You’ve Been Coddled

December 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Thought we were going to be doing pattern work, but there was a pretty hefty crosswind so my instructor thought we’d go up north and practice some stalls and steep turns. Had to mentally switch gears but just peachy!

So we head off north to an area that has a “concrete plant”. Which is about 10 or so miles east of KFDK. Been there many times and it’s a good area out of the SFRA for maneuvering. I’m told to do some slow flight practice first in the clean configuration and I nail it very good. The plane’s stall horn starts squealing at about 50kts. I turn to various directions and all is fine.

Next I’m to do a power on stall…where you practice pulling the nose of the plane up (too far) until you stall. The damn thing DID NOT STALL today! It was¬†hilarious. I’ve got the nose way up and we slow to almost 30kts or less and the stall horn is wailing but it is not stalling! It turned out that there was a huge headwind…like 40kts. It was very amusing and wierd. We make believe it stalled and I recovered ok, a little too steep, but not horrible.

Now I do some steep turns. Some were ok some not great. You’re supposed to turn at a 45 degree angle and keep the altitude, and do this until you turn the plane a full circle (360 degrees) around. You turn to the left then the right and I was ok for some too steep for others. Practice practice.

Finally the more amusing part of the lesson was navigating back to KGAI. My instructor really wants me to figure out where I am and to navigate back home without any GPS. At first I wasn’t sure where we were starting from we had travelled a bit away from the concrete plant and were close to Carroll County airport. So we eventually get back to the concrete plant. To avoid total ignorance a few days ago I had picked out the locations that I knew had the water towers that we normally use. I looked at them on a map and have a decent idea of the relationship and directions of them all. In addition I know that if you travel along a course of 180 from the concrete plant you head direct to KGAI.

So from the concrete plant I head around 190 (we were west of the plant) and I’m puttering along fine. It also turned out (similar to last time when I was very lost) that we had a huge headwind. My rpms were showing 110kts but the ground speed was like 70kts. I manage pretty well locating Mt. Airy and then Damascus. We get close to KGAI and I can’t see the Germantown water tank (from which following 140 straight to the airpark). We putter along more and I eventually spot it…I still can’t see the damn runway. I’m puttering along and my instructor says “where are you flying to?” I respond “I can’t see the runway”. He grabs the controls and turns the plane about 90 degree to the right and lo and behold there is the runway. I take over and he says “You’ve been coddled” ūüėČ ¬†Fun fun…I hate when he’s right. I did/do have a bad habit of relying on the GPS which shows a nice magenta circle for the airport. Need to get better at using those landmarks and recognizing stuff around.

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Short Field Landings..Hold That Altitude

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Another day in the pattern today. I’d be getting annoyed if it wasn’t so much fun landing lots in the pattern. Practiced short field landings mostly today.

The idea is to land on or slightly beyond the numbers of the runway. I was not too bad but the instructor is wanting me to do everything all proper (can you imagine that!). The proper way is to hold altitude to clear a “mythical”¬†obstacle¬†by 50th, then drop and slow to 60kts by putting the power to idle but pitching up to slow to 60 (we should be at 65 to clear the¬†obstacle). After 6 landing I sorta got it. I don’t have any problem with the actual short landing part but am very bobbly with the business of holding the obstacle altitude and then dropping right after.

I also managed to have issues “centering the ball” and keeping my turns not steep and coordinated. Since we were doing a left handed pattern it was odd using the left rudder I’m so used to using the right rudder (for climbs and right hand patterns). Sigh. Practice practice.

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Sunset, Short Field, Pattern

December 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Flew kinda late in the day today which had the benefit of a nice sunset for the last couple of patterns around the air port.

We worked almost exclusively on short field landings. I did a horrible soft field takeoff today (very annoying)! Took off climbing at 75kts and went around. The downwind was fine and I was told to do a short field landing. The idea being to come down to 200ft AGL to be 50ft above a (mythical obstacle) at 65kts. Next you’re supposed to hold that altitude by increasing throttle (if necessary) and slow down to 60kts by raising the nose a little bit. It’s a little odd on a landing raising the nose like that but getting slow is important. Then you drop down to the runway and are supposed to touchdown right on the numbers.

For the first 3 or 4 landings I always touched down a bit beyond the numbers (not kosher for the checkride). On the last two I hit the number once and then touched down a tad before the number once also not good cause it was on the threshold. But it improved mostly the whole way through.

Another issue I had was just turning in the right place for the downwind today. I was using an incorrect landmark so screwed that up today a few times. Totally annoying as I’ve flown this pattern over a couple of hundred times…sheeeesh! Also for the turn to base the sun was very much in our eyes which made things more challenging. (excuses excuses ūüėČ Anyway it was still a fun lesson and I’m looking forward to nailing this landing technique next time.

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Slow, Stall, Where’s the Damn Airport?

December 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Interesting lesson today. More slow flight and stall practice in which I did MUCH better. Really did well with the slow flight in dirty and clean configurations today. Was fun puttering around at about 45kts, the ground seemed to move slooooooooww.

My recovery from stalls was a bit to abrupt and rough at first but after a couple of times I got the hang of just releasing the yoke to let the plane dive straight but then not letting it go too far. Pulling back on the yoke a little gentler worked fine and doing all the other stuff like putting up the flaps (if they were down) went much smoother today.

