Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Landing strut stress test.

Lesson 10

We had a nice, long, hot flight today. The temp was topping 88 degrees and the air conditioner in the Cessna 152 wasn't...uh...installed. Our goal for this lesson was to review everything I've learned, as I have a stage check coming up very soon. I did pretty well in everything but I got a bad start with my S-turn, started late and didn't watch altitude, so my instructor let me try it again. I also got to do more "hood" work, or instrument flight, and although it's hard, and I tend to climb a bit steep, I didn't stall and I was able to do everything Jimmy asked me to do with the hood on.

So, then I got to do three full stop / taxi back landings. This means I land as normal, and taxi back to the runway for a normal take off.

The first landing, well what can I say, was very good. I was able to adjust for the 15 knot gusts (slight crosswind but mostly on the nose). The rudder was my friend and I ended up perfectly aligned and in a perfect flare. That's a great feeling, making a landing like that in challenging conditions. Unfortunately, I didn't quit while I was ahead.

Let me preface my summaries of landings two and three by saying this: my approaches are generally pretty good. I'm getting the hang of the forward slip and keeping the plane straight. But, with these gusts, sometimes all the factors pile up and I make the ugliest damned landings you could imagine. At this point I'll just say there was bouncing and ballooning and crabbing and leave it at that. The important part is I got the plane down both times with no damage and no injury. But I'm going to practice until all my landings have more in common with landing #1 than #2 and #3.

From here, we go to written test prep (next lesson), and then a stage check which is to make sure I have the skills needed for solo flight. At that point, Jimmy will determine what I need to improve or practice before endorsing me for solo flight. I'm seeing landing practice in my future.

And, on a side note, this is the most fun I've had, uh, ever.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The one where they switch the instructor.

Lesson 9

I got a call today from my flight school and they told me that my normal instructor, Jimmy, was stuck in New York because of bad weather (commercial flight). So they told me that they assigned me Bill, who was to be my original instructor before all the craziness with him not being checked out in a Cessna 152 (hilarity!).

Well at this point I'm not all that excited about getting a lesson from an instructor that I'm not familiar with, but the syllabus is pretty rigid and each flight follows the syllabus, so I figured it would be OK. Also, the weather was warm and winds were calm.

Our objectives were emergency procedures, such as engine failure / fire, and electrical fire. We spent about 45 minutes on picking places to land (we're in farm country so it's not all that hard) and setting up for landing in Farmer Lundquist's bean field. Also, on takeoff he said "oops your engine just seized up, pick a landing spot NOW", and luckily, I was able to pick a nice smooth landfill (covered up) just past the end of the runway.

The other emergencies are pretty straightforward, remembering to fly the plane first, then go through the checklist for the particular problem.

Then we got to do three landings. The first landing I did not flare enough and we hit pretty hard. I don't know what the C152 gear struts are made of but it is stern stuff. So, we took off again and this time I tried to concentrate on the flare and the rudder, and keeping the damned nose off the ground a bit (nosewheel shimmy). Flare was a bit flat but the landing was nice and straight. We hit quite a bit softer than the first one, so I was pretty much feeling good.

And now I'll tell you about the perfect landing I spoiled. I flew a good pattern, got the plane set up for landing, executed a workable forward slip-to-land without Bill's help, and was just crossing the numbers when my brain went "you're not going to make it!" so I goosed the throttle. Bill goes "no don't do that!" and took the controls for a second to re-establish the glide slope, and then I put it down in a fairly smooth landing that was a bit fast, but otherwise decent.

I guess in the grand scheme, I'd rather err on the side of throttle and have to go around or use a bit more runway, than not be sure and hit the ground in front of the runway. But of course, practice will help my confidence and my ability to judge my glide slope better.

Having Bill pinch hit for Jimmy wasn't a big deal, but I'll be happy with Jimmy back as my instructor.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Glide slope.

Lesson 8

Today's lesson was, by far, the most difficult, demanding, and fun. The wind gave me a break, sort of, and was kind of a lazy 6 knot wind all day until my lesson was supposed to begin. Then it kicked up to 8 knots with 13 knot gusts (1 knot = 1.15 mph). My instructor, Jimmy, debated whether or not he wanted to take me up for takeoffs and landings with gusting winds, and finally decided to do it.

When we got to the "runup area" the right magneto was running the engine very rough. If you recall from my very first attempt at a lesson, this problem is what scrubbed it. However, this is a different Cessna 152 (the "good" one) and I was not pleased at all at this turn of events. Jimmy, however, tried running the plane at 1700 rpm and leaned out to see if he could burn off the fouling on the plug - if that's what it was. Amazingly, it worked. So, we took off. I made four landing attempts.

