Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 85 degrees, wind 210 degrees at 5 knots
One of the ways to really test your piloting skills (or develop them) is to fly ground reference maneuvers. The idea is to follow a course on the ground - which sounds simple enough until you remember that the wind's blowing up in the air. In the case of S-Turns we use a long straight road as the reference point. Then the goal is to fly half-circles of a constant radius, one half on each side of the road, resulting in a "S" shaped track across the ground. When crossing the road the ground track should be perpendicular and the wings level. You have to adjust the bank angle throughout the maneuver as the wind pushes you off the desired ground track.
We flew to a road a few miles from the airport and worked on S-Turns for about 20 minutes. Like I mentioned above, it's harder than it sounds with the wind constantly blowing you off course to varying degrees. I seemed to be having the most trouble when turning into the wind. You can see my tracks over the ground in the Google Earth file linked at the bottom of the post. For my first time it was a decent performance, but I need plenty of practice before I'll be performing them up to Practical Test Standards.
As has been the norm lately, the second half of the lesson was spent in the pattern. My first takeoff and landing actually felt very good - I tracked straight down the runway for a smooth liftoff, flew a nice rectangular pattern, and brought the plane back down softly. For some reason, the rest weren't as good. I was over-correcting with the rudder on takeoff and often came in high and had to work on holding in enough bank on my forward slips to bleed altitude on final. It's still night and day when compared to a couple weeks ago, but I know that there's a lot more practice ahead before I feel like I'm really "getting" takeoffs and landings.
I'll close with a reminder about being aware in the air at all times... when we were on downwind and turning base for the second or third landing, I caught a helicopter out of the corner of my eye flying slightly below (at about 1,500 - remember that pattern altitude is 1,800) and towards us. He wasn't in the traffic pattern and probably didn't even realize he was flying over an airport - it can be hard to spot a grass strip even if you're looking for it and know it's nearby. There's no way to know if he even saw us up there, but it's a great reminder of the importance of using a pilot's ultimate collision avoidance system - our eyes.
Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.3 hours
Total Time: 10.3 hours