Yesterday was my second to last flight lesson before the check ride.
We started out as usual running through the check ride maneuvers. I still wish I were doing better so I was solidly in the passing range rather than just barely. For example, on steep turns, you have to keep the bank +- 5 degrees, your altitude +- 100 feet, and airspeed within some other bound. For one, on my steep turns, I pay too much attention to the instruments, which have some latency, and not enough to the attitude picture out the window, which provides much more immediate feedback. After practicing for a bit, I got one steep turn decent, but the other one, I still dropped down to 90ft below my starting altitude.
We did some hood work (simulated instruments), and once I got to take the blinder goggles off, I was expecting to get told to find where I was as we did previous times. Instead, my instructor pulled the power and told me my engine had just quit. In this case, the obvious place to land was a small dingy looking airport. I didn't recognize it at all. However, since finding myself was not the problem at hand, I ignored that problem and concentrated on going through the engine out check list. I ended up being too chicken to give up altitude and was way high on final. I slipped as well as I could, but I still ended up using most of the 3000 ft runway. Not great for an emergency landing. We fueled up and headed back out.
We did some radio work, and then I was directed to head home. Not too long afterwards, gee my engine quit again. This time there was no airport around, just various fields and woods. Picking a field is hard. Harder yet is getting to it. I think we might have died or suffered serious injury that time. We did a go around and climbed back up to altitude. From there, we headed back towards home. Except my instructor pulled the throttle again. I did better at field selection and reaching it. I forget the sequence after that, but eventually my instructor gave up on pretending we were actually going directly home. I had some attempts where I picked decent fields but did terribly at getting to them. I had other fields I picked badly but mostly got to them. I was usually being too high, that or over correcting and flying too far away trying to loose altitude. I did finally get one that would have been a safe landing. So we headed home.
Except, just about in range of the airport the engine quit again. I was way too high, so I tried doing S turns. Then I ended up too far away. Try number two, I climbed back up altitude again and my instructor pulled power again. I think you're supposed to practice engine outs as surprises, but at this point the element of surprise was long since gone. It might be a clue when your instructor says "climb like your life depends on it." This time I did better. We possibly would have hit the trees at the end of the runway, but there probably wouldn't have been injuries. My instructor decided to take pity on me and demonstrate an engine out, so he flew the airplane back around and I got to pull the power on him. His approach was not radically different than mine, but he had a better idea of what glide slope he needed to be on. We landed and then debated whether I wanted to go out and try one more time. I could tell I was tired, and was shortly going to start flying worse, but I wanted to try it while I had my instructor's example fresh on my mind. So we went out again. And this time I managed to land the airplane.
All those engine outs were really a challenge. There were a few moments when it got frustrating, but most of the time it was just within reach and a fun puzzle to figure out.
* note for any of you concerned, the actual procedure for the simulated engine failures is that the throttle gets set to idle, the pilot tries to land in the safest place possible. If the site is a runway and the approach looks safe, they may land, otherwise about 100ft above the ground the pilot applies full throttle and heads back up.