I talked to the A&P yesterday about the idle problem that grounded me over the weekend, and he agreed that it made sense to try to lean the idle mixture a wee bit. That's as easily done as said, for a (welcome) change, involving only a small twist to an almost-accessible knob (not so) conveniently placed on the very back of the carburetor. A half turn was sufficient and a quick engine run confirmed that the problem was solved. I also got some of the small remaining things done, like replacing the batteries in the ELT and taking care of the paperwork.
Tonight I was able to get the assistance of co-pilot Rick to aid in the ever-difficult replacing of the cowls on the airplane. I've gotten better at it over time, but it will never be anything remotely like easy. And fun? Well, that's right out, mate. In any event, it only took an hour or so to make my last minute look around the engine and its associated bits and get the cowls back on. It was only a little after 7:30 when we finished, and the conditions were as good as they were ever going to get for a test flight: 4 knots wind precisely and exactly down the runway, high clouds, and great visibility.
I'm always a tad nervous on the first flight after an annual, but it was ever more stressful tonight in that this would be my first time flying since March 1st. Almost by definition, there should be no better pre-flighted airplane than one just released from annual, but as intuitive as it sounds, I don't personally believe it. I walked around and verified for the umpteenth time that every piece that had been removed had also been returned to its former position. Airplane parts make great desk decorations, but their only real utility is realized by actually placing them on or in an airplane.
The engine started quite easily as is its wont, which was unsurprising because it had just been run last night. The tower was closed, so there were no more delaying tactics to be found - I taxied down to the runway. I ran the engine up a little harder and longer than usual, and went through the mag checks twice. Everything was in order, so I took the runway and pushed the throttle gently to full power. The engine ran up smoothly, with no burbling or lagging that would indicate that the idle mixture was not correctly set. With the wind being a complete non-factor, the takeoff roll was smooth and straight, and afforded me ample opportunity to check the various engine pressure and temperature gauges to ensure that everything was moving whatever fluid it was intended to move as well as it needed to.
I climbed out at a relatively slow 80 mph to quickly get as much altitude below the wings as possible while also keeping as much runway down there as possible too. Not to worry, though, as the engine keep up its end of the bargain admirably. I stayed in the pattern as I didn't want to get too very far from the sanctuary of the 5300' long strip of concrete quite yet, and besides that it would be hard to relax and enjoy a little flying with the knowledge that I had my first landing in more than a month to look forward to. I kept the pattern high as I worked my way through downwind, base, and final. I deliberately worked the throttle up and down in the rpm range that had previously been the area where I would get that uncomfortable burbling in the engine (and the resulting burbling in my belly), but it ran like a champ. I'll try that again next time I fly, but early indications are that the problem is fixed.
As for the landing itself, I flared over the numbers and made my first of three ungracious bounces very soon thereafter. The first of them was a bounce that I would score somewhere better than atrocious, but worse than merely cringe-worthy. I only assign these arbitrary values because the use of the actual Richter Scale is too embarrassing.
The next two were a bit more gentle, of course, what with the tremendous amount of energy that had been expended on the first one. Well, the first landing in a month can be that way, I suppose.
I cleaned up the flaps and reset the trim before feeding in full throttle again to go around for another try. I'm glad I did - the second landing was a squeaker. And even more surprising than getting such a great landing on only the second try was that co-pilot Rick hadn't left his watchful position at the side of the runway after the first one, with the result that he was still there to witness the second landing. Whew! You'd sure hate to waste a landing like that by doing it without a witness!
After shut-down back at the hangar, I took another inventory of all of the airplane parts to ensure that I had returned with as many as I had departed with. Everything seemed to still be there, and there were no fluids dripping out anywhere, so I'm going to chalk it up as a success.