|Systems checkout; slow flight; steep turns; simulated emergency; power off stalls; landing gear emergency; take off and landings – crosswind|
It feels like being a brand new student pilot as I have a new instructor, Bob Agresto, and a new plane to learn. The new plane is a complex plane. This means it has a retractable landing gear and a constant speed propellor. In a constant speed propellor you set the mainfold pressure and RPM that you require and a governor controls the pitch of the propellor so that the RPM remains constant. Another feature of a complex plane are cowl flaps. These are flaps on the cowl (well duh) that you open to get more ventilation into the engine during times where the engine might be running hot.
The plane looks exactly like the 172s that I normally fly, just a few more levers in the cockpit that I haven’t used before. There are a few more items on the pre-flight than usual but it really does look like a 172. We taxi out for a right downwind departure. The run up has a couple of extra items, most notably checking that the governor unit works on the ground. After a short delay we are off down 28R and rotating at 55 knots. Bob subscribes to the ‘pull it off the ground’ school of take offs whereas I like the ‘let it fly itself off the ground’ but I can do it his way.
There’s a lot to do on take off. Once we are clear of the end of the runway, we retract the gear. At 1000 feet I need to reduce the manifold pressure and the propellor RPM setting, and of course make the turns to crosswind and downwind. Seems a lot like patting my head and rubbing my tummy. We head to the ‘east practice area’, near Vijeas casino, for some recap of the Private maneuvers. Once we’re in level flight we reduce manifold pressure again and close the cowl flaps. From there we do some slow flight, some steep turns which are mostly ok but not great and a stall which doesn’t go very well. Bob says we will work on those again later. We play with putting the landing gear down and up, and how to manually lower the gear if the switch doesn’t work. It takes a lot of pumping and all whilst trying to fly the airplane. We head back to MYF where there is a large crosswind for which Bob lands the plane.
I don’t feel too great about my performance, not the showing I wanted to make with a new instructor. I am sure he is wondering how the hell I got my Private and Instrument tickets.
A spot of lunch and we are back in the air, this time heading to Brown Field for some touch and goes, yep this really is student pilot time. It was pretty bumpy all morning and it remains that way in the afternoon. The touch and goes go pretty well, I’m dealing with the crosswinds nicely and manage to grease a couple of landings. The workload is pretty high with having to work the gear, manifold pressure, prop rpm and everything else but I am sure that with time those things become second nature. I feel much better about my performance this time.
We get back to MYF and I track a perfect centre line and glideslope, but at the last minute it all goes wrong and we land pretty hard. Bob saves the bounce and lands it without the need for a go-around. Flying is very good at bringing you back down to earth, if you pardon the pun.
|Slow flight@mca, pwr off stalls, chandelles, lazy 8s, 8s on pylons, steep spirals, soft fld t/o, short fld lgs, slow flight over rway|
For this flight we headed straight out from Montgomery and up the coast towards the NorthEast practice area which is just north of Ramona. On the way there Bob had me practice some slow flight at minimum control airspeed which went well. Then we set up for some power off stalls and once again I was lousy at them. Each time I would struggle to make the airplane stall and then when it did I would push the nose too far down and we would lose too much altitude in the recovery, not to mention risking straining the wings in pulling out of the dive. So Bob put that one on the list of things we need to work on. Great, I hate stalls, guess that will teach me to get them right next time. After that I was introduced to the new maneuvers for the first time.
In a chandelle the aim is to perform a climbing 180 degree turn such that at the end the airspeed is just above stall. Its what is known as a maximum performance maneuver because you are on the edge of the airplane’s performance if you do it correctly. I messed up the first one by not keeping the pitch of the plane high enough but the second one came out fairly close and so we decided that I had that one well enough to practice on my own.
Next were the lazy 8’s and I was looking forward to seeing those as I could not work out what they felt like from reading the descriptions in the book. Unfortunately I wasn’t much clearer on it after Bob’s demonstration. I think its the hardest maneuver to master as it has to be very smooth and effortless; lazy, in fact. I will definitely need more lessons for that.
Next up were steep spirals. In this maneuver you pick a point on the ground and spiral around it. Its just like the turns around a point from the Private test but you are descending without power. The idea is to do at least three rotations. During the checkride, it is very likely that the examiner will simulate an engine failure at this point so the spirals will be to a power-off landing. I did this ok, I think, certainly well enough to practice my own.
Finally we did 8’s on pylons, another ground reference maneuver (like the spirals) that is designed to test your ability to divide your attention between outside references and the instruments inside. You pick two points on the ground and, basically, perform a firgure 8 pattern around them. The interesting part is that you must keep your wing tip pointing at the reference point throughout the maneuver and this requires climbing and descending at various points to maintain the distance. I did another pretty good job at those so we decided to head back for lunch. It was another blustery day and I was starting to feel a little sick again.
After some lunch we set off for Brown Field to spend the lesson working on my landings and pattern work. We did a soft field take off from Montgomery and positioned ourselves in the pattern for Brown Field. My approaches and landings were a little shaky at first, there are so many things to work at the same time that it takes quite a lot of effort but after doing it a few times the checklist items were becoming more automatic and I could concentrate more on my flying. My crosswind technique really wasn’t that great and I still tended to flare a little too high. We tried some short field landings and these have to be within 100 feet of your intended landing point; right now my landings are way outside that tolerance so a lot of work to be done there. As a way of teaching me how to handle the flare Bob had me try a slow flight over the runway. Rather than land the plane, we keep it in ground effect about 1 or 2 feet off the runway, tracking the centreline. The game is to keep the plane centred and level so that you don’t land. I didn’t do a very good job of it. My crosswind technique really isn’t good.
|Take offs and ldgs, crosswind control on t/o and ldg – very windy day|
The winds were off to the south east in the morning so Bob determined we would practice more take offs and landings at Ramona where he thought the wind would be calm. Unfortunately this turned out not to be so, at one point the wind was perpendicular to the runway as I was trying to land: good conditions for refining your crosswind technique but not the best for trying to get it reasonable in the first place. We did a bunch of touch and goes, my approaches were getting much better (most of the time) but my flares were still a little high. I need to come in lower and slower. I really wasn’t having a very good time and after requiring a go around that I was slow to respond to I said I was done and wanted to go back. Its very frustrating that my crosswind techniques are so poor. One of the feedbacks that I gave Kimberly after getting my Private was that I felt I had not had enough crosswind experience but during our training we never had many crosswinds so it was hard to tackle.
Getting back to Montgomery there was a good crosswind from the left, I did another nice approach but at the last minute I added a little power and messed up the flare and landing. It wasn’t too bad but I was annoyed that I had screwed up that which was pretty good until then. Ah well, next lesson will be back to Brown for more slow flight down the runway. Bob reckons that once I get the hang of that, my landings will be 100% improved. Let’s hope so!