Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bad start.....Good middle.....Dodgy ending

Well as you can probably tell from the title, today started off pretty shitty. The airport was clagged in this morning and cloud didn't burn off for a while. Matt got up a little late and had a good flight.

My plane came back a little late. I was in "Golf Foxtrot" again and she was being a tempermental old cow.....plus I was also not on form. It started off bad when Kevin and I took off from Gillespie. We did a "Soft Field Take-off", which means having to take pull the elevators RIGHT BACK, and when the nose starts to lift, then hold the hose off until the plane wants to fly. Then you skim along the surface (not touching the ground) and increase your airspeed. But i pulled back too much and the tail struck the ground!!! I had a bloody tail strike and I hadn't even taken off yet!!! We took off and did a few touch and go's. It just didn't come together in the morning for some reason. I mean, I didn't smash the plane or anything, but they just weren't slick landings. I had a bone breaker for one and balooned for another. Time was ticking away and we weren't doing many touch and go's anyway, we were off to do a Nav lesson. I found it lots of fun actually. Kevin showed me how to get a rough fix on a target (in this case a lake) and how to figure a rough heading to follow and what landmarks would come in useful based on info in the map. He then told me to figure a route to another lake from our present position and go find it. So away I went.

It's pretty difficult to fly the plane, look at a map and do radio work ALL AT THE SAME time. But I got the old goat in trim, and used the rudder pedals to fly a rough heading while my head was in the map. Figured out my heading to fly and landmarks to look out for. Every now and then, Kevin would turn and ask, do you know where we are yet? And I'd tellhim I do and who him how I know based on what landmarks were visible versus on the map. I got us to the other lake without getting us lost and learned a key point, that with the limited visibilty over the nose, especially when climbing, items to the side are better to use as reference points.

Above the lake we did some more air work. We did some slow flight and I'm finally getting the hang of it. Then we did steep turns again. The turns to the left are so much easier. You have a lovely reference point being a line of rivets along the nose cowling. As long as I keep that on the horizon, then I don't loose or gain height. But the ones to the right are a pain in the arse. There's no useful reference point ON the airframe, so you have to find a smudge on the window or something else, and of course, I know the smudge to use in "Zulu Papa" which isn't a problem. I think it took three go's before I figured a useful reference point and nailed it in "Golf Foxtrot".

We did some more stalls again, like minimum height loss (basically full throttle, nose level and bring in the flaps as speed increases), the FULL stall, and I had to call when the wing was stalled. Easy to figure out as there's lots of buffet. I was made hold her in a stall for quite a while, didn't loose too much height and did quite well controlling lateral movement with the rudders rather than the ailerons (as that's a NO NO) and then recovered. Put the nose down to much too quickly (which isn't such a bad thing, just not smooth) and recovered her out of the stall.

Then I had to navigate us back to the airport. We basically flew back the way we came and landed on runway 27R. Again, wasn't a slick landing at all. My excuse was that it's because I was out of the saddle and a little cobwebs had grown. No excuse I know.

But then after lunch things picked up for the better. We took "Golf Foxtrot" to the Air BP fuelling station, filled her up with Avgas and then took off. We tried another "Soft Field Take-off" and this time I nailed it. No tail strike, skimmed along the surface in ground effect and shot up like a rocket when we had a lot of airspeed.

Then we did a series of landings, some "Soft Field", which is like the take-off version except that you keep the nose off the ground for as long as you can. Then we did some "Short Field" landings, which carry a little power, are slower than normal landings and you have to raise the flaps and break as soon as you land to wash off the lift from the wings. And then we did some flapless landings, which are without flap, faster than normal (about 70kts instead of the usual 60kts) and result in an amount of float during the flare and touchdown. I was nailing them all this time. Why couldn't I do it earlier in the day.....much have been the steak in my tummy from last night adding extra weight or something :-)

Kevin then let me choose which ones I wanted to do and I did some more of each, again very polished landings. But then on the Short Field landing he told me to open my door in mid flight while we were downwind. I looked at him as if he'd gone nuts, but he told me it was safe and he was going to show me something cool. He then showed me that with the use of the doors, if you push the right door out into the wind, the plane will turn left, and then he had me push the left door and sure enough, we turned right. He told me it was something he had heard about and tested and I was amazed. It was so cool. But then we were pretty high coming in for our landing, so I had to side slip us to get to a more manageable height. Again, I nailed that one, slipped us right the way down, then kicked in left rudder to line up with the runway and performed the "Short Field" landing. I was buzzing at this stage. We talked about how I am ready to go solo.....which is tomorrow. I need to do a check ride with another instructor, do three landings and if all goes well, I go solo tomorrow.

But the day ended on a bad note again. I reported downwind, got a little tongutied and even called us "Zulu Foxtrot".....must have "Zulu Papa" on my brain. We did our last landing and the speed was slipping away from me. I think we had a tail wind because the wind sock was pointing in the direction I was going. So I flared a little too early and had a bumpy landing. kevin laughed saying he bet I didn't want the end the day on that note....too bloody right. But he's still keen on sending me up solo tomorrow.

I have my FAA medical tomorrow at 1pm and I have an open book test to do before I can go solo and I have to do that by tomorrow. So it's all go here. I'm once again smelly a little of "Cessna Funk", so I'm off for a shower and meeting John and Janis for dinner. Keep your fingers and toes crossed that all goes well tomorrow.

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