Lesson 29: Loosening the grip | 03/23/16

Today I went up with Tom again and we flew northward to practice keeping a looser grip on the controls while doing maneuvers.   First we did slow flight.   I reduced power, then put down full flaps incrementally while keeping 50 mph and 2500 feet.   We then did power off stalls which went pretty smoothly and then power on stalls.   We reduced power to 60 mph with no flaps and then went full throttle and raised the nose as if we were taking off (a power on stall would most likely occur during takeoff).   I tried to keep the plane coordinated as I raised the nose however for many of the stalls it ended up being a turning stall which can turn into a spin if the recovery isn’t good.   I have to say it was harder to keep a loose grip when doing such an unnatural maneuver – I guess that’s a good thing though because if the plane tended to stall itself it would probably not have the highest safety rating.   We then did steep turns which were OK and then did a rapid descent to get bak down to 3500 feet.   After that we headed back and I completely messed up on the navigation.   I saw an airport but for some reason left it without even knowing wich one it was.   I should have stayed there until I found it’s location and then followed a heading bak to caldwell.   Once I left the airplanewas untrimmed and I descended down to 2000 while trying to find my position with VORs (I must have put in the wrong frequency because the position it was giving was nowhere near the general area where we knew we were).   I gave up on that since the position it yielded didn’t make sense and Tom then intervened and helped me back to Caldwell.   I think I need a little bit of a refresher in the sim with navigation.   What I should have done was first look for vidual landmarks (like an airport/lake/road) and found it on the terminal chart and, if that didn’t work, I should have circled (so my position didn’t change) while using another VOR to get an accurate position, then I should have drawn a line from that position to caldwell, flown that heading and set a VOR radial that would center once I was 10 miles from Caldwell so I would know when to give them a call.   The landing at Caldwell was also pretty bad;   I landed on the nosewheel and then bounced back into the air only to finallyout it down right of the centerline.   This showed me how important it is to keep the right airspeed; if you are too fast you will push the nose down so you don’t climb and land in a nose-low attitude with too much airspeed.   I have some time to reflect on my mistakes though – I am visiting my cousins in Seattle for Easter.

Lesson 28: Crosswinds | 03/22/16

Today I went up with Tom and since there was a strong crosswind and the pattern was empty we decided to stay at Caldwell and work on crosswind landings.   We had a little trouble getting the plane started but after a little primer we got her running.   We taxied to runway 22 and Tom reminded me to keep the yoke at the proper attitude even when taxiing (when wind is from the front 180 degrees keep the elevators neutral and point your thumbs toward the wind, when it is coming directly at your nose keep ailerons and elevators neutral, when it is coming from your back point your thumb away from the wind and apply downward elevator and if it is coming from directly behind you keep the ailerons neutral and downward elevators).   This is always important but it’s especially so in crosswinds as the plane can get blown over if you’re not careful.   We took off, making sure to keep the ailerons pointed into the wind until established in a crab on the departure leg and I used the same visual queues to make my turns, adjusting a bit for the wind with a crab when necessary.   On downwind I learned that you should use left rudder when reducing power to start your descent because just as the plane has a left turning tendency when increasing power (corrected with right rudder) it tends to turn to the right a bit when decreasing power.   Since it was windy we only used 20 degrees of flaps and flew final a little fast , but I was a little too fast on a few landings and we floated down the runway.   Another thing I need to work on is being less jerky with the controls (as Tom says, +2-2=0 but 0+0 also equals 0) and I need to stay at the right attitude (0) instead of going back and forth (+2-2).   I tried a landing with his open handed style (instead of keeping a death grip on the yoke), and I have to say, it will take some practice to do it as fluidly as he can.   I’m thinking about building a force feedback element into my flight simulator yoke at home (at least some resistance on yoke movement) to practice this style.   I am taking another lesson tomorrow and then I’m leaving the city to visit my cousins in Seattle so it might be a couple weeks before the next lesson.

Lesson 26-27: Greenwood Lake and Emergency Landings | 03/12/16 – 08/20/16

Last week I took another lesson with Dave.   It was a pretty short lesson as we over-primed 1JD and, despite our best efforts, it wouldn’t start.   So we took one of the Piper Cherokees instead and rushed out to Greenwood Lake.   Once there we set up for a landing while avoiding another airplane which was in the left pattern (even though it says RP6 on the chart meaning when you are landing on runway 6 you take right pattern).   We told him and then flew the pattern.   On final I was a little fast so Dave took the airplane and went around.   On our second go Dave exited the pattern because another plane entered the pattern and he didn’t trust their judgment after the left pattern ordeal.   So we just did some steep turns, then navigated to a lake, and tracked the Sparta VOR outbound back to CDW.

