Sunday, July 27, 2014

No flying - stressful at work

I'm going through a very stressful time at work right now, and so have not been able to schedule regular flight lessons. It's been almost 2 weeks since my last one!

I'm at a bit of a plateau in my pattern and landing practice. I think that, too often, I end up coming in too high and relying on slips to burn energy; slips are a good skill, but I should be able to execute a predictable, smooth approach at my friendly, familiar favorite local airport without resorting to violent last-minute maneuvers. :)

Another thing is that I still am not "stable" and in complete authority in the pattern. A lot of this is really my worry about if and when my instructor is going to tell me to do something. But also, I do a very poor job of looking where I should be looking -- I am looking all over the place rather than simply looking forwards, so the nose wallows up and down while turning and leveling out. I really need to do a few "good habits patterns" where I ask the instructor to help me with my habits rather than with my performance.

I have at hand the pre-solo written test from my flying club and am going through it. It's not hard; I just need to refresh my knowledge of the FARs.

Monday, July 14, 2014

N162HG 1.2 Bob

Pattern work at KPAO concentrating on regular practice as well as emergency procedures (loss of engine on downwind and no-flap landings).

I still do rather extreme corrections. I have also gotten into the habit of pitching up too much (and flying less than Vy, perversely) on upwind. I have a habit of flying a very tight pattern, usually because I'm in a "hurry" to turn downwind because I expect the instructor to tell me to do it! As for the crosswind, I learned today that a 1/2 mile final is plenty for this airplane. That would be about 400' AGL for the final leg. For no-flaps landings, I need to extend my pattern!

The short approaches (engine loss on downwind) went mostly okay; I ended up having a bit too much energy by the time I was over the runway, floating for a while and landing somewhat long. I'll have to keep this in mind -- Bob mentioned the flaps on this plane do not burn as much energy as, say, the barn-door 40° flap deflection on a C150!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

N162HG 1.4 Bob

Flew from KPAO to KSQL, did a landing and a T&G or two there, then returned to KPAO for some more pattern work then a landing.

The KSQL crosswind was from the left, which was slightly disorienting -- I'm used to KPAO Rwy 31 xwinds from the right, making me a bit like a NASCAR car that only turns one way. :)

KSQL was crazy busy, so we ended up staying outside the Class D doing 360s, then crossed midfield to the pattern. I had trouble keeping altitude and bank angle during all this madness. At some point, I tried to climb by just using throttle, leading to a well-placed admonition that we only do that in the final approach. :)

I was taught to add 1/2 of the gust factor to my final approach airspeed.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

N162HG 1.1 Bob

Takeoffs and landings, windy and gusty day but things went pretty well. I had an approach that Bob called "beautiful". Still having trouble flaring too late or too early, but that's a relatively addressable issue compared to all the wallowing I was doing earlier. It really seems to help, by the way, to fly often!

Bob is starting to talk about solo as though it were actually A Thing™.

We tried a couple of no flaps landings. It wasn't too bad, but Bob says I need to work better on speed control.

We tried two go-arounds: one where I was too far off and called it myself (Bob complimented me on the decision and execution) and one where he called it.

I am still having trouble flying proper rectangular patterns.

I also tend to wallow the nose up in turns, which I should correct at some point by doing more of my "visual turns" exercises to remind myself of the right habits.

On my first few landings, Bob says I "worked too hard" -- fighting and over-controlling. It definitely helps to just relax, put my elbow down on the armrest, fly with my fingers and dance the plane around.

On one of the landings, I was really really high and steep. I slipped aggressively and rescued the landing, and this time actually remembered to keep the nose down and watch my speed.

After the flight, we discussed the next steps towards solo:
  • Download and go through presolo written test;
  • Next time, will try flying to KSQL so I have an alternate airport if KPAO is closed;
  • Practice emergencies:
    • Engine failure after takeoff
    • Engine failure on downwind
Engine failure on takeoff: #1 priority is don't stall. The Flycatcher climbs hanging on the prop, so remember to PUSH the nose down. Establish best glide-ish, whatever it takes, and land straight ahead.

Engine failure on downwind: Aim 1/3 of the way down the runway and make a circling turn. It's bettter to land long and even overrun than to land short. Once the runway is made, drop flaps and dive to burn energy, get the plane lined up, and put it down.

General notes: It's better to hit something after landing on the mains (you walk away) rather than in flight (you don't walk away) or landing on some other part of your airplane (not so much). If you have to land in the marshes, know that the airplane will probably flip since the wheels will grab, but so what, it flips, but you walk away.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

N162HG 1.2 Bob

Closed pattern work at KPAO again. A couple of full stops, one practice go-around called by Bob at the last minute. Some observations:

I need to work on filtering out random distractions in the pattern, and concentrate on leveling out correctly. I think that, again, Bob is getting back into saying more, and I'm getting back into being worried that he's going to say or gesture something (like "turn base now") and letting that distract me.

I need to reduce power more while descending. I came in ridiculously steep after ridiculously high approaches almost every time. On one approach, Bob was not sure we'd even make it in, so I slipped aggressively and brought it down ... but before I congratulate myself, let me note that my speed dropped to 51 or 52 kias when I slipped, because I still don't anticipate how much I need to be stuffing the nose down when I slip.

I need to learn to apply rudder pressure and not kick. Bob noted that, on takeoffs, sometimes I'll see the plane is veering one direction, so I kick rudder and it stops veering, so then I let go of the rudder. It's not a car, notes Bob. If you want it to keep stopping veering, you need to maintain the pressure!

Surprisingly, Bob is more concerned about my random yawing during takeoffs than during landings. I'm really surprised, since I imagine my yaw on landing is horrible, but he says it's actually not that bad, I won't peel off a tire or ground loop and dig in a wing, don't worry. That's actually a big deal. A huge part of my landing anxiety has to do with worrying about the state of where the nose is pointed.

Bob noted that I seemed stressed. It's true -- I'm under a lot of stress at work right now. In fact, my wife and son are in Hawai'i but I was not able to go because of work. I hoped to console myself with more flying, but then I was so stressed on Sunday night that I didn't get much sleep and had to scrub my planned Monday afternoon lesson. I guess that was as much "flight training" as anything -- I imagine part of learning to fly is learning to decide when not to fly.

I was particularly diligent in checking under my wing to the final approach for traffic even when cleared to the active by Tower, after having heard about the recent runway incursion near-miss at Barcelona. Aviation usually requires two simultaneous screw-ups for a real disaster to happen. May all our screw-ups be singletons.

In other news, I got myself a Drift HD camera (it's in the mail...) and would like to mount it in the cockpit to take training videos. (One of the nice things about Drift is their cameras have a standard 1/4-20 tripod mount built right in). I wondered where to mount it, thinking I might want to bungee down a tripod behind and between the pilots, but it turns out "the" standard way is on the skylight behind and above the pilots; in fact, there's a little circle there on the window where other people have suctioned on their cameras. I got a suction cup mount for it from REI, but it was too heavy and had too many parts made of metal; I feared it could scratch or damage the window. I now have a RAM mount ordered, which I think is lightweight and made of plastic. Stay tuned for video footage of my horrible landings?