Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lesson 9: Takeoffs feeling good, landings... not so much

Plane: Champ
Instructor: Joe
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 79 degrees, wind 210 degrees at 12 knots

Went up with Joe for the first time in a couple weeks this evening. A little windy, but it was coming straight down the runway and the weather was otherwise gorgeous for flying. We spent the whole lesson in the pattern, working on takeoffs and landings.

For the first time, takeoffs felt pretty good throughout the entire lesson. I was using the right amount of rudder (for the most part) and kept us tracking straight down the runway, including compensating for the gyroscopic forces that make the nose want to turn left when you bring the tail up. Even got a better feel for slowly bringing the stick back and letting the plane fly right off the ground when it's ready. After lifting off, I generally did a decent job of tracking the extended runway centerline mainly using a little rudder here and there as needed. I'm thinking that this is what Dave mentioned last lesson about one day things just "click" and it's definitely a good feeling. There are still plenty of things I can fix with my takeoffs, but I feel like I made some serious progress today.

So even with all I just said above, what good are good takeoffs if you can't get the plane back on the ground? Ok, so I did bring us down each time... but it wasn't always pretty. This was the first time I've had semi-strong winds coming right at me and that was causing some issues with me on landing. Take a look at the GPS track and you'll see my pattern wasn't ever all that consistent after I turned crosswind. Most of the times up to this point I have come in high, but instead I got too low (obviously the least preferred position to be in) on quite a few of my approaches. When I was too high, I attempted to use a forward slip to bring us down but I was apparently letting the nose go way up and pulling slightly back on the stick when I banked over. That's very bad, since you could easily stall and go into a spin in such a configuration. Now I can tell you that I felt like I was pushing forward, but clearly I don't have the right sight picture and feeling for where the controls need to be when using slips so close to the ground. Joe talked with me about it but it just wasn't clicking tonight for some reason.

Since I was having issues on approach, by the time I was close to the ground and ready to flare I was pretty much "behind the plane" and did not bring the stick back fast enough. We didn't smash into the ground or anything, but I was not paying enough attention to my altitude and my flares left a lot to be desired. The last landing felt like I flared well and kept us on the ground but it was after a very hairy approach so, while nice, it was partly due to luck since I hadn't been controlling the plane properly leading up to touchdown. So overall this lesson's sort of difficult to qualify - I feel good and confident that I made a step forward with takeoffs, but I think I may have taken a step backward on the landings. I'm not discouraged, though, and can't wait to go up again on Tuesday to hopefully iron out getting myself back on the ground!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.2 hours
Total Time: 11.5 hours


  1. Steve--
    Hang in there on the landings! What I'm learning about them is that peripheral vision is EVERYTHING. I'm not so much looking at one specific point...but rather...seeing everything in the periphery and adjusting from there.

    You're doing GREAT.

    Greg P.

  2. Thanks, Greg!

    You hit the nail on the head - and that's one of the reasons I'm still having some issues. It's been hard for me so far to pay as much attention to the peripheral cues as I need to be on short final. I've told myself to look to the sides but when I get down to it, I'm focusing too much on the controls still. It will come with time, right? :)

  3. Landings are giving me a hard time too. I think the reason is that you have to get the "feel" of it - there are no technical points to memorize. You get vague pointers ("just before you touch down, start your flare" and "if your touchdown point is moving up in your field of view, add power"). So it's just purely about practice.

  4. Keith,

    Couldn't agree more - the sight picture is really getting me still, tho practicing and repetition seems to be helping. I always feel lower than I am with trees on short final and I just need to get used to it. It might not help to be flying into a grass strip, either, with no numbers or runway markings (save the cones on the left) to use as reference.