Friday, September 12, 2008

Lesson 22: Dodging the clouds in Class G

Plane: Cessna 150
Instructor: Dave
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Low ceilings, overcast, light rain, 71 degrees, wind 240 degrees at 8 knots

After another long week at work where I worked some insane hours, it was looking like the weather wasn't going to let me fly on my day off today. I still got up and went to the airport at 9 this morning, figuring that it might clear up enough to fly at some point during the three hours I had scheduled. The forecast is rain and thunderstorms every day through the middle of next week so VFR conditions will be dicey at best. At least we aren't getting pummeled by a hurricane, and my thoughts go out to everyone (including some friends) down in the Houston area with Hurricane Ike coming ashore.

Not exactly ideal conditions for the VFR pilot

Dave arrived and after we talked for a short while he said it looked like conditions were marginal but good enough for us to head up and stick around the pattern. I certainly would never fly in such weather on my own without an Instrument Rating but I'm quite thankful to have the chance to go up in marginal weather with a CFI on board. The airspace around Stewart is Class G meaning we only need one mile visibility and to remain clear of clouds during the day to legally fly VFR. You pilots out there can see from the METARs (Aviation Weather Reports) below that the conditions gradually improved during the flight.
KILN 121316Z AUTO 23008KT 5SM -RA BR FEW007 BKN013 22/21 A3009
KILN 121331Z AUTO 22008KT 5SM -RA BR BKN007 OVC013 22/21 A3008
KILN 121354Z AUTO 21009KT 5SM -RA BR OVC007 22/21 A3008
KILN 121419Z AUTO 22010KT 8SM -RA SCT007 SCT011 22/21 A3008
KILN 121454Z AUTO 22010KT 10SM FEW007 22/21 A3008
KILN 121526Z AUTO 22012KT 10SM BKN009 BKN013 23/21 A3009
Preflight complete and fuel topped off, I taxied to the runway and made a standard takeoff. The ceiling was about 2,500 feet but there was a scattered layer around 600-800 and I maneuvered around the occasional cloud. As we flew during the hour and a half, the ceiling went up and down and we flew a couple circuits around the pattern at 1,500 to 1,600 feet instead of the usual 1,800 to remain clear of clouds. Again, not something I would do on my own and the conditions were nearly IFR but it's great to actually get up in the air to experience that kind of weather.

Some pattern circuits were flown lower (light blue vs. magenta)

Along with standard takeoffs and landings, we worked on some other variations that Dave originally introduced when we flew a couple weeks ago. Soft Field takeoffs are used mainly on turf runways (like we have at Stewart) and the goal is to get the weight off the ground as fast as possible. Accordingly, you keep the yoke full back to lift the nose wheel off and then allow the airplane to fly off the ground as soon as it is ready. Then you lower the nose to allow speed to build in ground effect (where the plane is very close to the ground, reducing drag and permitting flight at a lower speed than normal) before climbing away. Soft Field landings are done for the same reasons, so when you touch down you add a touch of power to hold the nose wheel off the ground as long as possible. When taxiing, the plane should never stop as it could end up stuck in the mud or otherwise caught in the turf.

Short Field takeoffs are done when you (this is rocket science, I know) have a short runway and want to leave the ground in the shortest distance possible. You hold the brakes while applying full power, then release them and use minimal back pressure as you roll down the runway. As soon as the plane is ready to fly, you raise the nose and fly away at Vx. This is the name for the best angle of climb airspeed, meaning the airplane will gain the greatest altitude per a given distance over the ground - exactly what you want to do when climbing out of a short strip. Dave also had me make one approach to landing using the full 40 degrees of flaps. I had to add a good 300 RPM when I kicked in the flaps since the plane wants to sink like a brick. It's hard to believe the difference between 30 and 40 degrees of flaps in terms of the sink rate and amount of power needed for a stabilized approach.

Given the weather, today was not the best time for Dave to solo me in the Cessna. Instead, we worked on the takeoffs and landings and getting me ready for the solo. Next lesson we will practice emergency procedures, work on Short Field landings, and hopefully get me signed off to fly the trusty old 150 all by my lonesome. I scheduled a few more lessons throughout the rest of the month where we will do our second dual cross country and (fingers crossed) I will make my first solo cross country as well. Dave also signed me off to take the FAA Knowledge Exam so I hope to do that next week sometime before I head off to Virginia Beach. Considering the weather, my crazy work hours, and upcoming travel plans, I really can't complain about flying progress right now!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.5 hours
Solo/PIC Time: 6.7 hours
Total Time: 34.0 hours

No comments:

Post a Comment