In this training flight we take off from the Valdez Alaska airport PAVD. We work on a couple steep turns in the mountain terrain. We move into slow flight and practice a couple of stalls before practicing an engine out emergency procedure with a forward slip on final approach. This training flight was really beautiful with the sun setting behind the mountains.
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
So I haven’t really done a great job of keeping you up to date on my flight training. I was able to get up for a couple of flights a week ago. We went out to an area we deemed as a practice area as there isn’t much instruction based out of this airport there isn’t an official one. We found an area over some fields West of the airport that we plan to use for training. I’ll break down each thing we worked on in hopes that those of you hoping to learn to fly will get a better understanding of what we are working on. Also if I am mistaken in my explanation I hope you pilots out there will kindly correct me. 🙂
We took off and climbed to 4000 feet MSL (mean sea level) and flew out to our practice area. We started with clearing turns which enables you to survey the surrounding skies for other planes before you start your practicing. Even after you have done this always make sure you are constantly scanning for other aircraft, but this is always a good practice to get into before working on a skill. Once we were sure there weren’t any other planes in our area we started working on 30 degree bank turns. To practice this we lined up on a compass heading and then banked the plane to 30 degrees and completed a 360 degree turn. We practiced this both to the left and the right. Things to work on in this exercise are maintaining altitude during the turn, learning what the sight picture should be for a 30 degree turn (this is what it looks like out the window), and coming out of the turn at the appropriate time which places you on the same heading you started the turn at. Next we worked on 45 degree bank turns. In this exercise we worked on the same skills as a 30 degree bank. When doing both types of turns you can tell if you pull them off correctly when you finish your turn if you feel a bump of turbulence. In a perfect 360 degree turn you will enter the same space of air you disturbed when you started the turn which feels like hitting a bump in the air. After working on turns we did some slow flight. This is where we slow the airplane down by pulling power, but maintain altitude by increasing our angle of attack and by applying flaps. We slowed the plane down to just above stall speed and worked on turns to the left and right. In slow flight it is very important to keep the ball centered to prevent the plane from going into a spin. This helps learn to control the plane when it is flying at slow speeds much like you are when on final approach for landing. Doing it at a higher altitude allows you to practice with room to recover if you make a mistake. After some slow flight and turns we finally pulled the stick back until the plane stalled. Recovering from the stall we made sure to keep the ball centered lowered the nose, gave full power, and once our airspeed increased slowly pulled back on the stick. This all happens very quickly and not much altitude is lost. Then we headed back to the airport and started to work on landings. The first day we were running out of time so we just did one landing and called it a day. The next flight we did the same things with the addition of a few more landings. I really can’t get the hang of landings yet. Its quite overwhelming to have all of your limbs involved as well as watching the gages and making radio calls. I hope that as we continue to practice this will become more confortable and I get the feel for the whole process.
I also picked up an adapter for my Bose Quiet Comfort 2 headphones that turns them into a set of avionics headset. I bought the adapter from uflymic.com. I’ve only used it on one flight so far. I’ll do a little better review once I’ve used it a few more times. So far so good.