With the days getting longer and the daylight savings change there has been a nice bump in the number of hours available for flying after work. It is really nice to see the sun setting later and later each week.
With snow still covering the landscape I take off one evening for a sunset training flight. After a quick lap around the pattern I head up to 3000 ft and practice some steep turns, then go into slow flight and practice a stall. After dropping down to 2200 ft I maneuver some s-turns along highway 73 before flying back for three more laps around the pattern as the sun begins to disappear behind the horizon.
Another training flight brought us out to the airport around 8:00 AM in hopes of getting up in the air before the winds picked up from the convective weather we had been experiencing throughout the last few days. After a preflight and filling up the plane with gas we headed out back taxing on KCQM to runway 13 for a departure into a quartering headwind. Upon lift off we headed southeast towards the Laurentian Divide over some of the open pit taconite mines which are impressive from the air.
During the flight it was noticably hazy. Visablity wasn’t an issue, but it sure cut down on the crisp views I was accustom to flying in the beautiful northern minnesota skies. We continued on our way over to Eveleth (KEVM) where we went in for a landing. We took this flight to pick up our own copies of the updated charts for our area. It is amazing how quickly they need to be changed out. At $9 a copy it beats out ordering them from Sporty’s that also charges shipping on the same price. With our newly acquired charts stuffed into my flight bag we hopped back in the plane and took off. There was another student pilot out practicing while we were in buying maps. It was fun to see another person learning the same thing. I watched a couple of their landings and they sure made them look a heck of a lot better than I was consistently producing.
From KEVM we headed north west to Tower (12D). The flight over was quick. The nice thing about flying to Tower is you have Lake Vermilion as a huge landmark making it easy to find the runway. Tower’s runway is right on the water with a hill along the south side which causes the 26 approach to be a right hand pattern. On this day however the wind favored runway 8 so it was a left hand pattern as normal. The thing about landing here is that your final approach is over the lake. This is a bit unnerving thinking about your options if you were to have an engine failure.
After a couple of landings in Tower we headed west to Orr (KORB). This takes you across Lake Vermilion. It really is fun flying over the lake and looking at all of the bays, islands, and houses sprinkled around the edges of mainland as well as the islands. This 30 mile long lake offeres up some great views. I happen to live on the western edge of the lake so we took a bit of a detour on our way to Orr to do a bit of a fly over. In doing so we found that our neighbor was just putting in a new dock. The barge with a crane on the front was just finishing up placing it in front of the boat house. We headed out from there to Orr, which like Cook (KCQM) has a pretty much brand new runway surface. My first landing at or on this flight was my best one yet. I really greased it with a little squeak of the tires. It sure feels good when you set the plane down so smoothly. After a couple more touch an goes we headed back to KCQM and logged a total of 2.2 hours of dual and 7 more landings.
My last flight in the left seat was on June 3rd. 19 days later waking up at 5:30 AM in search of calm skies my Dad (CFI) and I head out to the Cook airport (KCQM). This would be my fourth instruction flight. The sun was just making its way into view as I started my preflight inspection of the Cessna 172P. I feel like I’ve got the hang of the preflight. I check a quadrant of the plane, then refer to the checklist to ensure I’ve hit everything on the list. We typically don’t like to leave the plane in the hanger completely full of fuel so we usually fill it up before we go out flying and then put it away partially full. This prevents the expansion of fuel from leaking out onto the floor of the hanger. So the routine has been to open the hanger door, preflight the plane, then taxi over to the pumps to fill up before our flight.
Taxing is taking me a bit to get used to. Getting the fine control steering with my feet has been slow going for me. Also since the breaks are applied by tipping the pedals forward I feel like I need to have my heels off the floor so the balls of my feet are just below the top of the pedal which allows me to apply the breaks more easily. This however is a little uncomfortable as I’m having to hold my legs up there virtually unsupported. As soon as I take off though I drop my heels down on the floor so the balls of my feet are directly on the pedal and as breaking in the air is pointless. 🙂
We have been working on some short field and soft field takeoffs as well as normal takeoffs. These differ based on flap settings, angle of attack held while still on the ground, and how quickly you get the plane of the ground. Once in the air if on a soft field takeoff you keep the plane in ground effect until the plane has gained enough airspeed to safely ascend. For those of you who are unfamiliar with ground effect it is phenomenon where the airplane gets increased lift from a buffet of air being compressed between the earth and the ground. This will allow and airplane to fly with a lower airspeed than usually required by the aircraft. This effect can be experienced within the fist 20 feet of liftoff. So by using this to your advantage you can lift the plane off of the soft takeoff surface even before the plane really wants to fly. You can then hold the airplane in this buffeted area while the plane picks up speed. Once you’ve reached your normal liftoff speed you can then pull back on the stick and climb on out. With a short field take off you are theoretically trying to clear a 50 ft obstacle at the end of the runway like a stand of trees you may find in some back woods runway. With these takeoffs you use a speed recommended for your aircraft which produces the best altitude gain over distance traveled. Both of these types of takeoffs are preformed with one notch of flaps down.
Once we have arrived at our practice location we work on clearing turns, 30 and 45 degree bank turns, and slow flight. I’m still finding it a bit difficult to make those bank turns and maintain the same altitude throughout the turn. I am able to compensate during the turn to where I usually end up close to the same altitude when I get back to the starting point, but I am oscillating up and down throughout the turn. Part of it is the different back pressure needed between a turn to the left and a turn to the right. I just need to do more of them so I can get a muscle memory for what is required for each turn.
Now on to landings… Boy oh boy. With my first impression I want to compare this to riding a unicycle and juggling chainsaws. You have to actively use all of your limbs during this phase of flight. I know there is a sense I have’t tapped into yet that tells you when the plane is about to settle. I’m struggling with determining when to round out the descent and when to flare before landing. I do know the plane has an amazing ability to float down the runway. My dad somehow always seems to know right before the plane wants to settle and either begins the flare or has me apply a touch of power. I hope to find this sense sometime soon.
The flying has been fun. I love the opportunity to learn with my dad. He’s a great teacher, and very patient. I know he loves flying, and I hope he is enjoying the time we get together as much as I am.
Can’t wait for my next flight