It was October 2004. I was flying a mid-70s vintage Cessna 172 from Paris, Texas, to Houston. I had received my Private pilot ticket about three months prior. There was not a cloud in the sky, winds were out of the south at about 12 knots; temperature on the ground was about 73 F. It was an absolutely beautiful day and perfect for flying; the kind of day that those of us who have the deep passion for flying clamor for. Just enjoying the scenery and the calm peacefulness that this sport imparts.
Though I had been officially checked out in the Cessna, all of my training and most of my 90+ hours (at that point) had been in a Piper Warrior. The Warrior, as is the case for most airplanes, does not have a carburetor temperature indicator, but the Cessna did. Consequently, I had not made this instrument a part of my regular scan. And the fact it was way over to the right on the panel, out of sight, did not help.
When I reached 7700 agl, on my way to 8000, the engine sputtered and choked-exactly as my instructor had indicated I might someday experience. At that altitude, the OAT was approx 1-2 deg F. Obviously I had encountered carburetor icing. To that point, this anomaly had always been simulated.
Immediately, I pulled the carb heat control and just as quickly as it came the problem was corrected-the engine was running just as smoothly as it had been before. This second-nature act was a routine that I attribute 100 percent to the training I received through repeated simulations with my instructor.
As luck would have it, this occurred directly over a small regional airport. Wanting to be sure, I landed at that airport and had the local mechanic have a look at it. When we were both sure that the only problem was carb ice, I took off and for the remainder of the trip stayed at 2500 ft., keeping a close eye on the carb temp indicator.
I learned several things that day. First and most obviously, be sure you are familiar with all of the functions of the aircraft you are flying. Second, dont panic. Theres usually a logical correction to the problem. Third, rely on the training you received. It cost you a lot of money and time, so use it.
And among other things, dont let your enjoyment of flying distract you from your important duties as PIC.
I was flying to Seneca Falls, N.Y., at 10 p.m. on Saturday night. I flipped on one of my two landing lights-it didnt work. The other one was inop, and I hadnt fixed it before I left. Soon I was less than a mile from the threshold. I had already announced my position on the CTAF, so I flipped back to the approach frequency, just in case. About 10 feet off the runway, the lights go out!
I frantically click the mic seven times and nothing happens-Im on the wrong frequency. So I held the Super Cub steady and pulled the nose up a little when I thought I was about to touch down. I was a few seconds too early, but the landing wasnt bad-I have done worse in the daytime.
When about five miles out, click the lights off and then on again-youll have plenty of time to land. When a landing light burns out, get it fixed.