NOTE: My apologies if anyone got email bombed by the frequent updates to this post. WordPress and I have been not getting along today.
Through a combination of personal commitments and freakishly uncooperative weather during this freakishly UnSpring we’ve been having, when I finally got back in the air last Sunday my logbook had a 1 month gap in it. That was NOT the plan. Now, I did get some simulator time in during one of the weather groundings but I am now officially maxed out in terms of what can be applied as flight hours towards my practical exam qualification. There’s still a lot that can be learned in a simulator and the fact that they have a pause button is invaluable but I’ve flown the computer for decades. The plane is where I need to be. As seems to be the common student strategy, I signed up for 2 lessons each weekend. The hope is always to get both in but the expectation is that only one will happen. So far, my experience has been that NEVER did I get both lessons in. This weekend was no different. Saturday sky was clear but winds were 18 gusting to 30 knots. Better day to fly a kite than attempt to fly an airplane. My instructor told me to study for the FAA knowledge exam instead. Aside from my book study course, this is my go to resource for test questions in a test environment. It still has quirks but I feel like it is consistent with how the actual knowledge exam will go. I scored a 91% this time. It’s not flying but I do feel like I accomplished something. Sunday…
Sky was still clear and yes, the wind was better but most definitely still there. Up around 15 knots and generally in line with the runway.
My instructor really thought we wouldn’t be flying but she must have saw the look in my eyes. Now I know she would never go up if it weren’t safe and there’s no way in the world anything I would say or do which would change her mind if it wasn’t. From my perspective though I basically shot these (well there were 2 but WordPress is fighting me on adding one of them) models out the window.
Well, it wasn’t that bad and I am definitely learning the lesson that it is better to decide to be on the ground and regret not being in the air than to decide to fly and regret not being on the ground.
From the last lesson’s notes, this flight would be either:
1) Pattern work – If Calm
2) Emergency Procedures – If Not
Door number 2 it is.
While there are a number of “emergency” situations that can occur during a flight the main, and most serious one, is powerplant failure. I say it that way to differentiate from a stall. Stalls are for wings. I suppose the engine could stall but no need to mince words in flight.
Powerplant failure, once realized, has a few key steps. ABCDE
For airspeed we’ll use 65 KNOTS but the rest is about the same. I did have a open question about the airspeed though. I fully understand the best glide speed as the speed which ensures the most time in the air based on flight characteristics and drag. My question is with respect to attaining that airspeed. I believe (have to re-clarify) I was told to hold attitude level until the airspeed is reached and then lower nose to maintain that airspeed and trim for hands off. If I was at say, 110 knots when it happened, I would be more inclined to reach the airspeed by climbing…why not get as much altitude as you can with the energy you have???
Briefing was complete so off for pre-flight. Upon grabbing the airplane documents I took the opportunity to take a picture of the W&B sheet specific to my plane. After the knowledge exam we’ll eventually be doing cross country flight planning and it’s good to have that in advance (and available for the myriad of apps which will assist).
I went through the pre-flight thoroughly but quickly. I guess I am just getting the process down better. Not nearly as much back and forth..just a nice flow around the plane. It gave me a few minutes to get settled into the seat before my instructor showed up.
Time to actually “see” the instrument panel.
I mentioned it to my instructor that it was nice to actually just sit there in the quiet, calm and get oriented. Once that engine is on, everything is on warp speed. So to is that Hobbs meter and, well, time is money.
Because of the winds I was not going to do the takeoff. 😦 I held on to the controls for feel but she was flying the plane. Winds were not too bad on the run though so I think I could have managed it.
Back to Basics
Since it had been nearly a month we spent the first part of the flight going over the basics again. Afterwards…she said there was about 5 minutes of rust and then she saw it all click back in for me. Phew. Can’t say how happy I was to hear about that. She also said we would do some of these basics on EVERY flight (particularly stalls and slow flight).
We worked on steep turns which were pretty uneventful. In both those and in slow flight it seems one can still never have enough right rudder. 45 degree banks in the next flight. I was definitely past the 30 degree mark for the 360’s but we didn’t go for the full bank yet.
Foggles…a little bit of that each flight just to keep proficient. She warned me in advance to let her know if I started to get sick. Huh? I guess I didn’t really notice the bumps until that point. The first 30 seconds under the hood definitely churned things up but never to the point of nausea. I did say that if I had those glasses on and she was at the controls it would have been a totally different story.
Simulated Powerplant Failure
With the basics out of the way we went through the emergency procedure.
As part of the briefing we discussed appropriate landing spots. Roads are actually NOT a good choice. Being in the land of the Eisenhower Interstate System I believed the whole design plan of one mile in five being made straight to facilitate aircraft domestic wartime operations.
So, aside from Interstates we’ve got a LOT of fields.
Green fields over brown fields. Brown fields could be recently plowed and they don’t accept aircraft very nicely.
If it’s got corn…go with the rows.
Short of that…the more unobstructed space you’ve got the better.
Up in the air she announced we were beginning the procedure. I got the plane to 65 knots around 4500 feet. She asked me then to look out and find a suitable place to land. FIELDS EVERYWHERE. Lots of brown right now. But then I look around and say matter of factly “well there is an airport right there”. Not sure if that was a test or just a happy coincidence. She asked if I knew what field it was. “No”. But I did mention there were two private fields in line with the main roads in the area. She said that that one must be that 40 foot wide runway. Ok. Well, it didn’t have X’s on it so it was technically “open”. Next question was whether or not I had made a choice. Again, thinking it was a trick I said “Well, given the option, I would always go for the paved runway.”
So we began our circling decent always keeping the field to my left. Still need to work on the timing to manage altitude and distance but it went pretty well. I effectively got the plane turned into the downwind leg for the field at pattern altitude. She had to kind of snap my out of the process though because in my head I was going to fly that thing right to the field. It was when I started getting ready for the base leg that she ended the maneuver.
Back to the field. Pilotage was a little harder since the foliage came in quite a bit from a month ago but it was no issue.
RADIO…WOW DID I BLOW THAT. Come to think of it I probably messed up every radio call on that flight. She was quite nice about it though. The only piece of advice she gave me was to get what I wanted to say organized before keying the mic. You can’t figure it out after you go live.
Where you are, Who you are, What you want to do, and (in CTAF) where you are.
Seems simple? One would think.
I’ve got some studying to do.
It wasn’t what I wanted but all in all it was a good flight. I need to get onto the next step. Two lessons scheduled for this weekend. Had my times moved earlier in the hopes of catching the calm part of the morning. Pattern work is most definitely next.
After 12 weeks, ground school finishes up tonight. Logbook will be endorsed and exam scheduled as soon as practical.
Medical within 2 weeks.
Solo prep exam within 2 weeks.
After that…I guess it’s all up to me an Mother Nature.