Monday, October 30, 2006

A fellow blogger from down under.

I was contacted recently by a fellow blogger from Sydney, Australia named Geoff Hopkins. Geoff's been flying for years but has only recently started blogging about it. I checked out his blog site and from what I can tell, it's going to be nice... lots of great pics.

Geoff is also somewhat of a podcaster as well, he has put together some rather nice podcasts that I think many of you will find very interesting. I've added a link to his blog site to my blog roll.... enjoy.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Lesson #25 Intro to Instrument flying

In Canada a student private pilot must complete a minimum of five hours of instrument instruction. This requirement does not permit a VFR pilot to fly in IFR conditions obviously, but it will hopefully give a VFR pilot enough instrument training to safely navigate out of IMC (cloud) and back into VFR conditions.

The weather on the east coast of Canada has been terrible for flying the last two weeks. There was a large stationary low stuck a few hundred mile to the East North-East (over Newfoundland) that caused us to have off and on showers for nearly a week. One minute it's sunny and then the next a large cloud would float over and it would rain for a few minutes.

I had a lesson book for last weekend but it was cancelled due to rain, low overcast and wind.

Trying to schedule a lesson time that worked for me, work, Dave and my family is proving tough. Dave has been pretty booked up with other students, and a local PPL that's getting his multi rating (so he can fly his beautiful new to him twin which he just imported from the U.S.) As it turned out the only time that I'd be able to get out and fly this week was Friday morning. The previously mentioned low pressure area was still effecting us, but it finally started moving slowly East Friday morning. It was still sunny one minute with a patch of nice blue sky and then cloudy the next with showers/rain, though we had enough of a ceiling to do a lesson and the wind had come down somewhat.

I knocked off work mid-morning and headed out to the airport, which is only about five minutes away. Twenty minutes later we took off and headed North. Dave started unfolding a large map, I asked him if he was lost or something. He replied that someone had made off with the foggles and the laminated map that the school keeps in Fern. They haven't been stolen, but they've mistakenly made it into someone's flight bag. They'll eventually turn up again, given enough time.

He unfolded the map to the correct size and placed it over the windshield in front of me, I immediately went down to the instruments to keep us from plummeting to our deaths. Dave could still see out his slice of windshield, as the map did not extend all the way over to his side.

Dave started me off with some straight and level flight, then we did some rate 1 turns to this and that heading, and a couple of 180 degree turns. I did pretty good job when I remembered to do a complete scan, a couple of times I overlooked something or other and within what seemed like seconds I was drifting off course or from my assigned altitude. Ten degrees is not much, and it's surprising how quickly you can wander off course.

Next we did some 30 degrees of bank turns to a certain heading, both left and right. Dave then had me do some straight and level climbs and descents. Remember the acronym for a climb is APT (attitude, power and trim) and a descent is PAT (power, attitude and trim). Next we did some climbing turns and descending turns, all went well, but I was really working to keep an eye on everything.

Since today was my first lesson on instrument flying Dave showed me how to navigate back to the airport using the VOR. He had me come around to a heading of 90, which was in the general direction of the airport. Then he tuned in the 90 degree radial of the VOR and then pointed out that the "To" flag was on. Our VOR receiver indicated that we were left of the radial so we changed our heading to 120 degrees to intercept it, which we did after a few minutes. We then tracked on it at a heading of 90 degrees for a couple of minutes but we started getting blown off course to the right, so I had to alter my heading to the left (North) to compensate for the wind. We were blown off the radial a second time but I brought us back and I was able make a second slight heading correction that managed to keep us on it all the way back to the airport.

Dave called us entering the zone and then he turned on the NDB receiver, which simply points to the non directional beacon, which is a navigation aid that is used to setup for ILS approaches. He asked me to fly directly towards it and a few minutes later we actually flew over the beacon and the arrow on the receiver did a 180, Dave then had me turn 30 degrees to the left and after a minute or so he had me do a 180 degrees turn to the right. He then pointed to the ILS indicator. He said that when the vertical line (which was all the way to the left) starts swinging to the right that I should alter my course 30 degrees to the right and keep the line centered, with small heading corrections. A minute later the vertical line started to move and I altered my course to the right 30 degrees and did my best to keep the line centered.

Dave asked me to set us up for landing, which I did as he called tower to report that we were on long final. He then had me reduce power and keep it reduced until the horizontal line on the ILS receiver started to come up, which it did a minute or so later. All I had to do now was keep both lines centered and I found myself shooting my first virtual (map still in the front windshield) ILS approach!

Dave then called us short final and removed the map. Directly ahead was the runway, the view outside revealed that we were at the perfect height for the remaining distance. Tower replied back that the winds were from our left at 60 degrees, 7 kts gusting 21. We found ourselves crabbing pretty good, Dave requested a slip to compensate for the winds. My crosswind landing sucked, I forgot to turn the ailerons into the wind once we were down, and I released the rudder early.

All in all another great lesson with lots of new material to review and absorb. I finally know what pilots mean when they refer to the "hockey stick" during an ILS approach.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Juggling Schedules.

