Saturday, November 29, 2008

Adding another plane to my resume

Plane: Cessna 172
Instructor: Dave
Route: 40I-I19-40I
Weather: Clear, 43 degrees, wind 100 degrees at 5 knots

I may be an official, certificated pilot now but that doesn't mean I don't have tons to learn. Heck, they say a good pilot is always learning and I totally subscribe to that theory. There are many different ratings and courses I plan on training towards as I move forward. First on the list was getting checked out in the Cessna 172 and I did that this afternoon.

The 172 is basically a 150 with four seats instead of two. Sure, it's got a bigger engine so it cruises faster. And some of the instruments and controls look a little different or are in new locations. But when it comes down to it, they fly about the same and it's one of the easiest transitions a pilot can make. Accordingly, I became a 172 pilot in about a half hour on the ground and an hour and a half in the sky today.

Dave walked through the preflight inspection with me, noting things like the fuel strainer handle (in the cockpit) and sumps (three instead of two) that differ from the 150. Then we started her up and I made a short field takeoff. Acceleration felt slower at first but I think we actually lifted off sooner than I'm used to, probably thanks to the light load in a larger aircraft. I climbed up to around 3,000 over the usual stomping grounds, a.k.a. Caesar Creek Lake. I made two very smooth and stable steep turns and then brought us into slow flight. With the larger engine and light load, it didn't take too many RPMs to maintain speed. You do have to watch out with the carb heat because the green arc (where carb heat isn't needed) is a much smaller range than I'm used to in the 150. We then did a few power-on and power-off stalls, which were all relatively tame and easy to control.

The only screw-up occurred next, as I forgot to raise the flaps after slow flight when I descended down to 1,800 feet to enter the pattern at Greene County Airport (I19). Stupid mistake but we never went too fast and they were only at 20 degrees so I'll call it lesson learned and move on. The flap indicator in our 172 is pretty crappy, especially compared to the one on the 150. On the 172, it's a tiny round gauge on the panel - honestly, it's easier to look out the window and see where the flaps are at. Anyway, I entered the pattern and made a normal landing. The sight picture is slightly different than I've grown accustomed to so I rounded out a couple feet too high and landed firmly. We made another complete lap around the patch in short field mode. Then after another takeoff and on the third downwind leg, Dave pulled the power and I made an engine-out approach. Again I rounded out slightly high and, without any engine power, dropped it in a little hard.

Here's the GPS that's installed in the 172

That was it for the checkout. We departed I19 and headed back to Stewart. The 172 has a GPS that's an older, single-color Bendix/King model. So it's not a fancy color moving-map display but it does show a map and it'll certainly get you there. We set it to direct 40I and I flew straight back home. Nothing like flying directly into the sun near sunset and trying to see any traffic. Into the pattern and on approach, I greased it in for an intentionally long landing so we rolled right to the end of the runway for a quick taxi to parking.

What's the verdict? Well it's a larger aircraft and definitely does feel a bit more docile (and stable) in terms of control. The 150's a fun bird and I love it for tooling around in the sky but I know the 172's going to be a great option for longer trips. It'll knock 20-30 minutes off the flight whenever I fly to Michigan to visit the family, for example. And the GPS will be a nice backup in addition to looking at my charts and landmarks out the window. Check one item off my training list!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.4 hours
Total Time: 76.7 hours


  1. I've been flying nothing but 172s. My FBO/club has an Archer and I would like to get checked out on it after I get my ticket. It's pretty much the same speed as the 172 and the same rental rate, but I think the Piper has a bit more room in the cabin. That would probably make the longer trips easier on my wife and I. Assuming of course that she will go.

  2. Hey that was my plane! ... for 4 hours. ;)