I am off to NYC this coming weekend so I was actually hoping to get 2 lessons in last weekend. After a couple of days anxiously scanning the cloudy weather forecast, Saturday switched to nothing short of perfect. 70F, clear skies, and little to no wind. I like a little wind as it is useful for the training but I would never complain about these conditions.
Waking up Saturday, the forecast was right. Ready for flight. Or so I thought. 7:15AM email check. Note from the scheduling system. Flight instructor apologizes but says she will no longer be available in the afternoon. I had a lot of other work to do that day so, in retrospect, it was probably a good thing. But at that moment…
Sunday weather was initially promising for a noon lesson but around 10 AM started to look a bit ominous. Flight Service briefing was at best what I would call a ‘tweener. The forecast they were working off of was valid until 1700Z or one hour after my scheduled flight time. That forecast was decent. After that, however, things were showing all kinds of bad. Airmets for turbulence, icing at 7000, winds 16 gusting to 26, virga. Individually, any of these things could be pretty bad. Put them altogether and, well, it’s a much better day to stay on the ground.
I decided to make the trip to the airport anyway and make the decision there. Wind was at 170, almost directly across the runway. My instructor was a little late which gave me some time to review my notes from the last lesson.
I grabbed the logbook and started pre-flight. I was onto the left wing when she showed up. With excellent timing, one of the first good gusts of wind hit. A little unnerving to see the whole plane shift. It was time for the go, no-go decision. I’m usually gung-ho about flying but I wasn’t too sure about it this time. She said she just spoke with the other instructor and while it wasn’t horrible out there (yet) there really wasn’t a lot of smooth air to be found. She said she wasn’t concerned about my intestinal fortitude (a compliment?) but it would probably be a bumpy ride. I took the opportunity to ask her a two part question.
1) Given the weather conditions, what could we expect to accomplish during this session? If we were just going to try and keep lunch down it might be best to wait until another day.
2) How is this lesson building on the others and where (and how quickly) is it going to the next level? It was my beating around the bush way of asking how close we were to solo.
Answer 1 was a listing of 90% of the things we discussed during the last lesson. Continued basic airwork, hood time including constant heading / altitude, 360’s, climbs, climbing turns, and descents, and turns around a point. Not included would be the take off (because of cross wind) and I am still not up to landing….which I am a bit disappointed about. Added to the tasks were cross wind alignment and taxi which is always good practice. She said she would also bring up the Stratus to keep an eye on the weather (quite a useful tool).
Answer 2: As I had expected, we were working on the fundamentals, controls, and slower airspeed / aircraft configuration which would set up pattern work and landing. No direct answer but it sounds like we aren’t too far away.
Ok. We’re flying!
Taxi & Runup
Though I will always use the checklist, much of this is becoming quite automatic for me. We did have the friction lock discussion and the fact that it wasn’t on the plane’s checklist but on the POH. She said I was free to make my own checklist as long as it builds on the POH. Ok. That’s what is going to happen. A little more time working the GPS on the ground as well. This will be a set up for navigation / cross country work. Two things to note. First, definitely want that aircraft pointed into the wind when you are getting things set up. Second, at N94, always give way to Life Lion hangar. They may need to come out at any time and it’s easier to simply be out of their way rather than try to get out of their way.
Take Off & Climb Out
I didn’t do the take off but kept my feet on the rudder pedals so I could get a feel for how much control input was needed in order to keep the plane along the center line. My airplane about 10 seconds after take off. The wind immediately blew us off course. From my last lesson I knew that we are supposed to hold the runway heading until at least pattern altitude. Instinctively, I knew the ground track of the runway heading and corrected for that. NOPE. That’s wrong. You fly the runway heading. If the wind blows you, it blows you. The theory is that it is blowing everyone equally so as long as you stay on the runway heading you can maintain separation. Not sure how this works out in gusty conditions but it makes sense and something I learned for the day.
Throughout this flight and with all maneuvers, I had no issues with maintaining altitude (a first). Only exception would be on the initial climb. Still need to get the right flow from climb to cruise configuration without overshooting too much. I willing to take some advice on this one but I don’t believe I am nosing down quick and aggressive enough once I am at altitude.
Only one flap’s on stall. I nailed it so there wasn’t a need to do any more of those. 360’s were routine. We did the slow flight transition all the way down to 30 degrees of flap and 50 knots with 90 degree turns after establishing pitch and speed for each flap setting.
Next was simulated instrument training. Second session at this. I have DEFINITELY spent too much time in the simulator because this was incredibly easy. I look at the gauges too much as it is and these things make you see only those things and fly the plane based on them. We did all the basics with them and I swear I did better flying this way than when I was looking out the windscreen.
BTW: While the wind was definitely there it was incredibly constant..and SMOOTH. Not complaining at all but it was eerie.
Ok, one bad thing about the foggles. When I took them off, despite flying by the numbers for several minutes, once I looked out the windscreen I would consider myself “spatially disoriented”. No big deal…I just thought we were pointed East when we were pointed West.
Routine trip to pattern altitude then turns around a point.
As with Rectangular Course, it’s a visual maneuver. Unlike my windless experience with Rectangular Course, this time there was plenty of wind. Of course my instructor’s demonstration was spot on. Made it look easy. I can say altogether it is not entirely difficult (although left turns are MUCH easier than right turns) but I have to get a better feel for and anticipation of the wind. At one point I got blown almost right over the “point”. She said I did fine. I would have plenty of time to practice during my solo work. Hmm.
Return to Field
Since we were at pattern altitude we kept it there and started our landmark trip back to the airport. I made all the radio calls as usual. Still have to think of what I am going to say but they seem to keep getting better. Even had someone else in the pattern so at least somebody was listening.
I flew the downwind as I normally do. Again, definitely need more wind correction as it was blowing us right at the runway. At this point she usually takes the airplane and completes the pattern.
As we are completing the downwind..instead, she says to slow the aircraft to 80 and add 10 degrees of flaps.. Uh…ok.
NOT prepared for that one. It’s a 90 degree left turn. I’m down wind for 28 which means I am 100. So…what’s 90 degrees left of 100??? C’mon what’s 90 degrees let of 100!! It’s simple math. Sure..when you knew it was coming, and had done that turn before and…well, you are supposed to be prepared for everything…and I wasn’t. So I turned. Hey’s it’s also a visual maneuver so I figured I could work it out. Normally, not a problem. This time, however, the wind blew us past the runway. I managed most of the correction, slowed the plane further and got us essentially on final.
She took the airplane and landed.
I managed the back taxi. Was even allowed to do it anywhere on the runway I felt comfortable as opposed to going to where the wider turn arounds were. Was happy to pull that off without hitting the grass.
Exit runway and complete landing checklist.
She said we didn’t need to fuel it up so I should take it to the parking spot. Again…uh…ok. She asks if I have ever parked it before. Nope. Ok. No problem. We slowly roll up there. I notice another guy out there right near the parking space. My response is something along the lines of “Great, that will keep me focused. Have to make sure I don’t go cutting anybody’s head off.” My instructor laughed and said he isn’t worried about you taking his head off but he’s definitely worried about you hitting his plane. Oh..ok. Keep focused. I made the turn in nice and slow (a different angle than parking a car) to a relatively tight location. Shut down…flight done. The guy comes over and opens the door. He says “That was a really nice parking job.” My instructor grins and says “That was his very first parking job!”. Yes..I was happy about that one.
All in all a great lesson with much better than expected weather. We got lucky which is fine by me.
If Calm, we are doing pattern work and landings!
If not, we’ll work on Emergency Procedures.
Going to be 2 weeks until the next flight but I am definitely looking forward to it.