I tried to get out this past weekend for my next lesson, (Instruments) but my instructor was booked. He was either flying or he was out with another student. When I spoke to him last week I asked him to give me a call even if it was last minute in case someone cancelled.

Alas, no calls.

I'll give him a call tomorrow morning and see how these week looks for an after work lesson. The weather is suppose to be sunny all week.

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Lesson #24 Low Level Diversions (Solo)

Actually low level diversions was only one of the things I wanted to do during this solo flight.

In fact I had so many things that I wanted to practise today that I actually sat down before the flight and listed everything out on a piece of paper. I then ordered them in a way to make best possible use of my time. When I arrived at the airport I chatted with Dave before I went out to preflight Fern, we went quickly over my list and he seemed satisfied with everything.

A few minutes later I climbed out of the zone headed north, I leveled off at 3,000 ft and performed a HASEL before jumping into some power off stalls (3), next I did some power on stalls (3), during one of these I got a some wing drop but I was expecting it so I was able to bring it back up quickly with some rudder.

I checked my task list and next up was some 30 degrees of bank turns, both left and right. After that it was some steep turns at 45 degrees of bank, I had to add power during these to keep my speed up. I was able to do all my turns while keeping my altitude to within 50 feet of my starting height.

I was still at 3,000 ft I so I transisition into some slow flight for practise, I really had to watch the altimetre to make sure that I didn't loose any altitude. I still need more practise with this as I have a habit of not feeding in enough power early enough, and I sometimes loose more than 100 feet.

Next up on the list was a forced approach. I pulled the power all the way back to idle and pulled the carb heat on and trimmed for an 80 mph glide. I ran through my cause checks, mayday calls, passenger brief and restart procedures. I made my chosen field with the help of some forward slip but I forget to simulate turning everything off and opening the doors prior to touchdown. I need to practise going through everything in my head a few more times to get it all down perfect.

I climbed back up to 1,000 ft and start planning my diversion. A few minutes later I began my little 19 nauticle mile trip. This diversion went exactly as planned. My seat off the pants heading adjustment for the wind at the beginning was bang on, but I reached my destination a couple of minutes late though, still... not bad for a first attempt.

On the way back to the airport I flew over my friend house and then I followed route 2 back to the airport. At about the halfway point I used a private strip to practise a precautionary landing. My low pass was a little high at 700 ft since I didn't want to scare the livestock in the field next to the strip.

I joined the downwind for the active and proceeded to do a soft field landing with 40 degrees of flaps, this time I left a little more power on right till the end, touchdown was nice and soft. I then did another circuit and practised a short field landing which went really well too.

Another great solo flight. I got everything done that was on my list and my diversion was pretty well bang on. My turns are getting much better and the stalls are a non issue. I still want to do more work on my slow flight and I'd like to practise some more crosswind landings as well.

I accomplished all of the above with 1.4 hours on the hobbs.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Lesson #24 Low Level Diversions

Knocked off work a little early and went out to the airport for a 2:30 lesson.

I preflighted the aircraft while Dave finished up with another student, a few minutes later Dave showed up and we pushed Fern over to the fuel pumps and filled her tanks. While taxiing out to the runway I decided to spice things up and do a soft field takeoff, which went well. After about 5 minutes heading north Dave took out the map and asked me where we were, I pointed to a spot on the map, then he chose another spot on the map about 15 miles away and said that he wanted to go there now. We then spent a few minutes going through the steps of how to plot a low level diversion. He drew a straight line from the "box" that we were holding over to the little town where he wanted to go, then he roughly showed my how to calculate the magnetic heading using our airport's compass rose, which was nearby.

With the rough course laid out he then measured the distance between the two points with a pencil and then determined the actual distance by using the tick marks found on the lines of longitude, which are the lines on a VNC that run north to south. These tick marks indicate minutes of latitude, a minute of latitude equals a nauticle mile.

Now we have a heading and the distance, next he figured roughly a 90 kt ground speed and then he calculated the time to destination. Finally he marked check points along the route to use as a reference. We used these checkpoints to verify our drift and time, after each cheackpoint we fined tuned our heading to compensate for the wind and we adjusted our ETA to destination. Plotting a diversion is rather simple to do, but it's a much tougher task when you have to also fly the aircraft, and keep an eye out for traffic.

During our little trip Dave wanted me to stay at a thousand feet to limit my visability (to make it harder). He also had me scan the map and point out cell towers etc. I had a habit of setting the map on the dash, then when I picked it up I forgot to hold it orientated with our direction of flight. After a few reminders I finally started keeping it on my lap properly orientated with our direction of flight. Dave said that it will be much easier for me to keep things straight if I get into the habit of doing this now.

We arrived at our destination on time and we basically followed the route Dave drew on the map, I did have to adjust our heading at each checkpoint to compensate for the wind. After we got to our destination Dave asked me how I would navigate us back to the airport. I told him that I'd follow route 2 back to Charlottetown until I spotted the airport. It seems that following roads and other man made landmarks is a perfectly acceptable way to navigate, when you not using things like VORs to make life easier.

About 15 minutes later we were back at the airport, Dave requested a soft field landing which I performed decently.

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