Note: I’ve moved my blog! You can find this post here.
After 4 canceled lessons over the last 2 weeks, today I was finally able to fly. The day brought with it clear skies and calm winds. If you schedule enough flight lessons, one of them is bound to have great weather!
I drove out to Caldwell and got there at 7:45am and I preflighted the plane before Tomoharu got there at 8am so that we’d be ready to roll when he showed up. When he arrived we hopped right in and got down to business.
After taking off and flying to the practice area, we did some basic maneuvers.
- Slow flight. I like to fly my slow flight as slowly as I can. At times I was flying at 40 knots, but I like to keep it around 45 knots so that I have some buffer before hitting the stall speed. I climbed 100 feet during the maneuver (which of course I shouldn’t have, I was too focused on my airspeed and wasn’t watching my altimeter), suggesting I could have eased up on the throttle.
- Power on stalls. I told Tom how my power on stalls were poor when I flew with Tom Fischer because they ended up as spins instead of stalls. So we went over them again and I made sure to let the speed slowly bleed off before pitching for the stall. Things went a lot better this time (i.e. I entered a stall instead of a spin), though I forgot to hold right rudder (since in that situation you’re moving slowly while the engine is at full throttle) and had to be cued to do that.
- Steep turns. I mentioned how Tom taught me to do steep turns without the trim tab, and his cue to keep the horizon on the same spot on the cowl during the turn. This is probably the best steep turn cue I’ve ever gotten, and I was able to do steep turns with ease. The worst part of my steep turns at this point is that my initial 45 degree bank will slowly become less steep if I’m not paying active attention to my bank angle. I can pretty easily hold altitude and come out on the correct heading.
After that we went to Orange County airport (MGJ), and rather than Tom saying “turn X heading to get there” he told me to pull out the sectional chart and find my way there. I got to do some navigating!
It was a great day for flying, and to be expected there were a lot of people flying out of and into the airport. At times we had to extend portions of our pattern to put space between us and other traffic, and we had to do a lot of traffic-sighting to stay aware.
For the first two landings I turned onto final and found myself too high, so I went around. I did three landings after that. A common thing that I do wrong when I hear the main wheels touch the ground is that I relax back pressure and the nosewheel hits the ground abruptly. Tom said that my landings were pretty good (compared to my previous landings–which I’d describe as “rough”) and that with only a few minor corrections they could become great landings. As far as I could tell, Tom wasn’t helping control at all and was only giving me verbal cues.
Here are some of the mistakes I still make while landing:
- Forgetting to throw in flaps on the base leg.
- Not descending during the descent stage of the landing. As a corollary, rolling out of the turn onto final approach too high. When I’m high, Tom will say “you can pull the power to idle since you’re too high” but I don’t yet have confidence I’d make the runway from as far out as he tells me to do that.
- At times descending too quickly (i.e. > 500 feet per minute).
- Flying too wide or narrow of a traffic pattern. I have a tendency to turn downwind too late or crab in towards the runway on the downwind, shortening my base leg.
- Coming in straight for a landing but being off the centerline.
- Not holding back pressure after wheels touch down.
I was surprised my landings went so well after not flying for 2 weeks. I felt more relaxed and more aware, even though as I said it looked like Tom wasn’t holding the yoke at all. I find that sometimes I actually dream about flying and flight lessons, so maybe that was some “extra practice time” or perhaps my mind finally reconciling new information I’m trying to learn. It’s akin to periodically taking a week off from exercising to come back stronger and well-rested.
Soon enough it was time to head back to Caldwell. My landing at Caldwell was good as well, and after that we secured the plane and another lesson was in the books!