Today we did more check-ride practice. There was frost all over the place this morning, but since I'd reserved the airplane for 9 AM, they'd helpfully moved 12732 into the hangar and left the oil heater plugged in all night. The oil heater keeps the oil nice and warm so you don't end up trying to start an engine whose oil is the consistency of sticky tar - while it will probably work, it lowers life expectancy, so oil heaters are a Nice To Have if you're going to fly in winter. Using a multigrade oil will make things better, but a heater makes them better still.
I did the preflight in the hangar (out of the breeze, which was chilly!) other than fuel ops, disconnected the oil heater and recoiled the cable, and handed it over to the FBO operator who used the golf cart to tow it over to the fuel pumps. Fueled it, and right as I was coiling up the hoses, my CFI ambled out and we got in.
Did startup, taxied out with a brake check, and did the runup. I was getting ready to back-taxi when he stopped me. "Okay, the examiner is going to want a preflight briefing. Specifically, he's going to want to know what your plan is if the engine quits while on the runway; if it quits during initial climbout, or if it quits at or above 1000 feet. For on the runway, you're just going to move the throttle to idle and use the brakes to stop the airplane. If it quits during initial climbout, you're going to put the airplane down on a flat spot ahead of you, avoiding The Impossible Turn. Above 1000, you're going to decide; you might have enough height to make the near end of the runway, and you'll definitely have the height to use fields farther out to the right or left."
"Ah, OK. Roger. On runway, idle and brake; during climbout, flat spot ahead; at 1000 or up, will decide if I can make the near end of the runway, or use a field out to right or left."
He nodded, so I announced and back-taxied. We departed and climbed to 3000, then he directed me to go into slow flight, clean. I made two clearing turns (right and left) and then entered slow flight by pulling power to idle, adding carb heat, and maintaining altitude as the airplane slowed. As we passed through 65 knots, I added in a bit more power as the nose kept pitching up, until I had the airplane stable with the stall horn sounding intermittently and the altitude steady within 50 feet of 3000. "3000, slow flight, stable at three six zero."
"Great. Give me a left turn to, oh, two two zero."
"Two two zero." I banked gently left, checked the turn coordinator - with the airplane slow and holding altitude with power, I was having to keep my right foot firmly in it to keep the ball centered. Rather than using left rudder, I was able to just lessen my right rudder pressure to keep the left bank coordinated. We slowly came around, the horn mournfully bleating perhaps half the time. I added a bit of power to compensate for the vertical lift component lost to the bank, and we stayed at 3000 feet. "I have two two zero," and rolled the airplane level, adding the right rudder back in.
"Cool. Right back to three six zero."
"Right to three six zero." We went back around to north. "Okay."
"Okay, we're..." he checked- "Yep, still at 3000. Let's add in flaps, ten degrees."
"Roger, flaps." I gave the flap control a three-count and added a bit of power as the nose pitched up farther and the airspeed dropped, giving it a bit of forward pressure to keep the altitude constant. As the airplane steadied in its new, higher-lift and higher-drag configuration (which allowed it to fly slower without stalling, the nose pitched up further) I spun the elevator trim wheel to relieve some of the back pressure I was maintaining. "Ten degrees in."
"Twenty on flaps."
"Twenty of flap, aye aye." Added in another three count. "In."
We went to thirty, he had me make another pair of turns, returning to north, then when we were stable he said "Okay, let's go into a power-off stall."
"Do those two turns count for clearing?"
"Power-off stall it is." I pulled the power out and held the nose up as the speed dropped. As always, I was surprised how long the 172 kept flying, until there was a sudden shudder and the nose pitched forward. I slid the throttle and carb heat control back in, adding full power while taking out carb heat, and as soon as the nose had lifted of its own accord (we still had thirty of flaps in) I started taking flaps out gradually, holding the speed at 80 MPH. As I took the last of the flaps out, I leveled the nose; we were at 2,825 feet. Not bad.
"Okay! Steep turn left and right please."
"Steep turn left. To what heading?"
"Steep turns are always three-sixty. What bank angle are you using, and how are you tracking it?"
I'd rolled into the left bank and added backpressure to compensate. "Forty-five degrees of bank for a steep turn, and I'm using the turn coordinater-" I pointed. "Around here." I poked a spot halfway past the 30-degree angle.
"Okay, that's not your bank angle, that's your turn coordinator's idea of your bank angle."
Derp. "Heh. OK, then I should be using the artificial horizon, I guess." I pointed at that. "These lines up here...?"
"Nope, those aren't the right angle. Use the track lines below the horizon, the first is thirty degrees - standard rate - and the second is forty-five."
"Righto, thanks. OK, holding forty-five." We swung around, and I rolled out on our previous heading, held it for a few seconds, then rolled into a bank the other way, ending up heading north again.
"Okay. Power-on stall."
"Okay, I'm going to slow the airplane at 3000 and then go to full power at around seventy, mimicking a high climbout, and stall from there."
"Sounds good." So I did; got the power back to idle and as the airplane slowed to seventy miles per hour or so, I pitched the nose up high and added full power back in. With full power on, you have to hold the nose really high above the horizon to get a Skyhawk to stall. As I was holding it there, fighting a bit, he chimed in:
"More right rudder, more right...yep, yep, good, hold." The airplane, with full power on, was trying to roll left due to the trinity of P-factor, torque and propwash and as we slowed past climbout speed, the loss of force on the vertical stabilizer meant I was having to really boot it right. Eventually, though, the nose shuddered again and then dropped, turning to the left as it did so, heading towards a spin. I booted it really hard to the right, and as the horizon leveled, I pushed the nose over and held it for a two-count until the speed was back up above seventy, before pulling level. As the speed rose, I brought the nose back up to hold an 80 MPH climb.
