Sunday, August 07, 2005

Cart, then horse.

I'm not sure how to feel about that last flight. I'm wondering if I should be smiling or tearing my hair out. Mr. C and I were scheduled for 6pm this evening.

After a thorough preflight briefing, we headed up to Luray Caverns. Well, first we wandered all over, but not by design. The briefing had covered just about everything we could possibly cover that might be necessary for letting him accomplish the navigation without help. But the execution bore no resemblance to the original plan.

This is among the simplest navigational flights to make. Take off, then point the plane northeast. See that lone mountain sitting there directly in front of you, and all by itself? Point to it. Veer slightly right so it is off your left. Fly next to it for a few minutes, until getting next to the only road that actually crosses the mountain. Look down.

Here is a Google map aerial view. Home airport is near the bottom left of the screen. That isolated mountain that goes northeast is the one to find. Luray is right next to it. I don't claim to have been the best student ever, but I found it on my first try. I had no difficulty finding that one mountain. From there, everything is easy to find.

Instead of making it a really simple flight though, Mr. C. had to complicated everything. He couldn't decide what altitude to fly. He had forgotten to set his directional gyro to match the compass. He couldn't remember that we had needed to be right of the mountain, not left. Essentially, throw away the entire 30 minutes of preflight briefing, and we'd have done just as well, I think. All that talk about planning ahead for the next radio frequency, forgotten.

The first time I take a student there or New Market, I can usually expect some confusion, especially if the wind favors a runway that uses right turns instead of the standard left. Mr. C did not disappoint, in that respect. He got confused, forgot 90% of his checklist as he normally does, turned base way too early, and set us up to be about 600 feet too high. Naturally, that required a go-around. The second time, I had to talk him through it again, and tell him when to turn base. Then he managed to be right about where he needed to be. After stopping and taxiing back, we took off, and stayed in the pattern for another try. This time, still with my help remember how to descend and slow down, he managed the actual flare and touchdown unassisted. That was his first.

I always figured he would learn that part quickly enough. I knew from the outset that his trouble was going to come from always being in way too big a hurry. I had to reiterate that many times today. He wants to get everything done quickly, but he hasn't been bothered enough to actually learn which leg of the approach is which, or how to enter, or any of that.

It continues to be a struggle trying to teach him these things. Next lesson, we go back to the maneuvers and work on stalls and steep turns again. I think he has just enough control now to actually manage them, if he focuses.

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