Twice, I have had to postpone my stagecheck for one reason or another. Before leaving for vacation, I had scheduled the event, but a tropical storm came close enough that there was way too much wind and far too many thunderstorms to make the stage check safe. Yes, even instrument flights have to be canceled due to weather every once in a while.
Last weekend, I had to reschedule with a different instructor because the Chief Instructor had some family business to attend to. Again, we had a problem with weather--this time it was a full fledged hurricane - Hurricane Dennis. Although Dennis passed well to the west of us, the squall lines of thunderstorms that fed the storm passed directly overhead and we had some significant weather. Nevertheless, I went to the airport and spent some time with the Assistant Chief Instructor completing the oral portion of my stage check. We decided that the weather would be challenging but would be acceptable, but by the time we were ready to go, we did not have enough time left in the session before the ACI's next student. Consequently, I had to reschedule for the following weekend - yesterday.
I'm not a morning person, but for this, I let the sun awaken me at 6:30 am (ON A SATURDAY!). I had completed my flight prep the night before and had filed an instrument flight plan for a round robin from CRG passing over VQQ, Cecil field, a former Naval Air Station.
I got to the airport about 7:30 and found two other folks waiting for the doors to open. Apparently, they didn't know that for early flights, the school leaves the flight bags in the fuel office at the adjoining FBO. I figured I could get my preflight done before the instructor arrived.
Checking with the fuel guys, I found that my bag was not there, so I conducted my preflight using the checklist that has been burned into my memory. Everything was working fine, but I still wanted to add a quart of oil. The engine had about 6 1/4 quarts according to the dipstick, but at 7:45 am, I was already dripping sweat, so having something closer to 8 quarts in the engine would aid cooling. I figured the engine could use all the help it could get.
Walking in through the hanger, I discovered that the ACI had just arrived and he let me in to the office. After a quick check of my files, we returned to the airplane and began our preparations for the flight.
I got situated with kneeboards on each leg--I know, overkill, right? I don't think so. The left board is a velcro board and I can stick my portable GPS and my Sporty's E6B on that side. This puts a nice programmable timer/flight computer at my fingertips. On the left leg, I have my scratchpad where I can write clearances and instructions, etc. It also holds charts and has a clipboard where I can stick my approach plates.
I briefed the instructor telling him to "keep his hands and feet inside the ride at all times and use his seatbelt." I also stated that in the event of a major emergency, we would use positive control handoff and I would ask him to save us as he was the more experienced pilot.
I then fired up the engine, made a few adjustments to the throttle and mixture, then activated the avionics panel. Tuning the ATIS, we got information Mike - no wind almost and 30.13" Hg. The skies were nice and clear with no adverse weather forecast until after 2pm. I then tuned and identified the ILS at CRG and the VOR. I conducted a VOR check tuning both NAVs to the CRG VOR on 114.5. All ok. I then tuned clearance delivery and announced that 512MA was ready to copy. I was given clearance as filed told to climb to 2000' and expect 4000 in 10 minutes. I was also told to contact JAX Approach on 118.0 after takeoff and squawk 5533. After receiving confirmation that my readback was correct, I tuned 118.0 as the standby frequency on one radio and tuned the ground control freq, 121.8 on the other. We could hear the clearance delivery controller giving another pilot a hard time, so that meant the same controller was running the clearance delivery and the ground control frequencies.
It seems a little odd to me that Craig Airport needs both a clearance delivery frequency and a ground control frequency since it is the same controller who usually handles both frequencies. This airport got a clearance radio a few months before the superbowl came to Jacksonville, and I'd bet that has something to do with it. I really don't think we need it. Maybe the guys who work the radios think differently.
Anyway, I made a courtesy call to the ground controller and then told him I was at Sky Harbor with Mike, and requested taxi for departure. He cleared me to taxi to 23 and off I went.
I asked the ACI if he wanted to check the brakes and he said no. So I continued my taxi on towards the runup area between the intersection of 23 and 32. As the windsock was totally limp, I didn't have to worry too much about which direction I was facing, so I pointed the tail to the grassy area that runs parallel to 23, locked the brakes and began my runup.
Following my checklist carefully, I made sure to touch every item. After I checked the magnetos, Tim asked, "what are we looking for on the magneto check?" I answered, "A drop of no more than 150 on a side and a difference of no more than 75 rpm on the tach." He said that was the answer he always gets and he doesn't know why. The corect answer is a drop of no more than 175 with a difference of no more than 50. He even pulled out the POH to show me. Ok, chalk one up for the instructor.
I had my radios tuned and was about to start, when I caught myself. I told Tim, that I neglected to mention that the turn coordinator and heading indicator were registering properly on the taxi. I also took the time to tune 118.0 on the standby frequency after the tower.
So then I pulled up towards the holdshort - Tim said I could use the Foxtrot intersection--but I usually use Charlie which is at the end of the runway since I was not specifically told to go to 23 at Foxtrot. Nevertheless, I called the tower and announced 512MA was ready to go 23 at Foxtrot. I stopped well short of the hold short, and the tower asked me to pull all the way up - there was a KingAir trying to squeeze in behind me. Aha! should have used Charlie!
The tower asked me to hold short while he pulled my clearance and after a few seconds, he cleared me for takeoff, climb to 2000 and turn to 270. Lights, camera, action and showtime--Landing lights, transponder, throttle and mark time on my watch. Off we went.
I called airspeed alive as we rolled and pulled the nose up at 55. We left the ground shortly after that and I pushed the nose down to keep us in ground effect until the airspeed reached our climbout speed of 79 knots. Then it was about 15 degrees nose up and we were off.
...the rest follows in the next post...