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March 23, 2019

Lesson #9: Sat Mar 23, 2019

Lesson 9: Sat March 9, 2019. Cessna 172 N73924 Daisy.

It's been 6 weeks since I've been in a plane. I had two lessons cancelled for bad weather in that time, and after that I was just too busy with moving.

But we moved in on March 15th, and though the house is still a maze of boxes, it's time to get back in the air and go back to flying every week. Flying every other week was just not enough to keep me progressing the way I'd like.

In our old apartment at N. Shallowford off 285, we were frequently under the PDK flight path. I'd frequently hear an airplane over the freeway noise, call out "Airplane!" and pull out FlightRadar24 to see if I could identify it. Fortunately, in our new house I can still hear airplanes coming in and out of PDK on occasion. (I've also heard commercial flights coming east and then north out of Hartsfield; those planes are at 10,000 feet when they get over our place, but you can hear them when the conditions are right.)

Since I last flew, however, I do have one piece of official evidence of my flying status: I got my student's pilot's license from the FAA. I don't actually need it until I solo, but it's a necessary step. I'm still waiting on my medical certificate. The FAA needed current blood work, and though it was current when I submitted it, I'm gonna blame the government shutdown for delaying it to the point where they wanted a more current test. Thanks, Trump.

Before I actually solo, I need three things: the medical certificate, proof of aircraft renter's insurance (I have to be able to cover the $5,000 deductible on the flight school's aircraft insurance), and I have to pass a pre-solo test given by my instructor. And, of course, I actually have to be competent to get the airplane into the air and back onto the ground reliably without my flight instructor's help. I'm not there yet, but today I stepped back into that process in earnest.

It's surprising how much you forget in six weeks of not flying and not studying. I had to be reminded where to check the fuel. I had to carefully rehearse calling up ground for my clearance. I had to fight with my old nemesis: taxiing. And my takeoff was pretty squirrely after 6 weeks away.

As for the flying, this was basically a mirror of lesson 8 back on 2/9: pattern work at PDK on 3L. Take off. Turn left at 700 feet. Level off at 1,000 feet, turn on the downwind leg. At some point, the tower calls: "Cessna 73924, cleared for the option." (We have options: fly low and slow over the runway like we've doing, do a touch and go, or make a full-stop landing.) Abeam the numbers (lined up with the end of the runway), turn on the carb heat, reduce the power and start descending. Bring the speed down "into the white" (basically below 90 knots) and bring in 10' of flaps. (The flaps increase the lift and let the plane fly slower.) When you can see the runway at 45' over your left shoulder, make a 90' left turn onto your base leg. Bring in the second notch of flaps. My instructor is controlling the throttle at this point so I can focus on everything else. Keep the speed around 70kts; control that with your pitch. Too slow: push forward slight on the yoke to push the nose down and increase the speed. Do the opposite to slow down. There's a little wind from the left, so we use left aileron (rolling into the wind slightly) and right rudder to keep us centered over the runway. Down the runway, down the runway ... now we've run out of runway, so time to go around. Full power: push the throttle all the way forward. Push the carb heat back off. Flying level, bring your speed up around to 79 kts, then raise the nose and climb out at about 76kts. Bring up the flaps a notch at a time: if you bring the flaps up all at once, you lose lift and settle back down onto the runway. And that's no good because all the runway is behind us.

I'm not sure how many times we went around. Steve took two of the passes over the runway to demonstrate what I should be doing.

My initial passes were rough. I had trouble last lesson with uncoordinated turns int the pattern, which means I was not using the rudder properly; this time I worked to use make better use of the rudder. Each time around I did a little better. I'm also taking more of the steps from Steve: I did responded to most of the calls back to the tower, and this lesson I put the carb heat in, which I didn't do last time. Steve is still handling the throttle down near the runway, but that's understandable - down that low, the main thing you need to get you out of trouble is power, and I'm still quite capable of getting us in trouble.

The last time around as we were going to land, I expected Steve to call "my airplane", but he didn't, so I landed. Sort of landed. It was not quite straight, and Steve took control immediately after we touched down, but it was my first time taking the airplane all the way down to the ground. Mentally I'm not counting it as my first landing; I need to be able to get it all the way down the runway safely before I'll count it. But it's progress!

Afterwards we sat in the Skybound office and talked about the flight. We discussed crosswind landings, takeoffs, and taxiing. While taking with Steve, I had an insight about taxiing the Cessna. Unlike a car, the there is no direct linkage between the flight controls and the nose wheel. The rudder pedals are connected to springs, and when you push on one of the pedals, it pulls the spring which pulls the wheel in that direction. Today's insight - Steve always pushes the pedal to the floor when he wants to make a turn, and then backs off as necessary. I've been treating the pedals like I would a steering wheel: little turn, little push - and little result. I'll give that a shot next time.

I'm at 10.2 hours now, but I've got three more lessons in the nexts three weeks already booked, so weather permitting, I should be racking up the hours. Onwards and upwards!