Thursday, February 16, 2006

Lesson #9 Spirals

Wasn't able to go flying this past weekend and since this weekend wasn't looking good for flying I decided to take a few hours off work and go flying this afternoon.

Went out to the airport at 2:30, Dave was just finishing up with another student. They finished up and we all chatted for a few minutes and then we jumped into the prebrief. The prebrief was standard fair, the difinition of a spiral, safety parameters, the causes and the recovery procedures. With prebrief out of the way I head outside to preflight aircraft which was sitting on the apron near the fuel pumps.

Preflight was a chilly event, as luck would have it she needed oil and surprise... surprise... fuel. There's usually a litre of oil stored in the rear baggage compartment so I grabbed that and poured it in while Dave added a little fuel. Since we'd also be touching on our last lesson - spins, we'd need to keep her light in order to keep us in the utility range.

When I go flying I like to leave my winter jacket in the car and wear a comfortable warm shirt, it's pretty tight inside a 172 and Dave and I are not small lads. By the time I get the outside portion of the preflight done, add oil and help with fuel, I'm pretty well frozen. We get in, Dave takes off his winter jacket and tosses it on the backseat, I quickly finish the preflight, fire her up and a couple of minutes later we have heat! With the wing vents taped up for the winter all our flights are warm.

We start off today's lesson by touching on our last, this means doing some spins. Engine to 1,500 rpm and here we go... the first one I attempt was crap, I released the controls too early. Dave demostrates one and then I give it another try. I bring the throttle back to 1,500 rpm, climb to stall, get the buffeting and then bring the yoke all the way back and kick in full rudder, this time I hold the control inputs much longer and we snap right into it... down we go. This was a pretty decent spin. I bring us out it after maybe a complete revolution or so, man these are a blast!

With the review out of the way it's on to today's lesson, Spiral dives. Spiral dives are basically a steep decending turn, these can happen if you spend too much time looking out the windows and not enough time flying the airplane. They can also happen during spin training, poor steep turns and flying into clouds. Before you know it the nose drops and your airspeed rockets towards Vne. Recovery is fairly simple, bring throttle to idle and then quickly level your wings and pull out of the dive without overstressing the aircraft. It's important not to pull out of the dive while leveling your wings. Dave put us into a few spiral dives to the left and the right and had me recover from each one. Dave comments a couple of times that I need to be more aggresive when leveling the wings.

With today's lesson in the books we started heading towards the airport, which is very easy to spot as we finally got some snow, what a crazy winter we're having. Since we're still about 4,000 feet and circuit height is 1,200 feet we have a bunch of altitude to lose, so it was a perfect time to introduce me to the forward slip. To perform a foward slip, you basically feed in full rudder and then bank the wings the other way to maintain your heading. Dave shows me one by applying full right rudder, the plane yaws to the right, at the same time he adds about 10-15 degrees of left bank. We quickly go from losing 500 feet a minute to around 1,200 feet a minute, with no gain in forward airspeed. I give it a try and find that it's pretty simple to do. I scrub off our excess altitude and make the call to tower, bringing us into the downwind for 03 at circuit height.

I ballooned a little on landing, I quickly added a stab of throttle and a few seconds later we're on the runway. Dave suggests that the next time I balloon I should hold the power on a wee bit longer.

Another great lesson.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Lesson #8 Spins

What a lesson... it was a blast!

This was the only lesson that I went in feeling like it was either going to be very fun, or very not fun, luckily for me it was the former.

We went throught our usual prebrief before our lesson, the weather didn't look good. The forecast was for sun and +7c, but when I got to the airport it had become overcast. So we started the prebrief not knowing if we'd be able to do the lesson.

We reviewed the various stages of a spin: incipient, fully developed and recovery. We then went over how to put a Cessna 172 into a spin, what would happen and how we would recover. First off, a 172 is a very stable aircraft and it has to be coaxed into a spin, this is done by pulling power back to about 1,500 rpm and holding a nose high attitude until she's about to stall. At the first sign of wing buffeting we pull the yoke all the way back and then apply full rudder in the direction you want to spin, hold these control inputs for a few seconds and the inside wing drops and down you go. WEEEeeeeee......

