Saturday, September 23, 2006


Before I started flying I always thought that in order to go faster in an aircraft all you had to do add power, I later learned that my assumption was only half right.

If your cruising along at say 100 kts and you add power then keep an eye on the airspeed gauge, you'll be surpised to see that aren't going any faster. If you then look over at your altimeter and vertical speed indictor they'll indicate that you're now climbing. I found this surprising the first time my instructor explained and showed me this concept.

The faster you go the more lift your wings produce, if you forget to retrim the aircraft so that your wings have a lower angle of attack (AoA), relative to the airflow, then nearly all that extra power will be converted into lift. The opposite is true as well, pull the power back and forget to retrim to increase your AoA and you'll maintain the same airspeed as before, but you'll be descending.

Student pilots quickly manage this concept earlier in their training as this concept is put to use during every landing. When I'm preparing the aircraft for landing I usually pull the power back near the end of the downwind in order to slow down. As I pull the power back I have to add increasingly more back pressure on the yoke to maintain my circuit altitude until I slowed down to my approach speed, which is 75 mph. Once I hit my approach speed I trim the aircraft to fly at this speed without any imput from the controls.

During my base and final legs I use my power settings to control my descent, if I'm a little high I pull the power back, and descend at 75 mph, if I'm a little low I add some power and then I can climb or reduce my descent rate until I'm back on the proper glideslope.

Keep in mind that this is a rather simple explaination on how power effects the aircraft and how these concepts are used by us students from day one.

I took in an airshow last weekend in Summerside, the Snowbirds were performing. The show was kicked off by a single CF-18, it was awesome to say the least as this fighter has power to spare. I paticularily liked the display of power in the vertical climb. He slowly flew across the harbor at a couple hundred feet and then he simply pointed his nose skyward and added power. I could actual see the aircraft accelerating in a vertical climb. (He topped out at around 25,000 ft. out of sight)

I managed to take a pic just as he was going vertical:

I had to post a couple of pics of the Snowbirds as well.


A low pass:

A really low pass:

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Lesson #23 Precautionary Landings (Solo)

Everything went this weekend as planned.

I arrived at what I thought was basically on time but I had slightly messed things up and actually left and arrived back at the airport a half hour later than I had actually reserved the aircraft for in the book. I preflighted Fern and a few minutes later I was up in the warm Saturday morning sunshine. Visibility was about twenty miles due to the haze.

I had the aircraft for an hour and a half so I had plenty of time to do precautionary landings, slow flight and some power off stalls.

I did a soft field takeoff, this time I was much better during the transition from driving to flying, practise brings one closer to perfection. I kept her from balloning and let the speed build before I climbed out of ground effect.

This is a picture of the north shore of PEI. I took it about three minutes after takeoff at about 3,000 ft enroute to our training area. (I've edited it a bit to remove some of the haze).

The precautionary landings we're a no brainer. I used both of the private landing strips that we had used in the past, this time I was able to find them without any problem. I find that the more time I spend flying the better I'm able to spot things on the ground. I can only assume that it takes time for you brain to learn how to "see" thing looking down from height rather than always from the ground up.

I used the map for the first time to locate and fly over my buddy's house, actually I used the field behind his house to practise a precautionary landing. No I didn't buzz his house.

With everything completed that I wanted to get done today I headed back to the airport but due to the haze it was somewhat harder than normal to pinpoint visually. I knew where it was in reference to the harbour so I simple flew towards the spot where it should be and I eventually spotted it from about 8 miles out.

Here's a pic as I enter the downwind for runway 28:

On final:

A great solo lesson, flying by myself is starting to feel somewhat routine and a normal thing to do. I got everything that I wanted to get done today and topped it off with another sweet landing.

Next lesson looks like it will be on diversions.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Weekend plans.

This weekend is going to be beautiful, nothing but sun and temps in the low twenties...

I've booked the aircraft for Saturday morning at 9:00 am, for an hour and a half solo. I hope to get some precautionaries in and then some power off stalls and slow flight, might even get a chance to fly over my buddy's house. I'm gonna bring the digital camera and try and get some good pics which I hope to post.

In the afternoon I'm taking the family up to Summerside to watch the Snowbirds perform. After that we're going to pick up our new puppy (German Shepherd) from our breeder, his name will be Kaiser and he's only 8 1/2 weeks old. I expect that he'll be a great addition to the family, the kids are really excited.

