Monday, December 29, 2008

Test Flying F-NP

Well as I had planned, I managed to get up last week. The weather here in Holland has been lovely the last week or so. Bitterly cold but with a large Polar airmass resulting in a high pressure sitting right over the Netherlands. That means frosty days but "gin clear" skys to go flying in.

I had a couple of chores to do before I headed off to the airport...the most important one was to buy Marina her Christmas pressie. But once I got all that squared away I headed off to the airport.

F-NP was tucked up in a nice warm hanger. But she was put into a tight corner right next to another airplane and I was scared of twanging her on the hanger door or against someone else's plane and having her suffer from hanger rash. Thankfully I managed to squeeze her out into the cold winter air and I ran in to grab my headset and the ships papers.

The mission today was to do some airwork and get used to her handling, so I planned for some touch and go's, stalls and steep turns. But getting her started was a challenge in itself. As I may have mentioned, Marinus had replaced the voltage-meter and put some oil in the engine. But she was proving a troublesome girl who doesn't like being taken out into the cold from her warm bed. When I would do the run up checks and select the carb heat, the engine would quit. Not a good thing to happen especially when lowering the RPM in the pattern and choosing the carb heat selector to keep the carb warm. A little troubleshooting and I managed to figured out what was wrong. With a check of the windsock, I was off.....or so I was to think.

Just after I rotated and lifted off, the ASI began to show ZERO knots!!! WTF!!! I pulled the power back, told ATC and landed her back on the runway....there was lots of tarmac ahead of me to do it. Someone behind had to go around, but I was safe on the ground and trying to figure out what was wrong with the ASI. I put the pitot heat on and everything read OK. So off I went again.

The Robin is so light that she almost jumps into the air by herself. I will try and figure out how far the Robin takes to lift-off the next time I fly and try some short field and soft field take-offs. But for now I wanted to feel her handling in the pattern and in the air.

I did a few touch and go's, she's very slippy and hard to lose speed because the wing is laminar flow in design with no rivets anywhere to be found. But I soon got used to her in the pattern. She's slow int he pattern with the rest of the traffic, so when I was used to lowering the flaps just before turning on base-leg in the Cessna, I don't bother to lower them until mid-way on base-leg and then the rest on final, so as to ensure I don't affect the traffic in the pattern behind me.

At this point I would like to agree with my friend Matt. Matt as you may know from previous blogs, has fallen in love with the Piper. I never liked the piper, purely from an aesthetics thing and the Johnson Bar method for lowering the flaps. But he did tell me his landings had become smoother with the low wing of the Piper...and I've noticed the same thing with my landings. That extra cushioning you get from the lower wing on the Robin seems to have the same effect the Piper's low wing had for Matt. Nice :-)

After three or four circuits I left teh circuit and headed North. Clear of traffic, I set her up for some stalls and found her to stall clean at about 36 knots and with a dirty wing at about 33 knots. I think the C172 would regularly stall for me when I was training at around 40 knots. But there is no real departure from control flight and the stall horn blew about 2 knots before the stall on each occaision. It's reassuring to know that it's consistent with handling.

Steep turns were a little difficult, simply because the nose cowling is so short and there are not many useful reference points to use to maintain the position on the horizon. I got the hang of it, but will try them when I go flying again.

After about an hour of test flying, I decided to head off home. I was late for an appointment with our neighbours...a pre-Christmas drink. The sun was low on the horizon and I was approaching from the North West so it was sometimes difficult to see the traffic. And at that time of the evening there were a lot of folks returning before the sun came down for good that day. I did a 360 orbit (the visibility is FANTASTIC) to slot in behind someone else and followed them into the pattern for a Full Stop landing. Again, another smooth landing and taxi back to the hanger left me smiling from ear to ear. She handles beautifully and you really feel like you're part of the plane. The next few flights will probably be more fact finding apropos handling charteristics, but I'm comfortable to take her further afield now....afterall, I fewrried her back from Strasbourg :-)

Let's see if the weather tomorrow is gonna be nice...... I just checked, it is :-)

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