Worked on landings, again, staying entirely in the traffic pattern. Did better than the last time, for two reasons: one, the wind was almost nil rather than a gusty crosswind, and two, I have more flights in recent memory and can better tell when I'm high/low/fast/slow further out in the approach.
On the other hand, I'm still forgetting things I should remember ("Carb heat. Carb heat. You're in approach.") and I'm still having trouble flying the airplane all the way down to the runway. My approaches were better, which means I was 'cleaner, later', but in most cases I still got sloppy, jerky and panicky right at touchdown, once I'd made the runway numbers. I had said, last daylog, that I thought it was 'ground panic.' I've revised that, a bit. It is, to some degree, ground panic. But that's mostly indirect, and what ground panic is doing is exacerbating what I guess I should call Stall Panic.
On my landings, I haven't even gotten stall warning horn until final flare-out. This indicates that I still have a comfortable airspeed margin before stall; indeed, on one case I did get the warning horn because I'd ballooned high due to a wind gust, and my instructor shoved the yoke forward and the horn went away - showing me that I had room I wasn't using to correct my flight even this late in the landing. I had been frozen into 'imminent touchdown' when the airplane floated.
That's my problem. I'm not flying the airplane all the way to touchdown, I'm getting to some imaginary point and then 'freezing' myself 'so I don't stall' and waiting for the ground to hit me. BZZZZZT. Fly the airplane all the way down, and don't let the nearness of the ground and the slowness of the airplane stop me from flying the airplane positively. To that end, I've asked my instructor if next hop we can go back to the practice area and putz around in slow flight for a while, just so I get used to flying the airplane with the stall horn going, proving to my monkey brain that even with the stall horn going you can maintain altitude if you want just by adding a bit of power. That way, I'll know instinctively that I retain control of the airplane no matter how low and slow it is, and hopefully I'll be less prone to freeze up.
On another note, my instructor yanked my engine while I was on a left downwind for the runway, and first I panicked and tried to set up on a field somewhere out ahead of me and then, when he said "Uh, why not land at the airport?" I panicked again and turned base/final way way way too early, ending up too high to land and not high enough to correct or go around. Sigh. Again, this is the kind of thing where if landings had reached the point where they're something fun I do trying to get as good a landing as possible, rather than something I treat as a critical test of my competency (which I'm failing, still), then I probably would have had no problem.
I tell myself that this is the third time I've flown an airplane in 20 years. It took ten to twelve hours, that first time, before I could land the airplane with any confidence. But I'm older, now, and I'm worried that I'm feeling that loss of the invincibility of youth. I'm no longer immortal. Does that mean I'm not going to be able to fly the airplane in the tight flight regimes necessary without being tentative and second-guessing myself (lethally bad idea)? I hope not. We'll see. I tell myself that this flight, my landings *were* better.
My instructor is a young guy, in his mid-twenties at max, I'd say. I'm wondering if he isn't really able to comprehend just how long it's been since I flew - if he sees my logbook and thinks 'his last flight this wasn't a problem' instead of thinking 'his last flight, I was 5 years old.' Heh.
I'm much heavier, and this is a problem. I don't have full range of free and easy motion inside the airplane. I really, really have to start working out and get on my diet. I have shoes. I have a book. I have a YMCA nearby. I have the time. Apparently I don't have the discipline, yet. But I swear, I'm getting there.