Learning to fly

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Flight #2
May 13, 1999, 7pm
(.8 hrs) 1.7 total

There were late afternoon thunderstorms coupled with tornado watches in Forsyth County, but only a slight breeze with blue skies and threatening boomers in the distance over Cherokee. All of the radio communications today were mine to make except announcing the surprise simulated engine failure at the very end of the flight. My taxi technique was better this time, although I should remember to avoid puddles left from the rain. We took off from 22, left the pattern and with intense concentration, flew dead east at 1,700 ft. as I held it perfectly straight and level for about 10-15 miles in fairly smooth conditions.There was hardly any traffic flying it seemed, with barely a sound to be heard on radio due to bad weather scattered throughout the area. We tried to start S-turns across a road, but Randall called from the airport and reported the storms were now headed for the airport. So we turned back to Cherokee and since it looked like we still had some time before the clouds hit the airport, we entered the pattern and I flew 3 touch and go’s virtually unassisted on the controls.My first try was pretty good, the second was a bit high coming in over the threshold, and the last much too high on the glide slope, although each went smoothly enough to impress Karen. Maybe all those simulator hours I’ve flown are paying off? On our final lap, she took the controls, made the radio call and demonstrated the simulated engine failure technique all the way to the runway, slipping with 30 degrees of flaps and kicking it out at the last minute to line up with the centerline.

Flight #3
May 15, 1999, 4pm
(1.0 hr) 2.7 total

A sunny day with occasional clouds, but breezy and a bit gusty. I preflighted the plane by myself since Karen was still in the air with another student. After they landed, we climbed in, did our runup and made for runway 4. I let the left wheel get off the runway a bit (there’s no taxiway, so it’s necessary to taxi back to the end of the runway on the runway itself) as I turned around, a precursor of my control for the day.The takeoff was uneventful as we climbed to 3,500’ and headed east to the practice area. I practiced minimum controllable airspeed, power off stalls and did three 360’s at 45 degrees bank. A little trouble maintaining altitude and used too much rudder to level off once. Keeping one eye on the horizon outside and the other on the altimeter on the inside is a technique I haven't mastered yet. Eventually I'll learn to keep the nose of the plane in the same relative position to the horizon and use quick glances at the AI and vertical speed indicator to confirm my altitude. Then we headed back west and practiced S turns across a road. Not too bad, but a bit more trouble with altitude maintenance. After that we turned back to Cherokee for a set of touch and go’s.

One other aircraft was also in the pattern doing touch and go’s. On the downwind we slid in behind him and I managed a passable landing, but I need to work on maintaining correct pitch/airspeed on final and holding the centerline after touchdown damnit! My second try was aborted after garbling the radio transmissions beyond all comprehension and then getting flustered and distracted so that I came in far too high on final approach.As I initiated the go around, I took off carburetor heat, applied full power and committed a major screw up by raising the flaps all at once instead of incrementally. Karen calmly but immediately corrected me and after we established a positive climb and were at a safe altitude, she recreated the screw up for me to see why it isn’t a good idea to do that. Well of course, a lot of lift is suddenly subtracted from the wings and instead of climbing, the plane descends. No good if you’re down low and going around to avoid hitting something beneath you, like the runway. It's even worse in a plane with retractable gear (like the Piper Arrow that I will fly many, many lessons from now) and you've pulled them up into the wheel wells already. We continued around the pattern, but as I was still flustered and distracted, I flared too high over the threshold and made hard landing. We quietly taxied back to the FBO and shut it down for the day. Putuiii! I think I should have stuck to the simulator today.

Flight #4
May 20, 1999, 6:30pm
(1.2 hrs) 2.9 total

Another sunny day with high wispy clouds and a slight cool breeze. We were to fly a different Cessna today: N5478T. Newer, cleaner, and with manual flaps controlled by a large lever (a "Johnson bar") set on the floor of the cockpit between the seats. Very nice. Oil pressure and tachometer gauges are on the right side instead of the left like N76019, and the airspeed is indicated in miles per hour instead of knots. That means a little more attention will be needed on my part to make sure my airspeed is where it should be. I'm starting to learn bit by bit, that a lot of flying is about prioritizing and determining where my attention should be focused at any given time.

I taxiied out much better today with a bit more confidence. After taking off from runway 4 and passing through pattern altitude at 2000’, we kept on climbing to 4,000’ and headed straight out toward Lake Lanier. First, a couple of power off stalls and power on stalls over our subdivision, then 360 degree steep turns at 45 degrees bank. Right, then left, right, then left. The first time around wasn’t too difficult holding altitude and a slight bump from my own prop wash at rollout on the first 360 meant I ended back right where I started. Smiles everyone, smiles. Then it was time for a few slips right and left.After we finished with the slips we headed back to the airport for four touch and go’s. Each of them turned out fairly decent; Karen even made a show of folding her arms on one final all the way to touchdown. The slight crosswind breeze kept pushing me toward the runway on the downwind leg and to the right of lineup on final. I bounced it in on the third touch and go...not horribly so, but maddening nonetheless. I need to remember to keep my airspeed higher on final.

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