Saturday, April 15, 2017

N188EV 2.7 Practice flight to KLVK

Bad weather and Mx issues have kept me out of the planes so today was a day to get out there and fly like hell. :)

I'd been out as a pax with my CFI friend Lisa a couple weeks ago to KLVK and she showed me her landing technique of staying within glide distance of the field and coming in steep at, or almost at, idle power. She also gave me a hint as to when to start my roundout, and it was way later than I had been doing it before: Basically she flew the approach almost to the ground, then rounded out and flared. It all "clicked" for me in a way that has not clicked before, and it seemed like a really well-thought-out technique. I was excited to try it out.

Last time I flew the SportStar, I topped up the plane to the brim, flew for a while, then came home. The CFI and student after me -- both good friends of mine -- were then unable to fly because they were right at the limit of the aircraft gross weight! Yikes! So this time I stuck the tanks, decided how much gas to add, and added it carefully, planning to return with no more than 1/2 tanks.

My CFI friend was flying the other Evektor SportStar at AeroDynamic Aviation with a student, taking the same departure as me, and right in front of me. Tower asked me to "follow company traffic"! Haha! :)

I took the Calaveras departure and flew out towards the Del Valle reservoir, in a constant VY climb. I'm getting pretty comfortable with the SportStars -- approaching (but not yet at) my level of comfort with the Flycatcher -- so I just trimmed for climb, and practiced holding the stick between my knees while I navigated using Foreflight. All went well.

I topped out at 9,750' MSL (recall as a Sport Pilot I'm only allowed to go up to 10,000 MSL or 2,000 AGL, whichever is higher). I then tried a series of descents, trying to learn the "gait" of the airplane in a power-off descent with the 2nd notch of flaps, and figuring out where the aiming point should be and what the nose attitude ought to look like.

I also did a few steep turns, which generally went pretty well, and a stall, which seemed uneventful. I felt pretty comfortable with the plane at that point. Now for some landings.

I called in to KLVK and entered the pattern, slipping to burn the remainder of my energy on the way there.

I did 7 landings at KLVK Rwy 25 Right. All were with the goal of (a) flying a more tight pattern than I usually do; (b) trying to gauge the point where I can cut power and trying to make my glide with minimal or no power; and (c) put as few dents as possible on the plane (always a good thing).

One of my problems with landing has been that the power "cut" over the fence is always a de-stabilizing factor, right when you sort of want to take advantage of a stable approach. It always threw me off. With the new low-or-no power approach technique, any power cut was very much less drastic, and so I held my approach to the ground much more nicely. I flared a tiny bit high a couple times, but not too high, and I plopped down gently enough without too much fuss. All the landings were actually pretty smooth.

I then departed and flew back to KRHV, and landed there. First test of the new technique! I gauged where the runway was by the position on my wing, turned final, came in with very little power, and greased it. Nothing to it. Wow!

Now of course the technique of maintaining VREF almost all the way to the ground means that I have a rather long flare to burn energy all the way down to VS0 before I finally plop down. With an Evektor SportStar and lots of runway, that is so totally not a problem. But once I'm happy with this technique and am judging my aiming point consistently, my next goal is going to be to figure out how to manage my energy even better so I can make accurate spot landings and nail my short-field landings.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

N188EV 1.4 Quick flight with Melissa

Melissa and I decided to go up today for a quick flight, for currency and fun. Wx was high overcast (140-150) becoming sunny.

We stopped by for banh mi on the way there, and ate it at the airport. We took off and did 4 landings back at at KRHV, then went South, did a couple steep turns, then came back and landed.

My first landing was a go-around because I was too high and I wanted to "train" the go-around button in my brain. Subsequently, Tower just "gave" me Rwy 31L to land on and back-taxi each time. I did 4 landings, becoming successively better each time. One of them was a high flare but I corrected that in later ones. They were all gentle flares to landing, with no attempt at a "spot" landing or soft-field technique.

We departed South, then after a while, I did a clearing turn then attempted a pair of rather steep steep turns (halfway between 45 and 60 degrees). I was trying to challenge myself so that PTS 45-degree turns would seem easy by comparison. I got them done within PTS, though I did oscillate in pitch a little bit during the sharp roll rate from left to right turn and had to correct. Adding power during the turns, as my last CFI taught me, ends up being super helpful.

We came back and had an uneventful landing, with a slightly high flare but acceptable.

Total was 5 landings today.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

N712MF 2.3 Flight to Hollister with Lisa

I went for a practice flight with my (CFII) friend Lisa flying right seat. We did some maneuvers there and back, and I did a total of 5 landings.

I was having a lot of trouble maintaining glide slope. It seemed like I was not catching on to my glide slope and speed and would end up "low and slow" and have to regain energy quickly a few times. My reflex in these cases is to lower the nose for speed, and add LOTS of power, which I think is good for safety but it throws off my approach. I should probably have gone around more often than I actually did.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

N188EV 2.0 Practice flight

We've been having a YUUGE amount of rain here in California lately, so it hasn't been flying weather. Today, though, it was nice. I rode my bike out to the airport, picking up some banh mi from the local Vietnamese place on the way.

I took off from KRHV with a downwind departure, flew around doing some air work, did 4 landings at E16, did a bit more air work, then came back. Pretty simple.

