Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lesson # 16 The Circuit VII

Sunday morning was a beautiful day for flying, sunny with light winds.

I went out to the airport at 10 AM and chatted with my FI for a couple of minutes, then went out to preflight Fern, for the first time in about three or four lessons she did not need oil or gas. I finished with the preflight and a few minutes later we were off.

I banged off a few nice circuits with some decent landings right away. Dave commented that everything was going well but my approaches on final were a bit on the low side and that we should be shooting for the 500 foot runway markers. I told him that I was going little low on purpose, and that I was aiming for the numbers on final. He said that it's better to hold a bit more altitude in case of an engine problem, and that I should be aiming for the 500 foot markers.

The next circuit I waited until the runway's threshold on downwind to haul the power back, 20 degrees flaps and then set the trim for 75 mph. I adjusted the power to 1,500 RPMs to make sure that I was between 450 - 550 ft AGL when I turned final. I found that this height really helped set me up for a nice glide slope on final. This time I touched down on a 1,000 foot markers on purpose, but by mistake. I aimed for them instead of the 500 foot markers... my bad.

I did a few more nice circuits touching down on the 500 foot markers each time. Some of my landings were pretty sweet, stall horn blaring, nothing but sky in the windscreen and then just a gentle touch of the mains.... I even got a "nice" from Dave a couple of times. I don't know what it was but during this lesson things just clicked. I was hitting my altitudes, being careful to get her trimmed for 75 mph and 1,500 rpm, making sure that I was hitting the proper altitude when I made my turn to final. I just started to feel more relaxed during the landing phase and I'm also getting better at identifying and correcting minor mistakes earlier.

Dave said that I should make my next landing a full stop, which is what I called into tower on final, pulled off another nice landing. As we were rolling down runway 21 Dave asked me the magical question every student pilot wants to hear, "So... you think to good to go by yourself for one"? To be honest, this question caught me by surprise. I thought about it for a few seconds and then asked him if he thought I was ready to go... he replied, "Yep", then I said, "Well... where can I drop you off at?" Dave made a quick call to tower to let them know that I'd be coming back out for my first solo, then he gave me a few pointers while we taxied back to the apron. Before I knew it, I was all alone.

This is your captain speaking:

I gave Dave a wave, called tower and then taxied all the way back out to the active, which took a couple of minutes. It was certainly a new experience being all alone in the aircraft... roomy. I rolled out onto the active, doubled checked everything for the third time and went to full power, then called tower to let them know that I was rolling on 21.

Just after rotation a rather large and angry looking bee flew out of the backseat area and bounced off the windscreen in front of me.... oh this is lovely I thought to myself. It must have gotten in when Dave got out. Fortunately it sat on the top of the panel for the rest of the circuit.

Everyting went well, and before I knew it I was on final and about a minute later. After a nice flare and landing I was back on terra-firma, taxiing back to the apron in an aircraft that was still in flyable condition. I has just taken off, flown and then landed an aircraft all by myself..... WOW!! I had a permenent smile on my face for the rest of the day.

In case any of you are wondering I solo'd at 16.9 hours, which is about two hours longer IMO than it should have taken, due to nasty weather in the circuit for most of my circuit lessons and my lack of ability in mastering a consistent approach, landing and flare.

Till next time...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Lesson booked.

Last weekend's youth chess tournement in Moncton was pretty fun.

My son Brechan (the ch makes a k sound) had a really great time and managed to place sixth in the country for his grade. We all stayed on campus at the University of Moncton, which is where the event was held. The dorm rooms were sparten to say the least, but the cots were comfortable and the bed linen was clean so no complaints. There was a rec room with a ping pong and a couple of pools tables along with a TV. The kids we able to entertain themselves playing chess, ping pong and pool while the rest of us where able to watch the hockey game... go Oilers go....

I was flicking through the channels on the TV earlier this week when I stumbled onto some type of reality show about Tom Cruise. I was about to turn to the channel to something more interesting, when they cut to scene of him and some rapper dude climbing into his beautifully restored P-51 Mustang to go for a flight. I didn't even know that he was a "real" pilot. They had a chase plane and cameras everywhere... he looked at least to me as though he was doing a great job of flying that old warbird. I can't imagine what 1,700 HP piston driven aircraft feels like, I do know that it sounded awesome.

Since the rapper dude was a nervous flier, Tom talked him through a few simple meneuvers, some shallow turns etc., and then later on they even did a roll. They finished the flight off with what looked like a perfect landing.

I wonder if a P-51 Mustang is easier to land then a Cessna 172....

Now back to my reality... I had hoped to get a couple of back to back flight lessons in this week but the weather has been unsettled and a little windy. Sunday looks very promising so I just called Dave and booked a lesson for the morning, if the weather cooperates I'll hopefully get back up early next week again too.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Weekend without flying

My son recently won the provincial chess championship for PEI for his grade. He's been playing in his school's chess club since he started grade 1 last fall. I first taught him how to play when he was three and lately he has developed a real passion for the game.

Since he is PEI's provincial champion for grade one, he and the rest of the kids on the Provincial team will play the other provincial teams this weekend at the Canadian National Chess Tournement being held in Moncton.

So no flying for me this weekend.

