Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lesson 8 - Best. Flight. Ever.

In perfect contrast to the somewhat awful experience I had last week, this flight was amazingly fun. As we discussed, I wanted to slow things down a little and do some confidence building. Today we had very nice weather and smooth air. We did the Four Fundamentals (climbs, descents, turns, level flight) and I did them quite well if I say so myself. I took the time before we started maneuvering to really get the airspeed trimmed just right. The key I've learned to this is two-fold. First, you really have to take your hand off the wheel and just wait a few seconds and watch it. Secondly, when your instructor starts to tell you what you need to do next, you kinda put up your hand and just say, hang on a sec... I'm working on something here. That worked surprisingly well. I figure it's my nickel so if I want to spend an extra minute in level flight that's on me. :-)  I found it time (money) well spent as when I performed maneuvers I found that the airspeed and altitude stuck like glue. There were a few moments when I wondered if the altimeter was even working as it appeared frozen. That was a really great feeling.

Then it was back to the field to practice landings. I did 4 full stop landings. After each we taxied back to the end of the runway to do it again. With no wind these were fairly easy. All in all the day was exactly what I needed: a confidence boost..

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Lesson 7 - Too much like work

Got a good lesson in how turbulence and affects the airplane. After a full cross-wind takeoff, I got bounced around like ice in a shaker for an hour. Low ceilings limited what we could accomplish. We stayed close to the airport and did "S-Turns" across highway 15. For the life of me I could get nothing right. If my turns were OK my altitude control was way off. I never once felt like I had the airplane truly trimmed for level flight. Thermals and turbulence kept me bouncing around. Once I smacked the side of my head against the window frame pretty good. At one point my altitude was off by over 500 feet. Ugh.

We switched to some basic VOR navigation which I did somewhat better at. Found our way back to the airport by following the 120 LIBerty radial and attempted an approach to landing again in a full 10 kt crosswind. Betsy took over on final and demonstrated the wing low technique. She rushed the landing too as our time was up and she had places to be. All in all I felt rushed through the whole lesson. Just as I was starting to understand a technique we were on to the next thing.

Then while tying down the ship I somehow managed to crack my skull into the pitot tube. OW! Seeing stars, and with a pounding a headache I left the ramp with the distinct thought that this flying thing had suddenly turned into something that resembled hard work way too much. It was a decidedly un-fun day. During debrief I let Betsy know that I felt like I was behind the lesson the whole time and really just wanted to take a break from learning new things. I need a review lesson to make sure I really have the basics down and regain my confidence. She let me know that we could certainly do that, but that maybe I was being too hard on myself. She said she'd struggle to maintain altitude with what the wind was doing. I dunno... I felt pretty clueless out there today.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

2nd Saturday Cookout with Family

I took the whole family to the club for the first time. Evan's seen it, but it was new for Evelyn and Chloe. All had fun I think. Starting to get everyone acclimated to the environment. This time Chloe got to ride the golf cart with our CFII driving.

Oddly, there were no brats. Pancakes and eggs instead. An odd choice for lunch I thought. But I guess they wanted to mix things up a bit.

I gave everyone a tour of the place. I tried to entice Evan to sit in the flight simulator but he wasn't having any of it. I'm sure he will sometime soon. Then we walked through the hangar and out to the ramp. I uncovered a warrior and Evelyn and I sat in it. Soon Chloe took Evelyn's place. I think she really enjoyed. Evan stayed nearby, but wouldn't come in the plane. Slow steps...

Then we went on a long walk down to the FBO to see what was what there. We ran into George (CFII) and Chloe on the golf cart. Introduced myself to the man at the FBO and he let us have a look around. It looked like a very nice facility. Nice pilot's lounge. Classroom, break room, lobby for passengers, etc. I don't know what's "typical" yet at small airports. But from reading reviews online I think this one would measure up nicely.

The FBO (Fixed Base Operator) is who I call to come fuel the plane after I'm done with a lesson. I've noticed that they always arrive quickly and get the plane filled up in just a few minutes. I think this place as set the bar high and I may be disappointed with other airports. We'll see. That's a few months down the road I think.

This evening at home at bedtime, Chloe was coming up the stairs and she called to me, "Daddy come and see this." She pointed at a shadow on a wall formed by part of the railing around our staircase. "Daddy, doesn't that look like an airplane tail?". Why yes, yes it does in fact. I was tucking her in and she asked when she could fly with me. Yeah. She's hooked.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lesson 6: Playing Hookey & Early Morning Fog

Since we had to scrub our weekend flight, I decided to fly instead of working today. All in all a much better way to spend one's morning. Luckily I have a work situation that is quite flexible so I can take a few hours here and there.

I'd been watching the weather and Thu & Fri were forecast to be quite nice days for flying. I scheduled a 09:00 flight. Betsy had sent out warnings throughout the week to her students telling us to keep an eye on the dew point. Each morning this week there were small temp/dewpt spreads. This means fog potential. There were fog or mist reports throughout the region each day.

The report was for foggy weather overnight and clearing in the morning. I left the house with overcast skies at 08:30. By the time I got to the airport it was beginning to break up, as predicted. By lift off time, it was blue skies and perfect flying weather. It was really interesting to watch how rapidly that early morning fog lifts. Fog of course has significant impact on any flight operations. If we can't see the end of the runway we're not flying.

Had a lovely flight though. We did more fundamentals. I moved up from 20° to 30° banks. I mentioned that 30° felt less safe than a nice 20° turn. Betsy let me know that if I liked that one, wait til I had to do 45°. I'll need to know these for my practical test. She then offered to demonstrate a "steep turn" for me. She proceeded to perform a 45° bank to the left. That was, frankly, quite scary. The ground was straight down out my window. I could feel the g force pulling at my body and especially my face. And when it was over I was dizzy for a couple seconds. That's going to take some getting used to. But it was also kind of fun.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

First Cancellation

In a nutshell, too windy to fly today. Cancelling flight. I am bummed. I did some yard work instead. Reading the METAR that said 20018G28 is one thing. Going outside and watching the trees blowing in gusts of 28 kts is another Once I saw that I got a better feel for what was going on. It's freakin windy out. What would that do to an airplane?

Well, with winds at 200 and our runway at 210 it would be more or less straight at us; and, this generally a very good thing. But it's the Gusting part that gets us. We approach at 65 kts. The wind is gusting over our wings at 28. Suddenly the gust stops at the winds are at 18. Instantaneously we're flying at 55 kts. Or not flying I should say as we're now stalled and we were 10 feet over the runway and there's no room or time to maneuver. So we make the ground comes up to meet us quite suddenly. The best outcome is a severely bent aircraft. And let's not talk about the worst. Let's just wait for a better day to fly.

We didn't fly today, but I learned about decision making which is very important in piloting.