Learning to fly

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Flight #46 & 47
Oct. 30, 1999 12 noon
(1.0 Solo, 1.1 Dual) 67.0 total

A few puffy clouds and a fairly stiff breeze from the south indicated an interesting afternoon to come. After my last strong crosswind attempts on flight #43, I was a bit apprehensive. But I climbed in and took off anyway with a determined look in my eye coupled with a new technique up my sleeve.

I found there was a lot of turbulence and more crosswind than I thought after I was in the air, but it was too late now. On final I tried the old “last second rudder kick out” and got it down ok, but it could have been better. No touch and go this time, so I taxiied back for another try. Back into the air, on final and over the runway, it didn't look good so I did a go-around. Lined up for landing this time and another rudder kick at the last moment put me down ok, but still not pretty enough or with enough confidence. But it was with enough control for a touch and go so I did.

This time around as I lined up on final, instead of crabbing into the wind, I held right aileron and left rudder to slip right into the wind and stayed parallel to the runway but with my right wing low. I pulled back on the yoke to flare over the threshold and level it out...very smooth and under total control. Sure helps the rollout too. Woohoo! Touch and go to get back into the air, let’s try that again and make sure it wasn’t an accident. Sure enough, it worked again to perfection just like the first time.

(3:30 pm) After some ground school with some other students, Karen wanted to take me up for some stalls and simulated engine failures. Much better simulated engine failures now that I don’t have to change perspective by leaning way down to grab the flap handle. Of course it also helped that I always seemed a bit high when it came time to put in flaps and that made it much easier for me to push the nose over to keep the airspeed up. But in any case, today it all came together to build a lot of confidence.

Then it was out of the pattern to practice stalls. Not bad at all, still just need to be quicker on the recovery and not so deliberate. Then we headed back to the airport for one last simulated engine failure and at the last second above the runway, she asked for a soft field landing too. Ha! No problem. She was tickled pink since this was the second time she’s done that and I handled it easily both times. More confidence thank you. Right now I could use all I can get with the checkride Monday, weather willing.

Flight #48, 49 & 50
Oct. 31, 1999 10am
(2.0 Solo, 1.1 Dual) 70.1 total

Blue skies again with a bit of wind down the runway. Not so much crosswind to contend with this day. Mostly short field/soft field practice all the time. Karen says not to worry about the short field 50’ obstacle anymore, that I’ve got it easily under control and just to concentrate on putting it down on the numbers. Hell, if that’s all I have to do, no problem. I’ve been trying to visualize the 50’ obstacle fairly close to the end of the threshold and it’s been pretty close to the limits of my abilities to keep the rollout under the limits. One of the pilots at the school said his stall horn was blaring the whole time that he was doing his short field on the checkride but it wasn’t a basis for a fail. So couple a real slow, long approach with just putting it down where I know I can, and I’ll nail it.

After an hour flight and then a break for lunch, Karen and I both got in for some simulated engine failures and stall practice. My simulated engine failures are noticeably better with 75E so we only did a couple. I really enjoy doing them aggressive now, more aggressive than she really wants to see them actually. It’s a blast coming over the runway threshold with wings at about 20-30 degrees, leveling out from the slip and throwing the last 10 degrees of flaps on to slow it for a smooth touchdown.

After that fun we headed out for stall practice. Getting better now. More aggressive on the yoke to limit the recovery to less than 100' altitude loss on power off stalls. Power on stalls are less of a problem. Just remember to take off carb heat too. After we finished and took another break, I did another hour in the pattern to try a few simulated engine failures, but the pattern was so full, there never was an opportunity. So I just kept with the short field/soft field stuff.

Flight #51
Nov 6, 1999 3pm
(1.5 Solo, .5 Dual) 72.1 total

Not a cloud in the sky but a strong steady breeze from the north. I took off from 4 and started practicing simulated engine failures. Found myself with a lot of airspeed over the runway even with 30 degrees of flaps. The crosswind was giving me a big push on the way down on left base and making it difficult to land on the first half of the runway.

After I taxied back, Randall came out and said if I needed to land that far down that I should do a go-around instead. Nearly each time after that I had to do a go-around. So after a few more I gave up and waited for Karen to get back from her dual cross-country. We stayed in the pattern and she showed me that it wasn’t necessary to immediately turn toward the runway with this crosswind. Take a bit longer time to bleed off airspeed and altitude by staying on downwind and base longer. Well, now you tell me. Every single time until now, she’s been on me if I don’t turn toward the runway immediately on power failure. Not as much slip needed with a longer downwind either. So after a few, she got out and I did them on my own again. Much better, even with nearly no slip. One touchdown was so smooth, even with the crosswind, that I barely felt it.

Flight #52
Nov 7, 1999 4pm
(1.6 Solo) 73.7 total

A warm sunny day with only a slight breeze that kicked up later in the day. I climbed out of the pattern and headed out over the house to practice stalls. Pretty good on most of them. Only one power-off was near 100’ lost. Still within limits though. I’ll have to watch for the secondary stall during the power-on. The horn starts to come on in the background, but no real stall happens.

Practiced a few Turns Around A Point and steep turns and held all of them real close to altitude. My Turns Around A Point needed some work to maintain uniform distance and judge the wind better, but still passable I think. Then I headed back west to find the power lines for S-turns. Again, not too bad and I held altitude, only losing about 40 feet at one point but caught it in time and brought it back. I’m a better judge of the wind now and did one Turn Around A Point on a nearby tower. Pretty good. Then back to the airport for some landings.

The pattern sounded pretty full and I knew there wouldn’t be any room for simulated engine failures. Only one good short field landing, everything else was pretty good though. I will have to concentrate on the setup better for the short field, especially since the pattern altitude will be 300’ higher at Andrews-Murphy. I’ll need a longer downwind and have to cut power sooner. The weather looks like it will cooperate this time and stay this way for the rest of the week, so the checkride is a go for Tuesday.

Flight #53, 54
Nov 9, 1999 9am
(.8 Solo, 1.4 Dual) 75.9 total

A warm sunny morning with no breeze to speak of. Karen and I met at the airport early to get started en route to Andrews-Murphy (6A3 but has since changed to RHP) and get some more last minute practice in for the checkride. It was a bit hazy on the ground but nothing to deter us from going since it was burning off fast.

I led the way because I had her GPS in mine and she had a LORAN. Karen flew in 38U because it needed a new Weight & Balance to be done at 6A3. Although I had the GPS, we followed the highway all the way up because of the high foothills in the way. At Blue Ridge I turned to follow the road as it split off to the right but after a few minutes realized that I was off course to the right. I shouldn’t have been over the lake which meant I had goofed. And I had fiddled with the GPS by this time and couldn’t get it pointing back to 6A3. So I radioed Karen what I had done and she redirected me back onto the correct heading. I kept my hands to myself the rest of the way and we made the rest of the flight without incident.

After a short break, we climbed back into 75E and practiced simulated engine failures, short field/soft field takeoffs and landings. The first short field was a wee bit long so we tried again and I nailed it good. Then we flew the first few legs of the flight plan to Nashville and again she pointed out the probable diverts. Then some stall practice and constant altitude turns. No problem with any of those, so it was back to the airport for some lunch.

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