Today I went up with Tom and since we saw some suspicious-looking weather on the radar we decided to stay in the pattern and practice crosswinds.   The first thing I learned was to check whether the bolts on the ailerons are old style or new and if they’re new to check if there are loops sticking out of the top (the old ones have wire wrapped around the bolt whereas the new ones have this loop).   I also relearned tho check the pushrod in the aileron for proper movement (I forgot today).   On startup I learned to first try with no primer, then if it doesn’t start (which it didn’t) turn off the master then hit it with as little primer as possible (we did two shots) and see if it starts – it did.   The reason for this was that it is a lot easier to put in more primer than get rid of it.   I then learned on startup that the stock checklist is not all-encompassing and Tom had to remind me to pull up the flaps and lean the mixture right after checking to see if the engine had started up properly (rpms, oil pressure/temp, etc).   We then taxied (having to avoid a helicopter and a turboprop) and taxied to runway 4.   We did our run-up and took off.   While in the pattern I learned to use visual queues to keep altitude airspeed and heading (because unlike instruments they can’t lie) – for altitude and airspeed I should keep 2000 RPMs on downwind, 1700 RPMs and 10 degrees flaps when abeam the numbers, then 1500 RPMs and 20 degrees on base  and 30-40 degrees/throttle as necessary on final.   While doing all this I should keep the dashboard 3 fingers below the horizon in level flight (downwind) and 4 fingers below when descending after abeam the numbers.   I also learned to look for a visual queue on the wingtip and then put that right on the nose when turning to make perfect 90 degree turns.   For the touchdown Tom told me to try to keep the airplane in the air as long as possible to make a better landing.   Towards the end of the lesson we did 3 simulated engine failure landings – he pulled the throttle towards the end of the downwind leg and I had to first maintain best glide speed, then turn towards the runway immediately and dump all the flaps once the runway was made to make it down.   He gave me the advice that it’s better to crash at the end of the runway (with some brakes having been applied) then stalling before you even touched down so I should always make sure I have the runway made before touching down.   He also said after the lesson that it was always better to put the plane down under control then to crash in a stall trying to make a better landing spot.

Lesson 24-25: A New Instructor | 02/06/16 – 02/28/16

I haven’t blogged in a while so this is a bit of a catchup post.   I guess I should start by explaining my slowdown with flying.   A couple months ago Bob Smetana, my flight instructor, accepted an offer from a regional airline and left for commercial training.   After he left I had winter break and was away for a while.   Finally a few weeks ago I started back up again and started to try to find a new instructor.   I took a lesson with Dave Pavoni as my first lesson in a while and it was apparent that he’s very knowledgeable.   I learned how to make a better steep turn, to lean the mixture on cruise, and to keep my eyes outside of the cockpit more while flying VFR.    We did the standard introductory flight (altitude hold, stalls, slow flight, steep turns, etc).   On my next lesson I tried a flight with Tom Fischer.   His experience and knowledge of not only the official flight training material but of information that allows for a deeper understanding of aviation concepts was astounding.   Whenever he taught me something he wouldn’t only tell me what I needed to know but why it was true.   I picked up a huge amount of helpful tips in just one lesson.   I learned to check the tops of the ailerons as well as the bottoms in the preflight, to check the counterweights in the ailerons, and to watch the wheels to see if they are letting out brake fluid when checking the brakes.   On start up I learned not to pump the throttle so as to not flood the engine and if I do to let it sit a while to let the fuel exit the cylinders.   After takeoff we practiced slow flight stalls and steep turns and towards the end we had climbed up to around 5000 feet so we did a rapid descent to get down to 3000 (a maneuver I’ve never done before).   Tom then told me to navigate back to Caldwell and I used VORs and my sectional chart to get my bearings and start flying towards Caldwell.   The controller gave us a 5 mile final and we flew the 5 mile approach for the only landing of the day.   Having experiened both flight instructors I have only good things to say about both – they’re both great teachers and highly experienced – but I will probably go with Tom.   I’m probably going up this coming weekend so I’ll try and get a GPS track to post.