Monthly Archives: August 2008

Flight School Day 29

Flight school day 29 was last Friday.

We practiced some more soft-field takeoffs and he was happy with all of them.  Then he showed me short-field takeoff procedure.  For this kind of takeoff, we get the airport to the very beginning of the runway–as close as we can get without the tailwheel going over the edge.  Then we hold the stick for neutral elevators (look out the back to visually verify).  Then we hold full brakes and apply full power.  Once you check all the gauges and everything looks good, let go of the brakes.  Once the airplane starts lifting off, pitch the nose for 60 mph.  This guarantees the most altitude gained in the shortest distance.  Once you have cleared all obstacles pitch for 77mph which guarantees quickest altitude gain.  These takeoffs also went nicely.

After that we practiced short-field landings.  For this he basically picked a spot on the runway that I had to aim for like it was the beginning of a short runway and I had to land a three point landing on that spot.  These landings seemed to work out pretty good and he was really impressed with them.

Then we tried soft-field landings that are basically a three-point landing made as smoothly as possible.  On final we started talking and before I knew it we were low, slow, and crooked.  I managed to straighten out but the touchdown was not very smooth.  We tried again and I was more focused and it worked out so smooth if you were sleeping, it probably wouldn’t wake you.

We also flew out east of the airport to practice some maneuvers.  We started with steep turns to the left and right–I kept the altitude constant and entered and exited the turns right on the correct heading.  Then he had me try a climbing turn to a heading–had I done it perfectly, I would have got to the altitude and completed the turn at the same time.  As it turns out I completed the turn before I was at the right altitude.

Then we tried a stall and it worked out quite nicely.  On my previous stall attempt, my right wing started dropping and I tried to lift it by rolling the airplane left with the ailerons–that only makes it worse.  What happened is the right wing was a little more stalled than the left, so it started dropping–lowering the aileron on the right wing only increases the angle of attack and causes it to fall even quicker… so it’s kindof like your controls get reversed.  I’m not sure what would happen if you just tried to apply opposite commands at that point.  Anyway, the correct method is to keep the airplane level using the rudder pedals because the tail isn’t stalled.

My next reaction last time as soon as the roll started accelerating was to lower the nose and it instantly recovered.  This time I was ready with the rudder pedals and the airplane stalled nice and level and I was able to recover with very little lost altitude.

Aaron seemed really pleased with my performance and said I will need very little preparation for the test.

Flight School Day 28

Flight school 28 was last Wednesday.

I signed up to fly at 10:00am, but forgot about it because my Thursday flight got reshuffled and I decided to go fix an oven in the morning.  But at 10:30 I decided to check the schedule just in case (thinking the flight was in the afternoon).  Anyway, Aaron was forgiving and I showed up at 11:00am instead.  I took him to Subway for lunch to make up for it.

First we practiced soft field takeoffs.  The idea is that the ground may be mushy or gravely and the wheels might sink in.  So as soon as we make sure there is no traffic and taxi onto the runway we apply just enough power so we make it onto the runway and can turn tracking the centerline without needing any brakes but also without slowing down and allowing the plane to sink in.  As soon as we’re lined up we apply full power and hold the stick all the way back.  Normally we would push the stick forward and get the plane up on the main wheels, but not for a soft-field takeoff.

Soon the airplane will start lifting off (along with the stall warning because the angle of attack is close to a stall).  As soon as the plane is off the ground (and thus not being slowed down by the friction of the soft ground) we push the nose down and keep the airplane floating in ground effect until we’re going fast enough to climb out.

When I tried the takeoff I climbed too high and nosed over too slowly, so he helped get the nose down.

Then we practiced wheel landings and they didn’t turn out as well as I hoped.  It was good doing them with him again though–I’ve been pulling up too early and thus losing too much speed before touching down to actually perform a wheel landing.  He helped me keep the nose down a little longer before the flare and get the plane closer to the runway during the flare.