All in all a great weekend shaping up.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lesson #23 Precautionary Landings

Since I've already done forced approaches I expected that this lesson was going to be easy. I arrived at the airport early and waited for Dave to return with another student. After a few minutes I saw them land and a couple of minutes later I watched as they pulled up to the pumps. Dave and the student hopped out and the student topped Fern up for me. Nice!

Dave came in and we chatted for a couple of minutes and then I went out to preflight the aircraft. A few minutes later Dave had arrived, we fired her up and I called the tower. Tower came back telling us that an aircraft would be landing in a few minutes. Since the controller's response was a bit choppy we missed what kind of aircraft it was so, Dave asked me to find out. I asked tower to repeat aircraft type and tower responded that it was an F-18. Dave then told me to tell tower that we'd taxi to the hold short line for runway 03 (so we could get a front row seat for the show).

We both scanned the sky back and forth trying to pinpoint where it was, after a minute or so I called tower for his location and tower responded that the radar had it right on top of the airport. Sure enough we spotted the dull grey fighter directly overhead at about 2,000 ft. It turns out that he was heading outbound to do an ILS approach for 03. Since it was going to take some time we decided reluctantly to do our takeoff.

A couple of minutes later tower called and asked where we were... which was pretty strange because he should have us on his radar. I replied with our location and then tower asked if we had our transponder on, (we had forgotten to turn it on in all the excitement).

We never did get to see the F-18 land, but we could here the controller falling all over himself to provided any and all assistance. The fighter pilot called in and told tower that he was going to perform an ILS approach with an overshoot, tower then asked him how low he was going to go and if they could expect an afterburner climb out. (I could almost hear the pretty please in tower's voice). The afterburner climb out didn't happen, I guess the fighter didn't have the extra fuel.

Although we lingered about 8 miles from the airport for a few minutes but we couldn't see the dull grey fighter in the haze. Damn!

We reluctantly got back to the lesson at hand, precautionary landings. These types of landings are something that you do when things start to get bad. Say your flying along and all of a sudden the ceiling started dropping or the engine starts acting up and you haven't got a proper airport nearby to use, so you have to land but where? Generally a private airstrip or a wheat field makes a good spot to set down in.

The first thing you usually do is overfly the field at circuit height to perform an initial inspection to make sure it looks good, then you make another pass this time much lower to ensure that it still looks good, and that you haven't missed anything. If everything still looks good and you decide to continue with the landing, you do so using your best soft field technique, which for us is 40 degrees of flaps, nearly full stall, until the mains touch, then keep the nose light as long as you can.

We used the two private grass strips that we had practised with before, this allows us to get nice and low. Actually we could only get really low on one of the strips as the other strip had a bunch of cows nearby and we didn't want to spook them. We made three precautionary landings using both high and low passes. At the private strip without the cows I came down to about 100 ft AGL, but I found myself high so I preformed an overshoot. Our 172 will not climb with 40 degrees of flaps hanging down so after I went to full throttle, pushed carb heat off, I had to bring the flaps back up to 20 degrees before things on the ground started getting smaller again. Having to overshoot didn't really bother me all that much as the smallest runway I've ever landed on is 5,000 ft long and 100 ft wide, so I kinda expected this to happen. Actually I blamed Dave for it because he's never let me land at anything smaller. (He found my logic somewhat amusing).

The next time I came in nice and low, so much so that Dave mentioned that the trees that we were flying over are taller than they seem. We weren't all that close but Dave tends to err on the side of caution when a student is at the helm, I certainly can't blame him. His warning was more of a "you see the trees below us right"? I told him to relax, that of course I see them.

This private strip, which is only about 1,000 ft long sits at one edge of a farmers field on top of a small hill, At the end of the "runway" it drops off pretty good (30ft or so) into a tree line which is maybe 400 feet away. Coming in on low final over the tree line you can almost get down to level with the end of the runway and then have the land come up to you. I wasn't quite that low but there wasn't any question of overshooting it this time.

In real life and depending on your situation you might not have the time to make both a high and a low pass so you might decide to opt only for the low pass at 500 ft AGL for your first and final inspection. Obviously things like cell towers, livestock, hay bails, trees, hills, wind direction and speed are all going to be factors in choose a suitable place to make a precautionary landing.

With this out of the way we headed back to the airport. About 10 minutes later I top off a nice straight in approach with a picture perfect full stall landing, for which I received a "Nice" from my instructor.