"Okay, good. Let's do emergency descents. I don't like them, because they tell us not to shock-cool the engine but then tell us to do these, which shock-cool the engine. So since we were just in a full power climb, let's head out towards somewhere flat at low cruise to cool it off a bit."
I acknowledged and headed out away from the ridge, back towards the west. After a few minutes, he nodded. "Okay, good. So for an emergency descent, go to idle, put in carb heat and pitch for the top of the green arc, around one forty, and maintain that speed. Make some shallow turns as you go down to keep clear of traffic."
"Righto." Did just that. As the speed hit one forty I eased the nose back a bit to keep it there and looked out the windscreen at more earth than I was used to seeing out of a 172. Did a couple of turns, explaining I was looking for traffic - as my CFI had told me, always tell the examiner when you're scanning for traffic so he doesn't have to guess. We pulled out at two thousand feet and I brought the nose up, waiting for the speed to drop before adding power so it wouldn't climb again. As I was getting ready to add it back, my CFI reached over and pulled it back to full idle. "You've just lost the engine."
"Okay. Pitching for 80 MPH, best glide." Did that. "I'm too far from the airport, and the ground is at around four hundred out here, so I only have sixteen..." I looked around. "Okay, there's a good field out at around our one two zero, two miles..."
"There's a pretty big one right below us. Would that work?"
Damn it. I always get caught by that. I'm too big to see well at high angles down out of the airplane, and I hadn't been tracking the fields around during the emergency descent, which meant I'd been spending too much time watching dials. "Okay, that'll work..." I turned the airplane so I could see it. "That's dirt, and I want to land at a ninety-degree from our current path to land with the furrows, so I'm going to fly a right turn because there's another field to our left, so that way if I miss the first one I have a second shot."
"Good. What else?"
"Okay, now that I have a plan, try for a restart. Adding carb heat-" did- "and checking fuel selector valve, magnetos and primer lock. Trying to restart."
"Nope. Going to blip it to keep us going, ignore this." He did, giving the engine a quick shot of throttle to make sure it didn't cool too far and quit.
"Okay, then it's time to communicate - if I'm talking to someone on the radio, tell them, otherwise, 121.5 and announce."
"What's the squawk code?"
"7700. 7500 for hijack, 7600 for NORDO." I kept around in the turn, not wanting to get too far out from the field, and we came around. "Okay, I'm a bit high but I can still make this, and I can definitely make the next field if I decide to right *now* to avoid the treeline between them. At this point, I'm going to shut off the fuel selector, shut off ignition, and leave the master up until I'm done with flaps. Uh, I'd be briefing passengers to open their door and leave it open so it doesn't bind; and check seatbelts and harnesses are full tight. Okay, we're getting low-" we were, around 500 feet- "so I'm going to add flaps and slip a bit to make the first field..."
"Okay, you can have the engine back, let's go around."
Whew. "Okay." Put power in, climbed out. "Where to?"
"Let's head back and do landings. I want to try a forward slip to land, no flaps."
"Sure." I headed generally south, made a traffic announcement and brought us in to the traffic pattern. When the time came to pull power, I said "We have a bit of a crosswind."
"Right. So which way are you gonna bank for the forward slip?"
"Into the wind, which will be a right bank."
We came around to base, then final, with me making radio calls. I was pitching for the speeds I wanted, but that meant I was pretty high - I hadn't extended the pattern to allow for this. I tried to go into the forward slip, but I was having trouble; my CFI showed me- "Rudder first, full left rudder, then use right bank, variable, to hold course." He did so, and I kept my hands on until we were in and he gave me back the airplane.
"Okay, I see. But we're still fast, now..."
"Yeah, we're still at ninety."
"Going around." I added power and announced the missed approach, going around. "Okay, let's do that again." I set it up a second time, and this time pulled more power sooner. When we ended up on final I still had some trouble getting into the slip, but eventually had us on course for the runway with full left rudder on and bank correction.
"We're still a bit fast and high..."
"No," I said, this time definitely, "We're at seventy MPH, so we're just a bit high, and I think we can do it."
"Okay, your airplane."
Since he hadn't disagreed, I gathered that that had been a test, too. I held it until we were fifteen feet or so off the ground, then let the rudder out and eased off the bank. The crosswind pushed me to the left side of the runway - "Centerline's over there, pal." Gave him a half-sorrowful, half dirty look and used the nosewheel to steer us back onto the centerline. "Yep."
We stopped in good time, although we used the far taxiway exit, and trundled back in to the ramp. "Hey, a pull-through spot! It's the little things." We laughed.
As we shut down, he said "Okay, stalls were great, steep turns were great once you figured out the instrument, descent was fine. Emergency procedures a little wobbly but we would have made it and you hit all the required points. "
"I need to work on forward slips."
"Yeah, we haven't done those in a long time. Give those a go next week; by then we'll have the maintenance logs and you can start filling out the paperwork for the checkride application. Oh, and we'll go over diversions, since he's going to throw one at you."
"Okay! See you next week."