Right Seat Proficient: A Very Good Idea2:05 PM
She has always asked me what we'd do here and there if the engine quit, or where my emergency landing strips were for some random portion of a flight. But the question always remained that if I should suddenly go off to fly with Lindbergh and Papa Louie in flight, how would she get the plane back on Earth and remain alive. As I am not a CFI, I could not ever get her to take step one towards learning how to control an airplane to a safe emergency landing...but I knew that lesson must be taught some day.
After an hour sitting in Katy on the ground working with radios and developing a plan for harnessing my dead weight (pardon the pun) to the seat keeping me off the yoke, Jim grabbed the left seat and Julie took her co-pilot's position in the right. After the instructor flew us out to the practice area, Jim had Julie begin flying some graceful turns. Maybe it was her 45+ years as a ballet dancer, but when I say "graceful turns", I am not kidding. After some initial adjustments to Katy's interesting way of sometimes making the yokes appear in a left bank while in level flight or even a right bank (usually a fuel/weight offset or crosswind situation), Julie quickly figured things out and was soon driving 27W around the sky like a student pilot with five or more hours in the book. But she had only about 10 minutes...quite impressive from my vantage point in Katy's back seat, which was far more comfortable than I expected.
After flying us towards Corvallis, OR with precision and with Jim acting as "ATC", Julie was able to spot the airport at a good distance away, and flew us right over the ramp at CVO. As we headed back to Eugene for landing, things got a little more interesting. Jim was squeezing into this first lesson everything but an ILS approach to minimums, and even had Julie pulling and adding power (using the digital tach as a guide) to maintain a sweet rate of descent. But without explaining that as a CFI he would have complete control of the plane on landing, there was a bit of misunderstanding as we headed towards runway 16R at EUG. The instructor had the plane fully in control, but the student didn't know he did, so she wasn't sure exactly what she was required to do. Flare? Stomp on the rudders? Power off, or power on? Even on rollout, Jim had the plane, but Julie found herself in a situation where she thought she was supposed to somehow determine how to slow us down as we blasted swiftly down the runway after a no-flaps, high speed arrival. This was the moment when panic could have set in for this first-time student pilot, but, it did not.