After several weeks of believing I was either cursed or wrapped up in some form of flying time conspiracy, lately I’ve been able to approach my target of getting in at least 1 flight lesson a week. Despite the fact that Phil had it all wrong this year, Spring has arrived. Spring is good.
First totally clear sky day for me. Spring winds were a little odd though. Surface winds were moderate at only 6 knots. At 3000′, 12 knots. At 4000′ 21 knots. Hmm. Seems like we have a bit of a transition zone there. Of course, most of the airwork is between these altitudes so could turn out to be a interesting day.
For today’s lesson, along with continuing fundamentals we would do more take off work, “slower” flight with flaps, flaps on stalls (preferably not at the same time as the “slower” flight with flaps) and rectangular course at pattern altitude. Still not sure if this is considered a normal amount of elements to cover in a 1 hour session but seems reasonable. The time always flies and mentally I’m typically exhausted afterwards so I know it must be at least approaching normal for me.
Pre-flight was uneventful. Thought the checklist is and always will be the key to the process, I am now getting into a much more consistent flow from spot to spot. I know what I am looking for and how to juggle the checklist, flight bag, headset, fuel sampler, tank gauge, airplane logbook, the towel for the dipstick…in the breeze. Also, while doing the external flight checks, I am listening to the CTAF on the handheld radio. It’s a TSC-100RA Air Band Scanner. It’s receive only but that’s all I need and the price is right at < $120. A great little tool to get a picture of what’s going on ahead of your flight.
Today we had someone hosting a party in a nearby hangar. I learned later that it was our field’s newest certificated private pilot. They were about 30 yards behind our plane though so we thought it best to hand tow the plane 90 degrees before starting up. Not fun getting dirt and exhaust blown into your BBQ.
With engine on…from Flight 4, my one follow up note was to be sure to check and adjust the HI before takeoff. Was very unhappy about missing that the last time. This time it would have been impossible to miss. We had turned the plane 90 degrees with the instruments off.
Pre-flight checks complete and out for the back taxi to runway 28. Same as last week, this relatively sleepy airport comes to life just as we are getting ready to go. We have one take off who will be staying in the pattern, and another landing. So, basically, we’ll be nicely sequenced but once on the active, it is most definitely show time.
Back taxi complete, spin around and line up. Check. Full throttle. I knew from my studies that you never want to just jam the throttle to the firewall but you do want to get it there. In Flight 4 I didn’t jam it, but I also didn’t get it all the way to full throttle until we were clearly accelerating down the runway. So, this time, I made sure 100% power was applied.
Tracking was reasonably good for 90% of the run. We were at Vr and I started to pull back on the yoke. Ahh..the gust of wind arrives. Bad timing. Light on the wheels, wind from the right, probably too little right rudder(and remember heels on the floor!) to begin with and we had a clear shift of the aircraft left of the center line. We had plenty of airspeed though so best thing at that point was to be fully airborne. I think I got a little CFI help on that portion of the takeoff and then I had everything straightened out. While nowhere near an A grade, it was fine.
Climb out was uneventful, well almost. For 3 lessons I’ve been always working on maintaining a constant airspeed climb. With full throttle and stable conditions you can typically align the aircraft nose visually, add in some trim and it will settle in for the climb. Same was true this time except I did notice the rate wasn’t as high as normal. Looking outside for traffic, peering inside at the six pack. Quick glance at the tachometer. My brain did the calculation of the gauge saying 2100RPM but my mind didn’t register that as out of the ordinary. My ears…well they aren’t really a part of the equation yet but getting better. I was maintaining airspeed but not getting a good rate of climb. With the nose up you don’t have a great visual reference outside so I didn’t know I was slowly decreasing my pitch attitude. My CFI asked me to check my throttle. Sure enough, it was not on full. What? I know I got full throttle on take off. Well, the planes vibrate, and the throttle has a tendency to back out. She told me to always keep a hand on the throttle during climb but something didn’t seem right. We talked during the flight about the friction lock but I can’t recall going over it before. The previously pilot had apparently loosened it all the way and of course, I didn’t adjust it. Discussing with the situation with one of my colleagues today he seemed surprised and said, “That’s one of the items on the checklist.” Huh? Where? Pre-flight.