Landing 1

Good approach, some adjustments to throttle to account for downdrafts. Gusts were not strong but I had to make a lot of control inputs. Slip to landing finally started to sink in. The landing was a little rough around the edges but pretty good overall. Jimmy had his hand on the yoke but says he didn't make any control inputs.

Landing 2

Approach was fine. Jimmy continued to give advice for using throttle to control the glide slope, which was "mushy" due to the wind. Slips are feeling good, and the landing was actually pretty nice. Again, Jimmy has hands on yoke but says he did not have to intervene.

Landing 3

Things get hairy. My nose was pointed off the runway a bit and we hit sideways on the left main gear, which abruptly straightened us. I salvaged the landing with a decent flair but we're going too fast. I missed the first taxiway and had to take the second one. Jimmy was hands off on that one. He says it wasn't a pretty landing but it was a safe one.

Landing 4

I nailed the approach to the WALL. I was slipping perfectly, nice glide slope, airspeed just right, lined up with the runway centerline. POOF! A downdraft shoots us straight down. "I have the controls" said Jimmy and he salvaged the landing in the blink of an eye.

I told Jimmy that today's lesson was the most nerve-wracking and fun time I've had in a long time. Landing an airplane is harder than it looks. A lot harder.

Friday we get to do some more!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Two weeks?

Lesson 7

Well this lesson was supposed to be all about takeoffs and landings. However, the relentless winds won't give me a break, so we worked on steep turns, forward slips, and setting up crosswind landing approaches (we skipped to the next lesson). Jimmy says that he will now cancel future lessons until we get a calmer, non-gusty day so we can really work on takeoffs and landings.

I'm starting to understand the fundamental workings of the forward slip, both for bleeding off altitude, and for crosswind compensation. Jimmy let me get into the airport pattern, set up the approach, and essentially land the plane (he was hands on, but I really was able to get a feel for when I need to level out and flare). I also worked the rudder on landing, which was easier to handle than I thought.

Jimmy then debriefed me afterwords and we talked about some of the finer technical aspects of landings. He mentioned that if the weather cooperates I'd be able to get my takeoffs and landings polished and complete the competency check, and possible even solo in about two weeks. I'm obviously not going to hold him to that, and I know he's not going to send me up by myself unless he's sure I'm ready.

Two more lessons are scheduled this week, so watch this space for updates. Cheers!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

In da hood.

Lesson 6

In two weeks time I forgot very little of my flight training. We worked on instrument training, just enough to help me not immediately explode if I fly into a cloud. It's pretty hard - you basically put a hood on your face that limits your viewing to only the instruments. You have to keep scanning your "six pack" - your main instruments - and you can't stop on just one instrument because then everything falls apart. So we did turns, climbs, descents, and heading /altitude holds just on instruments. It's a real eye opener, because when you are flying visually, your body starts to automatically make minor corrections in reference to the outside world.

Also, I almost landed. Now, today we had the "other" Cessna 152 with a crappy radio that when adjusted so you can hear the other person on the intercom, the radio calls make your ears bleed. And of course, it was busy today so it was hard to communicate in the cockpit. So, Jimmy had me fly back to the airport and set up for base leg (perpendicular to the runway), get the plane ready as far as airspeed and flaps, and turned to final. We were too high (of course) so he had me do a forward slip to drop altitude, and when I straightened out, VOILA! I managed to get the plane on a perfect approach. We were 10 seconds to touchdown, the radio is chattering nonstop, and I thought I heard my instructor say "my controls". It was not the best time to be hesitant, so I say "You have the controls". Turns out he had said "I'll keep my hands on the controls". So, he wanted me to land. DANGIT!! Other than that, the flight went really well.

Next lesson: I'll get my chance to land.

Friday, June 6, 2008


i can't seem to see the sun but it is so windy, like the breath of an angry giant
the greyness washes over everything and where is the happiness...?

it is gone

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


The clouds are here to stay, and they are low. Can't fly with clouds this low, because we can't get high enough to safely do certain maneuvers. It's very likely that I won't fly at all again this week (2 cancelled flights so far) but I'm continuing to schedule lessons out for the next two weeks. Right now I'm scheduling lessons for every day that I'm free and my instructor is free.

The weather is bound to change for the better. Right...?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Airport Inspection.

Well, I didn't fly this week. One of my reservations had to be cancelled because of a work meeting, and the other one was due to weather. I have three reservations this coming week, so I'm hopeful that I'll get airborne at least once.

Today I took my little boy to the airport to watch takeoffs and landings. It was a perfect day for flying, but not too many people were taking advantage of it. We watched 4 takeoffs and landings and he absolutely loved it.

Next scheduled flight is Tuesday, so I will have an update then.