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!


At 11:34 AM, Blogger aviadisto said...

Wow, talk about jumping in with both feet! You seem to be doing an excellent job of it all already. You'll be doing almost all of the flying before you know it.

I agree that writing the blogs helps a lot.

At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done on the flying lesson!
I've just finished my first one and reading your blog has prepared myself (somewhat, after cramming myself from the books) for my next lesson which is also 'flying straight and level'.

Keep it up!


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