December 2018 Archives

December 22, 2018

Flight Lesson #4

Lesson #4 at PDK: 12/22/18. Cessna 172 "Daisy" N73924 from Skybound Aviation.

Clear skies for my 4th lesson. Pretty chilly, though - temps in the 30s around 10:30am when we went out to the aircraft.

CFI Steve Hurst's finger is better from his cut a week ago just before my 3rd lesson, but it still hurts.

The first thing in the checklist is to turn on the master switch and check the fuel gauges. But given that you can't just pull over in the air, another part of the preflight check is to get up on the wing, open the fuel tank cap on each side, and use a clear plastic tube to physically check the level. Today we didn't have as much as we wanted, so Steve had to call a fuel truck. I got on with the rest of the preflight.

And promptly got told by Steve to go back and look at the checklist, because I missed extending the flaps first. Lesson: always look at the checklist first. I got through the rest of the checklist ok.

This particular plane really doesn't like getting started when it's cold. Steve had us pull out all tricks: prime it multiple times, pumping the throttle, and after about 5 minutes, it started.

Once in the air, I was introduced to the "Foggles": Foggles look like safety glasses with the top half frosted over so you can't see out the windshield. My task was to fly straight and level with reference only to the instruments, and then do a slight turn to the left. Spoiler: it's hard to do. I had trouble holding a consistent altitude. Steve was reasonably satisfied: "You didn't turn the aircraft upside down. Good work."

The first ground manuver was turning about a point: keeping a consistent direction from a fixed point on the ground as you make basically a square around it. We found a water tower to use, went down to 1500' AGL, and Steve demonstrated. Then I tried it, and did a reasonable job: I made left turns and went around said water tower twice, trying to keep the altitude steady and the water tower a consistent distance off my left side. (Side note: 1500' above the ground is not as high as you might think. If you're used to flying in jets that are only low on landings and takeoffs, it's striking how low it looks.

The second thing we practiced is the "forward slip". The point of the forward slip is to lose altitude and/or air speed more rapidly than normal, which is useful when you're landing. Put in left aileron which wants to make the airplane turn left, but full right rudder which keeps the aircraft instead going straight ahead. The result: the descent rate doubles.

The last manuver of the days: stalls! Stalls get lots of attention when you're learning to fly, and understandably so: a stall happens when you raise the nose so high that the wing basically stops flying. The Cessna 172 is a training aircraft, and she really doesn't want to stall. We did the first stall "clean" with flaps up. Pull the throttle back to idle, trim the airplane to fly at 65kts, and then start pulling the nose up, and the airplane slows. And slows. Somewhere below 40kts there's a slight disturbence in the controls, and you lose lift, and then you just lower the nose and you're back flying. Easy peasy.

Next up, stalling with flaps down. Flaps increase the area of the wing, so Daisy can fly even slower. As before, gliding, then pull back .. and back .. AND BACK .. it takes a lot of back pressure on the yoke, and airplane is going slower and slower. (Steve noted our ground speed was 25kts before she finally stalled.) Push the nose back down .. coming back .. and wait, what's that? The plane starts to drop again - we got into a secondary stall! Steve did the recovery on that one. We didn't talk about that again, so I'm going to have to bring that up next time, and look it up in my books.

Instead of following a highway back, Steve dialed in PDK in the GPS, which give me a heading to follow back to the airport: 238 most of the way, I think. I liked this part of the flight best: all the hard parts done, just flying along.

The flight ended on a bit of down note when I had some trouble taxiing. Taxiing is tricky because you do it all with the rudder pedals at your feet: the yoke does nothing. Plus, the pedals are dual purpose: press on the tops to brake, on the bottom to move the rudder. At the same time, I'm having some trouble nailing down which way things move correctly. Take the throttle: push in to go, pull out for slow. Don't be like me: when your instructor tells you to throttle the engine back, don't push in the throttle and suddenly have the airplane speed up and make your instructor suddenly have to take control.

But all in all, a good flight. More progress. Total hours to date: 4.5.

December 15, 2018

Flight Lesson #3

Lesson 3 today. First flight in two weeks. Last weekend the weather was bad both day.

Today was a longer lesson; 1.4 hours from engine start to shut down. I was with my instructor Steve Hurst for about 3 hours in total.

Today's accomplishments:

  • Applied for my student pilot's license. I'll get a card from the government in a few weeks.

  • Didn't freak out when Steve managed to cut his finger badly. I found a first aid kit. (Three, actually, but only one had bandaids.)

  • I did the initial call to ground to get our clearance to leave the ramp. I had to rehearse it like 3 times: "Cessna November 73924 at the Skybound ramp with information Tango; we're VFR to the North." CFI copied down the information from ground and did the readback of the information. One thing at a time.

  • Flying up above the cloud layer which was about 4,000'. We're allowed to fly above clouds so long as we can get back down without going through a cloud. We made it up to about 6,000'. (Altitude at PDK is 998', so that's around 5,000' AGL - above ground level.)

  • Lots of turns again. Left, right, 180, 360, climbing turns, descending turns. I'm doing better with direction, but doing not quite as good with altitude. That tends to drift 100-200 feet off if I'm not paying attention. I'm getting better as I go along.

  • Slow flight. Normal cruise speed is something over 110 knots, or about 126mph. In slow flight we were down between 55-65 knots, or 63-75mph with our flaps fully extended. When we were up around 6000, he pulled throttle back to idle and we were gliding down. It was so much quieter at idle! We flew around for quite a while in slow flight. You need to move the controls further when the plane is slower, and the plane tended to mush around a bit more.

My favorite part: my CFI pointed out 400, and said "Let's follow that back towards the field." I found it much easier fly just trying to follow the road. I'm pretty sure we flew right over Avalon in Alpharetta, so right near work. Then we aimed for the King and Queen buildings. We were around 2800' the whole way down.

Steve called the tower and got our clearance - straight in to runway 21R. We turned towards the east and descended towards pattern altitude - 2000'. Steve adjusted the throttles and trim to get us into the right glide. He had me turn towards the runway. He took over the landing, but I got reasonable close - maybe less than a mile? Wow. Wow.

I taxied back. You steer the airplane on the ground with rudder pedals at your feet, not with the yoke. At some point Steve was going to have me call ground for taxi instructions, but that point I was just .. well, see above. Wow. Wow.

At some point when we went into slow flight I told Steve "I'm having a lot more fun this time." And I was. My biggest problem so far is getting a little too focused on each thing and not being aware of all of what's going on. That will come with time as I don't have to concentrate on just controlling the aircraft.

I still can't believe I'm doing this. Trippy! (Forgive me, I'm a 70s kid.)

December 2, 2018

Flight lesson #2

No cool pictures today, but very good first real flight lesson: one full hour in the aircraft.

We did 30/45° left and right turns of all kinds (90, 180, 360°. Climbing and descending. Descending and turning. Dutch rolls (roll the aircraft 30° to the left, then 30° to the right.)

I'm not a natural at this - there were a number of times where I was struggling to keep track and do everything. At the beginning of the lessons my turns were very sloppy: losing altitude, not using rudder properly. By the end I was doing much better with holding altitude and using rudder. It was good to make progress.

Bottom line: this was much more fun than the first one. So much to learn, but I'm doing fine.