Flight Lesson 11: Pattern Work

Today Tom and I stayed in the pattern and practiced touch and go’s.

I made my first mistake of the day during pre-flight.  When measuring the oil, I noted the level was slightly less than nominal.  It was something I put in the back of my mind and was going to mention to Tom.  The only problem is I forgot to.  If Tom didn’t ask what the oil level was, I wouldn’t have even mentioned it.  The lesson here is if you see something, say something immediately!

The pattern being flown today was left traffic on runway 4.  Today was a busy day (at least for me it was) on taxiway Papa with two other Cessnas and a Falcon 50 tri-jet ahead of us.  Soon it was our turn to depart.  My first time around the pattern was extremely sloppy.  I wasn’t at pattern altitude and my ground track was really off.  The Falcon 50, which is probably the biggest jet you’ll ever see at KCDW, departed.  Such a big aircraft generates enough wake turbulence to make things choppy for a plane such as a Cessna 172 so the controller amended the touch and go clearance to a landing instruction, which I did not hear.  Tom knew about the change and instructed me to do a full stop after I attempted to add power and take off when on the runway.  My radio listening skills still need improvement.

Over the many touch and go’s, my ground track got better and my ability to establish and stay at pattern altitude became more consistent.  During the first couple of downwinds, the plane wasn’t trimmed which made the task to fly more difficult than it needed to be.  Eventually, I corrected this on the later pattern laps.

Sometimes, I would forget to add flaps on the base which was an annoying mistake I would hope to be past at this point.  I didn’t have the plane trimmed too well during the descents which made my airspeed oscillate when I changed the pitch by hand.  I did a better job of establishing proper trim during the later pattern laps.  My altitude also oscillated on final approach.  I’m still getting used to adding and subtracting power to maintain a stabilized descent.  Since there is no PAPI on 4, I had to judge approach height using visuals which I need more practice doing.

Surprisingly, I felt my initial flares and touchdowns were smoother than my later flares and touchdowns.  I sometimes made the mistake of coming in too fast, and starting the flare too soon instead of waiting for airspeed to bleed off first with a level attitude.

Another thing I noticed is that I’m not very assertive with the rudders.  This often manifested itself by drifting to the left during takeoff (not correcting for left turning tendency).  Instead of using rudder to better align the plane with the runway center-line during final approach, I used aileron.

I feel like I’m making progress in my skills and comfort level.  The progression may not be as fast as I want it to be, but I’m hopeful things will become more automatic.  As Tom often says, I need to slow things down and become more deliberate with my actions.

Logbook Entry N5253R (C172)

Flight Details