Of course I felt very "wobbly" at first -- as I usually do. I did some steep turns and was barely within PTS standards, and felt pretty weird doing stalls and slow flight. But eventually I got more confident and things got better.

E16 was pretty busy with people practicing, but it was not too bad.

On my way back my steep turns were much better and I was much more confident.

Friday, December 30, 2016

N712MF 1.3 closed traffic at KRHV

Today I did some closed pattern work just to get my landings straight. After talking with CFI friends, I had three tips to try out:
  • Put a piece of tape on the canopy to mark "straight ahead";
  • After a stabilized approach, pull power to idle SLOWLY so I can keep up with the compensation required; and
  • Don't bother using full flaps on the SportStar -- that's like dragging a barn door and does not add lift, so does not appreciably reduce landing speed.
7 takeoffs, 1 of them soft field (went okay, could be more precise on "hovering" closer to the ground) and 2 short field (also went okay, could be more precise on speeds but acceptable).

1 go-around requested by tower. I was asked to follow a Cessna on final. I followed a very similar Cessna, also on final, that I later realized was actually on the parallel runway! I ended up following my actual #1 traffic too close and was asked to go around.

7 landings (isn't it nice that it's the same as the number of takeoffs?), 3 of them attempts at short field. The short ones were mixed: 1 was really good, and the other 2 were iffy (landed too long). For all my landings, however, I had a good flare, with good control over my flare height, and they were all full-stall landings in the proper nose-high attitude.

The tape on the canopy was really helpful. Here is what I did:
  1. During preflight, sighted down from the tail to figure out what was directly ahead of the plane;
  2. When inside, with my head at my comfortable position, closed my left eye and lined up the tape with the "straight ahead" object with my right eye;
  3. With both eyes open, and focused far away, I could see two images of the tape -- and the LEFT image, which is the one seen by my RIGHT eye, was my aiming point.
This really helped with taxi, but also with runway alignment during takeoff and landing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

N712MF 1.7 Melissa to KHAF

Took Melissa out today. The plan was to go to KHAF.

Melissa  helped me by reading out my preflight as I did it, and remarked on how much work it was. :) We had enough fuel in the plane so we skipped the fueling part, which got us out of there quicker.

Outbound, asked for a KSJC transition. All was as expected, and we were off via the OSI VOR down to the coast, and then to KHAF.

The approach to KHAF was very, very bumpy. OMG.

My first pattern was way offset to the left, so I went around. But wow I was like going almost sideways -- so. much. wind.

My second time around, I was lined up. Crabbing on final, flaps on the second notch, not full flaps. Turned the crab into a forward slip. All went well.

I was on top of the runway, cut power, and started settling. But (a) I failed to put the nose down then arrest the descent with a flare; and (b) the wind died down near the surface so I started sliding sideways and failed to relieve the slip to compensate. Result: I slammed down on one gear leg.

Melissa was filming with her phone; her phone fell into her lap and she squawked!

I took off again, doing a pretty good crosswind takeoff, but there were already too many planes buzzing around the airport. With the high traffic, the bumpy air, the crosswind, and being rattled from my bumpy landing, I decided to call it a day before something really bad happened.

On the way home, we went via the Crystal Springs reservoir and again asked for a KSJC transition. At some point I thought they were telling *me* to reverse course and go via Hwy 85 to Hwy 280, so I did a 360 while we figured things out and I sort of spluttered on the radio. Embarrassing, maybe, but  I did do the safe thing, and they just clarified I was cleared to cross KSJC midfield.

Coming into KRHV, I had to slip to get to pattern altitude in time -- better planning would have helped, but it was no big issue.

My landing into KRHV was a greaser. :)

Braking was hard -- I keep fishtailing in hard braking due to the differential brakes on the SportStars. I made it off the runway and was told by Tower to taxi, which was sort of unexpected so I kept barrelling on and forgot to do my post-landing checklist. Which meant I was, for the first bit, taxiing with flaps.

As I taxied, I blazed past Battelle Rachmian, one of the AeroDynamic Aviation CFIs, who must have noticed me taxiing with flaps down but bless her soul, later at the FBO, she didn't say anything. She was sitting on the ground -- at first, Melissa and I were like, who is this random person? She motioned towards her handheld radio -- she was solo-ing a student.

Overall, things went well, but I need to figure this out:

1. In the SportStars, full flaps is like flying with a barn door sideways. What is my procedure for using them, if any? If I do it too late in the approach, I de-stabilize myself. If I do it too early, I end up coming in with really high power dragging a barn door behind me, which doesn't feel right.

2. Cutting power and rounding out. I have had trouble with this since the days of the Flycatcher. I need to learn to cut power slowly, starting earlier, and to compensate by dropping the nose (keeping the speed at target) then flaring when near the ground. Alternatively I need to figure out some other trajectory where I maybe come in high, then cut power when the field is made and have a stabilized descent all the way to the ground. Whatever I do, I need to have a more consistent procedure for this.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

N188EV 1.4 flight with Aden

Flight from KRHV down South over the valley then curving East towards the San Luis Reservoir, then back again. Sight seeing and hanging out. Not eventful but fun!