New Airplane, New Runway in Gusty Wind

I had better days in landing. Today was not one of them.

We got bumped to 5253R since 811JD is going to be sent to 100 hr maintenance next week. Although 5253R is the same M model 172 Cessna but the airspeed indicator is marked in MPH instead of knots. The wind is gusting above ground level, favoring 28. The combination of these conditions made today’s training difficult, but that’s why we train.

Many times, I got myself slow on downwind. The trim was set correctly, so it got to be me pulling the yolk causing the slowdown. The difference in landscape might have also contributed to the pulls, perhaps the hills at the end of 28 made me feel like I got to keep the nose up to avoid them. And on final approach, what Bob had warned me about rapid descending expectedly happened after we cleared of the hill.

In my first landing I had a lot of left rudder holding, thinking I had a right crosswind and I must correct for it. The fact that I couldn’t recognize which way my nose is pointing kind concerns me. If I can’t tell then very likely there will be some side load on the gear. Or even worse, slide off the runway.

On another approach, we got high, so we had to go around. I think I got the procedure correct: full power, flaps up, carburetor heat in then stop the flaps until we have positive rate of climb, then we baby back the flaps.

Today’s training was not perfect; Bob said he wished that I could try what we had practiced on 811JD, the plane I used to fly. But eventually when we become a pilot we need to know how to fly different airplanes at different airports and runways. It may take some getting used to another similar aircraft, but to become a better pilot we must learn to adapt.

VOR/Instrument Training

I went to upstate to pick up my fixed car, so I tried to practice in the afternoon. But the winds were strong and gusty from all directions, so we practiced navigation on the simulator.

Just like old times, simulator was hard to control, pitch and bank was not smoothly adjusted. It really defeats our focus of the practice on VOR navigation. So we set auto pilot for heading and altitude, but hand flying the VOR.

We actually made a mistake on VOR, we wanted to use HUG for the TO indicator, and use SAX for the FROM indicator, but they were set backwards on our panel, so we were following the wrong station for quite a while. Luckily, the two stations were not too far away from each other, so we were in the right general direction. I understood that the needle can come in quickly if we intercept it in an acute angle, and we had to turn to the other direction rather steeply to maintain the correct heading. Instead it is recommended to cut in at a 30 degrees angle. There are always exceptions, and case by case difference.

On the way back, we tracked HUG From and set SAX to verify and monitor our progress. Until the very end, we set Morristown localizer to simulate IFR approach. The localizer was very sensitive, and it was really hard to maintain both directional and attitude control. In the end, we flew VFR to land, and it was much easier with visual flight rules.

I will watch more VOR videos, and practice this area for the written test. Until next time, so long!

Second Run to Andover

Another hot day, density altitude high. We took off from runway 28 for Northwest departure, but climbing very slow. Usually, we’d reach 900 feet way before route-80, but we barely made to I-80 today. It could be because we had 10 degrees flap for soft-field take off, but still, high temperature affects the performance.

With VOR tracking, we reached Sparta station. I need to remember to first intersect the VOR line, then correct for the wind factor while following the straight line to or from the VOR.

While at Andover, I tend to cross the power line before turning base. Bob didn’t like that, because then I add an obstruction on my final. I tried to do this because I thought with a longer glide path I could have more control of my descend. But instead, I could have just expedited the descend on base and final.

First time, I bounced, and had to recover from it by adding a little power, and as I settled, I forgot to retract flaps immediately and ended up using the full length of runway. The second approach was low, I got too close to the kayakers. But with retracted flaps, I stopped in the middle of the runway.

Short on time, we headed back immediately to Caldwell. We watched a plane turning base as we got ready for departure. While crossing Booton reservoir Caldwell ATC asked us to turn right follow traffic. I wasn’t sure why they put us behind because I thought we were in front. Maybe because they were faster, but because they turned downwind too late we ended up getting close. I slowed down immediately and squared my base. On touch down, I tried to make a soft field landing but was unsuccessful. I will keep practicing.

Quick flight to Morristown with Taxi Backs

Highlights:

  • Soft field landing needs further practice;
  • Ground effect recognition is not perfect;
  • Radio communication needs to be improved – calm down.

After getting stuck at rental car counter, I arrived late for my training. So we decided to do a quick flight over to Morristown for some soft field landing and take offs. It was actually my idea since I think I need to practice in these areas.

