Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lesson 4: Around the pattern

Plane: Cub, 65 hp
Instructor: Joe
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Cloudy with thunderstorms nearby, 79 degrees, wind 210 degrees at 8 knots

Today was one of those days where you get back on the ground feeling slightly unsure of yourself. While it was essentially my first time doing takeoffs and landings on my own (technically not accurate, since Joe helped plenty on the controls) and you can't expect to be perfect right away, I didn't feel like I was doing the greatest job of controlling the aircraft. Maybe some of it was the fact that the window was open on the Cub and it was a little hard to hear Joe sometimes, but I don't think that's really it. 

The weather was interesting, with thunderstorms popping up a few miles north and west of the field in the warm afternoon air and moving to the northeast. Certainly you have to respect storms as a pilot and Joe felt these were plenty tame - and we were a good distance away from them. To be honest I could not believe how little I would have noticed them if you couldn't see the rain falling to the ground (a very cool site from the air) and lightning off in the distance. Other than a few good bumps - at one point, the wind suddenly shifted 90 degrees and gusted pretty strong and spun the nose to the side - and feeling the air shift around, it was really quite smooth up there.

Unlike other lessons up to this point where I have worked on multiple maneuvers, this time we just took off, flew around the pattern, landed, taxied back, and repeated for a total of seven landings on the day. Joe flew the first time around and then handed the controls over to me for the rest of the afternoon. On the ground while taxing, I worked on remembering how to correctly position the controls ("climb into the wind" and "dive away from the wind" is how to remember it) to help prevent the wind from getting underneath a wing where it could flip us over. For me, the Cub was a little harder to move around on the ground than the Champ and while you don't use them much it was pretty difficult for me to get a good feel and push firmly on the brake pedals. 

Rudder usage was probably my biggest deficiency today, as I was having trouble correcting properly on the takeoff roll and landing rollout to keep the nose pointed down the runway. At the beginning I was not flying coordinated very well with the rudder either. As the lesson went on I improved, but it's quite clear that I have a lot of work to do. It also felt a little different in the stick on takeoff compared to the Champ, like you don't have to push forward nearly as much to bring the tail off the ground. I was not letting the plane fly off the ground on its own very well, and we bounced around on the turf on every takeoff for a couple seconds until I got the nose up enough for us to climb away. On landing, I need to work on bringing the stick ALL the way back when we're a few feet off the ground to bleed off the airspeed so the plane plants itself on the ground and stays there with a proper three point landing. When it comes to feeling unsure, I just did not feel like I was able to apply what Joe was telling me after each trip around the pattern and adjust my inputs to improve the next time around. Not a bad day and it was definitely a good experience to get up in some less than ideal weather to be tossed around a little bit, but I made it clear to myself that there are plenty of things to work on next time out.

Today's Flight:
0.7 hours
Total Time: 5.9 hours


  1. From one student pilot to another...nice blog! I'm at HTW (Lawrence Co. Airpark) in SE Ohio, just an hour or so by air away from Dayton.
    I, too, am blogging. is the address, if you have some time to kill.

    Greg P.
    Huntington, WV

  2. Greg,

    Thanks! I added the link to the Blogroll list over on the right of the site - and I'm starting to read thru all your posts. Sounds like you're a nice flight away, I might have to head over that way when I start into my cross countries.

  3. Steve,

    Landings will come as you learn the sight picture. I think I just passed 400 landings and 200 hours and it still all feels new and exciting everytime.

    I look forward to following your progress. I too keep a blog of our flight adventures. I also have available my PPL training posts, my ongoing Instrument posts and of cours our travels/adventures.

    Great web page!


  4. Steve,

    Sounds like your on the right track. When you push to get the tail up, make sure your ready with the right rudder. Not a ton, and less as you build up speed. Keep your heals off of the floor, at least that helped me. I now fly with thin shoes, it lets you "Feel" the rudder better.

    On the spin, it will be fast the first few times, just remember the plane is fine. Opposite rudder and the cub/champ will pop right out.

    Your moving right along! It was nice to meet you today. Call/Email any time you need anything or just want to talk.


  5. Eric,

    Thanks for the tips - I have been keeping my heels on the floor to this point so I will definitely try that next time up. My shoes are pretty thin (well, the ones I usually wear) so hopefully keeping the heels suspended helps. I am pretty sure some of my problems with tracking down the runway were from the 90-degree gyroscopic force pulling me when the tail came up. Hopefully a few more lessons in the pattern and I'll have made enough repetitions to start to get a feel for things.

    It was great to meet you today too... if we hadn't been working on the test, I would have loved to have talked some more. Certainly we'll be in touch and maybe we can find a good day to meet up again sometime soon.