My next lesson will be a solo to practise precautionaries, I'm also going to do some power off stalls and some slow flight which I didn't get done during my last solo lesson.

Friday, September 08, 2006

PPL Written Test Results.

I have been studying for the last couple of weeks in preparation for my Transport Canada Private Pilot Licence exam. My home and work schedule has been really crazy this past summer and I've tried to put this day off for as long as possible.

On Tuesday I finally called and booked the exam for today, actually today was the last day I could have realistically written it. I have a French exam next Wedsnesday and I have to start studying for it, so I had to stop studying for my PPL and start studying my French. My next French module starts in two weeks and it requires about ten hour per week of home study. So I had to write the PPL this week, do or die.

To make matter worse the testing centre isn't just down the street, actually it's a two hour drive one way, and $41 for the bridge. So I had to take a whole day off of work in order to write it. Since I didn't have alot of time recently to study I didn't have high hopes of passing every section, I figured the navigation section would be my undoing. I felt like I was between a rock and a hard place.

For those of you that have not written this exam I'll give you a brief description. The PPL exam consists of 100 question, which cover Air Law, Navigation, Meteorology and Aeronotics, you have 3 hours to complete it. About 60 of the questions are straight out question and answers, and for the most part they are quickly answered. The remaining 40 questions require most of the time as you have to reference the sample GFAs, METARS and TAFs that you're given. There's some simple calculations that need to be performed and the navigation questions for the most part cover the sample cross country flight that you need to do in order to answer them.

The questions themselves are computer delivered and they are multiple choice. The exam program itselfs is logically laid out and it has two bars at the botton that keep track of your progress and the time.

The exam is divided into 4 sections and you require a minumum of 60% overall to pass the exam and you also need to get at least 60% in each of sections, or you have to rewrite the section again.

I arrived at the testing centre early and met the lady that I had spoken to on the phone previously when I had booked the appointment earlier in the week. She was very pleasant and made me feel really at ease. She reviewed my documents and then led me over to the pay clerk where I paid my exam fee. She then went over the testing format with me, and made sure that I had everything I needed.

I was then led into a room with six testing cubles along one wall and it had a smoke glass wall along the opposite side that allowed them to keep an eye on you. The testing booth itself consists of a computer terminal and a medium size desk, there were other testing stations on both sides of me but I was the only one writing today. I reviewed the navigation information on the sheet she gave me and plotted my sample cross country flight before I started the clock on the computer.

They provided me with a rather large, heavily laminated map which refused to lay in any manner other than tightly rolled up. The cross country trip that I needed to plot required me to use both side of the map. I set everything on the floor and managed to get the map to lay flap by sqeezing it between the ends of the desk and the station dividers. I spent about 20 minutes plotting my cross country, tracks magnetic and true, also the distances for each of the legs as well.

Happy that I hadn't messed anything up I then started the actual computer test itself which then started the 3 hour clock. The first twenty question were simple and quick. The next twenty were on navigation which took alot of time as I think that I read each question about three times to make sure I hadn't missed a key word and then I did my best to answer them, triple checking my answer in each case. Some of the questions gave you winds in true then presented you with the answers in magnetic, be careful with these, as the incorrect "correct" answer is in the pick list.

The navigation section took the longest and then it was onto the METS section, this went quicker but it was still slow as I tended to double and triple check the question and my answer. I eventually found myself in a pickle, with 35 questions remaining and only 20 minutes left on the clock. Where did all the time go...

Luckily the last section of the test were simple question and answers, and I started making up for lost time. In the end I was able to answer all but the last three questions before time expired.

I was not very optomistic on how things had gone. I honestly thought that I had failed at least one of the sections, I sat there and gathered my thoughts before I got up and went out to face the music. I dreaded having to go through all this again.

The lady asked me how I thought things went, I told that I didn't think that it went well at all, that I had run out of time at the end and left three questions unanswered. She went around the desk and hit the key board and then looked up and smiled, she asked me if I'd be happy if she told me that I had passed, I replied that I'd be shocked.

She then told me that I had passed exam with flying colors! She said that my marks each of the four sections were in the eightiest. I was stunned... I asked her if eighties were good and she replied that they were on the high side for the exam I had been given.

She then printed off my results and then congratulated me, I thanked her and wished her a good weekend. I looked at my results for the first time, I had averaged mid to high eighties in each of the four sections. What a huge relief it is to finally get this out of the way.

My Pilot's Licence is now one more step closer to reality.

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