Friday, June 26, 2009

New Airplane

Many months ago they took away the Cessna 152s I was training in. So, they finally replaced them with a Tecnam P2004 Bravo airplane, a neat little 2 seat Light Sport airplane. I've wanted to get checked out in the airplane for awhile (meaning, trained on the specific airplane to satisfy the rental facility's insurance demands) so finally I went in and did it. Well, it's a neat little airplane and I'm going to have a lot of fun flying it.

First, it's a nimble little airplane with plenty of zip. It doesn't hurt that the plane is brand new - 32 hours total. It still smells new inside. Also, it is a stick instead of a yoke, which at first I thought would be hard to get used to but it's not at all. It feels very natural and more "free" than a yoke at times.

First thing we did was takeoff and do some turns around a point. Amazingly I can still pull that off, so then we climbed to 4000 feet and did power-on and power-off stalls (these simulate stalls in takeoff and landing configurations). I recovered from them easily, but I noticed it stalls more like the 152 than the Warrior - it tends to drop off the cliff after the stall, whereas the Warrior kind of vibrates and mushes along until you push the nose down.

After the stalls, we did steeps turns which I messed up at first. Here, the stick vs. yoke was throwing me off because of the way I am used to holding my steep turn in the Warrior. It's easier to hold the yoke perfectly still than a stick - but after a couple of tries I was getting it. The other thing that was throwing me off was that the attitude indicator is in the glass panel display...and with the bright sun it was difficult to see the tiny hash marks for the bank angle.

So after steep turns we headed back to the airport, and Jim showed me the GPS system where you can lock onto your airport and it draws a line right to it. From the practice area I could probably find my way to the airport on pure instruments (hope I never have to!) but it was nice seeing how it worked.

The first landing was ugly due to me overcontrolling. The Warrior has a robust control system that requires a bit of effort to manipulate, but the Bravo has smooth as silk movement in the full range of motion. I did land the plane without breaking anything and my second landing was very smooth. I forgot, though, how much a crosswind throws these little planes around, so the Bravo is not for flying in gale force / hurricane force winds.

All in all, it was a lot of fun to fly and it's nice having another option if I'm just going up with 1 other person. It doesn't hurt that it's a new airplane with glass panel and GPS displays, either.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rusty but trusty

I'm sad to admit that I let my currency for carrying passengers lapse. Regulations (FAR 61.57 to be precise) says that I have to have 3 full stop take offs and landings in the preceding 90 days to be able to carry passengers with me. As of June 9, I only had 2 T.O.s and landings. When my wife starts to hound me about staying current, I know I'm overdue for some stick time.

So I toddled on out to the airport and flew in the pattern for an hour. Here are the results of my landing attempts:

1. Too high, too fast - REJECT REJECT REJECT
2. Trying to remember how to fly the pattern. Landing was smooth as silk.
3. Figuring out how to fly the pattern. Landing was good but not perfect.
4. ATC threw me a bunch curve balls. First, they had me extend upwind (takeoff heading). Next, they had me extend my downwind (opposite takeoff heading) for an incoming medical helicopter. But my training and experience finally started to drizzle back into my head and I adjusted my pattern nicely for a greaser landing.

There were a few planes flying around but it was congested due to one runway being out of service to be extended from 3900' to 5000'.

The weather was partly cloudy, no wind to speak of, 75°F. I'm now current to carry passengers again. Woohoo!