The take off was as usual, Bob held off on the power to let me accelerate under ground effect. I still don’t quite get the hang of it, going up and down like roller coaster ride. My plane tries to climb up, so I had to hold it down, but it might be too much, and I’m not quite sure where is the happy medium.

I fumbled a few times with radio, like in one case, I reported to Morristown tower that we will be departing right downwind back to Caldwell, but in fact it should be left downwind.

The landings were just fine, I think two factors made today’s landings easy:

  1. Calm wind;
  2. Relaxed seat situation.

I used to sit all the way front, and I was nervous the whole time being so close to the controls, but today when I sit back two notches, I had better feelings of the controls, had a better side picture. Plus I am more confident now to get plane rolling. Bob did not touch the control at all when i was landing.

I came in high on rotation a few times, resulting not quite in ground effect yet, and so they weren’t quite a good soft field landing. The last time I did a good round out but the power added was not enough, so I touched down too early. I think it will be the practice throughout the training.

Crosswind Landing at Caldwell

Highlights:

  • Too early base turn resulted in too high approach;
  • Look down the runway to know if you have the right rudder pressure;
  • Got look out for not drifting away from runway on downwind.

When I woke up today I saw a blue sky, immediately I know the wind will be up coz we had no cover from the sun. Weird enough, the ATIS said wind 330 at 7, which clearly was not accurate since we could feel there were definitely gusts. During pre-flight I saw many airplanes in the pattern, but they were using runway 28. I thought well maybe today we will practice on 28, but Bob was thinking we should do 22 and practice crosswind, which turned out to be the right thing to practice.

It was very challenging with a direct cross wind, and at the same time Bob wanted me to try using crab method. Turned out the first couple of landings were less than a stellar. The second one was probably the worst, with a little side-load going down the runway. The problem was initially holding too much rudder, but as Bob instructed I had too much left rudder, I ended up releasing too much, result was my nose going to the other direction, and downwind wheel touched first. To correct for this, in my next few runs I looked ahead at the end of the runway, and adjusting my rudder left and right. After touchdown, full rudder into the wind, and it was so smooth. Maybe I was lucky that there were no gusts, but the fact was the next landing was the best crosswind landing I had done.

There was another time, I came in very high. I think it was because I turned base too early, plus the tail wind on base, we had very little descend on that leg. Dave saw this landing I did and asked me if we were simulating engine failure, and I admitted that I came in high.

After these landings we decided to do our last full stop on 28. Even though Bob tried to warn me that after we came off the hills we would drop very rapidly, I was still surprised how fast we got down after we crossed the road next to the airport. In an effort not to land on the threshold, I added some power before touchdown, and that resulted into a hard landing as I pulled off power too quick in the recovery. But after all, this was a good session.

Flying Under Marginal Condition

Today we had a condition that we almost could not fly. A ceiling at 1500 ft, (meaning AGL) means we are just beyond no fly condition (as VFR we need to be 500 below any clouds, and we need 1000 ft to practice pattern work). The winds are calm. Only one other plane was in the pattern.

Highlights:

  • Soft landing getting better;
  • Emergency procedure happened in a short time, but we handled it;
  • Soft take-off was good.

The first take off was soft field. We had 10 degrees down and held elevator fully back, I could feel more weight was distributed on the wings instead of the landing gear.  However, we could not accelerate very well. I could feel my nose lift off, but could not tell when the main gear took off. As a result, I had no clue when to lower the nose to accelerate in ground effect.

On the landing side, I added the power correctly, and raised the nose up enough to keep up aloft, but for a couple times the nose was too high and we climbed out of ground effect. The last time we had the correct configuration, and then as soon as I pulled out the power, we touched down.

There was once, we climbed to 1400 ft (Bob had the plane as I turned on my CloudAhoy app). He showed me the difference in terms of visibility between just 200 feet. Lincoln Park is barely visible but as soon as we descend down to pattern altitude the terrain beyond Lincoln Park showed up again.

Overall, it was a good session. Looking forward to my more consistent soft-field landings.

Happy 4th of July–Short Field Landings

Today is the national holiday, Independence Day. We went over to Andover for short field landing practice.

Highlights:

  • Able to make safe landings at Andover, which significantly boosts confidence;
  • Short field take-off is improved;
  • Power loss procedure can be enhanced.

