Monday, August 11, 2008

Lesson 18: Transitioning to the Cessna 150

Plane: Cessna 150
Instructor: Dave
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Partly cloudy, 70 degrees, wind 010 degrees at 4 knots

Ahh, that new plane smell. Well it's not really a new plane - N60338 was built in 1969. Also known as the year we landed on the moon. But it's still 23 years newer than the Champ and, more importantly, new to me as a flying machine.

Today was my first time in a Cessna 150 and it will be my home in the sky for the rest of my training towards my Private Pilot Certificate. It has some useful features like electricity, lights, and radios that let me fly to larger airports with control towers and at night. I got to Stewart and headed out to do my preflight inspection and Dave pointed out the differences compared to what we look for on the Champ. The hinges on the ailerons are different and there are more places to drain the fuel to check for contamination. It's got a nosewheel so you have to check the strut for the proper amount of travel. Flaps are also on the plane so they get lowered and the hinges and attachment points are examined. Editorial note - flaps are surfaces that extend backward or downward (or sometimes both) from the trailing edge of the wing. They increase both lift and drag, which help to slow down the airplane and allow for steeper approaches.

After the preflight, I taxied her over by the runway and did the CIGAR checklist and the runup. It's different to taxi with a nosewheel and it took me most of the lesson to get a feel for using the rudder pedals on the ground. You can actually see out the front as opposed to the Champ, so that's nice too. On to Runway 26, extend flaps to 10 degrees, apply full power, and we're on our way. Bring the stick back slowly to lift the nose off the ground and this little Cessna's flying.

Off towards the lake we went to work on some basic maneuvers. First came steep turns and it was easier to reference the horizon in the 150 since there's rivets on the nose you can keep pegged in a certain spot. I wasn't using enough back pressure on the yoke at all times though. Then we worked on slow flight, bringing the flaps down to 20 degrees and pitching up to maintain around 35 knots. You're barely moving at that speed and Dave had me practice turns using only my rudder and keeping the wings level with the yoke. The controls definitely feel different at such slow speeds. Last we worked on stalls, both of which broke pretty smoothly without much of a dropping sensation. However, compared to the Champ, the Cessna really has a tendency to drop a wing during a power on stall. I incorrectly tried to level the wings with the yoke (it was an instinctive reaction almost) and Dave had to remind me to use only the rudder. A couple more times practicing and I was doing power on stalls with barely any loss in altitude.

Back in the traffic pattern, we saw the winds had shifted and were now out of the East so we set up to start using Runway 8. Abeam the numbers it's carb heat on, throttle to 1500 RPM, and flaps 10 degrees. Hold the speed between 60 and 70 knots, turn base, level the wings and set the flaps to 20 degrees. Turn final, bring in the last 10 degrees of flaps for 30 degrees total, and line her up with the runway centerline. Descend down to just above the runway, yoke back to round out the descent, and bring that nose up to touch down on the mains. Keep the stick back to hold the nose off the ground until it's ready to come down. Roll out on the runway, raise the flaps, carb heat back off, and taxi off. We did two more circuits of the pattern and called it a day. Let me note here that the landing gear must have a lot more cushion than those on the Champ, because I know at least one of my landings felt much softer than it should have.

There's a few differences of note between the 150 and the Champ or Cub, aside from the whole nosewheel/tailwheel thing. Having a yoke instead of a stick is a bit of a change but it did not really seem to affect me much in flight. It was a little more tempting to try to steer with the yoke on the ground like you would a car, which is odd since I've never tried that before. While the yoke was fine for control, it was more difficult for me to have the throttle in my right hand. I kept having to think to push forward for more power and pull back for less - it just wasn't feeling intuitive. All told though, it's just the kind of stuff you go through when switching to a new plane and within a couple more flights I'll be used to the differences. And for the record, the Cessna's comfy and has the equipment to get me to more places, but that Champ sure is a lot of fun!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.1 hours
Solo/PIC Time: 3.3 hours
Total Time: 24.5 hours


  1. Any tips for those soft field take-offs and landings? I haven't quite 'grasped' them yet.

    Well if the weather holds, I'm going up tonight and heading to Orlando. Eek. Though I'm not going to MCO with the big boys, I will be very close by. I really don't like tower work *sigh*

  2. Ah, you've stepped into my world a bit, as I fly the 152. You know, at first it's a bit cramped but dangit, that little plane grows on you. It's very responsive and it is easy to land. You'll like it - but now you get to work the tower! Remind me to email my tower comm "script" - it made things pretty easy.

  3. Give me a few more lessons and I might be able to say more about the soft field stuff - I was just happy to get us smoothly on and off the ground this afternoon.

    Never thought I'd say this, but the Champ feels so much bigger! Tandem seating does have some advantages for sure.

    Don't get me wrong, I know I'll have a ton of fun in the trusty 150. But it's a little sad to be leaving my solo bird behind. Not that I won't still be flying her solo, including tomorrow, but I digress. Onward and upward, right? :)

    I'd love your tower comm stuff, Keith - thanks!

  4. I would love your tower comm stuff too!! :D

  5. Here's a template I modified from one I got from my school. Customize it for your airplane, airport, and frequencies and after about 3-4 flights you won't really need it (though it's great to keep on your kneeboard just in case you get tongue tied).

    Radio Template