Be the Boat

A boat flows with the waves as they come and go. Rocks make the waves crash. So, be the boat. That’s the advice I got today from my instructor. He was referring to my tight grip on the controls during takeoff. A few fingers will do and help the plane flow with the wind rather than fighting it… just like a boat. Next time, I’ll be the boat.

I took a 6pm lesson today and I logged a night landing out of the deal. Night flying is great. Everything is illuminated and it’s much easier to see other traffic. We did some hood work, where I put on blinders and flew the plane based on just the instruments. We also did some slow flight at 45 knots.

I’m getting more familiar with the landmarks. We head out north towards the onion fields. When we pass Greenwood lake on our right, we know we’re out from under the Class B overhang, meaning we can climb up above 3000 ft. There’s the Wanaque Reservoir to look out for, too. A bit more north there are two small mountain peaks on the right, a gap and a mountain range to the left. Looking out to the right, there are two water tanks right next to each other. One’s an old style tank and the other a new style – hard to miss.

On the way back, it was dark, but even then there were some good landmarks. On the southwest side of Greenwood Lake is the Greenwood Lake airport. Beyond that, there are two rows of lights that essentially point you right to Caldwell if you fly between them. I’m getting my bearings a little more now with these landmarks to help.

Plane: N272LP (C172)
From: CDW
To: CDW
Duration: 1.4

More Touch and Go’s

I made 10 landings today… enough to make you dizzy. They were generally better than last time. Instead of flaring high, I was now leveling off above the runway and flaring later. There was a slight crosswind, though, so the landings weren’t always quite straight.

I still feel like I’m holding way too much back pressure on the landing and during the flare. So next time after the level-off, I will trim a bit of it. Also, I’ll be more conscious of my arm movement vs. my fingers squeezing back.

I also handled all the communications and flying in the pattern. I managed to keep the turns pretty good, although the climbing left turn snuck up on me on the first climb out. I added much more left rudder than needed failing to take into account the left turning tendency in the climb. I didn’t let that happen again.

Plane: N272LP (C172)
From: CDW
To: CDW
Duration: 1.4

Cleared for Touch and Go

…actually, more like bounce repeatedly and go. We did landings today! Well, technically we land every time, but this time I was the one landing. We did 7 of them in all and 2 of them were practicing go-arounds.

We took off, pitched for 75kts. We started a right turn at 300ft below pattern altitude, climbed to the pattern altitude of 1200ft, reduced power to level off, and turned right for the downwind. When we were abeam the runway numbers we reduced power to 1500rpm, added 10 degrees of flaps and began our descent. At 200ft below the pattern we started a right turn onto base and added more flaps keeping our speed to 70kts. Another right turn to final and flaps all the way to 30 degrees. Keeping the numbers fixed on the windscreen, we headed straight for the runway. Walked the throttle out when the runway was made and flared for landing. Oomph.

That’s the theory at least. And the complications: The first couple times I was being blown by a crosswind, so I had to turn back to get aligned on final. We changed runways and that fixed that although I was crabbed during some of the landings. That means the nose wasn’t pointed down the runway. I bounced, I flared too high, I landed on one wheel… but, hey, I got down and it’s a start.

Other things I have to remember:

  1. Chill out on the grip and trim the controls on final
  2. Flare more smoothly. I was pulling back too fast too early. I ended up too high, making for some hard drops.
  3. Reduce power first, then put down the flaps. Otherwise, it tries to pitch up too much.
  4. Hand on the throttle on final. I will need it.

And that pretty much wraps up our landings.

Plane: N272LP (C172)
From: CDW
To: CDW
Duration: 1.1

Caldwell Ground.. Say what?

Tom had me talk on the radio today. I butchered that slightly on my first go. A good tip is to remember what ground or tower tells you when you’re expected to repeat it and follow directions. My first communication went something like this:

Me: “Caldwell Ground 2-7-2-Lima-Papa ready for taxi with Romeo”

CDW: “2-7-2-Lima-Papa taxi to 2-8 via Alpha November”

Me: “Taxi to 2-8 via.. uhh.. could you say that again?”

I got it the second time around and we were good to go. I imagine it would also help to know the layout of the taxiways on the airport. That way, you can visualize where to go when given the instructions.

It was another good flight. We practiced all of the basic maneuvers again, did another throttle idle emergency approach, and towards the end of the flight threw in a stall.

Plane: N272LP (C172)
From: CDW
To: CDW
Duration: 1.2

Cleared for Takeoff

Cruising towards that Pilot’s certificate now. I had my first full lesson today. We went over the pre-flight items and were on our way from runway 28. We did some straight and level flight – yes, at the same time. It was a little bit windy at 7kt gusting to 15.

Climbs and descents were next. Kept the nose just below the horizon and we were at 3,500 feet before we knew it. Nothing to it.

We did some turns, too… 20 degree banks, 30 degrees, to the left, to the right… climbing turns. In the climbing turns, I learned you have to keep a lot more back-pressure when turning left. The tendency is for the plane to slip out of the climb. The right turns were fine.

We also simulated a throttle-off approach.. meaning we were on idle. We kept the plane at 65kts, the optimal glide speed, picked out a field and approached up-wind. At about 800 feet, we pushed the throttle back in and we were climbing again. We were over the onion fields, but I’m not actually sure that onions grow there.

We headed home and landed on runway 4.

Plane: N272LP (C172)
From: CDW
To: CDW
Duration: 1.1