Saturday, July 29, 2006

Lesson #20 The Circuit

Crosswind Landings

I was finally was able to line the aircraft and my instructor up for a lesson, things have been really busy at the school. I had a couple of lessons booked previously but the weather did not play nice, no wind one time, and another my instructor didn't show up, some miss communication.

We were finally able to get out this afternoon and get the dual part of the lesson done. The weather actually cooperated for once as well, as we had a nice breeze for our crosswind landings. I arrived at the airport and went right out to the apron to get started on the preflight while Dave finished with another student, everything looked good and a few minutes later Dave showed up and we were off.

The winds were 290 @11 gusting 18, so runway 28 was the active. I made my call to the tower to get the airport advisory, they came back with an aircraft in the circuit that would be landing in about 5 minutes. Since it was going to take us a few minutes to taxi out to the active I called tower back and told them that I'd taxi Alpha, Charlie, Runway 03 to the hold short line for Runway 28 and wait for traffic. After the trafic passed we backtracked on 28 and a few minutes later we were off.

When I turned downwind for 28 I called tower to let them know that we were switching to runway 21 to do some crosswind landings. At midfield I made a left turn to join the downwind for 21. Dave had me set us up for our first landing with 10 degrees of flaps, on final he took over and demo'd a crosswind landing. As it was gusty he had to use full rudder most of the way in to keep us lined up with the runway, he also had the wings banked into the wind pretty good to keep us from blowing off the runway's center line. We touched down on our right main gear first and then the other main touched down, each with a nice chirp.

Dave handed control of the aircraft back over to me as we were rolling and I did the takeoff. With such a high crosswind component coming from our right, I had to keep the ailerons fully banked into the wind initially to keep us from wandering all over the runway. Then as our speed came up I relaxed them gradually until rotatation. Keeping the ailerons into the wind keeps the right wing down and makes it much easier to track straight on the runway.

I found my first crosswind landing alot of work, keeping the aircraft straight with the runway with the rudder, and also keeping us on the centre line with the ailerons was an unfamiliar juggling act. I managed to pull off my first "official" crosswind landing with some assistance from Dave.

I've done other crosswind landings before but I always used the crab method, which I find much easier. I'd basically crab all the way in until the flair and then as we are about to touch down on the mains I'd kick in some rudder to straighten us out.

As I climbed out for my next circuit Dave said that my landing was pretty good and that he did not have to provide alot of assistance, the next one would be all me. On final tower updated us with the winds and I did some quick mental math, our actual crosswind was going to be in the low double digits. I did a normal approach and then while we were still a couple hundred feet I fed in some rudder to straighten us out and then got on the ailerons to keep us on the centerline. I found myself pretty busy, but everything worked out fine and Dave seems happy that he didn't have to provide any assistance.

I did a few more landings, with each one it began to feel more familiar. On one landing things got a little ugly at flair height (balloned a little too much) so I fed in some power, got Fern settled down again and managed to pull off a nice landing. Dave didn't offer any help or advice so I guess he was happy with my recovery. We did a few more landing and Dave was satisfied that I'd be OK on my own. I finished the lesson with one of the best landings that I've done in my short time flying, crosswind and all... Dave even commented on how nice it was.

Since we didn't have alot of extra time today, I booked the aircraft for Tuesday morning to complete my solo component of this lesson. Let's hope the weather cooperates as I need between 5 and 9 kts of crosswind to practise in.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

No wind... no flying...

Went out to the airport today to do a lesson on crosswind landings, the only problem is that the ever present wind was non existent (3 kts).

The overcast was too low to do some upper air work review and I haven't read up on precautionaries or forced approaches so I was out of luck for today.

I'm going to review my upper airwork, then read up on precautionaries and forced approaches, this way we'll have some options available to us in the case the wind refuses to cooperate during my next lesson, which is scheduled for Monday.

I've also hit the books again and started studying for my TC PPL written exam, I plan on writing it the last week of August.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Lesson #19 The Circuit (solo 3)

The weather looked great for flying so I decided to take the afternoon off and grab a lesson. During today's lesson Dave was going to show me how to do a short and soft field takeoffs and landings. This lesson as it turns out was going to be a blast!

Dave demo'd a short field takeoff and landing and then had me do a couple. The idea of a short field takeoff is to get off the ground in the shortest distance possible. To do this in a C-172 we added 10 degrees of flaps, then held the brakes and went to full power. Checked the rpms, the oil temp and pressure and then released the brakes, rotate at 65 mph and that's it. To setup for a short field landing we dropped the flaps down to 40 degrees and aimed for the start of the runway, we touched down at about 500 feet and were stopped before the thousand foot markers. Dave mentioned that although we could have shortened it a bit more, chances are that landing on the strip any shorter means that your not going have enough distance to get off.

I did a couple of short field takeoff and landings without any problems. The one thing that I did notice is that with the flaps down at 40 degrees, I often needed to leave a little power on as the flaps really create alot of drag. After Dave was satisfied with my short field work we moved on to soft field T&Ls.

With soft field takeoff basically you want to keep the weight off the front wheel and you need to be careful taxiing as the aircraft can sink in a get stuck, depending on what you've gotten yourself into. So basically you dial in 10 degrees of flaps and go to full power with the yoke fully back. The front wheel almost immediately goes into the air and you carefully "balance" the aircraft on the mains while you wheely down the runway, careful not to drag the tail. The aircraft, because of the extreme angle of attack lifts off much earlier than normal, this is when you need to quickly push forward on the yoke to ensure that you keep the aircraft in ground effect, while you wait for your speed to build, which it does quickly.

