Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Lesson #4 Turns

Well, the weather finally cooperated and I was able to get away from work for a few hours this afternoon to do the lesson that I missed this past weekend.

As always we started with a prebrief to go over what we'd be covering today. With the prebrief out of the way I went out to the hanger and started the preflight, everything looked good. Dave showed up and we pushed "Fern" outside. (Foxtrot Foxtrot Romeo November, Fern for short). I completed the preflight, fired her up and confirmed with Dave what we were doing, training areas and altitudes, etc. I then went quickly over what I was going to say to the tower, Dave said that it sounded good and I made the call. I taxied alpha, charlie and then backtracked on runway 21, did a 180 and then called tower again to inform them that we were "rolling on 21".

Full throttle, some right rudder, weaved a bit, rotated at 60 mph and then did a nice climb-out at 80 mph, my third takeoff was complete. I managed to keep us straight with the centerline of the runway after takeoff by using the sun, which was at my 45, and by maintaining 210 on my heading indicator. I had drifted to the left quite a bit during my first takeoff, alot less the during my last takeoff, and none this time. Once we hit circuit height (1,200 ft) I began a slow right climbing turn to the northwest and called tower to keep them informed.

It was a beautiful day, 8c with a few clouds at 11,000 ft and a little haze, visibility had to be nearly thirty miles or so because I could just make out the Confederation Bridge off to the west.
I've attached a pic to give you an idea of some of the landmarks that we can use here in PEI on clear days. Hard to miss a 9 mile, 16 story bridge even if it is still 25+ miles away... now where the heck is that airport again...

We arrived at our training area and Dave started the lesson off with some gentle turns, (15 degrees of bank) then had me give it a try, no problems. Next we did some medium turns, (30 degrees of bank) both left and right, ending the turn at a fixed geographic landmark. I did the same and I was pretty accurate at ending the turn where I wanted.

Next he had me do some gentle banked turns and then asked me to turn them into a medium turns ending the turn at a fixed heading on the heading indicator. I was pretty good at this as well, but I did finish a couple of turns with about 5 degrees off. I also lost a little altitude as well, but kept within a hundred feet. I swear the altimeter is possessed and it's out to get me.

The turn rule states that you should start levelling out from your turn before you get to your desired heading. If your in a turn with 20 degrees of bank, you should start levelling your wings 10 degrees prior to your desired heading. I'm starting to get a feel for the aircraft and how much back pressure I need to apply to keep us from losing altitude, practically none for a gentle turns and a just little for a medium bank turn.

Dave seemed pretty happy so we moved on to climbing and descending turns. I did some climbing turn at 15 degrees, then trimmed the aircraft. Next I did some descending turns at 15 and 30 degrees of bank, again trimming the aircraft. Next I spent a few minutes taking turn requests from Dave. I kinda felt like a taxi driver with Dave telling me to give him a left or right turn at such and such angle of bank, take us to this heading and level us out at such and such altitude. It kept me busy but it was great practise.

Next Dave wanted to show me some steep turns to finish the lesson up, I'd get to practise them later. Before we did any of these we did what is called a HASEL check. HASEL stands for:

* Height - sufficient to recover safely. 3,000 AGL minimum.
* Area - Not over congested area.
* Security - is everything tied down.
* Engine - temps and pressures correct.
* Lookout - do clearing turns and look for other traffic

The first turn that we did was at 45 degrees of bank, 110 mph. Dave told me that we'd have to add power as we went past 30 degrees of bank to maintain speed and altitude. This was pretty fun and it certainly gets you turned in a hurry.

The next one was a minimum radius turn, it's also called a canyon turn for those of you that have canyons to fly in. This type of turn is done at 80 mph, with the flaps set to 40 degrees. Dave brought her over to 45 degrees of bank and then added power to maintain our speed and altitude. Wow... I thought that we did a tight turn before, but at 80 mph she practically circle the same spot on the ground like a string was tied to her... I've never seen the heading indicator spin so fast... this turn is fun!

The final turn Dave showed me was a collision avoidance turn. This is the type of turn a pilot would use to avoid an imminent midair collision, it is an aggressive manoeuver and the most abrupt maneuver I've experienced to date. Basically it's an immediate and aggressive reduced power dive into a steep right turn all in one. I hope that I never have to perform one outside of training. I would think that this type of turn would scare the crap out of most people who don't fly alot, or are non pilots.