Going to Andover was easy. Follow a power line, which leads us directly to the airport. We used visual checkpoints like a scorpion-shape lake, cross power line, and a bigger lake to make sure we were on the right direction. Because it was 4th of July, there were a lot of people out having fun. We saw many boats in the lakes. Once we were over Andover, we circled over the airport above the pattern altitude to determine to where the wind was blowing. Once we figured that out we decided runway 21 is in favor of the winds. So we spiraled down to enter left downwind. All looked good, we abeamed the runway number, and I lowered the flaps. I was a little fast right after each turn from downwind to base and from base to final, but I made correction to the pitch. Then we landed on runway 21, slightly left of the runway center line, my bad.

The next run was incomplete. I carried too much power, so I was high. Due to safety concern, we went around because this runway is only 2000 ft., so the margin for error was very small. This time again, I think during my descending turns I have a tendency to catch more speed. Thanks to “Cloud Ahoy” app to help me review. Less than a stellar round out I had a small bounce, but I recovered so we were able to turn off the runway at mid-point.

After short field landing and takeoff training we left Andover and practiced emergency procedure at Trinca. I was able to identify the field to use but was probably too slow deciding which direction to land on so I wasted some time, then ended up with a very short and tight final. The moral of this story is when you lost your engine, get over to the nearest field as fast as you can (while keeping best glide speed), and then if you were high, dump some flaps or do some s-turns.

Since today’s training was aiming to nail short field landings, I think we pretty much passed the bar. Then we followed Route 80 back to Caldwell where I practiced soft field landing again. This time though, I added a little too much power and raised the nose a little too high, so I climbed out of ground effect. I will try to make this stabled approach again next time.

Coming up: we should be able to do a stage check pretty quickly, so I better get those quiz and written tests ready.

Soft Field Landing and Make Small Corrections

Today we went to Morristown again to practice landing, especially soft field landing. Compare to the weather yesterday, it is much better today with calm wind, and good sky condition.

Highlights:

  • Soft field landing needs more practice, adding more power perhaps;
  • Forgot to retract flaps again during soft field take off. This cannot happened a third time;
  • Fun communication with tower control.

Before heading to Morristown, we stayed in traffic pattern for two circuits. During final, I started to understand how to make small corrections to stay in center line. No abrupt bank changes were made, and I felt it was much easier to control the airplane.

At Morristown, we came in high for a couple of landings, and I leveled off high too. Unable to correctly judge the distance from the ground remains a challenge for me. We later practiced soft field landing, which is to fly in ground effect.

As we come into ground effect, I added power to keep us aloft; however, it might not be enough because we always touched down before the intended point. The idea is to float with 100 or 200 more rpm so that we don’t touch down. I thought I added the correct amount, but apparently not enough to keep us in the air. As I realize that we won’t be able to stay in air, I held the right attitude to protect the nose wheel and prevented the tail strike.

In one of the upwind leg at Morristown, the traffic control had us turn right traffic pattern and an early cross wind. Lost my reference point, the crosswind leg was not in shape. I should have used the H.I. but too nervous listening to the radio I forgot about my tools in the cockpit. On the way back to Caldwell, on downwind, with busy traffic, the tower asked us to turn base a little bit early. And as I responded we are turning base, the tower says turn back and keep flying downwind. As much confused as I was, turning back to downwind but before I can key in to repeat instruction, the more experienced tower controller overrode the trainer’s command and let us continue turning base. This whole situation lasted about 15 seconds and we were back to normal approach.

Excited to go to Andover tomorrow for short field landings, it has only 2000 ft runway. Hopefully the weather will cooperate.

“Your feet should be as Live as a worm on the hook!”

“Your feet should be as live as a worm on the hook!” — CFI Dave Pavoni.

Today is a very windy/cross wind session. During practicing, I remembered the above quote from Dave when I practiced landing with him. This was his way of saying rudder as much and as often as you need. And today I felt his words again with our strong cross wind 32015G19.

Highlights:

  • Rudder as you need, not as you want.
  • Hold or even increase aileron pressure after touch down.

When in final, there were times I had to push full left rudder to correct for the right cross wind. However, I left that rudder in the whole time while I needed to release some of the pressure so that we were heading at the right direction. After Bob illustrated, I had one landing but released too much and had a little bit side load. But I got the idea quickly and was able to dace with my rudders so that I would have left or right rudder with correct amount.

The second thing with today’s cross wind session I learned was that I have to keep the aileron pressure into the wind even after touch down. With this practice, it became much easier to keep directional control on the runway, and the take off after touch down got much better.

I have one thing to watch out for which is on downwind crab angle. I let it slip away from me a few times and I got too far from the runway. I need to pick a point and fly towards it.

We  will do all these again tomorrow.