To recover, you reduce power to idle and hold opposite rudder to break the spin, then you feed in just a little forward pressure on the yoke to break the stall, pull out of the dive and add power as needed to maintain or gain altitude.

Dave, who has a sense of humor much like myself, said that under no circumstances should I attempt to hug him during this manoeuver. It seems that one of his previous students had lost his composure during their first spin and latched into him pretty good, which made it somewhat more difficult to recover. After the prebrief we did our weight and balances to make sure we were in the utility catagory before our lesson.

I did the preflight, added some oil and we were off. We arrived at our training area about ten minutes later at 6,000 ASL and did a little review of our last lesson. First we did a power off stall, then we did a power on stall, and finally we did a climbing turn stall. During a climbing turn stall the outside wing will stall before the inside one, this happens because the outside wing is at a greater angle of attack, when the outside wing stalls it drops rather abrubtly and you need to use the rudder to bring it back up. I was very impressed at how effective and quick the rudder is at bringing a dropping wing back up. With our review out of the way it was time for today's lesson.

The first spin that Dave demonstrated was a definite pucker moment for me, I've never been done anything like this before and I admit I was a little stressed about this lesson before hand. I had done some research and read about other student's experiences with this lesson, and I also watched some videos that I had found on the internet, all of which did little to ease my mind. For the first few seconds, during our first spin, (when it seemed that we were headed straight for the ground), I was liked OMG, then Dave straighten us up and pulled us out of it. After we gained back some of our lost altitude he did another one to the right this time. With the second spin out of the way the lesson was quickly turning from something that had to be endured into something that was beginning to be fun, just like Dave promised it would. During both spins Dave talked the whole time, telling me what he was doing.

Now it was my turn. I was a bit hesitant to jump right into it, so I went over what I was going to doing to make sure I had all the control inputs and timing right, once I had that clear in my head I performed my first spin. I let go of the controls just as she went over and I recovered a bit early, wasn't what I'd call a spin. For my second one Dave said that would tell me when to release the controls, to ensure full entry.

My second spin was a full rotation and she recovered just like my instructor ensured she would. Incipient stage spins feel, at least to me, like we're rolling while headed straight towards the ground, and that recovery should involve the use of ailerons. Dave said that it might seems that way to me, sitting in the cockpit, but if viewed from outside it would be obvious that we're spinning. Recovery from the spin happens fairly quick once full rudder is applied, which harps back to the inherent stability of the aircraft. I did a couple more spins the other way and that was all she wrote, lesson completed.

For the fun of it, Dave did a power-on spin.... to give me a chance to experience how the aircraft reacts at a higher power setting. It seemed to me that we're were near verticle before she stalled, Dave kicked in full rudder and she snapped right into it this time, much more quicker than before. Recovery was performed the same way, reduce power to idle, ailerons neautral, full rudder and as she stops spinning forward on the yoke to break the stall.

Dave then touched on our next lesson spirals, by doing one. The speed element is much greater than spins, and we have to be careful about redlining the engine and exceeding Vne (183 mph).

Back to the airport for a full circuit landing on 28, Dave provided some input to help me with my flare. Then we were quickly back up into the circuit for one more. This time I'm informed on downwind that I'm on my own for this one, he then asks me where I'm gonna touchdown at, I reply in my confident pilot voice, "the thousand foot markers". I somehow actually manage to accomplish this feat with just a gentle bounce, more luck than skill I assure you.

Dave seemed happy with the landing, although the little bounce ticked me off. I guess I should be happy that we've not had one hard landing, this is mostly because of Dave's assistance, but I am getting more confident in my abilites and I feel that I'm able to do more and catch my mistakes earlier.

It was another great lesson.

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