After Dave finished showing me these new turns, I took over and flew us back to the airport and did my second landing. I lined us up with runway 21 for a straight in approach and brought us down without too much drama. Throttle to 1,500 rpm, hold our altitude to reduce our speed, then extend flaps 20 degrees and maintain 80 mph for a nice glide.

About a minute or so out we were a bit low on the glide slope so Dave had me add a some power to bring us back up into a slightly high glide (three white lights on the papi) to the runway. I added a bit of power while pulling back on the yoke to maintain 80 mph. This brought us back up and then I reduced the rpms back down to 1,500.

I managed to bring us all the way down perfectly to the last few feet, then I flared a little early and ballooned a bit. Dave very quickly "assisted me" with the throttle by adding some power for a few seconds. This allowed us to float back down gently a second time and do a really nice landing. Dave helped with the yoke a bit to bring her down onto her back wheels and we rolled down the runway for quite some time with the nose wheel in the air, then the nose wheel gentle descended into the asphalt.

While my first landing was nearly all me, I needed more "hands on assistance" from my instructor during my second one. The important thing is that I learned from his assistance. I wonder if it's too early to spend an hour or so just doing circuits....

Another great lesson in the books...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Another weekend gone.

I had hoped to go flying on Sat, unfortunately the aircraft had been booked until 3 PM and I'd planned to take the family to the annual christmas parade at 4 PM. So Saturday was shot.

So my "Plan-B" was to go up today, but the weather didn't coorperate. The winds were good but we had broken clouds at 1,800 and not much of a horizone, so today was a flop too.

I dropped into the the airport this afternoon, which is only 2 KM from my house, and spoke with my instructor about going up tomorrow afternoon (Plan-C).

The forecast looks promising so I'm hoping to wrap things up early at the office and go flying around 2.

I'm going to get back into the books tonight and start studying for the TC PP exam. I finished ground school a couple of weeks ago and haven't touched my books since. I figure I'll have the required 10 hours flight time in by the end of the Christmas holidays and I'd like to write the first week Jan.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Lesson #3 Climbs and Descents

Another great lesson today, are they all like this?

This was my first flight with my new instructor, his name's Dave. He's a class one instructor with more than 2500 hours, he seems pretty laid back, which I like. Today's lesson was climbs and descents, we also did some engine out / best glide work and practised some balked approaches, finally the lesson ended with me doing my first landing!

We started with a preflight brief to go over what we'd be covering during the lesson. It took a little longer than usual as there was much more material to cover, plus we chatted about some other things as well. We then headed out to the hanger to preflight the aircraft, she needed some oil, then we pushed her outside to finish the preflight inspection. It was chilly and FFRN was bit reluctant to start.

I handled the calls to the tower, and wrote down the airport advisory, I then taxied us out to runway 28 (which takes about five minutes) and performed my second takeoff. I found this takeoff mush less stressful than the first, however the sun was in my eyes which made it hard to see the the airspeed indicator. We flew west northwest of the airport to our practise area, and spent the next 45 minutes practising different types of climbs, descents, simulated engine-out glides and then some balked approaches.

The first climb we did was for best rate (Vy), which is achieved at 83mph at full throttle. The first thing we did was scan for traffic, next we checked the gauges to make sure everything looked good, then I brought the nose up to the angle I wanted, which reduced our speed, then I applied full power, adjusting our angle of climb to maintain 83 mph, then I adjusted the trim to eliminate the pressure on the yoke. Every thirty seconds or so I'd drop the nose a bit to do a quick forward scan and then point her skyward again bringing her back down to 83 mph.

The second climb is for best angle (Vx), which is even slower at 69 mph than a Vy climb. A Vx climb starts by scanning for traffic, checking the gauges, then pointing her skywards at a even steeper angle than before, then apply full power while adjusting your nose up attitude to bring your speed back to 69 mph. Again I'd lower the nose every 30 seconds or so to make a scan out front for traffic and then and point her skywards again. Vx climbs shouldn't be maintained for long periods of time as the airflow is reduced to the engine and overheating is a concern.

Next we practised some en route climbs which are done at a faster speeds and lower climb rates. These types of climbs are more comfortable for your passengers and allow you to maintain good forward visibility.

