Today I went up with Matt to determine my readiness to solo. I got to the airport a few minutes before 8 am, and spoke to Matt and a few other instructors. I told them that all I wanted to get straight in my mind was how to know when and where to round out and flare. The answer- "Transition your eyes from your aiming point to all the way down to the end of the runway." (Could it be that easy? I've only heard that from Matt a hundred times...)
So out we go to fly. High overcast and haze, only 5 miles visibility. But good enough to fly! So out to my favorite plane, N2135S, where we had an easy pre-flight, run-up and takeoff on runway 4. We stayed in the pattern for three touch and goes before heading out to practice pre-solo maneuvers.
The verdict: "Best landing you've ever done." Wow. Could it be that easy? Oh, it wasn't perfect, by any means. Too far left of center line, and the approach was less than optimal. But very good, according to Matt. All three were good to very good, although still too far left of center and need more work on the round-out and flare. But SO much better than they've been, and according to Matt, "Good enough to solo. Nothing wrong with those landings. You could make them better, of course...." (Of course.)
Departed runway 4 and paralleled I-985 at 2,500 feet. Seven minutes of easy, comfortable and smooth flying (thank you, Lord) until we came to Matt's favorite water tower where we could practice flying around a fixed object (the water tower) with a crosswind, plus having a relatively safe place to land should the engine fail (since we were only at 2,500 feet.) Did great. Next, climbed to 4,500 feet (safer altitude) while we flew a few miles to the west and did S-turns to the left and right using a power line below as a reference point. Not as great, but perfectly acceptable. Finally, power-off stall (no problem) and power-on stall (also no problem).
Finally, Matt orders a steep turn to the left, then to the right- a challenge, considering how HAZY it is outside-- hard to do those maneuvers without a clear horizon to keep in your eye- so I had to rely more heavily on straight instruments. Again, not perfect, but good.
So then fearless leader turns off my multi-function display (MFD) that shows where we were in relation to the airport (of course) and says, "Fly us home." So I headed back to the southeast looking for the airport and for I-985. Found I-985, couldn't find the airport- so I did a 360 to the left, and there she was- pretty as a picture. Aha! I dropped my power so I could lose altitude, entered the pattern at 2,300 feet, called my downwind leg and made perfectly acceptable full-stop landing, taxied down to the fuel farm and we parked the plane on the grass so we could go in and get a Coke (bio break!).
Fifteen minutes of relaxing, then back into the air for two more landings- one touch and go, one full stop. Number one was fine, but I didn't like number two and did a go-around. Number three was one of my best- and for the first time, I was RIGHT, not LEFT of center line. My next goal: landings on the center line, and center line ONLY. Flying is all about continuous improvements, and that's the next one I've GOT to make.
The score today- Almost two hours of takeoffs, landings, maneuvers. "Ok," says Matt. "Let's aim for a solo this Wednesday." That's two days from now. Can't wait.