I found these soft field takeoff simply a blast, I had no problem balancing on the rear wheels at all. I was a little sloppy keeping her in ground effect as I had a tendancy to "float" around ten to twenty feet, still in ground effect but I'm going to practise this more in the future to get proficient at it. Landing on a soft field also requires 40 degrees of flaps, you want to ensure that your touchdown as softly as possible, keeping the weight off the nose wheel. The only difference is that with full flaps the nose is significantly lower. Keeping the nose up isn't much of a problem as that's the way Dave has taught me to land since day one. During a normal landing I usually stay on the mains until the elevators cannot hold the nose up anymore anyways, so it's a rather normal landing except for the additonal 20 degrees of flap. (Normal = 20 degrees, short and soft field = 40 degrees)

Dave was happy and requested that I drop him off at the apron, I was going back up for an hour to practise by myself what I had just learnt. On the way in (about 5 minutes taxi each way) Dave gave me a pep talk, the usual stuff, this time he said that if I somehow manage to get off the runway and onto the grass that I should just stop the aircraft and not to try to pilot it back onto the runway since I might snag a light! After he said this I gave him a strange look and asked him with a laugh what kind of students he had previously in Newfoundland and Cape Breton. He replied back that it has happened... For the record, I've never ever even came close to the grass once, so I don't know where that came from.

I reassured him that I'd be only using the runway today and that I thought that he was a glass half empty kind of guy, and that he was suppose to be saying things to instill confidence in me and my newly aquired abilities.... we laughed our asses off on the way in... I then asked him if I could call him goose and if he'd call me maverick... it seems that we both watched "Top Gun" on the TV this past week, he replied that since he was the instructor he call sign should be viper. I agreed... another good laugh ensued. Then I asked him when he'd be teaching me tactical ascents... he asked what I meant and then I explained to him that basically you stay in ground effect until the end of the runway with your speed building and then you pull back nice and hard and shoot up to circuit height. Dave gave me the same look I gave him a couple of minutes before when he brough up the running off the runway into the grass. He explained that a number of things could go wrong with my tactical ascent idea and suggested that none of them would have a happy ending. (This tonque-in-cheek conversation livened up a rather long, boring and hot taxi back to the apron).

I dropped Dave off and then it was another long, hot and lonely taxi back over to the active for some time in the circuit. I did a couple shorts and then three soft T&Ls, all went well and I'm starting to feel much less tense on final. The cross wind started coming up and it was beginning to push the aircraft around on the runway while I was doing soft field takeoffs, while in ground effect Fern would turn into the wind while 10 feet over the runway, exciting stuff for a student pilot.

All my landings were good and I was able to stop fern nearly every time by the thousand foot markers. Doing so left 4,000 feet of runway left for my takeoff so I didn't have to waste time backtracking which is a plus. One approach was a little high so I put her into a healthy forward slip, down I went carefully ensuring that I kept her above 70 MPH, talk about a nose down attitude. Came out of it about 100 feet above the runway and a decent landing ensued, stopped by the thousand foot markers.

Another great lesson on the book, next lesson we're doing crosswind landings, now where's that damn wind?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Lesson #18 The Circuit (solo 2)

Monday morning was overcast and it looked like the day was going to be a complete washout. I checked the weather (GFA) and "forcasted" that it would clear up in the late afternoon and the winds would drop.

I went to the airport and chatted with Dave, told him my thoughts on the weather and he checked the forcast (TAF) for himself. The TAF was forcasting winds to pick up and gust 30 knots. I told him that I didn't beleive that this would be the case and we agreed that I'd call around 4 PM in the unlikely event that I was right and the TAF was wrong.

I was right, things did clear up and the winds did come down... should have been a weatherman...

Arrived at the airport at 4:00 PM and chatted with Dave for a couple of minutes, then went out to preflight the aircraft. A few minutes later I was all done, added a little oil and managed to get some on my shirt and the aircraft's windscreen. Dave did a few circuits with me to make sure I was good to go on my own again, as it had been some time since I had did my first solo. He seemed happy so he asked me to drop him off at the apron. He gave me a quick chat, basically don't kill myself and if the aircraft is still flyable after I'm done with, then that's a bonus. He said that I could stay out for an hour but if I felt like coming in early that's fine too... stay in the circuit and no off airport site seeing.

All by myself now, called tower and then taxied out to the new active which was 28. To be honest I was a little nervous, more so than the day a few weeks ago when I first solo'd. The past few weeks the weather has been miserable for a new student pilot and I was really feeling the "pressure" not to muck things up. I have a tendency to think things out a little too much for my own good sometimes.

The next hour went fine, my confidence started to grow with each completed circuit. I found myself checking everything a second time on downwind instead of relaxing and taking a minute to enjoy the view. During this hour I had to extend my downwind a few extra minutes on one circuit to let a commercial come in and land on the intersecting runway, as such I got to fly over one of the rivers that come off our harbour, at least it was a change of scenary. I also extended my climbout once to let a Dash-8 come in, so I also got to see some scenary on the other side of the airport too. I had a feeling I get some off airport site seeing in today.

Before I knew it it was time to make a "full stop".

All my landing were OK except one, I didn't like the way it was looking so I decided to just do an overshoot. My last landing was a thing of beauty, stall horn wailing for what seemed like forever in ground effect, then I could just barely feel the mains touchdown.

Today's totals:
0.5 dual
1.0 solo

Aircraft is still flyable.

free hit counter javascript