Next we did some simulated engine out / best glide speed practise, best glide is achieved at 75 mph.

We then moved on to descents, both power off and power on. We trimmed the aircraft for level flight at an indicated 110 mph @ 3,000 feet, (If memory serves me right I think that this was 2500 rpm - which is a fast cruise). Dave then had me pull the throttle nearly to idle, hands off the yoke. We immediately started to descend while maintaining 110mph. At low power settings and high descent rates one must remember to apply engine power for about ten seconds or so, every 500 feet, to prevent shock cooling the engine.

I then did some power on descents, these types of descents are done with reduced engine power, so shock cooling wasn't a concern as the engine was still turning 1,700 rpm.

Next we practised some balked approached. Basically I set us up for a landing (at 2,000 feet though), 75 mph with 20 degrees of flaps. Dave then had me apply full power and then bring the flaps back up. The plane would immediately start to climb. After a couple of these we decided to head back to the airport.

We were about 10 miles out and I had planned to enter the normal left hand circuit for runway 28, which involved crossing at midfield. I made my call and the tower came back and gave us the option of a straight in approach for runway 21, which would save us a few minutes of taxiing. Some fancy flying on my part to correct our approach for the new runway, got it lined up, lowered the flaps 20 degrees, reduced the engine to 1,700 rpm, and brought IAS to 75. This put us in a nice gentle glide to the runway.

I found myself crabbing just a bit to the right due to a 6 knot crosswind coming from my 90, but I didn't have any problem lining us up with the centerline. Everything went well and I did all of the flying with Dave adding just a bit of input to assist with the "flare" at the end. It was by no means a greaser landing, but I've experienced worse as a passenger on some commercial flights, so I was pretty darn pleased with myself, to say the least.

A quick recap of my third flight lesson:

- I did nearly all the radio calls today and didn't mess anything up, one minor error.
- I did my second takeoff.
- I'm getting more comfortable and more confident flying the plane.
- I did my first landing.

Another great lesson, can't wait till next weekend!

Friday, November 18, 2005

A web developer I am not.

I thought that I'd "spruce things up a bit" and do some simple editing of my blog site, writing some of my own html from scratch... well actually... some cutting and pasting to be exact.

I've just added a few links to some of the other student pilot blog site's that I to read regularly.

When I first started seaching for some quality blogs sites on the topic of flying, from a student's perspective, there wasn't alot of sites that jumped out at me initially. I figure if I can save somebody some time searching for material like mine, I've done my good "net" deed of the day.

As I write this entry I'm just starting out on the road of flying, waiting eagerly for each weekend to come, hoping the weather is good so I can get my next lesson in. (If you fly, or you're a student pilot like me you'll know what I mean).

These fellow blog sites that I added links to are "veteran student pilots", with some great blogs worth reading, well written and a wealth of knowledge.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ground school finished, and my instructor is leaving.

Ground School:

Tuesday night was the last night of ground school, we've spent the last couple of week reviewing everything and doing some example tests and exercises.

I've learned a tremendous amount, which is pretty amazing considering that I've had very little time to study outside of class. I hope to take the TC written test right after Christmas, so this will give me about six weeks to study, including the Christmas break.

My Instructor:

I've known for about a month now that my instructor (Paula) was leaving, she has decided to move to Ottawa for personal reasons. I'm sad to see her go, as we seemed to get along pretty well and I was looking forward to our winter flying lessons.

I had some minor reservations about her at the beginning, when I met her for the first time (only because she was young), but she turned out to be an excellent instructor, both in the classroom (groundschool) and flying.

I'm sure she going to do great wherever she goes, and if she continues to teach, her students will be lucky to have her as their instructor.

I wish her all the best.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Lesson #2 Straight and Level

With this weeks lesson titled "Straight and Level", I thought to myself... how hard could it be? I already did climbing and descending turns last week, so this straight and level stuff should be a piece of cake, right? Well... it wasn't as straightforward as the name might imply.

Before we went out to preflight the aircraft, we reviewed last week's lesson and then we went over the new stuff that we'd be covering during this week's lesson. We touched on things like various cruise power settings and how the transition from one to another effects the attitude of the aircraft. My instructor then reminded me that I'd be doing the takeoff today, I thought to myself, OK... second lesson and she wants me to do the takeoff, this should be at least interesting. We finished up with brief and then went out to the hanger to preflight the aircraft.

