Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lesson 13: No help from the back

Plane: Champ
Instructor: Dave
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Scattered clouds and haze, 68 degrees, wind 260 degrees at 8 knots

One point four hours in the logbook and eight more takeoffs and landings later, things are really feeling good for me. Driving to the airport the cloud cover was very low and it was slightly misty out, but I had checked the TAF (Terminal Area Forecast, an aviation-specific weather forecast) before leaving and it indicated clearing skies. Sure enough, the clouds started to part and blue sky was visible when we took to the air.

Takeoffs weren't my best today but they all were acceptable and I corrected when needed to keep us tracking down the runway before lifting off. They improved by the end of the lesson and the last one or two were very smooth. Usual procedures include climbing at 60 mph, the best rate of climb speed. Since the Champ climbs quite slowly - especially on a hot, humid day - Dave had me start climbing at 50 mph on the last few trips around the pattern to save us some time. On the third time around, he pulled the power and had me to an engine-out landing. I got the nose down (not so far this time) and brought us in a little high as you're supposed to, then used a forward slip to bring us down for a very soft three-point landing. Fun stuff.

This being the earliest lesson I've had to date (starting at 9:00 am) I got a chance to see how much low clouds and sunlight can combine to make visibility quite awful as well. Since I was taking off to the West the sun was behind me, but when we turned downwind it was almost as if the airport disappeared. Everything to the East was pretty well obscured or hazy thanks to the reflection of the sunlight off the mist and clouds and it was much more difficult than normal to look for traffic. With all the moisture in the air and sun shining it got bumpier as the ground started to heat up and clouds were forming, but it didn't rock us around too much.

After the second landing, we were taxiing back and I heard an unmistakable roar. I glanced up and saw an F-16 in what looked to be a minimum radius turn a few thousand feet overhead. We're not under an MOA (Military Operations Area) at Stewart so it was an unexpected surprise but with an ANG unit close by in Springfield you do hear them from time to time. Certainly not the standard traffic we see at our small grass strip!

Altogether it was a great lesson and I really feel that both takeoffs and landings have come together. Dave told me he wasn't helping on the controls at all today and that really made me understand that I'm actually "getting it" to a great extent. Talking with Eric, my mentor through the AOPA Project Pilot program, after the lesson he commented that it sounds like I'm making good progress towards solo. And to that point, Dave said he expects I'll do just that in the next week after a little more work on emergency procedures.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.4 hours
Total Time: 15.5 hours

1 comment:

  1. Solo getting close, cool. Seems to be quicker than I thought it would be...
    speaking of pilots and bikes, a story goes that the Blue Angels were not allowed to ride bikes, then a new commander shows up that rides. tells the pilots that they can consider riding, next day they all arrive on sportbikes, already been riding...:)