The more interesting part was the trip back home to KGAI (we practice all the slow flight maneuvers closer to KFDK which is out of the SFRA). My instructor is really wanting me to navigate via landmarks and I managed to screw up quite a bit a few times ūüėČ The main issue is that for the past month or so I’ve only been paying half attention to the navigation issues because in my brain I’m totally dependent on GPS. However that is a BAD thing and for the local area I do need to know where the hell I am. So now that I have finally started to pay attention by locating a variety of water towers and major landmarks like Sugarloaf Mt. and a concrete plant the instructor is wanting to not tell me what is what and want’s me to figure it out myself. It was somewhat annoying and useful at the same time. I think the instructor was getting kind of annoyed (which is always fun ūüėČ

So we are headed towards KGAI and I think we are¬† close but we’re not, turned out we had a strong headwind so our groundspeed was like 60kts which threw off my sense of where we were. I try to trace a line from one of the water tower’s 140 degrees which usually leads to the runway but I just could not spot the damn thing. We get reasonably close, like 5 miles until I actually see the airport, to which the instructor responds “about time”. And then I immediately manage to lose it from view. We fly a little more and then I finally spot it again when we are about 2 miles out.

Last but not least we come in to the pattern and he wants me to do a soft field landing. I was a little dazed and confused from the previous navigational excitement so I didn’t do terribly well. We get to the final too high and I’m at an ok speed but off center. I come down and pull up because we are trying to touch down very softly but I pop it back up too high and the instructor says “I have the controls”. I was pretty annoyed at that cause one thing for sure I could have brought the plane down fine but I think since he is still not used to me he likes taking over. Anyway learned a bunch of good stuff and got some good experience. Next time more pattern work so I will get those short and soft field landings down.


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Strong Winds, Smooth Landing

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Back in the proverbial saddle again. The weather finally cleared up. Practiced a bunch of slow flight today.

Got lucky checking the plane out today it was cold and windy but the plane was in the hanger so instead of wandering around the plane in the wind I did it inside.  It was just in the hanger in anticipation of snow last night, which never showed up.

We start things off with a short field take off and I only screwed up one thing, (pulled the yoke back before take off …needed for soft field not short field), but did most everything else ok. We head off towards Fredrick but wound up just doing a bunch of slow flight and stall practices. I need to get more clear which version of the slow flight I’m doing and tend to confuse them. Slow flight in clean, dirty, in takeoff config and so on. I’m getting there but need too many hints from the instructor. The actual flying is going fine.

We do a couple of 360 steep turn practices and head back to KGAI. The AWOS said that the wind was from 340 at 17kts…thats strong!! Fortunately the runway is 32 so it’s just directly a headwind. I come in fine and do an really really smooth barely felt touchdown. I thought it was cause I was holding off the actual touchdown as I’m being taught but in the debrief the instructor says it was cause we were traveling really slow because of the wind. And of course I helped…anyway that’s about it.

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Pitter Patter(n)

December 1, 2011 Leave a comment

More pattern work today. Although somewhat annoying also really good for me. Mostly we worked on soft and short field landings.

One amusing incident before it all started. This morning at 8AM getting to the airpark there was (for the first time ever) frost on the windshield and wings. I placed my headset on the yoke, checked the lights and lowered the flaps to check the ailerons. On my walk around I attempt to move the¬†ailerons¬†and they don’t move much. I kind of shake them a little and they still don’t move…hmmmm. I figure there must me more frost then I thought and since my instructor hasn’t shown up I don’t worry plenty of time to melt. I continue the walk around and the rudder doesn’t move. WTF! This is really odd. I go back to the cockpit and move my headset a little and see that the control lock is still in place!! I had covered it up by the headset ….duhhhhh. ¬†The control surfaces sure move a lot easier without the control lock in place ūüėČ

For the flying nothing particularly unusual, just really trying to get more specific with the speeds. Hitting 85kts on downwind, 75kts on base and 65kts on final all the way to the threshold. Making progress but it’s tricky. Also getting very specific with altitude particularly on the short field practice. And being sure to hit the centerline on landing even moving around a bit when over the runway to correct, that’s amusing!

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This is a dangerous job

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Great day to fly so we did MORE pattern work. The new instructor is really pushing me to hit the very specific speeds and altitudes and keeping that ball centered for the turns. It’s¬†definitely¬†good for me as I think I’ve become somewhat¬†lackadaisical.

Doing all the pattern work makes me feel like I’ve taken a step backwards but being more precise with the flying reminds me that I ain’t quite there yet. Mostly we practiced short and soft field takeoffs and landings. I have the soft field take off down pretty good. The landings are also more challenging as I’m being taught a different way to land. He want me to keep the plane off the runway for as long as possible to burn off speed and make the landings smoother. Getting there but it’s a bit strange changing my “technique” in mid-training.

On the second short field landing I was a bit high and too slow, just looked off, so the instructor said “controls are mine” to which I said …”no no I got it” and he insisted. And then later kinda yelled at me in pointing out that when he says he has the controls he means it and I can’t play around. He said “This is a dangerous job” to which I wayyyyyy agree. I sure couldn’t sit calmly by as a student get’s up to speed. It was a good lesson overall and I’m making progress….sloooooooow but sure.


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