I did try to get a lesson in this afternoon but it was too windy. I went out to the airport anyways and had a good conversation with my flight instructor. Dave currently has four other students doing training in the circuit, he said that we are all dealing with the same problems pretty much, and I'm not an exception.

He suggested that we schedule a couple of lessons back to back, on concurrent days for next week. He feels that I'll benefit from a couple of lessons in quick succesion, hopefully this will bring me up to a level where I'm ready to solo, so this is what we're planning on doing next week, I'll keep you posted.

In case any of you're wondering, I have 15.6 hours and 45 T&Ls.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Lesson #15 The Circuit VI

I'm getting worse...

Over my last few lessons I've been getting use to the circuit, and for the most part I've gotten them down pat except for the flair. Now during most of my time in the circuit I've had to deal with alot of wind, my last lesson was no exception. But even with a stiff headwind I was able to make six decent circuits all be myself, my FI never touched the yoke once during any of my flairs... I was pretty pumped up afterwards to say the least.

Fast forward to today's lesson and I think that everyone will agree that I had good cause to feel optomistic. I'm not saying solo yet... but I'm thinking that if I keep up the good work it'll be soon.

Today was a beautiful day for flying, warm and sunny, not a hint of the nasty wind.

First circuit - Takeoff and climbout was good, Fern was surprisingly sluggish - must have been the warm day. Everything went well but my final was way high, the plane just did not want to sink for me. Dave suggested that we overshoot and try again, which is what I did. I dunno, I could have done a slideslip but I didn't... coulda, shoulda, but didn't... good grief.

Next circuit - My approach was good but I flaired too much, too early and floated back up. I then added too much power and didn't keep it on long enough. Dave assisted and kept us from hitting too hard. I've got to remember to look at the end of the runway not directly in front of the plane, and I didn't really need to add power anyways since we only came up a foot or two.

Next circuit - everything went fine but I didn't keep enough back pressure on the yoke after touch down, as a result we got a awful shudder from the front wheel. Dave quickly fed back pressure in and the problem went away.

It just seemed to be one thing after another during this lesson... very frustrating to say the least. After about an hour of this I was ready to call it a day.

The only saving grace was that my last circuit was perfect and my landing was smack on, decent flair at the numbers.... with just a chirp of the tires after what seemed like 10 seconds or so of flair with the stall warning screaming the whole time.

Even with my last circuit being a good one I left the airport feeling bummed out. Dave says that I should concentrate more on the stuff that I'm doing right and not dwell so much on my mistakes. I really can't stand not doing something well and these stupid mistakes tend to eat at me... I need to relax more.

I have identified a few areas where I'm still making mistakes from time to time, and I will work on not making them anymore... sounds pretty simple, lets hope I can get my head around this concept.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Lesson #14 The Circuit V

This is my fifth lesson in the circuit and it's starting to show!

Today was a great day for flying, as expected the wind was present but it played nice. It stayed within 20 degrees of our runway's heading, and was a constant 15-20 kts for the whole lesson.

I showed up for my lesson on time and chatted with Dave for a few minutes, then another couple of pilots showed up and we all chatted some more. About an hour after my lesson was suppose to start we finally wrapped things up and I headed out to preflight the aircraft. She needed oil and fuel. I managed to get oil on my hands so Dave pulled Fern over to the fuel pumps while I went back inside to wash up.

A few minutes later we were up and doing our first circuit, the wind made it choppy until 800 feet ASL where it smooth out. We made 6 circuits during our hour long lesson, and I did all the landings by myself - four were really nice, Dave never touch the yoke once during the lesson.

It turn out to be a great lesson, everything is starting to seem routine in the circuit and much less rushed. I never messed up anything, but I did miss a downwind call once. I'm starting to learn little "tricks" to make my time in the circuit easier.

I climb straight out until 900 feet then I make my crosswind turn, this lets me hit circuit height (1,200 ft) and trim the aircraft out for level flight with plenty of time to turn downwind. I'm also getting a feel for the proper trim, during this lesson I was pretty bang on everytime which makes life a whole lot easier. The windscreen had a good buildup of bug impacts, and I was able to use one of the impact marks as a great glide-slope indicator. I just lined the bug mark up with the runway numbers and I was bang on every time. I also find it much easier to leave just a touch of power on until I get about 20 feet above the runway, this little bit of power keeps my descent rates acceptable and lets me flair out nicely without making any major control corrections.

I've found myself high a couple of times on final and I've pulled the power back to idle which works well, but leaves me with a too high of a descent rate. By adding an extra couple hundred RPMs for the last hundred feet or so, I find that this slows my descent down to a rate that works nicely for me at this stage.

My first "great" day in the circuit...

Also a quick correction:
In my last post I incorrectly identified a sideslip as a forward slip... guess you can call this a "slip" of the tongue... ;")

Althought the control inputs are the same, the slid slip uses a small amount of rudder to keep the nose pointed at the runway and the ailerons are used to counteract the turning effect of the rudder. The side slip keeps the nose lined up with the runway in crosswind situations. The forward slip uses the same control inputs but full rudder is used, counteracted by the ailerons to generate more drag to increase your descent rate without any additional speed.

Thanks to Mark for pointing out this mistake.

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