My flight school does have a check you have to go on before the cross country solo flights, which I took last week and it went so much better than my first checkout, the pre-solo one, remember? I've been feeling so good about flying lately. I feel like that song in Chicago, where Roxy is suddenly in a world full of YES. A lot of the stuff I was quizzed on is book-smart rules stuff, and since I just studied for my written I was good at it. I could rattle off a hundred obscure chart symbols.
And in the air, I finally get some credit/benefit from my years of avionics experience. I know how a VOR works and what the different autopilot modes do. I know all the weird random G1000 screens. Hell, in the airplane I got in yesterday, the time was set to local daylight savings even though daylight savings ended a week ago. People have just been flying it all week just going with it. I did the next pilot a good deed by setting us right.
Not to say I'm a total rockstar yet... on my checkout, I forgot the pre-landing "GUMPS" checklist twice which I feel really stupid about. It's such a beginner thing. You do it before starting any descent below pattern altitude, I've done it a million times, so... arg. It basically consists of making sure the fuel is coming from both fuel tanks, fuel mixture is fully rich, everybody has seat belts on, landing and taxi lights are on... THEN LAND. And when we get to the "U" in GUMPS which stands for "undercarriage" we say "gear fixed" just to show that we can think about a landing gear... someday I might be in an airplane where I really don't want to land gear up. Right now I'm in an airplane where it doesn't go up, but they want the thought in your head early.
Anyhow back to yesterday... the weather was incredible. Barely 8 knots of wind lined up almost perfectly with the runway, no clouds for 25,000 feet. In Kansas this has to be a sign of the apocalypse. But since "apocalypse" isn't a factor in determining VFR weather minimums, I was off. I flew 30 minutes out to Pratt, landed, taxied off the runway and sent my instructor a text message to say I'd made it. Then I came home.
On the way home I was supposed to open my flight plan... I did "flight following" on the way out there, which is where you talk to someone in Kansas City who watches out for you. If you file a flight plan they don't really watch out for you per se, but they will go out looking for you if you don't show up at your destination when you're supposed to.
Which happened to me. Little mixup there. I was running about 30 minutes behind schedule, and when I took off from Pratt and opened the flight plan I figured they'd notice I was behind and change the times for me. That's not how it works, I learned. When I got home and called them up to close the flight plan they said it was already closed because "search and rescue called Wichita tower to make sure you were back." I paused for a minute.
"Am I in trouble?"
No, he said just make sure I extend the flight plan (or be very clear about what time I was off my departure point, which I knew I was supposed to do, just didn't get it out). ughhh. Next time.
The other bad thing was right after takeoff, flight service told me to "contact flight watch" on a frequency, so I did. Told them who I was and that I was enroute to Wichita. They were like, "Okay, what did you want from us?" Oh hell I don't know... I barely know what flight watch is, I just thought I was supposed to contact them. I took a stab and said, "Traffic advisories?" They don't do that. Well crap. So now I have something to research this week.
But seriously, if the worst thing I do on a flight is make an ass of myself over some radios I call it a good flight. I made two safe landings, accurately calculated my fuel requirements, and always knew where I was. I got to watch the sun start to set behind me on the way home, the sky was big and pink and the angle of the light made all the little creeks shimmer. From up there, nothing was wrong with the world. I'll take it.