I still needed some prompting at the start, but once I got going I pretty well covered everything on my own. We pushed the aircraft outside, shut the hanger door and jumped in. Went through the checklist inside the plane, this time much quicker than before, fired her up, everything looked good.

Paula informed me that I'd be doing some of the radio work today, she then told me what I should say. Now, how hard could it be to say a few simple things on the radio, I'm a firefighter, so it's not like I'm unfamiliar with the talking on the radio. Well, I contacted the tower to let them know who we were, our location and that we were just finishing with our run-up. So far so good.

I then told them of our intentions, that we'd like to work to the northwest at 3,000 feet and below, and that we are looking for the A/P advisory. The tower came back with a bunch of stuff, some of which I remembered. (Paula had written it all down). Then I messed up when I tried to repeat back our taxi instructions, which was to taxi alpha, charlie, runway 21 to runway 28. It's pretty simple now that I think about it, but at the time I got a little flustered, I gave my instructor a blank look after I got the runways backwards, I think that I might have thrown in a runway that didn't exist for good measure too, she jumped right in without missing a beat and corrected my error.... tower never said a word. I'm still shaking my head about it though.

I managed to taxi us out to the active runway, which took about five minutes. I then did a 180 to put us into the wind on the centerline. Paula then went through the "in the event of something going wrong during takeoff speech", basically what we would do if the engine failed with sufficient runway left to stop, etc. With all that out of the way, it was time for me to do my first takeoff!

Well... I thought to myself, this should be at least interesting. Left hand on the yoke and right hand on the throttle. I slowly went to full power (a little too slowly), a little right rudder to keep her from drifting left, 50, 60, 70, 80 mph, rotate! Climb to maintain 80 mph, keep her straight, wings level and we're flying!! I started drifting a little to the left after takeoff, I was not compensating with enough right rudder. But that was easily fixed after a little prompting from Paula.

So, about a minute after takeoff I'm trying my best to keep us straight, wings level, in a climb maintaining 80mph, my instructor calls us clear of the circuit and says here, and hands me a map! She then asks me when I think we'll be clear of the zone. Talk about multi-tasking! I say, "I dunno, maybe another two minutes or so", which was not the answer she was looking for. She pointed out some landmarks on the map and outside that I could use to determine when I should make my call, which I didn't manage to mess up somehow. We flew about 15 miles to the northwest of the airport and began our lesson.

First thing Paula showed me was what happens when we go from a low power setting in level flight to a high power setting, without touching the controls. The plane yaws to the left, and starts to climb, then the "faster" right wing rises after a few seconds and puts the plane into a left turn. The same thing happens when you go from a high power setting to a low one, except the yaw is the other way and the plane starts to descend, the faster wing rises and we bank right.

So to remedy this, you need to compensate with the rudder to keep the plane from yawing one way or the other, while pushing back or forward on the yoke depending on wether you adding or reducing power, then trim the plane to maintain level flight. We practised this for awhile, until I stopped getting the pedals backwards... add power - right rudder, reduce power - left rudder. Don't fly the plane using trim, adjust your attitude to maintain altitude with the yoke and then trim for it. None of it's terribly complicated, it just the cordination of everything at once.

At the end of the lesson Paula handed me the map and asked me if I knew where we were, I did. It's pretty easy really, as we live on an island so the shoreline below is always there. She then asked me what direction we needed to fly to get back to the airport, I eyeballed the map quickly and guessed 115, she asked me how I came up with that number, I told her the took a rough guess, which was not what she wanted to hear.

She showed me the compass rose around the airport and how to use it for a heading fix. I then picked a "new" heading of 150, (this time using the compass rose on the map), she agreed with me and told me to head back to the airport. After I completed our turn home, she asked me if I could see the airport, we were still more then ten miles away but I was able to find it after a few seconds.... cool, getting much better at this.

All in all another great lesson, it's still a little overwhelming. I find writing these blogs very useful, they really help me review the lesson and make sense of it.

Couple things that I'm getting better at:

Trim - not getting it backwards anymore.
Turns - much better, not losing nearly as much height.
Straight and level - once I have her trimmed up, I'm actually getting somewhat "comfortable" flying the aircraft.

Can't wait till next weekend!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The weather blues...

