Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Serious stall practice in the 150

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: High overcast, 79 degrees, wind 080 degrees at 4 knots

Yesterday was one of the most beautiful days of the summer but someone had the 150 out on a cross-country. Alas, I reserved the plane for this evening and the weather was still quite pleasant except for a high overcast that obscured the blue sky. I thought my 90 day currency in the plane was close to expiring (upon further inspection, I had until September 7th) so I wanted to take her up and run myself through a thorough practice session.

I filled both tanks to the top since the FuelHawk only indicated 9 gallons total remaining. Since I added 11 gallons and the plane holds 26, it appears I actually had about 15 gallons left in the two tanks. The wind was light out of the east so I taxied down to the west end of the field, ran through all my pre-takeoff checks, and then started rolling down the grass for a very smooth takeoff.

The view below was great as I departed the pattern and climbed to gain enough altitude to practice maneuvers. Scanning all over for traffic, I enjoyed watching the ground pass below as I made my way up to 3,500 feet. I first made two steep turns to the right and did an absolutely horrible job holding altitude - I actually gained between 100 and 200 feet each time. After realizing I was using a bad reference point on the cowling (can you tell I get used to sitting centerline in a tandem plane like the Cub?) I made a couple steep turns to the left and my performance was much better, even catching my wake once or twice. I made one final steep turn to the right and held altitude within about 25 feet.

This is where I must admit that I'm still apprehensive about doing stalls at times. There's really no good reason, especially since I've had plenty of spin training and know what to do if I really screw things up. I had decided in advance that I was going to do a bunch of them this evening. Since the 150 loves to drop a wing in a power-on stall configuration I knew I would have to do things right if I was going to be satisfied with my performance.

After leveling back off at about 3,800 feet I placed the plane into a slow flight configuration. With the power set just enough to hold altitude and 20 degrees of flaps, I was flying along at just about 35 knots indicated with the stall horn chirping. I made a couple slow turns while checking for traffic and then pulled the throttle to idle, yoke back into my stomach, kept the nose straight with the rudder, and the plane responded with a clean, wings-level stall break. That sure wasn't too bad! In total, I did five power-off stalls and they were all quite tame and I always managed to keep the wings level with my feet and lost 50 feet of altitude or less.

Next came the part that generally causes the apprehension but I was up for the challenge. I pulled the throttle back to about 2,000 RPM and let the plane slow down, then pulled back on the yoke while pushing the throttle back in for full power. Back, back, back on the yoke until it feels like we're flying to the moon and I finally got a stall break. I didn't yank back hard enough so it was relatively tame but I caught the slight wing drop with the rudder. I did another four or five power-on stalls and progressively brought the stick back more quickly once I firewalled the throttle. I caused a sizeable wing drop a couple times but corrected automatically with rudder to bring the plane back to wings-level in a slight descent to regain airspeed. Overall I have to say I am very happy with my performance and I'm glad to have gone up and made myself do a ton of stalls.

I climbed up to practice steep turns and stalls and then spent some time in the pattern

Since I was at 4,000 feet I figured the best way to get down would be to practice forward slips. They're second-nature in the Cub but not something I do as often in the Cessnas so I pulled the carb heat out, throttle to idle, rudder to the stop, and opposite aileron until I was headed down in a 1,500 fpm descent. I switched direction halfway through to a right slip with extra aileron to turn 90 degrees while slipping and head west towards the airport.

Back in the pattern, I ran myself through a series of takeoffs and landings. All the landings were acceptable with a gentle touchdown although I didn't have the yoke all the way back when the wheels touched every time. My first short field takeoff wasn't as fluid as I would like so I went short field the next time around and the result was much better; building up airspeed and then yanking the plane off the ground and climbing at a little over 50 knots.

I made two short field landings as well, one with a long stabilized approach and another where I dropped the flaps to 40 degrees on short final. Both times I had the plane stopped in 500-600 feet after the wheels touched down. The final two landings were made following power-off 180 accuracy approaches. I think my first one was better; the wheels had to have touched within 100 feet of my "abeam the numbers" pull of the throttle to idle. My aim point was halfway down the runway on the second landing (to shorten my taxi) and I landed about 50 feet short. All in all, a great day of practice and I definitely feel a lot sharper having pushed myself through so many maneuvers in about an hour of flying time!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.1 hours
Total Time: 172.5 hours


  1. Despite all the flying we do it's great to work on the basics. I need to start doing that more often! Dedicate a day to working on the basics to keep the skills sharp.

    Great post and reminder for all of us.

  2. Nice flight, and good work on the practice. Always good to get out once in a while for keeping the skills sharp.

    Nice Track too!

  3. LOL.... looks like Gary just beat me to the same post.

  4. Yup, looks like I've struck a shared chord! :)

    It was a good flight, lots of fun. One of the big benefits of the grass strip too - being able to knock out that many landings so fast. Gotta love having a taxiway wherever you decide it should be.