My other problem is the plane will seem to be floating and losing airspeed so I push forward on the stick–this causes the airplane to touch down a little too hard and bounce off the main wheels.  It seems if I just held the stick without pushing forward it would probably work out perfectly.

In addition, he encouraged me not to fly out so far past the end of the runway on downwind–I’ve been trying to go out just the right distance to glide back to the runway with almost no slipping required.  We practiced going to where the runway is about 45 degrees behind the wing before turning base.  This tends to require quite a bit more of a slip to get the plane down but there is little risk of undershooting the runway if the engine quits.

Flight School Days 26 and 27

Flight school day 26 was a week ago.  It had been a while since my last flight and the weather for Thursday (when I was scheduled to fly) looked bad, so I called Wednesday afternoon and scheduled solo time in the airplane.

My goal was to get better at my landings and stalls.  I flew the pattern a few times and despite my efforts, I kept coming in too slow for a wheel landing and ended up doing three point landings with my tail touching quite a bit before the main gear.  Aaron says there is nothing wrong with that, but it feels unnatural and I think I’d prefer for the mains and tailwheel to touch down at almost the same time and believe it will make for a gentler landing.  I paid close attention to my alignment with the runway, both keeping centered over the centerline and headed straight down the runway.  For some reason if I don’t force myself to think about it, I’ll end up over the centerline but pointed off to the side a little.  This is usually corrected immediately on touchdown with quick and strong rudder inputs as the airplane seems to want to make the error more severe.  At first, I felt like I couldn’t even tell when I was pointed wrong, but now it’s more obvious but I need to remind myself to be looking for it.

I flew east of the pattern for a while and practiced some stalls.  I don’t know what the difference was, but it was the first time I tried them solo and they seemed a lot better than normal.  Just after the airplane stalled, I slightly released some back pressure and added power and didn’t lose very much altitude at all.  In the past, I probably lost 100-200 feet per stall.

Just as I expected, the weather was too bad to fly on Thursday.  I booked time with Aaron for Tuesday and Wednesday of the following week instead.

When I got to the airport on Tuesday I found out while Aaron was flying to Moontown with another student, he came upon the wreckage of a plane that had just taken off from Moontown.  He reported the accident and found out he knew at least one of the pilots who died in the accident and was pretty upset about it.  He landed at Moontown and spent much of the rest of the day over there to talk to the FAA/NTSB folks and canceled all his flights for Tuesday and Wednesday.

I was originally planning on using all of Tuesday and Wednesday’s flight time to practice wheel landings with Aaron and was going to wait until Aaron seemed like he wanted to fly again to schedule any more time.  On Wednesday, the flight school called and asked if I wanted to rent it solo and I decided to do so.

There wind was almost all crosswind today, so it was good practice for my takeoffs and landings.  One think I learned was I don’t trim the plane near as much as I should for landing.  Aaron always says to trim for hands-off flying at 70-75mph depending on if we’re doing wheel or 3 point landings.  What ends up happening is I trim a little bit but end up still having to pull back on the stick to get it all the way down to 75mph.  Today I pulled the trim a lot farther back while actually allowing the elevator to go loose in my hand until it really was at 75mph.  The rest of the approach seemed a lot less demanding and while my first few landings were just 3 point, they ended up perfectly straight and pretty smooth.  I wouldn’t mind landing the first landing exactly the same every time.

I then decided to try a wheel landing and it ended up being so smooth I almost didn’t feel the wheels touch.  I kept the tail up until it started to feel hard to keep up and set it down.  One odd thing that never happened until after flying for a month or so is occasionally the tailwheel will get a “shimmy”.  It is attached to the rudder by two trampoline-looking springs and my guess is when I set it down just wrong it starts it oscillating and somehow the speed of the plane feeds the oscillation giving a side-to-side jerking sensation.  The first time it happened Aaron just pushed forward on the stick a little to lessen the pressure on the tailwheel and the vibration stopped.  So I deal with it the same way every time it happens.