On Thursday last week I spent an hour in the circuit with an instructor I had never flown with before in order to shake things up for myself and see if I couldn't pull myself out of that mental block on my flare. Things started to improve slightly, and I ended a lesson without wanting to scream at myself. We went back to basics, and he explained the entire process as though I was brand new to it. This allowed me to clear my mind out a little and look at it as a fresh start. All we did was circuits to work on the flare - we didn't even bother with anything else. By the end of the lesson I could practically feel my confidence poking its head out of the deep pit it's been digging itself into the past few weeks.
I spent the rest of the week and weekend at the airport learning more of the ins and outs of my job, and simply enjoying being around the airplanes. Having made friends with some of the Air Canada employees, they will sometimes take me to see the planes - so far my favourite has been the Airbus330. It goes on forever and ever, and there is enough room in the flight deck to make up a camp bed and go to sleep! It has been a really long time since I have been on a wide-bodied aircraft, and the last time I had the chance I didn't full appreciate it as my interest in aviation had not yet taken hold. However the A330 could soon be eclipsed in my mind - one of the baggage agents has promised to take me to the Boeing 767 next time he and I work together, and I can hardly wait!
This afternoon I had a flying lesson with the assistant chief instructor, which killed two birds with one stone - I was able to get my Supervisor flight out of the way, and got to get yet another perspective on the landing situation. Compared to the last couple of weeks, I felt like a completely different person. I felt significantly more confident and capable, and really got back to enjoying myself instead of allowing stress to cloud my mind.
The instructor took me to the South Field right away, and we did most of my touch and gos on runway 25. The real benefit on a 7,000ft runway is that a little Cessna can easily get a couple of take-off and landings before running out of tarmac. Coming in behind a B737 made me a little nervous about possible wake-turbulence, but we managed to avoid the worst of it. Judging my approaches felt much easier, and I had finally managed to score a day with pretty calm winds, which allowed me to focus on the flare. I followed the instructor's direction to look back and forth between the runway and the airspeed indicator, and my brain piped up and said "take a couple of glances out the left side of the plane too". So with my glancing to the runway and my instruments and then a few quick side looks, I finally managed to touch down quite gently, first on one wheel, then the second, and finally the nosegear. Success!
The instructor also had a go at that little trick My Instructor attempted with me last week, only I was too frazzled, totally botched it and completely missed the point. We got the plane into a landing attitude over the runway, and then he added a little bit of power and then reduced it to idle so gently I barely noticed. He told me to not allow the plane to land no matter what happened, telling me that the point of the exercise was to stay in the flared attitude so I could see how it should look. Despite my best efforts, the plane would not remain airborne, and sank onto the runway. However my struggling to keep it off of the ground turned it into gentle touchdown on the rear wheels - my best landing yet. Completely failing to see the point, I cursed and apologized for messing up and not being able to keep the plane off the ground when told to, which caused the instructor to laugh at me and said I had done perfectly and that the real point was to land exactly as I had done.
I kind of laughed and nodded my head at the time, but it's only been really since I sat down to write this entry that my brain finally did the math and it clicked. That's how I need to go about landing a plane. Ooooooh. I feel like yelling out "duh", but that little lightbulb just switched on and now it seems so obvious! I was tricked into a good landing, and now (twelve hours after the fact) I understand how to do it again! Now I'm laughing at how dense I can be at times, and am itching to try it again. Unfortunately I probably won't have a chance until mid next week some time! This is likely to drive me nuts. Why does my life have to include things that aren't flying which suck up all of my time? Like working? And sleeping?
After several more successful touch and gos we called it a day and headed back to the club where I spent some time studying. I am taking my PSTAR test tomorrow, and hopefully the other two pre-solo exams I need to write next week some time. The evening consisted of my first ground school lesson. It felt surprisingly good to be back in a classroom setting again, and after all of the introductory information about getting the PPL, we got into a little bit about the theory of flight. None of it was really news to me, except a little bit about how the reduced pressure above the wing pulls it upwards finally made sense. But it was like my sub-conscious knew exactly what to do, and all of a sudden I had several pages of notes. "Education? Oh yeah, I remember how to do that!"
I get the feeling that I am really going to enjoy having ground school every week. Reading and homework assignments and classes and tests! Who would have thought that a year and a half after finishing up my degrees I would be enthusiastic about homework again? I'm excited to get to work, but want to get my pre-solo tests out of the way before ground school thieves my attention span.
This weekend I shall banish aviation from my mind (a bit) and allow the girly side to take over as I head to Toronto for my darling Pocket Venus' wedding. I get to wear dresses and stilettos (and I hope I get this giant oil stain from the engine off my arm before the wedding) and get my hair done. Glee!