TO THE CHECKLIST!
“No”, he says. It’s in the POH checklist.
TO THE POH CHECKLIST!
Ok. Another lesson learned, a checklist to be updated, and a technique to modify.
I immediately got my instructions to turn to a new heading. It was a bit of a test. I said to standby for a moment. Wanted to get it trimmed. Good job. Remembered from last time. SO much easier to fly when that variable is eliminated.
Clearing turns always before all maneuvers so not going to recap that.
360‘s just to prove constant, coordinated turn at constant altitude.
Stalls with flaps
Had a small panic moment from my instructor. I had to laugh. First step in the procedure is Mixture Full Rich. Well, at 3500 feet, you really aren’t doing any leaning of the engine so it was already full rich. She said it though and it’s part of the procedure so my hand is going to grab that knob. I guess it was the grab part that induced the panic. Perhaps, had I touched it with my palm in a pushing motion she would not have reacted. From her perspective it looked like I was going to pull the mixture all the way out. The noise she made was quite comical. I kind of stopped, looked at her, laughed a second and said something to effect of “We are looking to stall the wing, not the engine right??” In truth it was a bit of a cover. I am sure there was some signal in my brain saying to pull that lever out but thankfully it got checked before any movement occurred. Right now, with the exception of the yoke, rudder pedals and trim wheel, I still have to think about direction of movement for intended action. Otherwise stalls with flaps went fine. Although it is much less fun, I’ve overcome my first hill on a roller coaster tendency to go very clearly nose down on the recovery. I did play smartass (still a cover) though and made sure to purposely GRAB that mixture control each time we set up for the maneuver.
Was uneventful. Went down to 30 degrees flap and 50 knots IAS. I learned the mantra of controlling airspeed with pitch and altitude with power. In slow flight that is definitely applicable but it is most definitely not an absolute.
My Note: If you’ve got power in slow flight(meaning, you aren’t in a power off glide), you don’t want to give up altitude. So, following the mantra, you definitely add power but you definitely have to give a little nose up pitch to gain back altitude you might have lost. It’s all about finding and feeling the right balance.
I want to say this was a breeze. Except there was no breeze. The red arrow is where the wind was supposed to be.
So, briefed on all my turns for each segment prior to flight I was ready to get into it. Of course, it’s a visually coordinated maneuver to you don’t need to really calculate your 90’s (or >/< 90’s). With no real wind, it was not very difficult. Instructor said we would not do this again. Next time would be the actual traffic pattern. Cool.
Time to head back
Pilotage. For a VFR pilot, good pilotage and spatial awareness is a must. Landmarks are great for getting oriented and on course. For us, it’s the “dirt patch”, the “warehouses”, and the “quarry”.
Start descent towards pattern altitude. Get aligned first with the Dirt Patch.
About 8-10 miles out turn towards the “Warehouses” and make your initial call on CTAF.
About 4 miles out you should be at or near pattern altitude. Make your call for entering on the 45 left downwind for runway 28. So far..all routine. We made our call at the warehouses. It was then that we heard another Cessna call in. Same intentions, same direction of entry.
CFI to other Cessna…”Advise your position.”
Cessna: “We are at the Warehouses.”
CFI: “We are at same location, 1500, advise your altitude”
Two high wing planes in the same general location. We can’t see above us. He’s not looking directly below.
Aviate, Navigate, Communicate..hmm.
Afterwards, we discussed the finer points of FAR Part 91 Sec. 91.113 Section g but at the moment we made sure we were looking for the traffic and the higher Cessna, knowing his regs, declared he would make a 360 for spacing and designate himself #2 for landing. Acknowledged. We continued our pattern entry. Just before turning base the other Cessna had a visual on us. Base to final (I got all the radio calls right this time) and touchdown.
- Takeoff refinement
- Standard airwork
- Power on stalls?
- Turns about a point
- Slow flight and pattern work
Looking clear and windy for the weekend.