Well, I was really looking forward to this past weekend's lesson (straight and level), unfortunately the weather did not cooperate at all. After reading many times about weather cancellations in some of the other flying blogs I follow, it's happened to me too, and only my second lesson.

All we needed was a measly 2,000 ft, but the overcast didn't get any higher than 1,700 ft all weekend. I checked the metar every few hours, both days, this sucks!

Our airport is 160 feet, (200 feet rounded up), add another 1,000 feet for circuit height, and we need to stay a minimum 500 below the cloud base, so technically we were at the bare minimums, for one afternoon, but we decided not to push it.

Anyways, this weekend is looking good...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ground school

Ground school classes started the first week of Sept., they were held two nights per week and were about 2 hours in length, sometimes a little longer. There was seven to ten students most nights, so it's was fairly good size group, not too big and not too small.

I found the classes well laid out and organized, our instructor had a good teaching style and alot of patience, as went go over each new section of our book she'd emphasize the things that we'll have questions on for our exam.

As I write this blog entry, ground school is wrapping up and we only have a couple of weeks left, all of which is review. I felt that it went pretty well and I did manage to learned alot of new stuff, and I do mean alot, everything from how an aircraft flies, weather, air regulations to cross country navigation.

During class we wrote the radio exam, went through the PSTAR and wrote the test. We did a tower tour and spoke with one of the FSS, who's also a pilot. We went out to the hanger and throughly went over one of the schools Cessna 172s, and looked at some other neat aircraft as well.

I would not say that ground school is difficult, but you do need to set aside enough time to read each section before class. There is an awful alot of material to learn and remember for the exam.

The only part that I, and nearly everyone else, didn't get right off the bat was intercepting specific VOR radials. I'm a very visual person so once I visualized what was going on (draw it on a piece of paper) I'm was able to answer the various bearing questions. Some advice on this topic, read the questions twice, the keywords "to" and "from" make a huge difference! It also doesn't help that some of the incorrect answers assume that you've made stupid mistakes like this, and give you "seemingly" the correct answer.

As I have to drive to another province to write the Transport Canada private pilot exam, I figure that I'll give myself some time to study and get some of the required flying done before I write it. I figure that early January looks like a good date to write.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Lesson #1 Attitudes and Movements

My first official flight lesson.

It was a beautiful fall day, winds were light and there was about 30 miles visibility.

Preflighted the aircraft (under my instructor's watchful eyes), managed to only miss a couple of things on the outside of the aircraft. Once inside, out came the trusty checklist and I went somewhat slowly through it with my instructor's assistance. Fired her up, everything looked good, completed the preflight, Paula made the call to the tower and then I taxied us out to the hold short line. We had to wait a couple of minutes for another airplane (looked like a another 172) to make a landing, the landing looked good to me but Paula commented that it was a hard one. We then taxied out onto runway 03, checked a few things once more and off we went. I just love taking off part, the transition from "driving" to flying is addictive, I hope the thrill of it never goes away.

We headed about 10 minutes northwest of the airport to start the flying part of the lesson. At this time, Paula took out a map and showed me how the shoreline below matched what was drawn on the map, she said that it helps if you hold the map properly orientated with your heading.

Once in the training area we levelled off at 2000 feet and practised some 15 and 30 degree turns, both left and right. Paula first showed me what to do and then had me give it a try. I didn't do too bad, I was able to keep the correct bank, more or less, but I did manage to lose about 150 feet before my she reminded me to watch my height. We then did some low, medium and high rates of climbs and descents. In a steep descent one must remember to watch the tach, it briefly touched the redline before Paula pulled it back.

Next was climbing and descending turns. Paula showed my what she wanted and then I attempted to duplicate it, she offered advice as needed. She then had me adjust the trim to hold a turning climb without any input on the yoke, cool. Couple of things to be said about trim. First, I found myself constantly needing to trim the aircraft, whenever we changed our height or speed, the trim needed to be adjusted. Second, a untrimmed aircraft is not any fun to fly for any length of time, trim is your friend.

Before I knew it the lesson was over and we headed back to the airport. We joined the circuit by crossing the airport at midfield just as a regional jet was landing below to our left. Paula handled the landing, telling me everything she was doing as she did it, once down she had me taxi us back to our apron.

Paula said that is was a very good first lesson, and the only thing that I needed to remember was to use less brake and more rudder when taxiing.

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