately my plane arrived, and I walked down to the flight line to preflight.
The usual pre-flight complete, I squeezed myself into the cockpit of 738VU and started tuning my chair for the optimal position.
Was it three notches back on the ground track, or two? I can't remember. When I pull myself too close, the yoke hits me in my gangly legs when I put a full left or right aileron deflection in. Three notches back, and I feel like the panel is too far away from me. Perhaps the seat-back isn't far enough forward.
The Ugly Duckling didn't have any knobs on the seat, only forward and reverse, simple. This plane is weird; I can't seem to get comfortable. I wonder if this will affect my ability to manuever effectively.
The things I worry about prior to a solo flight.
I pump the primer three times, shout out the open window "clear prop!", count to three and then turn the key. 738VU growls but doesn't catch for a few seconds, until I start pumping the throttle. I catch it and bring it back to 1000rpm, and then continue with my Engine Start Checklist.
This panel still feels like it's too far away from me.
Engine Start Checklist complete, I call up Ground:
"Hayward Ground, Seven-three-eight Victor-Uniform at the green ramp with Papa, request taxi to Two-eight Left."
Cleared to taxi, I start putting my way towards 28L to perform my run-up.
Everything looking good, I roll up to hold short line, call Tower and lower the flaps to ten degrees for my soft-field take-off.
Turning right over the golf course, I head towards the Mount Diablo practice area. As I depart Hayward's airspace, I call up NorCal Approach to request traffic advisory service before I perform my practice.
By the time I arrived over San Ramon, the mild turbulence in the air made itself known. Climbing towards 5000ft for my work, I become aware of the clouds scattered over the area and arrest my ascent around 4000ft.
Starting through the practice program my instructor and I put together with slow flight, I work to keep wings level with the wind bouncing me around. Pleased with my slow flight, I work a couple power-off stalls.
Stalls straight-ahead don't worry me too much anymore, even with the wind. The most disconcerting part of the power-off stalls was that I don't think I ever heard the stall warning horn, I just felt the buffet and decided to recover.